Gem In Gem Out

The education right now is wrong. It’s time to change it.

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The Missing Connections

 The Problem

When I’m taught something in school, I often find myself asking two questions:

  1. Does it matter to me?
  2. Does it make sense to me?

Sadly, the answers are often “no” and “no”. I’m not motivated by whatever I was learning, and it’s not making sense, at least not to me.

What went wrong?

Some connections are missing. By connection, I mean the bridge between what you are trying to learn and what you already know. Sometimes, the absence of connections makes it a lot harder to learn something, let alone enjoy it.

For example, when you play a game for the first time, it usually teaches you the basics like shooting an enemy, and then puts you in an environment where you can try out what you just learned. It then continues with other basic controls until you are comfortable with everything. Only after that, the real game begins.

 The Excuse

Now, imagine putting a player out there...

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MOOC Doesn’t Reinvent Education

A while ago, MOOC was the hype. People kept talking about it, and some think it is going to make education equally accessible for anyone and reinvent education. Well, it’s not.

It’s not because of the completion rate. MOOC was criticized for how low it is: for a typical Coursera course, less than 10% of the students enrolled would get the certificate. In a popular course “Think Again: How to Reason and Argue”, 226,652 students enrolled, but only 2.3% completed the course (data source). Though 2.3% is not low at all. When only counting students that actually attempted the course, the completion rate is around 40%. This is a decent figure, considering (1) the course is completely free, (2) there is no limit on how many courses you can take simultaneously, and (3) the certificates mean much less than a real degree.

MOOC is not as game-changing as people think. It is surprisingly similar...

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Introducing Tab Star

Available at Chrome Web Store.

Star important tabs, and close all unstarred tabs with just a keypress, like a boss.

Instructions: Click the little star to star a tab. When pressing Ctrl+Shift+X (Cmd+Shift+X for Mac users), all unstarred tabs will be closed.

Why is this useful? Because you can keep the important tabs on, like Google Calendar and Gmail, and the results you want to keep for later use when doing a research. You may open up more than 20 tabs and decide to keep only 3 of them for later. Star them, and cleanup all the mess like a boss. Remember to unstar a tab when you’re done with it!

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Working on: Easy Explain

I have always wanted to build a website that makes it easier to understand things. Many things are so hard to understand: textbooks, papers, super serious technical talks, and the alike. This should be easier… or maybe it can be?

Easy explain works by letting you recommend what explanation they think it’s the best for a certain concept or terminology. You can vote “easy” or “hard”, so that the ones that are easiest for the general public to understand can be get more attention to those seeking a better explanation. You can subscribe to anyone with a similar taste as you. The website is not live yet, but I’m posting some screenshots here. One screenshot actually contains a lot of words, so you can say I’m cheating on my 10 sentence rule right now. Ok, maybe I am, since I’m very excited about this project and all.

Home screen

About screen

Category screen

View Item screen

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Introducing MarmoUI

Download page with instructions

Here are some before and after screenshots. Click to enlarge.

Version 1.3 new features: color indication and auto-refresh.

Color indication: passed test cases have green overlay and failed ones have red overlay.

Auto refresh: automatically refresh until results are out. The page is not refreshed, only the pending rows are refreshed. Example submission is on the first row.

Sign In Screen

Select Course Screen

View Problems Screen

Web Submit Screen

New feature: alternative popup submit form

View Submissions Screen

View Test Results Screen

Code by Shida Li, design by Erica Xu.

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