Socratic’s Got Badges!


Beautiful badges for you!

We think your contributions on Socratic are a big deal. Last week, we launched badges as a way to celebrate that! You can find yours displayed proudly on your profile.

Check out your badges

You unlock badges by crossing specific milestones that represent the ways youve made Socratic a better place to learn. Good vibes, right?

We’ve also added more stats to your profile so that you can keep better track of your contributions—and all the ways youve helped students around the world.

Just in case you're wondering …

What are badges again?

Badges are achievements you can unlock on Socratic for reaching specific milestones. The first badges you can unlock are subject badges, which celebrate your contributions to that subject on Socratic. Within each subject badgeyou can also level-up as you contribute more (and your contributions help more people!).

How can I get subject badges? How do I level-up?

You can unlock subject badges by earning Karma. Writing, editing, and receiving likes on answers within a subject all earnyou karma for that subject—the more you do, the faster you’ll level up! Learn more about Karma here.

So keep up those contributions & good luck leveling up!

It’s easier to find questions to answer!

Great news: finding questions to answer on Socratic just became waaay easier!

 Today’s new feature—the Open Questions tab—gives you the tools you need to find the specific questions you really want to answer. Hooray! Check it out for Biology here. 

To check out the new updates, click on the Open Questions tab in a subject you like …

Use keyword tags to find questions in specific topics. Hello, derivatives!

Toggle between question types to see the style of questions you’re feeling.


Not enough time to write an answer from scratch? Use the Help improve answers filter to see answered questions that need formatting fixes, more explanation, or a simpler explanation to skyrocket them to greatness.

I hope this makes contributing on Socratic easier and more fun.

If you haven’t guessed it already, I live for your feedback—send me thoughts at becca@socratic.org!

Becca & the Socratic Team

Why we build for students

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Technology in education has historically been a story of control and limited access. 

The main sources of information for students were their textbooks and their teachers. Both were limited: either in content, or in time. Research happened in libraries, closed after school. Lab computers blocked sites. The class portal was a nuisance. All were controlled and chosen by administrators of the school, and were created by companies that saw schools, not students, as their customers.

In recent years, the quality of products offered by schools has superficially improved. Textbooks now come with website access, class portals look more modern, and schools have iPads with authorized apps.

Meanwhile, something has quietly arrived in the hands of students everywhere: choice.

From America to India, smartphone penetration is highest among 18–24 year olds. In developed countries, 80% of 18–24 year olds have one. Empowered by their devices, students have become independent and savvy consumers of information and apps from unlimited sources.

Today, when a student is stuck working on homework or studying for a test, they’ll use what they know and what’s been most useful. That means searching Google, watching a Youtube video, or messaging friends.

Today, it makes little sense for any institution to push poor technology choices on students. The textbook’s website is clunky? Wikipedia and Google are clean and fast. YouTube is blocked in the lab? It works on their phones.

If students don’t like what’s been pushed onto them, they’ll go around it. The only way to help students is to build for them, and the only way to do that is to watch them try to learn.

Watch them search for help on their phones even though they are sitting with a laptop open. Watch them struggle to understand a Wikipedia article on Physics, written at the PhD level. Watch them regularly turn to Yahoo Answers, only to find conflicting responses. Watch what they are trying to do and where it’s breaking, and you’ll find an opportunity.

In this world, building for students is quite like building the rest of the consumer Internet. More experiments will happen. Iteration times will go down. And best of all, products built for students will actually make learning easier.

- Shreyans

Thanks to Andrew Parker, Asha Gupta, Andrew Kortina, Shipra Bhansali, and Andrew Staub for reading drafts of this.

Why LaTeX is bad for learning

Writing and displaying equations is hard to do online.

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The default tool for writing equations is LaTeX, a decades-old, very powerful, but unintuitive tool.

This is what that equation looks like in LaTeX:

V = \frac{4\pi r^3 }{3}

It’s hard for anyone who hasn’t learned LaTeX to read, write, modify or search for this equation.

But few people take the time to learn LaTeX  —  one reason why the internet is full of unstructured, hard to read math, or math trapped in images and pdfs.

That’s a pity. The internet would be a better place for learning if it had better formatted math, and the only way that is going to happen is if it’s easy and intuitive to create …

## Enter ASCIIMathML

Our goal at Socratic is to make learning easier. An integral step towards making math easy to learn is empowering our community to create, edit and search for beautifully-formatted equations.

We discovered a little-known technology called ASCIIMathML which does exactly that.

ASCIIMathML is a slightly-less powerful but much more intuitive way of writing math. You basically write equations the same way you’d type them into a graphing calculator (remember that TI-83?) or the Google search bar.

For example, instead of writing:

V = \frac{4\pi r^3 }{3}

You write:

V = (4 pi r^3)/3

Once you start playing with it you’ll be surprised how easy it is to write gorgeous-looking equations.

Try it out here: socratic.org/help/math

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## Using ASCIIMathML on your site

We encourage all sites that display math content to use ASCIIMathML input. This is especially important on collaborative sites like Socratic where users might want to modify or fork existing content on the site.

Here are the resources you need to add ASCIIMathML to your site:

  • Learn more about ASCIIMath here (Huge kudos to Prof Jipsen for writing ASCIIMath and giving it a reusable license)

To display formatted ASCIIMathML content on your website, you’ll need to include the Mathjax javascript library: mathjax.org

I hope this makes learning easier, 
Chris

Why Original Answers Matter

At Socratic, our vision for the future of learning online is that students can type in any question they have and they’ll find a helpful explanation tailored exactly to that question.

