Archive for March 23, 2010

A Post Goes Viral

Last October, I rewrote a blog post that I had created here, on using ideas like reduced cognitive load and worked examples to improve computing education, for Blog@CACM.  That post, with Judy Robertson’s rebuttal, appeared in the most recent issue of Communications of the ACM.  From there, the post “went viral.”

Yesterday, I was told that that blog post had received 15,000 page views last month — three times what the CACM website home page received.  Today I received an email at 9 am: “over 3,761 pageviews on Saturday, 3,711 on Sunday, 10,295 on Monday, and 9,729 today.”  I just received an update at just after noon that the post has had 12,304 hits so far today. Why would a six month old post suddenly become so popular?  I’ve started getting interesting email connected with the post.  A Georgia Tech alum wrote me, saying that his social networking site was discussing the post, and could I stop by to comment in response?

To most of the email and social networking commentary that I’ve seen, my response has been basically the content of the post on hybrid approaches.  Of course, students should program during their first course — that’s not all that they should do, and that’s probably not the first kind of practice that they get in computing.  Judy’s response is quite nice in describing other kinds of activities that one might use in an introductory course.  Unfortunately, I don’t believe that those teaching practices are widespread.

I don’t really understand what causes a spike in interest like this.  The CACM website folks are a little concerned about dealing with the “slashdot effect.”  While it’s exciting, it’s not quite clear whether to be thrilled or bracing for impact.  Just getting a lot of attention is not necessarily a good thing — simply the fact that people are rubbernecking doesn’t mean that there’s something good going on.  Perhaps the most interesting part of this is how silent it is.  12,000 people today visited something I wrote, and all I know is that I got a few extra email notes.  Works for me!

March 23, 2010 at 1:23 pm 5 comments

Requiring isn’t the same as Improving

Here at Georgia Tech, all students are required to take introductory computer science.  For the first four years of that policy, we taught the same (single) intro course that we ever did.  Our results are similar to what Chicago is finding with its new science requirement.

A policy change that made college-preparatory courses the default high school curriculum in the Chicago public schools increased the number of science courses that students took and passed. But it also kept some students from taking higher-level science courses and did not increase the college-going rate, according to a study by the Consortium on Chicago School Research.

via Education Week: Effect of Chicago’s Tougher Science Policy Mixed.

I particularly liked this quote — taking more of the same thing just leads to more classes in which students do badly:

“Before the policy, most students received C’s and D’s in their classes,” he said. “If they weren’t being successful with one or two years of science, why would we think they would be successful with three years of science, if we don’t pay attention to getting the students engaged?”

March 23, 2010 at 11:55 am 1 comment


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