Archive for September, 2011

Teaching programming to those who don’t shoot: Give up on the shooters

I’ve been exchanging email lately with a CS teacher using media computation in Python with her 9th grade class this year. She has been pushing the boundaries of JES, trying to do more interactive programming. It’s hard to do with JES. Swing and Jython don’t get along all that well, particularly from within JES, a Swing application.  I finally asked her: Why not just use media computation for what it’s good for?  Play to its strengths: Make collages, sound collages, music, and videos.  Interactivity is hard for early beginners.  She had this response.

I need to develop an approach that appeals to all of the people who have traditionally signed up for programming classes (because they want to shoot things) along with the underrepresented groups who have not signed up for programming because they don’t want to shoot things.

It’s a great comment, and it’s a deep question.  Does she?  Does she need to serve both audiences?  Do we need to teach, in every classroom, to engage every student?

This issue comes up when I talk to people about Threads.  “We love your approach, but we have a small school.  We can’t cover all those Threads.  What should we do?”  The answer is not “whatever we have been doing, pretty much decontextualized, which works for any problem” (which is what I normally hear).  Go ahead and specialize. Teach to a context.  Students (especially novices who don’t understand what computing is for) will learn more, and more deeply, than by teaching in a decontextualized way.  Your students will be more marketable by knowing about computing + X, where X is some interesting applications context.  Pick a context that draws the students that you want to encourage and engage.

At the post-secondary level, you don’t have to please everybody in every class in every school. Students have choices. Colleges should play to their strengths.  Larger Universities can offer more options on the same campus.  For smaller schools, build coalitions so students have choices between the schools.

But the question is harder for the high school teacher.  Her students don’t have a choice.  If she doesn’t engage them, they’re not going to get computer science somewhere else.

Here’s my answer, though I realize that it comes at some risk: Give up on the shooters.  There’s a lot more of those who weren’t interested in computing traditionally, than those that were.  Computer science in the last decades has drawn from only a small demographic.  Play to the larger audience. Play to the audience with different interests than those most commonly in CS today.  Teach to those who don’t shoot.

September 30, 2011 at 9:23 am 10 comments

The Economist letters on how to improve UK CS education

An interesting set of letters exploring the question, “Where is Britain’s Bill Gates?” Below, the current chair of the ACM Education Board (Andrew McGettrick of Strathclyde) and the past chair of the Ed Board (Eric Roberts of Stanford) address that question and “Why doesn’t the UK have many IT-oriented startups?

British universities produce too few graduates with the special software-development skills that drive the high end of the industry. Universities in Britain find it harder than their American counterparts to develop innovative teaching and curriculums because of national benchmarks that are often highly prescriptive. Such benchmarks force universities to rely on written exams to measure achievement, which can undermine the all-important spirit of innovation and creativity. Written exams are rarely the best measure of software expertise.

Speaking last year to students at Stanford, Mark Zuckerberg said that he likes hiring Stanford graduates because “they know how to build things.” If British universities could focus more of their attention on teaching students to write applications at the leading edge of the technological revolution, the budding Bill Gateses of Britain would have an easier time of it.

via Letters: On British technology firms, policing, the euro, taxes, languages, Homer Simpson | The Economist.

September 29, 2011 at 9:51 am 1 comment

Launching C21U: What’s the point of the University, anyway?

Yesterday was the launch of Georgia Tech’s Center for 21st Century Universities, with an impressive event.  Jonathan Cole (former provost at Columbia) gave the keynote talk based on his book, The Great American University: Its Rise to Preeminence, Its Indispensable National Role, Why it Must Be Protected.  There was a terrific panel, including Cole, Alan Kay (teleconferenced in from California), Roger Schank (who looked maybe a decade younger than the last time I saw him–not being faculty somewhere suits him), our research provost Steve Cross, Lynne Weisenbach who is a vice-chancellor with the University System of Georgia,  and Devin Fidler from the Institute for the Future, moderated by Jeff Selingo of The Chronicle (whose blog post on the launch is linked below).

I took pages and pages of notes from yesterday’s event, enough to feed several blog posts.  Roger and Alan were a great one-two punch of challenging and even outrageous ideas.  For example, Roger’s first comment of the panel: “First step [to improving universities]: Close down all classrooms. They only exist for economic benefit. Second step: No courses. They were invented so professors don’t have to work more than three hours a week.”  Devin Fidler kept doing end-runs around the panel, highlighting issues different from the rest, like the fact that student loan debt has now surpassed credit card debt in the United States.  With that kind of debt, don’t the economics that Roger is talking about matter?

