Friday, April 26. 2013
I reposted an article on my Tech+Learn+Tech scoop.it site asking if we should be teaching kids to write code. The few comments it received are split on the answer and I imagine that is true for the wider audience of educators.
Some people (non-coders especially) view writing code for web pages or for applications as incredibly dull and boring. On the other side are those that see it as a way to be creative.
Personally, I don't support teaching coding for the purpose of training young coders to some day do things like write iPhone apps. As much as I hated taking math classes in high school, I do recognize that there was some value in the practice because of the logic, precision and critical thinking that it required. I understand the idea of a "beautiful equation" but I never found any beauty in them.
I took COBOL and FORTRAN as an undergrad in that previous century. I had one of the first computers in my classroom in 1979 and I learned BASIC and taught it a bit. Some people thought we would need to learn to write code, but I always believed that other people would write the code (in education) and we would be the users. I can write code for web pages, but I'm falling behind in that area and don't much care to keep up.
But, as the article points out, teaching coding is not a new pedagogical idea. The original article gives 15 reasons why kids need to learn how to code. I picked some of the accompanying quotes to get your brain started. You'll notice that those quoted are clearly on the side of answering Yes to this post's questioning title.
“I think everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.” — STEVE JOBS, THE LOST INTERVIEW
“If you can program a computer, you can achieve your dreams. A computer doesn’t care about your family background, your gender, just that you know how to code.” Dick Costolo – CEO, Twitter“I believe technology should give us superpowers. Everyone should have the opportunity to learn to think, analyze, and create with technology.” Hilary Mason – Chief Scientist, Bitly
“Coding can unlock creativity and open doors for an entire generation of American students. We need more coders — not just in the tech industry, but in every industry.” Mark Pincus – CEO and Founder, Zynga
“Code has become the 4th literacy. Everyone needs to know how our digital world works, not just engineers.” Mark Surman – Executive Director, The Mozilla Foundation
“To prepare humanity for the next 100 years, we need more of our children to learn computer programming skills, regardless of their future profession. Along with reading and writing, the ability to program is going to define what an educated person is.” Salman Khan – Founder, Khan Academy“Programming allows you to think about thinking, and while debugging you learn learning.” Nicholas Negroponte – Founder and Chairman Emeritus of MIT’s Media Lab
“Learning to code makes kids feel empowered, creative, and confident. If we want our young women to retain these traits into adulthood, a great option is to expose them to computer programming in their youth.” Susan Wojcicki – Senior Vice President, Google
Tuesday, April 23. 2013
I'm not much of a "gaming" person. Never got into video or computer games. I didn't want my kids playing Nintendo and such for hours and hours. And I don't even like the term "gamification" which is a term I am hearing a lot lately on education sites and at conferences.
I realize that gamification is not synonymous with gaming. So, to "gamify'" a course means to use the mechanics and techniques that make gaming so engaging. Engagement. Another big buzzy word in education these days. If you can use these mechanics to create engagement and incentivize certain activities in a course, well...
I don't imagine many students who will sit at a screen and work on their organic chemistry coursework for 4 hours because it is game-like, or that we should view that as a goal. But gamification addresses some needs that students today say they want addressed.
One that is always mentioned is immediate feedback and validation. That sends me back to my own Intro to Psych class and behaviorism, B.F. Skinner, Operant Conditioning and things like Random Interrupted Reinforcement.
Point, scores, status and rewards are some of the elements used to motivate actions in a gamified course. These mechanics are structured to achieve engagement. You may not feel comfortable about even viewing content consumption, comments and time spent on tasks as "engagement." But whether you call this engagement mechanics, focus mechanics, or gamification, you should be interested in the intended result - more time spent in the course material.
Being that I am currently teaching an online course with about 700 students, I had thought about using gaming techniques in designing that class. I decided not to design in that way because I anticipated that the audience was going to be older professionals in academia rather than traditionally-aged students. (That turned out to be true.)
I did find a course on Gamification offered by Coursera taught by Kevin Werbach (UPenn). I would have taken the class, but I knew I wouldn't have the time to devote to it. (I actually had two colleagues who told me to take it anyway, just to see what he's doing because "it's only a MOOC" - THAT is a whole other issue).
His course description is:
You may not be interested in gamifying your courses, but vendors who provide course content - especially online content - are interested and are including it now. Gamification was one of the 6 technologies in the most recent Horizon Report.
click image to enlarge
Image Source: http://s.knewton.com
Tuesday, April 16. 2013
On April 16, 2007, my oldest son was a senior at Virginia Tech. I watched the coverage of the mass shooting that day on TV and I was on the phone with my son at the same time. He was safe.
Professor Kevin Granata
I never met Professor Granata, but I know that he was helping my son fill some gaps in his software skills by working with him outside class. He was his adviser for his capstone senior design project team that was designing a biomimetic walking robot.
On that day, Professor Granata heard the shooting from his office on the third floor and escorted about twenty students from a classroom to his office. After they were locked in, he went downstairs with another professor, Wally Grant, to investigate. Both teachers were shot. Professor Grant was wounded and survived, but Dr. Granata died from his injuries. The students locked in his office were all safe.
Kevin Granata was 45 years old. He was married with three children.
My son was never able to go back into the building. He couldn't complete his project. He didn't attend the graduation ceremonies. He wasn't able to follow up on contacts that he had discussed with Professor Granata about grad school and jobs.
Saturday, April 13. 2013
"Academia and the MOOC" is a free "course" on the Canvas Network that I will be facilitating and it opens on April 15 for four weeks. It is free and is itself MOOCish, though not a true MOOC.
The course launches Monday, April 15, 2013 and will run for 4 weeks. It is open and free to anyone interested in this topic.
