Posts tagged ‘educational technology’

Crowd-sourcing hints for Code.org tutorials via CSTA teachers

Really interesting idea — Code.org’s Pat Yongpradit sent a note to all of CSTA, asking CS teachers to help provide hints for Code.org tutorials.  By reaching out to CSTA, they’re doing better than crowd-sourcing.  They’re CS-teacher-sourcing.

We’ve had millions of students try the Code.org tutorials. They’ve submitted over 11 million unique computer programs as solutions to roughly 100 puzzles.

We’ve mapped out which submissions are errors (ie they don’t solve the puzzle), and which are sub-optimal solutions (they solve the puzzle, but not efficiently).

Today, erroneous user submissions receive really unhelpful error feedback, such as “You’re using the right blocks, but not in the right way”. We want your help improving this, by providing highly personal feedback to very specific student errors. Watch the video below to see what we mean.

via Add hints to Code.org tutorials | Code.org.

April 15, 2014 at 1:02 am 1 comment

Workshop Report: Multidisciplinary Research for Online Education » CCC Blog

The report on the CCC’s workshop on MOOCs and other online education technologies is now out.

In February 2013 the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) sponsored the Workshop on Multidisciplinary Research for Online Education (MROE). This visioning activity explored the research opportunities at the intersection of the learning sciences, and the many areas of computing, to include human-computer interactions, social computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and modeling and simulation.

The workshop was motivated and informed by high profile activities in massive, open, online education (MOOE). Point values of “massive” and “open” are extreme values that make explicit, in ways not fully appreciated previously, variability along multiple dimensions of scale and openness.

The report for MROE has been recently completed and is online. It summarizes the workshop activities and format, and synthesizes across these activities, elaborating on 4 recurring themes:

  • Next Generation MOOCs and Beyond MOOCs
  • Evolving Roles and Support for Instructors
  • Characteristics of Online and Physical Modalities
  • Physical and Virtual Community

via Workshop Report: Multidisciplinary Research for Online Education » CCC Blog.

April 2, 2014 at 1:39 am 1 comment

Gesture interfaces can convey scale better than fixed diagrams

The title on the post linked below is wrong, “Can iPads help students learn science? Yes, study shows.”  It’s never whether a technology can help learning. It’s how it can help, and what it can help with.  The study described is a great example of this.

iPads can be used really badly (while also being quite expensive) in schools.  Philip Sadler’s new study shows that students can use the gesture-based interface of the iPad to understand issues of scale (just how far is the Moon from the Earth?) better than any diagram can convey.

They found that while the traditional approaches produced no evident gain in understanding, the iPad classrooms showed strong gains. Students similarly struggle with concepts of scale when learning ideas in biology, chemistry, physics, and geology, which suggests that iPad-based simulations also may be beneficial for teaching concepts in many other scientific fields beyond astronomy.

Moreover, student understanding improved with as little as 20 minutes of iPad use. Guided instruction could produce even more dramatic and rapid gains in student comprehension.

“While it may seem obvious that hands-on use of computer simulations that accurately portray scale would lead to better understanding,” says Philip Sadler, a co-author of the study, “we don’t generally teach that way.” All too often, instruction makes use of models and drawings that distort the scale of the universe, “and this leads to misconceptions.”

via Can iPads help students learn science? Yes, study shows.

March 27, 2014 at 1:16 am Leave a comment

ScratchJr: Coding for Young Kids — Kickstarter Campaign

I got to see a build of ScratchJr at the NSF CE21 PI’s meeting in January — it’s really fun.  Attractive, responsive, and well thought through, as one would expect with this team.

Coding (or computer programming) is a new type of literacy. Just as writing helps you organize your thinking and express your ideas, the same is true for coding. In the past, coding was seen as too difficult for most people. But we think coding should be for everyone, just like writing.

As young children code with ScratchJr, they learn how to create and express themselves with the computer, not just interact with it. In the process, children develop design and problem-solving skills that are foundational for later academic success, and they use math and language in a meaningful and motivating context, supporting the development of early-childhood numeracy and literacy.