The most interesting idea that I took from the launch wasn’t talked about, but was the point most often talked past.  What’s the point of the American University, anyway?  What’s the goal? Who is it for?

  • Here’s Cole talking about the research benefits of American universities.  I asked him, “What about teaching? Are better researchers better teachers?”  His reply, “We should change admissions standards, so the kinds of students we bring in can learn from one another, led by a great researcher.”  What happens to those who can’t?
  • Beth Mynatt from our Institute for People and Technology asked the panel about the impact on Universities of “gigonomics,” the idea that the nature of work is changing in the 21st century, from a job/career to a series of “gigs.”  The panel pretty much ignored her question.  Isn’t there a relationship between work and Universities?  Should there be?  If Universities are just about creating great products like GPS and Viagra (two of Cole’s examples), then maybe not.  If Universities are about creating workers for a modern information-based economy, then maybe so?
  • Probably the best view of the tension that I saw in the C21U Launch can be seen in the reviews on the Amazon page for Cole’s book.  First review on the page are all these stunningly great comments from faculty and institutions. But the reader reviews are decidedly negative — not because of the book but because of the message. “This is an ironic book that illustrates unintentionally the problems at the top of American higher education. The first problem is that education itself is considered completely irrelevant to the mission of the institution. Cole sees Universities as factories that produce “results” rather than serve a community, state or nation. They are entitled to an essentially unlimited amount of public funding to do whatever they please. And while they are funded with public money, they are not accountable to the public. The problem is of course that whatever these institutions have evolved into, they are certainly not universities anymore nor is their mission remotely educational.”  Who is the University for anyway?  What is its purpose?
C21U has had a great start.  There  are big, deep, hard questions about the future of the American University, and C21U is trying to explore them. Rich DeMillo has his work cut out for him, and it looks to be an interesting and fun ride!

DeMillo already has a number of projects in the pipeline, including a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) and a TechBurst competition where students create short, sharable videos on particular concepts, and the university as a whole is thinking of others. One favorite of Georgia Tech’s president, Bud Peterson, is X-College, which would allow students to essentially design their own degree programs focused on “grand challenges” facing society. It would also allow faculty members to experiment with learning techniques and the semester calendar itself. In keeping with the test-and-learn philosophy, Peterson wants it to start small, perhaps with 50 honors students next fall.

via Next – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

September 28, 2011 at 10:15 am 8 comments

Congratulations to Richard Tapia, National Medal of Science recipient

Just got this from the ELA, one of the Broadening Participation in Computing Alliances:

We are very proud to announce that ELA director, Professor Richard Tapia has been chosen by President Barack Obama to receive the National Medal of Science, the country’s highest honor for scientists.  Below is the message from the Rice University president announcing this wonderful news.  The video for this announcement is available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-cLh0ImkoU.

From the President of Rice University:

It is with great pleasure that I announce that Rice’s esteemed mathematician, Richard Tapia, has been chosen by President Barack Obama to receive the National Medal of Science, the country’s highest honor for scientists.  In his more than four decades at Rice, Professor Tapia has made great advances in mathematics and, as important, great advances in opening the doors to higher education to under-served students.  He is living evidence that a great researcher can also be a great teacher and great humanitarian.  The attached news release provides more information about Richard and the medal.  Please join me in thanking Richard for his many contributions to Rice, to higher education and to science, and in extending our sincere congratulations for this special and well deserved honor.

Regards,

David Leebron

President of Rice University

September 27, 2011 at 1:05 pm Leave a comment

Pursuing universal computing literacy: Mozilla-as-Teacher, Everyone-as-Coder

Here’s another take on the “Computing for Everyone” theme that is near and dear to me. I’ve been exploring this idea in my talks and papers, here in the blog, and all starting from our Media Computation work.  This theme starts from a different question than CS: Principles, which is asking what should everyone learn about computing.  The Mozilla-as-teacher post is suggesting why everyone should learn “coding” (here, including HTML coding, vs. programming): to make the Web better.

