Friday, January 7, 2011

Interview with Todd Oh

This is the second interview in my series with students from around the world. My first interview was with Australian student Pearce Delphin (part one, part two) and in sticking with that side of the world, next up is a student from South Korea. I think it is important to give students a voice in the conversation about education reform and the Q & A below hopefully adds something to the conversation. Todd Oh is a brilliant young man with many fascinating ideas and I am excited to present his thoughts on education to you here!

1. How old are you and where are you from?

@toddoh_: Hi, I'm Todd Oh, 17 years old boy who lives in South Korea! :)

2. How would you describe your social media use on a normal day?

@toddoh_: Well, I'm quite social media-addicted because of my startup. I wake up and check twitter mentions. Then I check email and send some messages to our teammates through smartphone IM(Kik). While studying at school, we study facebook, social networks, and many web/mobile-related technologies. Because of school, I use facebook for class. Turn on my laptop and start commenting and tweeting. Later, when I'm home- I read and send many tweets, and look around RSS reader to catchup new things.

3. Are you a gamer?

@toddoh_: I play some games but not enjoying it well. My favorite activity is taking photos (outside), not playing games :)

4. Do you think school, as an institution, is valuable? Why?

@toddoh_: Yes, valuable. But not South Korean schools. School without rigorous curriculum is valuable. It will help students creative. Also, school helps us to experience how to socialize well. School is a mini social before we go to real competitive world.

But South Korean schools and Obama's new public school renovation plan are COMPLETELY NOT valuable. Rigorous, strict curriculum can't make student creative and autodidact.
I think rating students by numbers or through exam ONLY is the worst part of it. Exam can't sort which student is creative and passionate. Exam and also, creativity program to valuate students.

5. What aren't you being taught in school that you feel should be taught?

@toddoh_: Journalism. Even though not all students wanna be journalist, Journalism is quite necessary to increase writing skills. Also it will train us to capture essentials of everything. Thinking- this is a good start of everything.

6. What do you do in school that you feel is a waste of your time?

@toddoh_: In this case, I can say every time everyday. I note that South Korea's school is good at cramming. This is why I said 'every time everyday'. We study over 13 subjects (9/10/11/12 grade) and all we need to do is cram with the textbook and previous K-SATs. Can you imagine it? :)

7. What is the most valuable academic subject for students entering the second decade of the 21st century?

@toddoh_: Liberal Arts. That's all.
Some people says IT is the most valuable, some people even says nanoscale science or neurobiology. No, those are valuable, NOT 'THE MOST'.
Even as digital takes control of this world, we are human. Did you see WALL-E, animation from Pixar? Everyone forgot about humanism and nature, and what happened?
Liberal Arts is for all subjects. Without this, we can't live like humans. We live because we think, feel, love and wanna be valuable every time.

8. If you could design a lesson for next year's class, how would you structure it?

@toddoh_: We can't structure class. Government structures it. How lovely this is... :(
But If I could- Industrial Design, Journalism, Social Science(sociology), Literature.

9. What are your thoughts on standardized tests?

@toddoh_: I said about this above(No.4) actually. Not all students can be rated by standardized numbers and sorted (= exam). There are many standards for many different characters. And I know we can't apply double standards on exams. So let's just go with multiple ways. Exam and another programs that can allow creativity and personalities. Obama misunderstood something; Koreans are good at solving math/science problems, but thats it. We know we have to start creative educations such as media creation.

The great guy who leads culture, the great guy who can solve standardized thing faster. Different angle, different results. We all say Steve Jobs is an amazing guy (even if he is selfish or whatever). Does he can solve something faster? No. But does he change our lives? Yes.

10. What makes a good teacher good?

@toddoh_: Hmm, don't be nice to students. Be ready to learn and give it back to students, Be an adviser to students. Being nice is easy- just smile and don't teach them with passion. Saying 'good!' always is easy, but advising students is not an easy thing.

But students want it. Even though your students are not ready to get advice, try it slowly. So if you're going to do this, you have to update brain rapidly.
Good to Great :)

11. Do you feel that Googling facts is a suitable replacement for knowing them?

@toddoh_: Sometimes yes, sometime nope. Case-by-Case. A good teacher can judge if it is right information or not :)
Actually media(including mass-media) gave us many good facts. There are many routes. Several iPad apps are good for it.

P.S: Wolframalpha is also good.

12. What projects are you working on outside of school?

@toddoh_: I'm working on my startup with 3 American students(HS/Univ both). We're building something secret now and will unveil within first quarter.
All I can say is it's related to location. To have fun, Full of fun together- its the rough concept :)

I was also speaker of TEDxYouth@Seoul(Korea) 2010.

You can follow Todd on Twitter @toddoh_.

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