With ScratchJr, children aren’t just learning to code, they are coding to learn.

via ScratchJr: Coding for Young Kids by Mitchel Resnick — Kickstarter.

March 24, 2014 at 1:29 am 2 comments

CMU launches initiative to improve student learning with technology

Interesting results, and nice to hear that the new initiative will be named for Herb Simon.

The Science of Learning Center, known as LearnLab, has already collected more than 500,000 hours’ worth of student data since it initially received funding from the National Science Foundation about nine years ago, its director Ken Koedinger said. That number translates to about 200 million times when students of a variety of age groups and subject areas have clicked on a graph, typed an equation or solved a puzzle.

The center collects studies conducted on data gathered from technology-enhanced courses in algebra, chemistry, Chinese, English as a second language, French, geometry and physics in an open wiki.

One such study showed that students performed better in algebra if asked to explain what they learned in their own words, for example. In another study, physics students who took time answering reflection questions performed better on tests than their peers.

via Carnegie Mellon U. launches initiative to improve student learning with technology | Inside Higher Ed.

January 3, 2014 at 1:03 am Leave a comment

Udacity, Coursera: Should celebrities teach MOOCs?

I don’t really have a problem with this.  Make the presentation in the videos as attractive as possible.  Just remember Herb Simon’ s quote: “Learning results from what the student does and thinks and only from what the student does and thinks. The teacher can advance learning only by influencing what the student does to learn.”  Doesn’t matter if it’s Agarwal or Damon doing the lecture — that’s not the critical part.

“From what I hear, really good actors can actually teach really well,” said Anant Agarwal, CEO of EdX, who was until recently a computer-science professor at MIT. “So just imagine, maybe we get Matt Damon to teach Thévenin’s theorem,” he added, referring to a concept that Agarwal covers in a MOOC he teaches on circuits and electronics. “I think students would enjoy that more than taking it from Agarwal.”

Casting Damon in a MOOC is just an idea, for now: In meetings, officials have proposed trying one run of a course with someone like Damon, to see how it goes. But even to consider swapping in a star actor for a professor reveals how much these free online courses are becoming major media productions—ones that may radically change the traditional role of professors.

via Udacity, Coursera: Should celebrities teach MOOCs?.

December 19, 2013 at 1:19 am 10 comments

Why Flipping Classrooms Might Not Make Much Difference

This paper is getting a lot of discussion here at Georgia Tech:

In preliminary research, professors at Harvey Mudd College haven’t found that students learn more or more easily in so-called flipped courses than in traditional classes, USA Today reports. In flipped courses, students watch professors’ lectures online before coming to class, then spend the class period in discussions or activities that reinforce and advance the lecture material.

Earlier this year, the National Science Foundation gave four professors at the college in Claremont, Calif., a three-year grant for $199,544 to study flipped classrooms. That research isn’t complete yet, but the professors already tried flipping their own classes last year and found “no statistical difference” in student outcomes.

via QuickWire: ‘Flipping’ Classrooms May Not Make Much Difference – Wired Campus – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The reason why it’s generating a lot of discussion is because we know that it can make a difference to flip a classroom.  Jason Day and Jim Foley here at Georgia Tech did a careful and rigorous evaluation of a flipped classroom seven years ago (see IEEE paper on their study).  We all know this study and take pride in it — it was really well done.  It can work.  The Harvey Mudd study also shows that it can be done in a way that it doesn’t work. 

That’s really the story for all educational technology.  It can work, but it’s not guaranteed to work.  It’s always possible to implement any educational technology (or any educational intervention at all) in such a way that it doesn’t work.

November 13, 2013 at 1:28 am 12 comments

LAUSD has a $543M shortfall, but is spending $500M on iPads?

I believe that technology can improve education, but I’m not sure that we know how to use it well.  I wouldn’t be comfortable making this kind of bet, that the $500M on iPads is a better investment than paying off the $534M shortfall — but I guess that’s why I’m not in charge of half billion dollar bets.  Why do people have such (unproven) faith in technology?  Is this the same as the arguments for the OLPC in the developing world?