It’s a reasonable answer, in the sense that universal literacy makes the world of letters better.  But how does it make it better?  For me, I’m still attracted to the innovation argument: we use code as a medium to say, share, and test ideas that we can’t in other media.  That communication, sharing, and debugging of ideas leads to more and better ideas, which results in innovation — new ideas, new extensions of those ideas, new implementations of those ideas.  That’s why it’s important to strive towards near-universal computing literacy, at least with respect to knowledge workers, which is why it’s important to require computing in college.

There are other arguments, too.  Another powerful reason for universal computing literacy is that it’s about knowing the world we live in. Why do we teach students the periodic table and the difference between meiosis and mitosis?  It’s mostly not because of job skills.  It’s because people live in a world where chemistry and biology matter.  Today, we all live in a world where computing matters.  Knowing about the inherent limitations of digital representations is more important to most people’s daily lives than knowing about meiosis and mitosis.

Now, if you buy all that: How do we get there?

This has been the premise behind much of what we have done with Mozilla Drumbeat: people who make stuff on the internet are better creators and better online citizens if they know at least a little bit about the web’s basic building blocks. Even if they only learn a little HTML, the web gets better.

via Mozilla as teacher « commonspace.

September 27, 2011 at 9:14 am 6 comments

Open Education: “The whole model hinges on excellent assessment”

I agree with this claim.  That’s the real trick: How do you know that the students learned what they were supposed to learn?  We know that self-assessment is a bad way of judging that learning.  That’s the contribution that I see the Stanford AI class making — doing assessment, at least in the form of quizzes.

And the education could be far cheaper, because there would be no expensive instructor and students could rely on free, open educational resources rather than expensive textbooks. Costs to the student might include the assessment and the credits.“The whole model hinges on excellent assessment, a rock-solid confidence that the student has mastered the student-learning outcomes,” the memo says. “If we know with certainty that they have, we should no longer care if they raced through the course or took 18 months, or if they worked on their courses with the support of a local church organization or community center or on their own.  The game-changing idea here is that when we have assessment right, we should not care how a student achieves learning. We can blow up the delivery models and be free to try anything that shows itself to work.”

via Wired Campus – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

September 26, 2011 at 9:58 am 5 comments

We get the chance to beat the book: NSF CE21 funded CSLearning4U

We get the chance to beat the book for CS learning!  Our NSF CE21 (Computing Education in the 21st Century) proposal was funded for about $990K from October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2013.  The goal of this project is to create new media for learning computer science at a distance by high school teachers.  We are pursuing the correspondence school model of distance learning, rather than a remote classroom model, in Sir John Daniel’s terms. We want to create a medium that can be studied, within the time constraints of high school teachers (or others, like people re-entering the IT workforce.)  A key idea is that we can design instruction, following principles of educational psychology, to help people learn computing better.  It simply can’t be true that the only way to learn computer science (even programming) is by wrestling the interpreter or compiler.  Yes, it’s possible to learn to swim by being thrown into the deep end of the pool, but we can do better — less struggle, more efficiency, less wasted time, and fewer people giving up.

I’ve created a minimal project page at http://home.cc.gatech.edu/csl/CSLearning4U. I’ve included the proposal and the reviews to help inform future CE21 proposal writers.  You can see what we proposed (as an example of something that got funded), and what the review panel liked and disliked.

Here’s the explanation of the project title we chose:

CSLearning4U means:

  • Computer Science Learning FOR YOU, as in you, as long as you want to learn some computer science. This isn’t CS learning just for software developers, or just for Information Technology, Information Systems, Computer Science, Computer Engineering, or Software Engineering specialists. It’s about making Computer Science Learning accessible to anyone with an interest in learning.
  • Computer Science Learning FOR UBIQUITOUS ACCESS. You need a computer to learn computer science, but those are everywhere today, from your cellphone to your settop box. We want CS learning to be accessible anywhere.

We also received a GVU Seed Grant which is funding a psychology PhD student, Lauren Margulieux, to work with Richard Catrambone and me.  We’re hoping to develop some instructional treatments in the current semester that we can test next semester, to identify and try some particular educational psychology principles that can help us in addressing CS learning challenges.

 

September 23, 2011 at 10:39 am 27 comments

CS Education Act introduced into Congress

Exciting to hear that CS education is getting this kind of attention. I’d love to actually see what’s in the bill.  Anybody know how to find the text?

