The Nebula Blog

5 Resources that will change the way you teach

education Jul 24, 2021

With the summer quickly coming to an end here are five ways to keep your students engaged and explore new possibilities in the classroom this year.

Manim

Manim, short for Mathematical Animation Engine, is an open-source tool first developed by Grant Sanderson of the popular YouTube channel 3Blue1Brown. Manim is a Python library that allows educators to create detailed animations and mathematical representations—truly providing a unique experience for students to better understand challenging concepts.

Manim is a unique tool because it allows for the visualization of more abstract concepts that might not be animated on a graph. One of my favorite applications of Manim is in representing electricity and magnetism.

Introducing Manim to your classroom does require some knowledge of Python—however, there are a number of tutorials that allow for quick adoption.

Open-source development allows for there to be two unique versions of Manim. The first is ran by Grant Sanderson for his project specific goals, available here: https://github.com/3b1b/manim. Amore stable community edition is available here: https://github.com/ManimCommunity/manim/.

Podcasts

Engaging students doesn’t always have to include visuals and hands-on work. Auditory lessons can be a great way for students to stay interested in the topic. What makes them so great? Podcasts allow students to get a much needed break from the visual stimulation that they are likely overwhelmed with and having students read extended dialogue and breakdown new concepts and ideas can be monotonous work.

Here are some great podcasts to check out!

  • Lex Fridman Podcast—Lex Fridman is an AI researcher who has prominent scientific guests on his podcast regularly. Past guests include Elon Musk, Michio Kaku, and Stephen Wolfram.
  • The Amp Hour—The Amp Hour podcast offers unique content exploring electronics and applications of technology and engineering. The podcast offers some interesting niche videos that could fit in nicely with specific projects, lessons, and labs.
  • STEM Fatale—STEM Fatale explores women in STEM, both historically and currently. They offer both short and long-form episodes that are sure to inspire and motivate students.

Looking for a way to keep students motivated and focused? Try playing podcasts while students are completing independent work or are in the lab.

Jupyter Notebook

Another open-source tool, creating lessons within a Jupyter Notebook is a great way to make lessons more interactive for students. It does require knowledge of programming, however Jupyter supports over 40 different programming languages—including Julia, Python, and R. Jupyter supports external libraries and has beautiful text output.

A Jupyter Notebook with variable inputs is used to show the Lorenz system

One of the advantages of utilizing a Jupyter Notebook is that it gives students the ability to directly interact with functions. The ability to internalize and visualize functions mentally takes time and practice—by providing variable visualizations students can learn to do this better than ever before.

There are browser-based solutions that can provide students access to Notebooks, most notably JupyterLab and Google’s Colab.

Microcontrollers

Utilizing microcontrollers in labs is a great way for students to explore multidisciplinary concepts that can further excite them about STEM. This is because microcontrollers require students to not only explore one idea—they allow them to explore programming, circuitry, and troubleshooting.

Microcontrollers are growing in ability, and recently there has been a lot of development in wifi-enabled boards. There are especially powerful applications of microcontrollers in prolonged experimentation and sensing.

One of the coolest applications of such can be seen by conservation engineer Jessica Drou, who runs the YouTube channel RiverTechJess. In one of her projects, Drou utilized a turbidity sensor to take measurements in the Vjosë River. While it might not be possible to take a field trip to Albania, deploying a microcontroller in the field can be a great way to take measurements consistently in the field.

Looking for a way to integrate microcontrollers in the classroom? Nebula Education offers resources to help you get started.

TikTok

It’s no surprise that students are spending a lot of their time on the popular social media app TikTok. It’s a fun platform where users can share quick videos on just about anything.

As the adage goes, if you can’t beat them, join them. And that’s exactly what teachers around the world are doing. Having students to convey information in a short time span can be quite the challenge—not only do students need to ensure that they understand the content they’re putting out, but they have to make sure it is concise and to the point.

TikToks are traditionally 15 or 60-second videos. That’s it. Want to make it even more of a challenge? Having students try to get more likes than one another.

There are a lot of unique resources that can be used to make interactive and modern lessons in the classroom. Implementing some of these technologies can truly make an impact on students.

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