Student Reflections

Joshua Cheong's Reflections

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Day 1 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 7 | Day 11

Link to Joshua Cheong’s Page on Tumblr

Day 1 Thoughts

Today was the day of many new experiences. This is my first time in U.S.A, this is my first ever class in MIT and this class is so great! In 2008 during my years in Junior College, I was writing a paper about the Big Bang. In a desperate attempt to make sense of what I had to write about, I chanced upon a couple of youtube lectures on Special Relativity from Yale and I was able write out the derivation of Einstein’s Special Relativity formulas from scratch. That literally blew my mind and I would never forget thinking that online videos would revolutionise the way that students study forever. A small kid in a small country like Singapore would have never imagined that he could be able to stand on the shoulders of academic giants through these videos and get the information he wants.

If only the video information I had at the time was more accessible and enjoyable.

Naveen Jain, the founder and former CEO of Infospace once asked (and I paraphrase) what if the children of the future would be addicted to learning and learning related games as much as they are addicted to popular computer games like Dota or Call of Duty (COD)? How would such a world look like?

Is it possible to develop a series of educational videos that are strangely as hypnotically captivating as top TV shows like “How I met your Mother”? What would it take for Tom Cruise to narrate his “Mission Impossible” moves using physics concepts as he take down the bad guys? How cool would it be if Kim Kardashian taught a sociology class on why controversy sells?

Perhaps I’m sounding more and more crazy here, but maybe what we need is a little crazy. Perhaps that’s what would tip the scale that brings humanity forward.

Looking forward to the next class!

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Day 3 Reflections

This video is courtesy of Joshua Cheong on YouTube and is provided under our Creative Commons license.

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Vlog Day 4

This video is courtesy of Joshua Cheong on YouTube and is provided under our Creative Commons license.

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Day 5 Reflection

Wow! Today things started to get real. Having filming partners really got us warmed up better with each other.

The lessons were so important & applicable and I was busily jotting everything down.

I loved the metaphor that the camera is the voice of this visual language and we need to learn how to speak it. The main key point I got from the lesson was that with the visual language, there is much more you can play with and experiment with, but do it in purposeful ways; instead of the idea of a traditional acting stage (proscenium).

I loved it that I learned some technical terms for filming such as B-Roll, Pacing, Close shots, and Wide shots etc. Nathan and I were immediately using those terms to communicate the ideas quickly. Those terms were super helpful, I wouldn’t have known otherwise how to describe a scene with B-roll.

I found Elizabeth’s tips on developing a checklist extremely useful and I can see how I would totally lose a lot of time if I were to be less prepared. I am soo excited to scout for locations and start planning the shots!! Have a great weekend to y’all!! Looking forward to monday!

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Day 7 Thoughts

Haha the script has come a long way after a great ton of iterations! I can start to see how things would be coming together. Currently I am building the storyboard up and getting up and running with the video editing software. I am very excited about the filming process but daunted at the same time due to my inexperience.

The lesson was amazing. I didn’t realise that there was so much in the thought process of simply choosing the music and the editing. Simply by going through this experience has taught me a lot of great lessons.

I really love those memorable quotes, “You must kill all your darlings!”, “Editing… is not so much of putting a film together but rather of discovering a path”, and “Shoot like you’re going to keep everything! Edit like you’re going to keep nothing!”

I also took both PJ’s and Andrea’s advice of simplifying the numbers.

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Day 11 Thoughts

Wow, this course was an amazing experience! I must thank all the teaching staff and participants for pouring all your experience into the projects given such a short period of time. Personally, I’ve gained a ton from the class (and from the pizza we had, pun intended). From scriptwriting, to video editing; it is incredible how much I’ve learnt about the planning, iteration and passion that is required for these k12 videos.

As I’ve previously mentioned, my mother is the Head of the Science department of all-girls middle to high school (secondary school) in Singapore (Tanjong Katong Girls School). I’ve shared my experiences and my project with her and she was very impressed with the MIT K12 youtube channel. She is looking incorporate the videos in the students’ learning experience.