To reverse these troubling trends and prepare Americans for jobs in this high-wage, high-growth field, the Computer Science Education Act will:

  • Ensure computer science offerings are an integral part of the curriculum;
  • Develop state computer science standards, curriculum, and assessments;
  • Improve access to underserved populations;
  • Create professional development and teacher certification initiatives, including computer science teacher preparation programs in higher education;
  • Form a commission on computer science education to bring states together to address the computer science teacher certification crisis; and,
  • Establish an independent, rigorous evaluation of state efforts with reporting back to Congress and the administration.

via Robert P. Casey Jr. | United States Senator for Pennsylvania: Newsroom – Press Releases.

September 23, 2011 at 8:58 am 8 comments

Using Khan Academy to teach the rich kids is just not impressive

My PhD advisor, Elliot Soloway, has a blog on learning with mobile technologies. His most recent post is a dialogue about the excitement over Khan Academy.  It’s a fun-to-read and biting critique (more of the Wired article than Khan Academy itself).

Elliot: The Khan Academy clearly demonstrates that all one has to do is put out a bunch of engaging videos and bingo kids will watch them and learn. See, teaching is a snap; I told you so.

Cathie: The Wired article reports on two schools – Santa Rita Elementary and Egan Junior High, both in Los Altos, CA – that are successfully using the Khan Academy videos.

Elliot: Yes and the free & reduced lunch rate in each of these schools is 4%. On the webpage with that info, if you hit the button “show homes in the area around the school” you will see homes that range in price from $900,000 to $4,000,000.

Cathie:  Santa Rita Elementary is a “California Distinguished School” and has been designated as a “National Blue Ribbon School.” These schools are not your typical schools; these schools are not the troubled schools that one reads about.

Elliot: Using these already successful schools – and communities with parents who care deeply about education for their children to illustrate the value of the Khan Academy is a huge mistake. But apparently, Clive Thompson, the article’s author and the editorial staff of Wired Magazine can’t see the mistake.

via Going Mobile.

September 22, 2011 at 8:38 am 6 comments

White House Targets Innovative Education Technologies – ARPA-Ed?

This sounds like the ARPA-Ed idea that’s been floating around.

The White House has formed a nonprofit organization aimed at creating innovative learning technologies to transform education in the United States.

The National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies, aka Digital Promise, will engage exclusively in research and development (R&D) to use the most advanced technology to improve learning at all educational levels, according to the organization’s website.

via White House Targets Innovative Education Technologies – Government – Leadership – Informationweek.

September 22, 2011 at 8:35 am Leave a comment

New Danish Computing Curriculum for Schools: Guest post from Michael Caspersen

Michael Caspersen of Aarhus Unversity just told me about the new computing curriculum that he’s been working on for Danish schools.  The links below are all in Danish, but he sent me an English summary:

The new subject is being tested for a three year period, and we expect it eventually to replace all of the current six IT subjects. The existing IT subjects each represent a specific and rather narrow view on computing, they are all elective, and they have (almost) no students.  I think there are three main reasons why there are so few students in the six “old” IT subjects: the nature of the subjects, curriculum structure, and (lack of) teacher competence.

  •  The first reason is that the subjects are not adressing what the students in general are interested in (the subjects represent very specific and rather narrow views on computing, e.g. programming).
  •  The second reason is structure.  The curent IT subjects are electives, and the current organization of the high school curriculum is unfavorable to small elective subjects — particularly if they don’t qualify for studies at university (or in higher ed in general).
  •  There is also a third reason.  Because the six “old” IT subjects are unpopular, they are seldom offered (lack of critical mass).  This means that (1) the field is unattractive for people with a computing background (you can’t teach the subject regularly), and (2) there is no need for recruiting new teachers.  Consequently, teachers in the field are relatively old, has little or no background in computing, and are generally not in a position to renew and revitalise the subject.  A perfect recipe for a death spiral.

We have aimed at identifying a core set of topics that characterize computing and that can be approached from different perspectives.  The seven topics are:

  1. Importance of computing and influence on human behaviour
  2. The architecture of IT systems
  3. Representation and manipulation of data
  4. Programming
  5. Modeling and structuring of data, processes and systems
  6. Interaction design
  7. Innovation

I am aware that there are many possible interpretations of the topics mentioned above.  Below I have tried to sketch our interpretation which I hope also motivates the inclusion of each topic — in case you are interested.

