Archive for November 12, 2010

Teaching Teaching & Understanding Understanding

I finally watched Teaching Teaching & Understanding Understanding on my iPad during the flight from China.  It’s only 20 minutes long, and it was given away for free at the SIGCSE Symposium a couple years ago, but I just hadn’t gotten around to it previously.  (I have mentioned enough times yet just how long that flight was?  🙂 The two hours grounded in the Tokyo airport while police interviewed passengers who had “seen a security breach” made it feel even longer.) They made the movie to emphasize “constructive alignment” — the idea that you should test what you teach, and that should be what you actually want students to learn.  That was okay, but not my favorite part.  I liked the characterization of different stages of being a teacher: From blaming the students for a lack of learning, to being about what the teacher does, to finally being about what the students do.   I recommend it.

November 12, 2010 at 3:29 pm Leave a comment

Do contests draw students into majors?

This is an honest question: Do contests help draw students into majors?  DARPA is betting big money that TopCoder can draw more students into computer science.  Does that work?  Do contests draw in more students, in terms of raw numbers and/or in terms of a broader diversity of students than are otherwise finding themselves in the major?  The question is broader than CS, since other fields use contests to engage students.  Do they work?  Do cooking contests draw more students into cooking schools?  Do engineering contests (like “build a bridge with toothpicks” or “build an egg support system”) draw more students into engineering?

I’ve done work in collaborative learning, but not in competition as a motivator.  I’m wondering what the research basis is for hoping that this is $5.57M well spent.

To boost computer science education and help middle and high school students strengthen their science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills before they enter college and the workforce, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded TopCoder a $5.57 million contract to develop a new virtual community featuring competitions and educational resources.

TopCoder is a worldwide software development community known for its computer coding contests. DARPA representatives said they hope TopCoder’s new virtual community, focusing on computer science education, will entice students in grades 6-12 to pursue a computer science degree or other STEM-related fields.

There has been a significant decline in the number of students graduating with a computer science degree, said DARPA program manager Melanie Dumas—including a 70-percent reduction in students pursuing the field since its 2001 peak.

“We’re not graduating enough people to fill these spots,” said Dumas. “We’re graduating on the order of 15,000 students a year, and we need 45,000 students a year.”

via DARPA-funded project to spark computer science education | Curriculum | eSchoolNews.com.

November 12, 2010 at 12:37 pm 6 comments


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