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In order to make this vision a reality, we believe it’s important that all our answers are original. We define original answers as those that have been custom-created for every question on our site. These kinds of answers create the best experience for students. Why?

Three reasons original answers are best for students

  • Answers that are specific and unique to that question mean the student doesn’t have to hunt around for the information they need
  • Writing in the “Socratic style”, with a summary first and an explanation afterwards, emphasizes learning and puts ease of understanding first
  • Original content helps us, while duplicate content hurts us, in the eyes of search engines like Google. Original content means more people will find Socratic, and more people = more answers to help students learn

What can you do?

Write helpful, original answers that address the question as best you can. Don’t copy-and-paste from other websites. Don’t link to external websites as your primary answer. Don’t reuse another answer you’ve written on Socratic.

If you see any of these things happen, remember that you’re empowered to correct them! Edit answers that don’t meet the “original” criteria and leave a comment to help guide the answerer for next time.

What if you see a question that’s asking the same thing as a question you’ve seen already answered on the site? If you believe that the student asking would benefit most from the answer that already exists, simply mark the question as “duplicate”  and link to the awesomely-answered question in the text box that appears.

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What’s next?

You might notice that our team at HQ has been working hard to clean up un-original answers on the site. If someone edits your answer to make it better, don’t worry—join the movement and help us make Socratic the best place to learn on the web!

Socratic Weekly: Precalculus & Calculus have arrived!


Hi All, 

We’ve been quite busy over here at Socratic HQ! Today, we’re thrilled to announce the launch of two new subjects on the site: Precalculus & Calculus! We’re really pushing the limits (if you catch my drift).  

You’ll find theory-based questions on topics like limits and tangent slope as well as practice problems, like:



                                                    (See the answer on Socratic here!)

Writing math equations on a computer can be really hard, so we’ve built a system to make it easier to do. You can play around with it here. We’re excited about the ways it will make learning and teaching math easier.

Click over to Precalculus and Calculus and get your Q&A on!

Hope this makes learning easier,

Biology Q&A is here!

Hi All, Biology—it grows on you! And it’s grown on Socratic, too.

We’re really excited to officially announce that we’ve opened Biology Q&A on the site! Now, anyone can ask and answer questions about topics like osmosis, organelles, enzymes … or anything under the sun—literally. Biology, the study of life and living organisms, is a fascinating scientific discipline that transports us from organisms so small they can’t be seen with the naked eye to topics as vast as the very structure of all life on earth.

I can’t wait to see a flourish of activity over on Socratic Biology in the coming days!

Hope this makes learning easier,

Becca, Community Lead at Socratic.org

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P.S. I’ve been really inspired by the beautiful imagery associated with Biology, so we made a Vine to show off some of the stellar answers with images on the sitecheck it out!

Setting Educational Content Free

Image http38mediatumblrcom3c1b2c6e9c5a7de444f14fcd203b9aa1tumblr_miht4wySdd1s5nl47o1_1280gifImage credit: 1ucasvb.tumblr.com

 
Socratic’s mission is to make learning easier. We believe that it’s easier to learn when teachers have access to great teaching materials, whether they be videos, practice problems, or images.

Unfortunately, most resources on the Internet have restrictive copyrights, and cannot be used in the classroom for free.

We’d like to see more content freely available for educational purposes. To that end, we’ve decided to put all original content on Socratic under a Creative Commons License.

In a nutshell, this means that anyone can use Socratic content however they want as long as they A) don’t use it for commercial purposes and B) link back to the original content on Socratic.

This should be especially useful for educators who want to use Socratic content as part of their lessons, build upon the content to make it their own, or redistribute it on different platforms.

As a company, we strongly believe that teaching and learning will be easier for everyone if there is more educational content freely available.

If you are creating educational content, we urge you to add a similar license to your content. Here are step-by-step instructions on how to add a Creative Commons license to your content on different platforms:
Happy posting,
 
P.S. A big shoutout to LucasVB who creates fantastic math gifs and puts them out into the public domain. 

Keeping Socratic Spotless

We’ve added a couple of new features to Socratic and we want to know what you think:

First, we’ve added the option to each unanswered question for you to “Close Question” - once clicked, the question will be marked for removal from the site. We created this feature based on your feedback.


If a question is poorly written, but you understand what the student is trying to ask, you still have the option to “Edit Question” and rewrite appropriately. You also still have the option while editing to change the topic to which the question is attributed.





Second, next time you log in, you’ll see a checklist that looks like this. Many of you may already completed your list!

 

Once you’ve accomplished these four things - you’ll see a completed list:
 



Will you be closing questions? Is there anything you think we should add to the checklist?

Looking forward to hearing your answers. Just reply to this email!
Becca & Jackie
Community Team

Keeping Busy This Summer

We know many students are almost, if not already, on summer break. This season is a great chance to relax, but it’s also a great time to keep busy and learn something new!

Most local public libraries are an excellent resource for interesting (and typically free) summer programs and exhibits for students of all ages. Just as an example, the Toronto Public Library offers free programs and exhibits that you can filter by age and topic of interest. Check them out here.

Try searching Google for your own city’s programs! Typically, if you search “[City name] public library programs,” you’ll be quickly directed to relevant information.

Hope this makes learning easier,
Becca & Jackie
Community Team at Socratic