I want to make clear ahead of time that Vi Hart is awesome. You can also see her videos on her blog at vihart.com. But she’s a math teacher who thinks — no, who knows — that math class is so often boring to so many student, and makes no effort at all to hide her contempt of anyone who doesn’t teach the subject’s beauty. Here’s an example of her at work with her videos.
Her videos are much better than mine, for the record.
OK, so here’s the thing.
If you’re a math teacher, you’re in competition against her. You may not think that way — after all, she publishes videos, and you don’t, perhaps. Or maybe you do publish imagery, but it’s not as good as what Dan Meyer publishes over at Dy/Dan. Or maybe what you do is better than what Vi and Dan do, but you don’t publish your work.
You are in competition with them.
Don’t get me wrong: they’re not competing with you because they hate you… well, not unless you’re one of those boring math teachers that Vi rails against. They’re just trying to excel in their chosen profession — teaching math.
But it means that for the first time, your high school and middle school math students have choices about where to learn math, and how, and from whom. They don’t know it yet, but they have options about who is going to teach them math. Is it going to be Vi, with her doodles, or Dan with his word games and his photographs, and his fiendishly difficult (for a history major like me) problems in real contexts?
Or is it going to be YOU?
Vi and Dan are the first evidence that teaching jobs can be outsourced. Your job doesn’t have to move to Bangalore or Cairo to vanish from your life… it just has to move some place you’re not, like YouTube, or SlideShare, or LinkedIn, or Posterous, or Delicio.us, or Digg or Facebook or any of a dozen other sites where teens and young adults are. What about LiveMocha for language-learners? WordPress for English students, and Wikipedia for history and geography students? Vi Hart is a threat to your job security. Dan Meyer is. I might be, too. The bean counters and pencil pushers in too many schools know that the fastest way to lighten their budgets is to cut staff… if they can replace “surplus staff” with free video content, so much the better.
Your competitors are posting their best explanations of things online, right now. The video is being posted right now that is turning you from a five-star educator in your district or county into a no-star ham educator who says “dude” a lot.
What are you doing to stay competitive?