June 11, 2012, 4:18 pm
I’m attending the American Society of Engineering Education conference and expo this week in San Antonio, and I hope to have some short blog posts from the various sessions and talks I’m attending.
This morning I attended part of a session on model-eliciting activities and the main plenary, which was titled “Keeping it Real” and focused on tying together academia and industry in engineering education. There were lots of good ideas discussed, but if there was one coherent take-away from these talks, it’s that engineers — at least the ones whose focus is on learning and teaching — are a lot further along than mathematicians in education practice.
Granted, my title here is a little overstated. I am not looking at a representative sample of engineers at this conference. These engineers are the ones who care and think the most about effective learning and teaching; I’m sure there are…
June 2, 2012, 10:27 am
Online educational startup Udacity, with whom I had a very positive experience while taking their CS 101 course, is taking things a bit further by partnering with Pearson. They’ll be using Pearson VUE testing centers worldwide to provide proctored final exams for some of their courses (presumably all of their courses will be included eventually), leading to an official credential and participation in a job placement service.
Before, students watched the videos and did homework assignments online and then took a final exam at the end of the semester. In the first offering of CS 101, the “grade” for the course (the kind of certificate you got from Udacity) depended on either an average of homework scores and the final exam or on the final exam alone. Most Udacity courses these days just use the final exam. But the exam is untimed and unproctored, and there’s absolutely nothing…
May 8, 2012, 12:52 pm
I blog a lot about peer instruction, but I think this screenshot from this morning’s Calculus 2 class is worth 1000 of my blog posts about just how effective a teaching technique PI can be. It’s from a question about average value of a function. Just before this question was a short lecture about average value in which I derived the formula and did an example with a graph of data (not as geometrically regular as the one you see below). I used Learning Catalytics to set up the question as Numerical, which means that student see the text and the picture on their devices along with a text box in which to enter what they think is the right answer. (I.e. it’s not multiple choice.) Here are the results of two rounds of voting (click to enlarge):
After the first round of voting, there were 12 different numerical answers for 23 students! (Some of these would be the same answer if students …
May 7, 2012, 8:58 pm
Today we started the spring term, 6-week Calculus 2 class that I’ve been writing about for the last few days. We had a good time today, getting comfortable with each other and doing some review of the basics of the definite integral. Before we get too far into the term, I wanted to outline the technology infrastructure of the course.
For a long time, I’d used the learning management system (LMS) of my institution as the basic technology for the course, and everything else kind of fit around the LMS. At GVSU the default LMS is Blackboard. But I decided after used Blackboard this past year that we have irreconcilable differences. I don’t ask much from my LMS; I mainly use it to archive files, provide a link to a central calendar, post grades, and to make announcements. I don’t need all the dozens of other features Blackboard offers, and the profusion of features in Blackboard tends to…
May 4, 2012, 4:00 pm
Sorry for the boring title and lack of catchy image, but since my first post about the upcoming six-week Calculus 2 course, I’ve expended all my creativity getting the course put together and getting ready for Monday. In the earlier post I laid down some design ground rules for the course. Here, I’m going to say a little more in detail about what we’ll be doing.
It’s especially important on a highly compressed schedule like ours to use the class meetings themselves to jumpstart the assimilation process and then train students on how to carry that process forward as they go to work on the day’s material in the afternoon and evening. This is always an important goal of class meetings in any course — I’d go as far as to say that this is why we have class meetings at all. But when you cram a 14-week course into 6 weeks, it doesn’t take long for one incorrectly-assimilated concept to…
April 9, 2012, 8:00 am
What I was trying to get across in Friday’s post, Gary Stager did much more clearly in this article. In it, he recalls the time thirty years ago when Logo and BASIC were being taught in schools and kids were programming. But:
Things sped downhill when we removed “computing” from our lexicon and replaced it with “technology” (like a Pez dispenser or Thermos). We quickly degraded that meaningless term, technology, further by modifying it with IT and ICT. Once computing was officially erased from the education of young people, teachers could focus on keyboarding, chatting, looking stuff up, labeling the parts of the computer and making PowerPoint presentations about topics you don’t care about for an audience you will never meet. [...]
What kids do get to do with computers tends to be trivial and inservice of the educational status quo. Gone are the days when educational…
April 6, 2012, 2:33 pm
So let’s suppose we decide to require computer science for all students at our university. How are we going to implement that requirement? Here’s one approach that I believe could turn out to be the wrong way to do this: Set up a collection of courses, all of which count for the CS1 requirement, that are aligned to the students’ levels of technological proficiency. STEM students take a standard intro-to-programming course, liberal arts majors take a course that focuses more on office applications, and so on.
But, wait a minute, didn’t I say last time that I liked Georgia Tech’s approach, where the single CS1 requirement was satisfied by a number of different courses that are aimed at different populations? Yes, I did. But favoring a collection courses with different populations is not the same as favoring a collection with different outcomes depending on how measure, or perceive,…
April 3, 2012, 6:22 am
Sorry to be gone for a few days without posting. It’s been basically triage here as we move toward the end of the semester. It’s also nearly the end of the CS101 course at Udacity (whose courses come in “hexamesters”, six times a year), so this week I’m planning on giving a sequence of posts that sum up my experience.
I almost didn’t do the CS101 course at all. I was waiting for Stanford University’s similarly-named course, but its repeated delays compelled me to look into Udacity. (I’m wondering if those delays, which were explained as legal and business issues in Stanford’s emails, had something to do with Udacity’s and Stanford’s courses being similarly named and similarly timed and potential legal action between those two orginzations.) I was really motivated to learn Python and tired of waiting on Stanford’s course. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a startup that wasn’t formally…
March 21, 2012, 6:38 am
It’s been a couple of weeks since my first post about the Udacity CS101 course, so here’s an update. Before that, let me mention this nice article in Wired about Udacity and its origins. That article sheds a little light on the questions I had earlier about Udacity’s business model.
So, Units 3 and 4 are now done with the CS101 course. The focus of Unit 3 was mostly on the concept of the list in Python, along with FOR loops and an emphasis on computer memory. Unit 4 was a bit of a left turn into a discussion of computer networks, with an emphasis on the basics of the Internet and the concepts of latency and bandwidth. So, just from this description, you can see one of the things I particularly like about CS101: It’s not just about Python. This is a class that is actually about computer science in general with Python as a tool for understanding it. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I…
March 8, 2012, 8:30 am
I found this quote the other day from a book about electricity. Read it and see if you can guess the source and the year in which it was made:
It would be a dry, dull and uninteresting thing to tell a [child] that electricity can be generated by riveting together two pieces of dissimilar metals, and applying heat to the juncture. But put into his hands the metals, and set him to perform the actual work of riveting the metals together, then wiring up the ends of the metals, heating them, and, with a galvanometer, watching for results, it will at once make him see something in the experiment which never occurred when the abstract theory was propounded.
He will inquire first what metals should be used to get the best results, and finally, he will speculate as to the reasons for the phenomena. When he learns that all metals are positive-negative or negative-positive to each…