Computer education is more than coding

A recent story on NPR asked "Should Computer Education Cover More Than Just Coding?" My answer is, "Yes." You can read their story for the full details, but the takeaways are that teaching other computer (really "technology") skills and the accompanying "soft" skills like critical thinking often require coding.

For example, students learning to work with and structure data, or ones working with an Arduino will need to use code and understand basic concepts such as algorithms.

Higher Education in 2026?

1915 women graduates - University of Toronto - via Wikipedia

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a new report, "2026 The Decade Ahead," it has recently published. I haven't read it and I probably won't read it. My involvement in higher education is less involved these days, but more so, I'm not going to spend $149 for the digital version ($199 for paper) of the report. There are always predictions of where we are headed in technology, education and in general. Many are free and I don't know that the differences in accuracy between free and paid versions is significant.

People do pay for these reports, and there are companies built on the job of predicting. Today, predictive analytics is a whole field and industry that seems to do quite well crunching numbers. In this election year, that is certainly a popular game, though one I rarely find interesting or instructive. Usually, I find these predictions to be wrong, but it is rare for people to go back and check on them. Idea for (someone else's) blog post in 2026: Check back on this report. Set a calendar reminder. So, what changes are in store for higher education over the next 10 years? The Chronicle's teaser says that "evolutionary shifts in three critical areas will have significant consequences for students and institutions as a whole."

1. Tomorrow’s students will be significantly more diverse and demand lower tuition costs.

2. Faculty tenure policies will be reexamined as deep-seated Boomers retire.

3. How colleges are preparing students to succeed in an evolving global economy will be intensely scrutinized. 

My immediate observation is that all three of those shifts have been evolving for at least the past decade - if not for several decades and possibly for a century or two in some ways. Of course, the answers are hopefully in the details that come in the full report.  Did you read it? How about a comment for those of us without an expense account or purchase order?



Google Goes Deeper Into Education

Google has been getting deeper into education, particularly into higher education. For example, their interest in creating a technically skilled, innovative and diverse workforce has moved them into computer science (CS) education.

That is a logical path for the company and they are interested in developing programs, resources, tools and community partnerships which make CS engaging and accessible for all students.

In STEM generally, women and minorities are historically underrepresented and that's true for computer science at the post-secondary level. In the U.S., women and ethnic minorities each represent just 18% of computer science graduates.professional experience.

You would expect Google to have sophisticated analytics, and analytics in online education software is a key feature in an LMS today as a way to understand how students are doing in greater detail than is possible by trying to do it manually. Course Builder offers several built-in analytics that require little set-up and also options for creating custom analytics using Google Analytics and Google BigQuery. They do note that not everything is free - running either type of custom analytics counts against your App Engine quota and can incur costs.

Course Builder is part of their overall education strategy. Check these links for more information:

Open Line Education  

Course Builder Features

One feature is accessibility 

Peer Review


Virtual Expeditions

Virtual field trips have been around in schools almost as long as Internet has been in the classroom. Before there were fast connections in schools and video applications that could handle streaming environments, a virtual field trip to a location like a museum or outdoor site could an unpleasant technological experience.

But things have improved. 

A new Apps for Education, back in 2006 with cloud-based email, calendar and document-sharing products available free to schools. Google's field-trip simulation system, called Expeditions, will also be free to schools as part of a company effort to further develop the technology.

Microsoft is also in the education market with its own email, calendar, Skype and other software. and they have also introduced new products like the note-taking app called OneNote Class Notebook.

Google Expeditions is very much designed for classroom use, rather than being an existing consumer/enterprise products like Skype being marketed to schools. 

Google Classroom is another free app (to create, collect and comment on student assignments) that was made for schools. And don't count out the juggernaut that is Facebook which has tried classroom connections before and had engineers working with schools in California on adaptive learning software to customize to individual students.

A University Without Lectures or Classrooms

campus sketchup

How would a university without majors, lectures, and traditional classrooms look and operate? Those are questions that Christine Ortiz will be dealing with the next few years after she leaves her jobs as Professor of  Materials Science and Engineering and Dean of Graduate Education at MIT. She wants to start a nonprofit university that will be radically different from the university we know now.

In a recent interview with, she discussed some of her early ideas.

At its core, it will be project-based learning with longer rather than shorter-term projects. She sees it as closer to the graduate-education model, though it is for undergraduate study.

It will be virtually online, but there will be a physical campus and buildings. rather than "classrooms," there will be large, open spaces and big centralized laboratories where no one really has their own individual laboratory - an "integrated giant laboratory."

Taking inspiration from the MOOC, the traditional lecture is chunked into many smaller (5-10 minutes) learning objects.

The academic structure is transdisciplinary without departments. 

She sees tenure as a mismatch for this type of university and wants to investigate alternative models, She also sees many talented doctoral students and postdocs that are unable to secure jobs in academia as a pool of potential faculty.

Ortiz mentions that this radical approach has been talked about before. She references a former MIT president, Charles M. Vest, who spoke more than a decade ago about the emergence of the "metacurriculum." This would be a virtually open metacurriculum that would be emerging and some will say has already has begun .

Call it Education 2.0 or a way to address The Disconnected. It is an evolution that Ortiz is hoping to get into early.