Archive for May 17, 2010

HyperCard-like revMobile won’t be on iPad

RunRev, which produces a cross-platform HyperCard-superset tool (e.g., you get HyperTalk and stacks and cards, plus Web and other media enhancements), had announce RevMobile for iPhone and iPads.  The new Apple announcement nixes that, despite Steve Jobs’ announcement that he’d love HyperCard for the iPad.  If they’re interpreting the agreement right, one can’t use tools that generate Objective-C, C++, or JavaScript.

As you may know, on the 8th of April, Apple changed the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement, which impacts our development of revMobile. The new agreement added a clause which required that applications be originally written in Objective-C, C++ or JavaScript. As revMobile applications are originally written in revTalk, not in one of these languages, their policy changes effectively prohibit revMobile on the iPhone/iPad. The new clause also prohibits frameworks and compatibility layers, which also describes revMobile in its present form.

via RunRev Blog | RunRev.

May 17, 2010 at 12:40 pm 3 comments

Teach for America as a finger in the dyke

A really interesting, critical article about Teach for America.  The author praises the exuberance of the TFA students and the importance of gaining their involvement in solving critical educational problems.  On the other hand, the author points out that TFA can take jobs away from long-term teachers, and that TFA recruits aren’t all that well prepared (Quote: Helen Sherman, associate dean of teacher preparation at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, has a number of professional concerns about TFA’s model: “It’s a pretend band-aid, a quick fix to make it look like they are doing something. But, honest to God, these kids aren’t prepared.”)  The concern is that the quick-fix may mask (and not correct) the larger problems and may prevent the larger problems from ever getting addressed.

This is relevant for us because a TFA model has been discussed as one way of getting 10K high school CS teachers by 2015.  The question is, “What happens in 2017 when those kids’ two year stint is up?”  The bigger question is how to build a sustained, multiple-course, high school computer science curriculum in our nations’ schools.  Can we build that in 10K schools with under-trained new graduates in only two years?

Barnett Berry, head of the Center for Teaching Quality, based in North Carolina, knows that too many urban kids are taught by ill-prepared substitutes. And it is a problem that TFA, in a finger-in-the-dyke approach, can help solve: “They can provide a teacher that the kids might not have otherwise, because the alternative could be a substitute with barely a college education. It’s not a question of whether we shouldn’t draw upon a bright, young, energetic group of people. Of course we should.”

“But,” Berry continues, “to suggest that TFA is the solution to the nation’s teaching quality gap is misguided at best.”

Berry likens the TFA recruits to sprinters—talented athletes, but insufficient if one wants to build a well-rounded track team. “TFA gets its recruits ready for a sprint, not a 10K or a marathon,” Berry notes. “They look like they are working harder than the veteran teachers. But the veteran teacher has experience and knows that if you want to make a career of teaching, a sprinting pace will burn you out.”

via Teaching for America.

May 17, 2010 at 9:24 am 5 comments

Texting is a distraction, and hours matter.

I see a sharp contrast in news articles the last few days about what it takes to teach today’s kids.  On the one hand, hours matter.  We see that in the article below, and in popular books like Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers.

Students at Boston charter schools appear to have an academic edge over their peers at the city’s traditional schools because of the additional time they spend in school each year, according to a report being released today.

The extra time in charter schools, roughly 378 hours annually, allows students to receive significantly more instruction in English and math and creates opportunities for them to receive tutoring during the school day, according to the report by the Boston Foundation, a charitable organization that supports charter schools and also works with the city school system on improvement efforts.

via Charter schools gain edge from hours, says study – The Boston Globe.

Today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution, reviews a new book that says that today’s kids multitask and we should change the way we teach them in order to support that habit.

But Rosen’s own daughter — valedictorian of her high school and now a Yale student — did her homework while watching television, listening to her iPod and trading text messages with friends, says Rosen, author of the new book “Rewired,” which examines how the iGeneration — children born in the 1990s and beyond — learn.

A longtime researcher on the impact of technology, Rosen says we are faced with a new breed of learners for whom doing more than one thing at a time is a way of life.

“This is a generation that has multi-tasked from birth and that is what they do from morning to night,” he says.

via Wired from the Womb: “We are looking at a generation that can’t not text.”

In the review of Rosen’s book, no evidence is provided that the electronic distractions didn’t inhibit performance.  Yes, his daughter was a valedictorian.  Having smart parents will do that.  Might she have learned more without the distractions?

I don’t disagree with the premise that YouTube and texting and Wikipedia offer learning opportunities.  I disagree with the belief that this multitasking doesn’t cost, that there is no cognitive load, that one can perform as well with the distractions as without them.  Spending more time on something important (from studying to rehearsal) helps. Texting and YouTube take time. If the raw number of study hours do not increase, then time spent texting is time spent away from studying. Yes, I believe that social interaction can support learning.  I don’t believe that all that texting is helpful to learning.

As a parent and as a knowledge-worker, these are issues that I personally struggle with.  My middle child sent 13,000 texts last month.  Yeah. Do the math.  That’s unbelievable.  As parents, we struggle with where we allow her to text and where we insist on schoolwork without distractions.  For myself, I have decided to dump my Blackberry in favor of a plain cellphone (with keyboard, so that I can still communicate with my texting children).  I’ve ordered an iPad with 3G, because I do see the value of getting to the Internet and my email at places where a laptop is inconvenient.  Over a two year contract, it’s a slight cost advantage to go with iPad and 3G vs. the Blackberry.  (The experiment is starting early — I cancelled my corporate Blackberry account Saturday, so I can no longer access Exchange via my Blackberry, but my iPad won’t arrive until early June!)  I am concerned that having the Internet in my pocket is more a distraction than a benefit.  Do I really need to check email in every 10 minute interval?  Do I need the distraction in meetings or while driving?  How does such ready access detract from my experiences and my work?

As a techie-geeky guy, this is a strange step.  I’m making a move away from ubiquitous access, from ever more computing at my beck-and-call?  It’s an experiment for me, a choice in favor of reflection over distraction, maybe a choice that leads to increased frustration and boredom.  (This doesn’t mean I have to listen in faculty meetings, does it?!?)  There are some bigger things I want to get done over the next couple years, and so I’m acting on my belief that decreasing multi-tasking leads to better performance.  If next time you see me, I’m jittery like an addict, it might not be too much caffeine.

May 17, 2010 at 9:13 am 7 comments

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 10,184 other subscribers


Recent Posts

Blog Stats

  • 2,054,518 hits
May 2010

CS Teaching Tips