To register, go to www.canvas.net/courses/academia-and-the-mooc
Friday, April 12. 2013
Interesting quick note from the Emerging Learning Design 2012 Conference on their upcoming keynote presentation by Dr. Christopher Hoadley. His talk will be "The Death Of Content: Why Universities and Schools are (and aren’t) being replaced by the Internet.
The topic of his presentation is one that I have also been presenting on for several years, and that I feel strongly is a topic educators need to be serious about considering.
He describes the argument of his talk as:
"The current coin of the realm in academia –content– is dying and that universities need to radically rethink their role in the world. MOOCs, homeschooling, and the shadow education system all are evidence that the 20th century role of schools is decreasingly relevant. But does this mean that schools will become obsolete? I argue that schools face a choice: use technology to enhance their current functions but hasten their demise, or use technology to transform themselves and capitalize on 17th century strengths to be a cornerstone of the 21st century knowledge economy. I offer some ideas on how to reconceptualize the notion of ‘schools’ based on the latest research in learning and on ancient ideas about how to teach."
Dr. Christopher Hoadley is associate professor in the Educational Communication and Technology Program and the Program in Digital Media Design for Learning at NYU Steinhardt.
Thursday, April 11. 2013
Open Access promo buttons - photo by biblioteekje, on Flickr
I was listening recently to an episode of The Chronicle's Tech Therapy podcast on the "Moral Imperative" for Open Access to scholarly research featuring David Parry. He is an Assistant Professor of emerging media and communications at the University of Texas at Dallas and his main point was that scholars have an obligation to publish their research in journals that make free copies available online.
This is a topic that I am interested in and I agree with Parry. This is also a hot and debatable topic tight now. Unfortunately, it was the suicide of Aaron Swartz after he was being prosecuted for trying to free such research that brought it to many mainstream news outlets.
"Information is power," Swartz wrote. "But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves." He had made unauthorized downloads of more than four million articles from JSTOR and the federal indictment against him said that he did it in order to then upload them to the Internet and make them available for free.
His approach was radical and was compared on news outlets to Wikleaks. The tragedy in his case was that even though the civil complaints against him were dropped and he had returned all the downloaded data, the case was still being pursued.
David Parry calls sites like JSTOR "knowledge cartels."
The term "open" and open access (OA) has a number of meanings. According to Wikipedia (itself an open site), open access can be defined as "the practice of providing unrestricted access via the Internet to peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles. There are a growing number of theses, scholarly monographs, articles and book chapters that are provided with open access to all.
There are two degrees of open access: gratis OA meaning no-cost online access, and libre OA which is like gratis but with some additional usage rights.
Similarly, we use the term "open content" with materials available online where the author(s) gives the right to modify the work and reuse it. Most of us went through school learning to use content intact and to associate it with an author(s).
You might be familiar with Creative Commons licenses that can be used to make content accessible and yet to specify usage rights (such as attribution or non-commercial usage). This blog uses a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike Creative Commons license for the content.
The open access concept was pushed forward at a rapid pace by the Internet, and in education it was pushed by its extension into learning objects and other resources used in online learning.
Scholarly publishing, much like the music and film industry and traditional publishing, has resisted open access, and may very well find that resistance to be why it will disappear.
You can listen to the Tech Therapy podcast on The Chronicle site or subscribe to it with iTunes.
Tuesday, April 9. 2013
MOOCs only have a history of about a little more than four years. The term MOOC was coined in 2008 by Dave Cormier and Bryan Alexander in response to an earlier open online course that had been designed and led by George Siemens and Stephen Downes. Those early courses were founded on the learning theory of connectivism. That theory holds that knowledge should be distributed across a network of connections. Learning comes from being able to construct and traverse those networks.
Because a number of MOOCs that appeared in 2011 and 2012 were not connectivist in their philosophy or design, the term xMOOC was used to distinguish them from the connectivist cMOOC.
Although Massive Open Online Courses are still rather new, the definition of what a MOOC is or what it can be is already changing.
For example, there is no absolute agreement on what number equals "massive." 5000, 25,000 125,000 participants? All sizes have been offered.
And "open" has at least four possible meanings. Does kt refer to the admission into courses, freedom from cost, using open source software or that it uses open, reusable content?
As I have written earlier, the course I'll be running this month about "Academia and the MOOC" (for NJEDge using the Canvas Network) will probably have 500-1000 participants, so I don't consider it "massive." Others have felt the same about their offerings and the term BOOC, for a Big but not massive MOOC has been thrown into the mix.
And since my offering has very little of the traditional elements of a course - no tests, grades, assignments, or credit - I don't consider it to be a "course" as much as I consider it to be a conversation or colloquium.
Just last month, the University of Massachusetts - Boston launched a course using a new learning management system (Adaptive Mobile Online Learning) to deliver what they are calling the first aMOOC - an adaptive Massive Online Open Course.
So much attention has been on MOOC content, class sizes, and credentialing, that the technology that allows and delivers these courses is also important and is part of what differentiates these various MOOCs.
These early days of MOOCs are a bit confusing and the definition is sure to continue to evolve. I suspect the semantics of the MOOC is less important than the experiments and the idea that they will probably change not only how we do online learning, but also learning in all settings. And the part that probably scares some educators and institutions even more is that they may change the definitions of "courses," "credits" and "degrees."
Friday, April 5. 2013
If you read about the Open SUNY announcement recently, you probably thought of it as another MOOC story. But it's more than that. You have one of the largest statewide systems in the U.S. trying to shorten up their time-to-graduation rate and also lower student costs.
These are some of the measures that Open SUNY will use to see how significant the experiment contributes to:
Original content in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons License