Archive for March 6, 2010

Scratch for iPhone!

How cool is this!  You can’t create Scratch projects with this, but you can view them.  What’s powerful about this is the “wow” factor — kids can make things themselves for the iPhone platform.

Scratch for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad on the iTunes App Store.

March 6, 2010 at 5:10 pm 4 comments

The standard for online courses is firmly in place?

I found the following both depressing, and promising:

When wearing my Wimba hat, I often remind my audience that it’s only been about a decade since the modern format of online courses was put into place. The current configuration of combining course management systems, web conferencing, instant messaging, message boards, etc. to teach a class to students in a classroom and/or their pajamas barely existed in the 20th century, so when one stops to consider the idea that collegiate courses had been taught (more or less) in the exact same manner since ancient Egypt, Greece, and Mesopotamia, it’s quite startling to see how quickly this transformation has transpired.

Obviously this format of modern courses is still being tweaked, but it certainly appears that much of the technological and pedagogical foundation is firmly in place. As of today, the dawn of the ‘10s, tens of thousands of postsecondary faculty, either because of or in spite of their ability and/or willingness, have already taken the plunge and incorporated technologies into their courses – often with a great deal of success.

via Views: Switching Sides – Inside Higher Ed.

Surely, this can’t be it — it can’t be that Sakai + Twitter + a blog or Wiki is what all future studies will call the “traditional” form of online courses?  What about amazingly and powerful collaborative spaces like Kansas, and provably better ways of teaching with technology like cognitive tutors?  Surely we can do better than what’s being used today?

It’s that second step that’s more promising.  We can do much better than that.  It’s not even very hard.  Have you seen the great new tools that CMU has made available for building your own cognitive tutors?  I’ve learned that there is a term for those trying to change education through radical on-line approaches: “edupunks.”

“The edupunks are on the march. From VC-funded startups to the ivied walls of Harvard, new experiments and business models are springing up from entrepreneurs, professors, and students alike. Want a class that’s structured like a role-playing game? An accredited bachelor’s degree for a few thousand dollars? A free, peer-to-peer Wiki university? These all exist today, the overture to a complete educational remix.” (From How Web-Savvy Edupunks are Transforming American Higher Education)

While I’m not convinced that a tool like the MIT Open Courseware initiative is as impactful as the edupunks say it is, I realize that I share their vision.  Distance education could be an important way of making higher education available for many people who do not have access to it today.  And what we have today in the way of distance education is demonstrably bad.

I’m an academic who works in education research.  For people like me, an easily-beat standard is a hand-written invitation to do better with inventions, studies, results, and papers.  I once heard John Anderson respond to the question, “Can you explain your enormous success with cognitive tutors?  Why are you able to do so much better than traditional approaches?”  His answer: “It’s easy.  Just find something taught really, really badly today. That’s not hard to find!”  (Do note that the topics that Anderson “found” first for his cognitive tutors were Geometry and programming in Lisp and Pascal.)  Maybe Anderson was the first “edupunk”?

March 6, 2010 at 1:22 pm 5 comments


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