In Singapore, since the 80’s we’ve had a strong emphasis on STEM education as there was a manufacturing, engineering, and R&D industry boom at that time. Till today, many Singapore parents insist that their children take a triple-science (biology, chemistry and physics) high school education. Although that may seem like a different situation as compared to U.S.A, my mother tells me that she always had an issue with inspiring students on the science subjects given the large coverage of syllabus material. From a larger perspective, the MIT K12 videos can give bursts of real-world application ideas on those scientific concepts that could encourage subject interest and still be short enough to be integrated in school lessons.

From a project perspective, I am quite happy with what I was able to achieve in the project. The first pitch I gave was about the usage of hashing in computer security. After the consultation with the middle-schoolers, it was quite clear that I might be heading in the wrong direction with my ideas. I chose the topic of hashing because I saw that this concept was the most fundamental building block of our modern cryptography protocols. However that was from the point-of-view that assumes that you’ll be interested in the subject of computer security. I then explored a few different topics such as the Google searches and Computer Viruses. I think the Google search topic was mostly accessible as I had previously asked the middle-schoolers if they knew about Google and almost all of them had some idea that you use Google to search for websites. It was a decent starting point I knew that I could start from as a topic to write a script.

The writing of the script was clearly a collaborative effort. Putting it in a Google doc and allowing comments / edits helped me to see the fundamental flaws with the script and its contents. I took most of the advice and comments given to me, especially the comments related to language expressions. Although english is my native language, Singaporeans tend to use their own set of colloquial expressions known collectively as Singlish. I did have to make a hard decision to keep or drop the “Finding Gloves.” portion of the script. I eventually decided to rewrite / shorten that portion and keep it since it was more accessible as a concept with physical props (gloves) instead of a conceptual jump that’s straight to the search engines (which was more of an abstract idea). I think a way I could have improved the script would be to read it aloud to a few people who did not hear of the pitch beforehand and ask them how much they can explain back to me of what they gained from the script. In that way, I could emphasize or de-emphasize certain portions to improve clarity.

I tried to come up with as many hooks as I could in the video to maintain viewer interest. At the back of my mind, I was thinking of the first lesson where we would annotate at what time did I shut off a certain video (Bill Nye, Veritasium etc). I was always a bit anxious if I talked for too long without the element of interaction, that it could result in a ridiculously boring video. I guess this could have been improved further if I was able to get access to some interesting locations to put into the video such as access to film in a Google office, or access to a server farm, or access to Akamai (Akamai has a strong relationship with MIT since it’s co-founder comes from MIT) etc. But due to time constraints, this was not really possible. Nonetheless, I was quite satisfied with the shots in front of the big Google sign despite shivering in the snow at that point.

In terms of “spark”, I tried my best to maintain a smile in my delivery. A while back, I was a telemarketer on a part-time job (I am sorry if I may have disturb people a while back!). One of the most interesting concepts I learned is that people can see you on the phone through your voice. So maintaining a smiling facial expression would change the quality of the delivery. I also followed George’s advice on making a ridiculous version of the narration before actual shooting, it definitely helped me to lose some of the butterflies in my stomach being in front of the camera. At the same time, I also tried to be myself or rather a slightly more enthusiastic version of myself (not too enthusiastic to become unnatural). It was quite a difficult balance, but I learned that it becomes more easy to become a host after a few shoots.

Lastly, in order to push my audience to grow, I kept the long chunk of the script which describes the inner workings of binary search. However, it was a combination of the words with the after-effect animations of the “classroom” and “students” that aided in the description of the process that would not have been possible with just my words. Perhaps I could have improved the video further by adding actual b-roll of running to and from classrooms to show how this process could be troublesome if done incorrectly.

Once again, thank you so much for having the students from Singapore around and it was such an enlightening experience. I am excited to try to make more videos on my own.

I wish you all the best for Spring 2015!

Best regards,

Joshua Cheong

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