How to teach efficiently.
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How to teach efficiently

1. Use the Internet

If you give a course in a classroom, you reach 10 people (the others were sleeping).

If you make a perfect course online, and answer questions online, you reach 10 thousand.

Not doing things online is a waste of time.

You are a highly trained professional, and your time is extremely valuable.

Even if it takes twice as long to create the material than giving course, you are still more efficient by a factor of 500.

It is as if there were 500 little copies of you working full time. It is a superpower.

2. Give answers

Give students answers to all questions.

Explain in extreme detail how each result was reached.

Students have the amazing capacity of not looking at answers if they don’t want to.

And when they’ve had enough, then can read answers and understand while the problem is fresh in their minds.

If you don’t give answers, no one will be able to use your online material without you being there to hold their hands.

2.1. Give examples

Keep the example / theory ratio high, very, very high.

For natural sciences, add as many reproducible experiment videos / descriptions as you can.

3. Text, not video

Use textual materials because they:

  • are faster to create and edit

  • use less disk space

  • faster to copy between computers

  • are easier to search: Ctrl + F on the browser and off you go. And then grep if you have superpowers.

4. Use English

By writing in English you reach more people.

Writing in any other language is a waste of time.

The reason is simple: English speakers control a huge proportion of the world’s GDP.

Students who don’t know English will never do anything truly useful in science and technology. So it is pointless to teach them anything (besides English itself).

5. Search before creating

Search a lot first, and only create your own when you can’t find something that suits you.

Someone else has already written everything you can come up with.

And if you do find something useful that you want to modify, propose your modifications to the author: they can also be useful to them and others.

6. Advertise your material

Once you have crated something awesome, you have to advertise it, otherwise no one will ever find it.

This means:

  • whenever you walk into a classroom, give students a link to the material

    Then ask them if they want to talk about anything.

    Then leave the classroom and go produce more good material instead of wasting your time there :-)

  • whenever someone asks as question on an online forum, answer it, and link to the section of your material that also answers that question.

    The material will answer many of their future questions.

  • after you’ve done something awesome, Google possible relevant keywords that should hit it.

    This will lead you to other websites that talk about the same content.

    Then, leave comments on those pages linking to your stuff, or email the authors of those pages.

    It is borderline spam, but if the subject is closely related, it is a win for everyone.

Eventually, people will find you on the front page of Google searches, and then you will know that you’ve truly made something useful.

7. Publish somewhere people can comment

Then, if people find errors, or have questions, they will write a comment near the content itself.

Then, next person that comes along and has the same problem, will also find that comment, and your answer will solve their problems too.

The perfect way to do this is to use GitHub issues

8. Publish your source

For example, if you write LaTeX files for you PDFs, give both PDFs and the LaTeX.

This allows other people to:

  • modify and reuse your material

  • make improvement suggestions that you can accept by clicking a button

    The perfect way to do this is to use GitHub pull requests

9. Let students learn by teaching

Tell students to:

  • make suggestions to the course material themselves. Review their suggestions, and accept the best ones.

  • answer the questions of other students on your online forum. Let them work instead of you.

Praise those that do this very highly, and give them better grades if you have that superpower.

10. Explain how to make money with the lesson

People will be more interested if they see how the stuff they are learning is useful.

Useful 99% of the time means you can make money with it.

And if it can’t money, there is only one other thing people crave: beauty. Show them the beauty of the subject.

11. Use the CC Attribution-ShareAlike license

This way people have to link back to you, which makes you more famous.

And they can’t steal your material without giving anything back.

This is what Wikipedia and Stack Exchange use.

12. Talk, don’t teach

When you do get face to face time with students, don’t teach.

Everything you want to teach is already online.

The only goal of meeting students is talking to them individually or in small groups to:

  • understand what they feel

  • transmit your passion for the subject

and letting them do the same amongst themselves.

If you talk to a large group, you will only reach / understand a very small percentage of the group, so your time is wasted.

It is better to deeply understand what 25% of the students feel and adapt the course material, than to talk to everyone at once, and have only 5% understand anything.

13. Version your material

Whenever you make a change to your material, people should still be able to access the previous version.

Maybe there was something in the previous version that they needed, and you just removed.

Git + GitHub is the perfect way to do versioning.

14. Help students achieve their goal

Don’t teach.

Your material is useless.

Ask students what they want to do, and help them achieve that goal.

If they don’t know what to do, give suggestions of interesting things they could do.

Once they have a goal, help them learn everything that is needed to achieve that goal:

If those things happen to be what you know, great, teach them.

Otherwise, and this is much more likely, help them find the information that they need.

15. Become famous through teaching

There is only one thing that can truly motivate you to make good materials: becoming famous.

Strive for that. Make good materials. Publish them. Get good reviews. Loop.

This generates a virtuous loop, which makes you produce better and better material.

16. Bibliography

People who want to change education as well: