Monday, March 4. 2013
I stumbled upon a Google site to promote computational thinking in K-12 classrooms. http://www.google.com/edu/computational-thinking/
Computational thinking (which they abbreviate as CT, but I think of CT as critical thinking) involves a set of problem-solving skills and techniques that software engineers use. It makes sense from a Google perspective to approach things like an engineer, but I am not so sure that all things in education need to be approached that way. I always thought that Google's problem with doing social (see Orkut, Wave, Plus) was that it was designed by engineers rather than a mix of people with the emphasis on non-engineers.
Nevertheless, here are a few examples they give of techniques that their engineers use to write programs.
Pattern Recognition: People look for patterns in stock prices to decide when to buy and sell.
Pattern Generalization and Abstraction: A daily planner uses abstraction to represent a week in terms of days and hours, helping us to organize our time.
Algorithm Design: When a chef writes a recipe for a dish, she is creating an algorithm that others can follow to replicate the dish.
That last item, Algorithm Design, is something we hear about frequently these days even though most of us have no idea what that measn other than "it has something to do wih math." They define it as the ability to develop a step-by-step strategy for solving a problem. Algorithm design seems to include the other techniques: look at the decomposition of a problem and the identification of patterns that help to solve the problem. In computer science as well as in mathematics, algorithms are often written abstractly, utilizing variables in place of specific numbers. Look at the examples they provide:
- When a chef writes a recipe for a dish, she is creating an algorithm that others can follow to replicate the dish.
- When a coach creates a play in football, he is designing a set of algorithms for his players to follow during the game.
- In mathematics, when we calculate the percent change between two numbers, we follow an algorithm along the lines of:
If the original number is greater than the new number, use the following equation to calculate the percent change: percent decrease = 100*(original - new)/original.They lose me when they say that you can take it "a step further" and implement this algorithm in Python so that a computer calculates this for us:
original = float(input('Enter the original number: '))
new = float(input('Enter the new number: '))
if original > new:
percent_decrease = 100 (original - new) / original
print 'Percent decrease:', percent_decrease, '%'
elif new > original:
percent_increase = 100 (new - original) / original
print 'Percent increase:', percent_increase, '%'
print 'There is no percent change.'
Of course, the "step further" is the key for an educator. Google says in its professional development section that this is intended for math teachers and on the web resources page it is all math, science and computer science. What I would be interested in seeing are some applications in other areas.
The one site I could find was the Interactive Journalism Institute for Middle Schoolers which is a research project that introduces students to CT via the creation of online magazines. The computational thinking is via digital media, interactive graphics, animation, video and database design in a collaborative setting. It is designed to foster computational and writing skills and they also get to to share their online magazine with family, friends and teachers. This research project is led by three computer science and journalism faculty and a gender-equity specialist at The College of New Jersey.
Monday, February 25. 2013
I'm always a bit surprised when I see someone do a search online and be disappointed to get either too few results or, more likely, too many irrelevant results. Most search sites have an "advanced search" feature which often solves those issues and others.==On my Serendipity35 tech learning blog, I wrote about using Google for better search. That's useful for yourself and is also something anyone who teaches should make sure their students know and use.
I want to note here an example of a vendor search. Most of us use Amazon to find books and media, but far fewer people use their advanced search feature.==Start by going to the Advanced Search on Amazon. From there I could set up a search for books on "HTML5" published after "2011", and available for the Kindle and get only those results.
After doing my advanced search, I can even limit the search further from the list provided in the left column on the results page. If I wanted the really new publications, I could choose to see only the titles published in the last 30 days.
Amazon's advanced search also works for music, TV, movies, magazines and toys and games.
Wednesday, November 21. 2012
UPDATED from 11/20/07
The preface is something students have already figured out for most classes: Never cite Wikipedia in an academic paper. But that's just for the benefit of your teacher (and your grade) because you should use Wikipedia.
Here's my take on those suggestions in a classroom scenario of my own where I'm teaching To Kill A Mockingbird.
Okay class, now I know some teachers here have you told you that you can't use Wikipedia for your research, but I know that you are using it. So, I actually will require you to use it for this paper we're going to be doing on the novel. I've got some suggestions for right now while we are formulating topics. Look up at the Wikipedia page I have on the projector and let's use Wikipedia to get background information.
For example, I would be happy to see one of you decide to learn something about Harper Lee's hometown which served as a model for the book's setting. Not a bad topic, though I caution you that it might be tough to find out very much. Then again, these papers are short, so do you really want to find five whole books on your topic?
Yes, one of you future lawyers might want to write something on the impact of the fictional Atticus Finch on the real legal profession.
We won't have time in class to talk much about the Great Depression, but I assume that the class has studied it at least once in some history class. Just in case, before we get into a discussion tomorrow, I put two questions on the side board for homework. Take a look at this on Wikipedia in order to answer them and if you can add something from your study of history or find any errors, let us know tomorrow.
Melissa, as our lovable class radical, perhaps you'd like to look at the controversial nature of this book for your paper? Think about it.
Did everyone notice the LINKS at the bottom of the article? These are EXTERNAL links (unlike the ones we just looked at that are internal and go to other Wikipedia entries). TIP: the sources cited in these links are more likely to be accepted on a final paper by the other teachers in this school.
I thought that someone might want to read some or all of Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, a book about the author. Drew, you seemed intrigued that Harper Lee never wrote another novel, and remembered her as a character in the movie Capote. Want to take this book as your topic?
If you are going to the library or a search engine to find interesting topics for your TKAM paper for me, consider the KEYWORDS hyperlinked in the articles.
Linda, a legal eagle in my other class, read this section online this morning:
When Lee was 10 years old, a white woman near Monroeville accused a black man named Walter Lett of raping her. The story and the trial were covered by her father's newspaper. Lett was convicted and sentenced to death, but a series of letters claiming Lett had been falsely accused caused his sentence to be commuted to life in prison where he died of tuberculosis in 1937.Scottsboro Boys incident occurred when she was six years old and would also be covered by her father's paper, Lee has stated that she had in mind something less sensational than that, although the case served the same purpose in displaying Southern attitudes about prejudice. -
Linda decided to do her paper on the actual cases of that time to see how realistic the legal portrayal is in the novel. She decided to focus on the Scottsboro Boys incident to start even though it's not the incident that really inspired Lee. She'll see if she can come up with more on the case in Monroeville. I look forward to that paper.
Oh, Drew - if you come across anything in that biography you're reading on Lee about this, please share it with Linda. No, that's not cheating. It's collaboration. It's good, and, No, I didn't say it was for extra credit - but maybe I'll make collaboration a requirement of the grade. OK, stop groaning.
I would like to point out to the class those little superscript numbers in that passage. Look familiar? Yes, that's right, much of what is on Wikipedia has footnotes. Those REFERENCES at the bottom are to books and articles that were used to put this article together. I'm hoping that this year I can get you guys to read some of those original sources. Yes Jason, you can cite those if you actually use them.
So what we're trying to do here is have you use Wikipedia to get started.
Wednesday, August 15. 2012
I recently discovered a Google/YouTube collaboration for teaching proper digital citizenship practices. The curriculum is for teachers to use to teach students what digital citizenship means and how it impacts their online and offline lives.
The interactive curriculum is on YouTube. There was a time in the early days of the Internet when I would hear that teachers felt an obligation to educate students on how to be safe, engaged and confident model "Netizens." It has been awhile since I heard that term used, and I'm not sure if this is still a topic that is taught. Perhaps, we are assuming that students are born into Net citizenship.
This initiative is aimed at students aged 13 to 17, but elements could certainly be used with older and younger students with some adaptations. For example, the lesson on Copyright includes a Teacher's Guide and Slides that would easily work with an introductory college group.
Google is using its own YouTube as the content for the lessons provided. They cover YouTube’s policies, how to report content, how to protect their own privacy, and how to be responsible YouTube community members. Teachers would hopefully lead students to see the wider implications of being part of an online community and how this applies to places like Facebook.
Each lesson comes with guidelines for teachers and ready-made slides for presentation. There’s also a YouTube Curriculum channel where videos related to the project will be posted.
Tuesday, June 26. 2012
As a follow up to yesterday's post about the flipped classroom, here are "Lessons Worth Sharing" which is TED-Ed’s idea of sharing presentations (lectures? sort of) on great ideas.
Probably some of you already use a TED talk with your students. The example mentioned in the video promo below is "Just How Small is an Atom?" By Jon Bergmann. More videos that were flipped by teachers are being posted all the time.
I have used videos online as flipped (and short) lectures. One I like to use is from a talk given by Sir Ken Robinson about "Changing Education Paradigms." Though I had education majors in my class this semester, the class was on critical thinking. Students watched, enjoyed and remembered the video throughout the semester and the discussion was lively.
One thing I liked about this particular version of his talk is that the video of Robinson actually speaking is replaced by an animated version of someone drawing (very well) on a white board to illustrate Robinson's points. I ask them to answer some questions based on their viewing at home the 12 minute video.
cross-posted from pcccwriting.blogspot.com
Monday, September 26. 2011
YouTube has launched a channel specifically aimed at teachers at http://www.youtube.com/teachers.
It contains guides on how to use YouTube in the classroom, curated video playlists that will be suitable for teachers to use and a YouTube Teachers Community to receive regular updates from the YouTube team, including tips and tricks for incorporating YouTube in your classroom, best practices from other teachers, and new content uploaded to YouTube.
This is an additional area to the EDU section of the site at http://www.youtube.com/education
Tuesday, May 17. 2011
Teachers can now listen to more than 10,000 historical sound recordings using the Library of Congress' new National Jukebox. From ragtime to novelty songs to opera, these songs are now available in an easy-to-use player that lets users create and manage their own playlists. More songs will become available over time, so please visit and explore often.
The Library of Congress makes historical sound recordings available to the public free of charge. The Jukebox includes recordings from the extraordinary collections of the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation and other contributing libraries and archives.
Try out the National Jukebox Sampler which has 14 selections representing the diversity of repertoire to be found in this repository. These performances were recorded between 1901 and 1912.
Wednesday, May 11. 2011
Check out an innovative use of video conferencing by Passaic Valley Regional High School, New Jersey, USA. Their 9th Annual Around the World Videoconferencing Event starts on Wednesday, May 11th at 7:30 am EST and continues to Thursday, May 12th at 4 am EST.
Their current schedule includes the Isle of Jersey, Russia, the Kotel in Israel, Mexico, Georgia, USA, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Pakistan, India, and Croatia. An updated schedule can be found at http://pvhs.k12.nj.us/atw/atw.asp?FeatureID=13
To view the live stream of each video conference go to http://www.njvid.net/live-atw2011.php
From their site:
The purpose of our project is to bring students from different cultures and backgrounds together to promote global awareness and understanding.
We hope to do this through a combination of activities that utilize videoconferencing and an interactive website for the exchange of information and ideas. The culminating activity will involve Passaic Valley High School hosting a series of approximately one-hour individual videoconferences with participating schools during one 24-hour period. Students will be engaged in discussion on selected topics and problem-solving.
The project has two basic elements: the actual videoconferences themselves and an interactive website to promote the exchange of information and ideas. The advances in communication technology offers this generation valuable and fruitful multicultural dialogs. Videoconferencing allows people separated by distance to verbally and visually communicate in real time. Interactive websites allow for the continuation of dialogue long after the videoconferences are over. It is our wish here at Passaic Valley High School that this type of hands-on learning prepares our students to be intelligently engaged in diagnostic analysis and lively discussion with their peers from around the world. We also want this project to serve as a basis for our students to understand their relationships and responsibilities to people, institutions and the environment.
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