————————————————————————————–

1. Importance of computing and influence on human behaviour

To truly understand and appreciate the importance of computing in modern society, the pupils must be presented to a portfolio of important and for the students relevant systems and innovations (e.g. facebook, iTunes, GPS-based navigation systems, email, health care systems, etc.) — systems that the students know and can relate to.  The design of an IT systems has strong consequences for the people, organisations, and sociale systems who use it.  Designers do not only design the system but also use patterns and workflows that unfold through the use of the system.  The purpose is to make the pupils aware of the interplay between design of a system and the use patterns which the system intentionally or unintentionally generates.

Pupils should be able to

– give examples of the impact of IT systems on human behaviour

– analyse and assess the importance and implications of IT systems and how they impact human behaviour

– apply user-oriented techniques for construction or modification of IT systems

2. The Architecture of IT Systems (three-tier model)

The majority of IT systems are structured according to the so-called three-tier model consisting of a presentation tier, a logic tier, and a data tier.  The model is relevant partly because it provides a general framework for understanding a very large class of IT systems, their components, and the interplay between these, and partly because the model is useful for qualified use of concrete systems, e.g. the Office package, Photoshop, iTunes, Facebook andgeneral types of systems, e.g. simulation tools, accounting systems, content management systems, mobile technology, and computer games.

Pupils should be able to

– describe principles for the architecture of IT systems

– apply specific architectures for construction of simpel IT products and adjustment of existing IT systems

3. Representation and manipulation of data

In order to understand the basic characteristics of the computer, the pupils must understand and work with representation and manipulation of data. The main point is that data need to be digitised in order to be represented in a computer and manipulated by programs.  The purpose with this topic is that the pupils gain concrete experience with (and hence understanding of) representation and manipulation of data including the fact that digitising often results in loss of information.  The other side of the coin is that digitising and manipuation makes it possible to create new data.  IT security is another important issue which must be addressed.

Pupils should be able to

– describe the representation of selected types of data (e.g. images, sound, text, etc.) and construct IT products (programs) that make simple manipulations of data

– integrate various types of data in simple IT products and extend functionality of existing IT systems by adding new types of data

4. Programming

Computers are indeed very simple machines that gain their power through scale.  The defining characteristics of the computer is it’s programmability and universality.  Programming comes in many forms, but common to these is the principle of defining and hence automating computations which can be executed again and again with arbitrary data and data sets.

Pupils should be able to

– identify basics tructures in programming languages, construct IT products (simple programs) and adjust existing programs

– apply programming technologies for development of IT products and adjustment of existing IT systems

5. Modeling and structuring of data, processes and systems

The purpose with this topic is to provide insight into modeling where data, processes and systems are described at an abstract level where design alternatives and properties can be evaluated and choices and desicions can be made.

Pupils should be able to

– give examples of models of data, processes and systems and describe the relation between a concrete model and the relevant associated parts of an IT system

– implement selected models in a concrete IT product and adjust existing models and implement these adjustments in existing IT systems

6. Interaction design

The previous topic is primarily about models for elements of the presentation and logic tiers of the three-tier model.  This topic is about models and designprinciples for the presentation tier — the interface where users and other systems meet an IT system.  It’s the purpose that the pupils understand the premises for as well as the consequences and importance of interaction design.

Pupils should be able to

– describe and analyse selected elements of a user interface design, construct simple user interface designs and adjust existing designs

– implement selected interaction design in a concrete IT product and adjust existing designs and implement these adjustments in existing IT systems

7. Innovation

The subject treats innovation from a product as well as process perspective.  The subject takes an innovative approach to IT product development and provides a background for understanding aspects of IT product development and the interplay between IT and users/society.

Pupils should be able to

– characterise innovative development processes and sketch ideas for innovative IT products.

=======================================

Brief overview (our home page, with lots of links)

http://cse.au.dk/projekter/nyt-it-fag-i-gymnasiet/

More background (it-vest home page, with lots of links)

http://www.it-vest.dk/aktiviteter/test-af-ny-side-it-i-gymnasiet/baggrund/

The official guidelines (Ministry of Education)

http://tinyurl.com/6djfrxr

Teaching material for the new IT subject (Teacher Association, open source)

http://iftek.dk/

September 21, 2011 at 11:08 am 1 comment

Google’s Eric Schmidt critiques lack of CS in UK education, and what the UK is doing about it

Of course, the US system is liable for the same criticism.  But at least the UK is doing something about it.  There was just announced an effort to teach software development in UK schools, and soon-to-be released Computing in Schools report is expected to lead to more and improved computing education in UK schools.