Los Angeles, again, is a good example; the same school district that is going to spend a half-billion dollars on iPads has been laying off teachers. To justify those layoffs, the school districts have been citing a $543 million district budget shortfall, yet somehow, those same officials apparently don’t cite that same budget shortfall as a reason to avoid spending $500 million on iPads. Why? Because education technology triumphalists typically portray iPads as long-term cost cutters for school districts.

As the New York Times sums up that argument, these triumphalists believe iPads and attendant iBooks will “save money in the long run by reducing printing and textbook costs.” The enticing idea is that schools may have to invest huge money upfront, but they will supposedly see huge savings in out years.

The trouble is that there is little evidence to suggest that’s true, and plenty of evidence to suggest the opposite is the case.

As respected education consultant Lee Wilson notes in a report breaking down school expenses, “It will cost a school 552% more to implement iPad textbooks than it does to deploy books.” He notes that while “Apple’s messaging is the idea that at $14.99 an iText is significantly less expensive than a $60 textbook,” the fact remains that “when a school buys a $60 textbook today they use it for an average of 5-7 years (while) an Apple iText it costs them $14.99 per student – per year.” As Lee notes, that translates into iBooks that are 34 percent more expensive than their paper counterparts — and that’s on top of the higher-than-the-retail-store price school districts are paying for iPads.

via No, iPads do not make teachers obsolete! – Salon.com.

August 1, 2013 at 1:24 am 7 comments

Context matters when designing courses, too: Know Thy Learner

In 1994, Elliot Soloway, Ken Hay, and I wrote an article about “learner-centered design.”  We contrasted it with the prevailing paradigm of “user-centered design,” arguing that designing for learners is different than designing for experts (which, we suggested, is really what user-centered design is).

I like the below as pointing toward borrowing ideas from modern UX design for learning design.  The most important lesson that we try to teach undergraduates about human-computer interface design is, “Know Thy User, for the User is not You.”  You have to get to know your user, and they’re not like you.  You can’t use introspection to design interfaces.  That same lesson is what we’re hearing below, but about learning.  “Know Thy Learner, for the Learner is not You.”  Your learner has a different context than you, and you have to get to know it before you can design for it.

“Transferring education from the United States to Africa wouldn’t work,” argued Bakary Diallo, rector of African Virtual University. “Because we have our own realities,” he added, “our own context and culture.”

Naveed A. Malik, founding rector of the Virtual University of Pakistan, echoed that sentiment. “This is something that we learned very early in our virtual-university experience,” he said. “We couldn’t pick up a course from outside and then transplant it into a Pakistani landscape—the context was completely different.”

via Virtual Universities Abroad Say They Already Deliver ‘Massive’ Courses – Wired Campus – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

July 11, 2013 at 1:24 am 5 comments

Seymour Papert Tribute at IDC 2013

I only planned to watch a little bit of this.  Allison Druin’s talk was particularly recommended to me.  So I started watching, and Paulo Blikstein’s opening remarks were so intriguing. (I loved his characterization that today’s notions of “personalized learning” were “like telling a prisoner that he can walk around his cell all he wants.”)  I hadn’t heard Edith Ackermann in decades, and was particularly struck by her comment, “Any theory of learning that ignore resistances to teaching misses the point!”  Mike Eisenberg, Mitchel Resnick, and Uri Wilensky were all wonderful and insightful talks, and Allison was as good as the recommendation promised.  90 minutes later, I’m explaining to my family where I’d disappeared to…

The intellectual ideas discussed are fascinating, from epistemology to politics to education to design.  Recommended.

July 9, 2013 at 1:19 am 2 comments

Study Gauges Value of Technology in Schools – NYTimes.com

In some sense, this is not a surprising result.  If you purchase (educational) technology without an explicit goal in mind, it’s hard to measure a difference later.  See Larry Cuban on being “Oversold and Underused.”

In a review of student survey data conducted in conjunction with the federal exams known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the nonprofit Center for American Progress found that middle school math students more commonly used computers for basic drills and practice than to develop sophisticated skills. The report also found that no state was collecting data to evaluate whether technology investments were actually improving student achievement.

