Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Doctor Aviation (Homeschool Review Crew)

Matthew is just about finished his core requirements, so homeschooling is quickly becoming more engaging for him now that it's all about electives!  I may say "You need to pick a science, so you have a fourth course in that field," but because he's a school district of one, he can pretty much choose any science he pleases (or at least that I can pull a program together for).  Matthew was intrigued when  Doctor Aviation, a new video-based learning Aviation History course became available to review. It's recommended for ages 16+, so that fits right into Junior or Senior year of high school and elective time! (PS. Adults who want to just learn more about the history of flight will enjoy this as well.) We received a six-month membership to the program (the standard program length) for our review.

The founder of Doctor Aviation is Daryl Smith.  In the beginning of the first session, he introduces himself and his credentials.  He's a United States Air Force Academy graduate (undergraduate and masters degrees) and instructor, with a 24 years career as aviator and instructor.  Doctor Aviation is a well-qualified tutor!

His lecture style is very low-key, preferring to let the information shine.  In addition to the spoken lecture (which is filmed in an airplane hangar), there are high-quality graphics that help identify and explain information. I felt that there was enough to keep Matthew's interest, but not so much cutting back and forth that it became difficult to follow and keep up with the provided guided notes.

The entire 15-lesson course is divided into six sections:

  • Course Introduction
  • The Aircraft
  • Air Traffic Control
  • Aircraft Maintenance
  • Aircraft Operations
  • The Aircraft II

Each section is further divided into relevant lessons.  By breaking down the topics into smaller session, it allows the program to explore an area without becoming too overwhelming.  Could you imagine trying to cover all the parts of various planes and their capabilities in just one lecture?

Each video-based lesson is about an hour long (most are in the 45-55 minute range).  The lessons are divided into three segments: Technical Trivia, Notable Innovators, and Legendary Aircraft/Events.  They are individual, self-contained lessons that are tied together by a common theme.  For example, the first lesson is about the basics of how a plane works, the innovators were the Wright brothers, and the legendary event was the first flight at Kitty Hawk.  Lesson five ties together maneuvering a plane, Daniel Bernoulli and his work on speed and pressure, and the catastrophic UAL 232 crash in Sioux City, Iowa.  Though the program presents all three sections within one video lesson, each is clearly defined. A student could watch one part per viewing if pressed for time. (Matthew found the short sections helpful waiting for doctors' visits, knowing that he wouldn't be just getting into the middle of something and his name be called.)

Doctor Aviation also provides some of his own props.  Well...jets, I suppose.  Here he is demonstrating flight principles using a replica of one of the planes he flew during his years as an Air Force pilot.

Downloadable PDF guided notes are supplied for each lesson.  There is a LOT of information presented in the videos, and these guided notes are useful for helping the student follow along.

Matthew found these helpful because while he needed to pay attention to complete them, he wasn't trying to figure out on his own what was important and what was detail.  Doctor Aviation also provides (optional) tests that are based on the videos and notes are also available.  (Prepared tests are definitely helpful since those pesky transcripts need actual grades!)

In addition to just the presentation part of the course, there is an extensive "For more information" section in each lesson.  There are links to follow, suggested books for further reading, and prompts for further study.  With so much added activity, we found each lesson took about two weeks to complete!

Matthew has read a wide variety of resources so far, from biographies and autobiographies to technical books.  They're certainly not required to complete the course, but he's become so interested in the suggested titles that he's found himself wanting to read multiple books from each lesson.  (I said to him, "You need to choose one of these," and read the list for Session 2 aloud. Matthew responded, "Can't I have both?"  Ok, then!!)   Among the books he's read are both Wright brothers' biographies The Bishop's Boys (Tom Crouch) and The Wright Brothers (David McCullough) and multiple books about the Chuck Yeager's career  -- Yeager: An Autobiography (Yeager),  The Quest for Mach One: A First-Person Account of Breaking the Sound Barrier (Yeager et. al.)  and The Right Stuff (Tom Wolfe).   With so much reading, we've actually decided to count at least some of it towards credit in Literature. (Read about how we're planning that.)

There are also opportunities for hands-on learning.  Matthew explored ailerons, rudders, and yaws using paper and foam airplanes that he built himself.   These are among several NASA-produced lessons and pages provided in the "To Learn More" downloads.

However, as much as I loved having the extra information to help "bulk up" the course to make it worthy of a full credit, I found chasing things down to be frustrating.  Some of the suggested books were easily available, but many were out of print and only available secondhand.  (If you don't have a very extensive public library, they may also be harder to find.)  The PDFs say that the links were retrieved in mid-to-late 2015, and unfortunately, by mid-2017, many of the links were broken.  You certainly don't need to follow every link or read every book,  but it was frustrating that so many resources became unavailable over the past two years or so.  My concern would be that while the information in the videos would remain current,  the "For more study" resources may become undependable.  While it's understandable that Doctor Aviation may not be able to keep every book in current publish, I would recommend sporadic link refreshing (at least annually) to make sure the information is still available to viewers.

Finding hidden gems like this is what makes being part of the Homeschool Review Crew so invaluable for our homeschool.  Aviation is not something I would have thought of looking for a course for, and yet it's become a real hit for Matthew!   Who knows what else he'll decide to study, but thanks to Doctor Aviation,  we know the sky is really the limit for elective choices.

Learn about how other Crew Members are taking to the skies for learning by clicking the banner below!

Aviation Course {Doctor Aviation Reviews}

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