UK teachers putting the final touches to lessons plans for the new academic year were this week hit by harsh criticism from Google Chairman Eric Schmidt.  Speaking in Edinburgh recently Schmidt had this to say about the UK educational system:

“I was flabbergasted to learn that today computer science isn’t even taught as standard in U.K. schools. Your IT curriculum focuses on teaching how to use software, but it doesn’t teach people how it’s made. It risks throwing away your great computing heritage.”

Schmidt went on to lament the growing divergence between science and arts and called on educators to “re-ignite children’s passion for science, engineering and math.”  What he was saying is that giving children the skills to merely use computers is not enough. We need creators and innovators – education should inspire children to push the boundaries of what is possible and come up with new ‘best ways’ that us adults have never even thought of.

via Teaching the innovators of tomorrow | revUp 117.

September 20, 2011 at 10:03 am 1 comment

Ed Week: A Teacher Finds Good in Testing

This is a nice op-ed piece.  The point is that testing is useful for teachers. It’s too easy to fool ourselves as teachers and believe that our own testing is good enough. Yes, our education system has lots of problems with it, but standardized testing can help to expose the problems. It is not itself the problem. I like another line in this essay: “Standardized testing reflects the curricular priorities of a state’s education agenda. Blaming the test for the shortcomings of that agenda is like blaming the barometer for the weather.”

When I “depoliticized” the test, I found a useful and flawed ally. The exam excelled where I struggled, offering comprehensive and standards-based assessments. I thrived where the test fell short, designing creative, performance-based projects. Together, we were strategic partners. I designed and graded innovative projects—my students participated in court trials for Shakespearean characters—and the test provided a rubric that guided my evaluation of student learning.

The test didn’t make my students smarter. It made the teacher smarter. I learned that my job wasn’t simply to encourage students to relentlessly pursue knowledge. I needed to constantly test what I thought I knew about teaching.

via Education Week: A Teacher Finds Good in Testing.

September 19, 2011 at 9:11 am 2 comments

Microsoft releases National Survey Findings on student motivation to study STEM

Interesting set of findings from Microsoft, with a particular focus on gender differences in motivation to study STEM.  How interesting that Microsoft is doing this — not NSF, not a University.

The survey findings offer key insights behind the STEM skills shortage, including:

  • While most parents of K-12 students (93%) believe that STEM education should be a priority in the U.S., only half (49%) agree that it actually is a top priority for this country.
  • Nearly 4 in 5 STEM college students say that they decided to study STEM in high school or earlier, and parents say STEM interest begins at an early age.  One in five students (21%) decides in middle school or earlier.
  • Male students are more likely to pursue STEM because they have always enjoyed games/toys, reading books, and/or participating in clubs that are focused on their chosen subject area. (51% vs. 35% females).  Female students are more likely to say that they chose STEM to make a difference (49% vs. 34% males).
  • Teachers are at the head of the class when it comes to the reasons students decide to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering or math.
  • The motivation factors for boy and girls to become interested in STEM are very different. For boys, it’s primarily games and toys that led to a liking of STEM, for girls, it was a teacher or class. Schools should factor these differences into their STEM curriculum.

via Microsoft Releases National Survey Findings on How to Inspire the Next Generation of Doctors, Scientists, Software Developers and Engineers: New survey among college students and parents of K–12 students provides implications for nurturing interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers..

September 16, 2011 at 9:23 am 2 comments

Physics students grok that they need computing

Danny Caballero has started a blog at Boulder, and a recent post describes a survey he took of upper-division undergraduates in Physics.  They definitely grokked that they need computing in their education.

59 students responded to the survey. Most students were juniors and seniors. That’s because we targeted upper-division courses like Classical Mechanics, E&M and Stat. Mech.

Here’s a brief summary with more details located here:

75% of students said that computational modeling is “Essential” or “Important” to their development as a physicist.

Students mentioned these characteristics would be important for the tool they might be taught to use (in decreasing order): ease of use, support/resources for learning, efficiency and power, flexibility and adaptability, well-accepted in the field.

Students were neutral about using open-source software, but stated that it was important for the tool be free or cheap after they graduate.

As far as implementation, students wanted to see computational modeling as a complement to analytical problem solving task. Ideas included solving more complex problems, helping with algebra and visualizing problems.

via Think like a physicist… | Ideas and thoughts from an underpaid fool.

September 15, 2011 at 9:36 am 3 comments

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