“Schools frequently acquire digital devices without discrete learning goals and ultimately use these devices in ways that fail to adequately serve students, schools, or taxpayers,” wrote Ulrich Boser, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and the author of the report.

via Study Gauges Value of Technology in Schools – NYTimes.com.

July 1, 2013 at 1:24 am 1 comment

Zydeco: Supporting Cross-Context Inquiry in Formal and Informal Settings

In a sense, what Chris Quintana is doing here is a connectivist MOOC, but one where the student is guided via software-realized scaffolding through a self-study on a topic of their own interest.  It’s an interesting idea, to help students organize a wide variety of learning opportunities in support of inquiry learning.

We aim to support cross-context inquiry that spans formal and informal settings by developing Zydeco Sci-To-Go, a system integrating mobile devices and cloud technologies for middle school science inquiry. Zydeco enables teachers and students to create science investigations by defining goals, questions, and “labels” to annotate, organize, and reflect on multimodal data e.g., photos, videos, audio, text that they collect in museums, parks, home, etc. As students collect this information, it is stored in the cloud so that students and teachers can access that annotated information later and use it with Zydeco tools to develop a scientific explanation addressing the question they are investigating.

via Zydeco | Mobile Devices for Cross-Context Inquiry in Formal and Informal Settings.

June 28, 2013 at 1:21 am Leave a comment

Data from edX’s first course offer preliminary insights into online learning

Really interesting — the data are starting to appear on what’s going on in MOOCs.  I wouldn’t have predicted differences in media preferences in homework vs. exam.

In their analysis of 6.002x resource usage, Pritchard and RELATE postdocs tallied clickstream data, such as where and when users clicked on videos, discussion threads, tutorials or textbook pages when working on homework, in comparison to when they were taking the midterm or final exam.

Interestingly, the group found that in completing homework assignments, users spent more time on video lectures more than any other resource. However, during an exam, students referred most to the online textbook, which they virtually ignored when doing homework. The data, although preliminary, illustrate how students may use different online strategies to solve homework versus exam problems.

While use of the discussion forum was not required in the course, the researchers found it to be the most popular resource for students completing homework assignments. In fact, 90 percent of the clickstream activity on the forum came from users who viewed existing threads without posting comments.

via Data from edX’s first course offer preliminary insights into online learning – MIT News Office.

June 21, 2013 at 1:33 am 8 comments

Worst practice in providing educational technology, especially to developing world

I followed an insightful chain of blog articles to this one.  I started with Larry Cuban’s excellent piece about “No End to Magical Thinking When It Comes to High-Tech Schooling” which cited the quote below, but first when through a really terrific analysis of the explanations that educational technology researchers sometimes make when hardware in dumped in the developing world fails to have a measurable impact.  I highly recommend the whole sequence for a deeper understanding of what real educational reform looks like and where technology can play a role.

1. Dump hardware in schools, hope for magic to happen

This is, in many cases, the classic example of worst practice in ICT use in education.  Unfortunately, it shows no sign of disappearing soon, and is the precursor in many ways to the other worst practices on this list.   “If we supply it they will learn”: Maybe in some cases this is true, for a very small minority of exceptional students and teachers, but this simplistic approach is often at the root of failure of many educational technology initiatives.

via Worst practice in ICT use in education | A World Bank Blog on ICT use in Education.

March 22, 2013 at 1:12 am 11 comments

Living with MOOCs: Surviving the Long Open Learning Winter

One of the positive benefits of MOOCs is that a lot of faculty and administration are exploring educational innovations with technology.  When teachers explore how to facilitate learning, improved teaching and learning is likely to result. One of the problems is that many of these teachers and administrators are deciding that MOOCs and other open learning resources are the best bets for addressing educational problems.  They are buying into the belief that open learning is the best that there is (or, perhaps, the only thing that they found) and into the associated beliefs (e.g., that existing educational systems are ineffective and unsustainable, that “everyone already knows that a college degree means next to nothing“).  Those of us who do educational technology research and don’t do MOOCs are likely in for a stretch where our work will be under-appreciated, or simply ignored.  The AI community talks about their “AI Winter.”  Let’s call this the Open Learning Winter.

Regular readers of this blog (and I’m grateful that you are here!) know that I’ve been doing a good bit of traveling the last few months.  From MIT and Stanford, to Indiana and SIGCSE, I’ve had the opportunity to hear lots of people talk about the educational innovations that they are exploring, why they have decided on MOOCs and other open learning resources, and what they think about those of us who are not building MOOCs.  The below are paraphrased snippets of some of these conversations (i.e., some of the parts of these quotes are literally cut-and-paste from email/notes, while other parts are me condensing the conversation into a single quote representing what I heard):

  • You do ebooks?  Don’t you know about Connexions?  Why not just do Connexions books? Do you think that student interactivity with the ebook really matters?”
  •  “You’re making ebooks instead of MOOCs?  That’s really interesting.  Are you building a delivery platform now? One that can scale to 100K students this Fall?” As if that’s the only thing that counts — when no one even considered that scale desirable even a couple years ago.
  • “Ebooks will never work for learning. You can’t ask them to read.  Students only want video.”
  • Anchored Collaboration sounds interesting. Can I do it with Piazza?  No?  Then it’s not really useful to anyone, is it?”
  • “Why should we want to provide resources to state universities?  Don’t you know that all of their programs are going to die?”
  • NSF Program officer at CCC MROE Workshop, “We better figure out online education.  All the state universities are going to close soon.”

These attitudes are not going to change quickly.  People are investing in MOOCs and other open learning resources.  While I do not believe that the MOOCopalypse will happen, people who do believe in it are making investments based on that belief.  The MOOC-believers (perhaps MOOCopalypse survivalists?) are going to want to see their investments will pan out and will keep pursuing that agenda, in part due to the driving power of “sunk costs” (described in this well done Freakonomics podcast).  That’s normal and reasonable, but it means that it will be a long time before some faculty and administrators start asking, “Is there anything other than MOOCs out there?”

I think MOOCs are a fascinating technology with great potential.  I do not invest my time developing MOOCs because I believe that the opportunity cost is too high.  I have had three opportunities to build a MOOC, and each time, I have decided that the work that I would be giving up is more valuable to me than the MOOC I would be producing.  I do not see MOOCs addressing my interests in high school teachers learning CS, or in end-users who are learning programming to use in their work, or in making CS more diverse. It may be that universities will be replaced by online learning, but I don’t think that they’ll all look like MOOCs.  I’m working on some of those non-MOOC options.

Researchers like me, who do educational technology but don’t do MOOCs, need to get ready to hunker down.  Research funding may become more scarce since there are MOOCopalypse survivalists at NSF and other funding agencies.  University administrators are going to be promoting and focusing attention on their pet MOOC projects, not on the non-believers who are doing something else.  (Because we should realize that there won’t be anything else!)  There will probably be fewer graduate students working in non-MOOC areas of educational technology.  Most of the potential PhD students who contacted me during this last application cycle were clear about how important MOOCs were to them and the research that they wanted to do.

We need to learn to live with MOOCs, even if we don’t do MOOCs.  Here are a couple of the hunkering down strategies I’ve been developing:

  • While I don’t want to spend the time to build a MOOC, I am interested in being involved in analysis of MOOC data.  It’s not clear how much data Coursera or Udacity will ever release (and why isn’t edX releasing data — they’re a non-profit!), but I see a great value in understanding MOOCs.  We might also learn lessons that can be applied in other areas of educational innovation with technology.
  • My colleagues involved in MOOCs at Georgia Tech have told me that we have the rights to re-use GT MOOC materials (e.g., all the video that has been collected).  That might be a source of interesting materials for my research.  For example, my colleague Jim Foley suggested that I might re-purpose video from a MOOC to create an ebook on the same content that might be usefully contrasted in a study.

I can’t predict just how long the Open Learning Winter might be.  Given the height of the hype curve associated with MOOCs and the depth of the pockets of the early adopters, I suspect that it’s going to be quite a long, cold winter.  Make sure that you have lots of jerky on-hand — and hope that it’s just winter and not an Ice Age.

March 21, 2013 at 1:51 am 12 comments

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