Archive for October, 2011

Why Do Some People Learn Faster? Linking Dweck and EEG data

Interesting cross-disciplinary (connecting education and psychology to neuroscience) study that shows how beliefs about intelligence (whether it’s fixed or can be grown) influence EEG measurements after making mistakes.  People learn faster who make more mistakes and learn from them quicker.  I particularly liked the quote from Niels Bohr in this piece: “An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.”

It turned out that those subjects with a growth mindset were significantly better at learning from their mistakes. As a result, they showed a spike in accuracy immediately following an error. Most interesting, though, was the EEG data, which demonstrated that those with a growth mindset generated a much larger Pe signal, indicating increased attention to their mistakes. (While those with an extremely fixed mindset generated a Pe amplitude around five, those with a growth mindset were closer to fifteen.) What’s more, this increased Pe signal was nicely correlated with improvement after error, implying that the extra awareness was paying dividends in performance. Because the subjects were thinking about what they got wrong, they learned how to get it right.

via Why Do Some People Learn Faster? | Wired Science | Wired.com.

October 10, 2011 at 11:45 am 3 comments

Steve Jobs: ‘Computer Science Is A Liberal Art’ : NPR

How very cool!

On computer science as a liberal art

“In my perspective … science and computer science is a liberal art, it’s something everyone should know how to use, at least, and harness in their life. It’s not something that should be relegated to 5 percent of the population over in the corner. It’s something that everybody should be exposed to and everyone should have mastery of to some extent, and that’s how we viewed computation and these computation devices.”

via Steve Jobs: ‘Computer Science Is A Liberal Art’ : NPR.

October 7, 2011 at 3:29 am 12 comments

Fixing Our Math Education with Context

Sounds pretty similar to the contextualized computing education that we’ve been arguing for with IPRE and Media Computation.  The argument being made here is another example of the tension between the cognitive (abstract conceptual learning) and the situative (integrating students into a community of practice).

A math curriculum that focused on real-life problems would still expose students to the abstract tools of mathematics, especially the manipulation of unknown quantities. But there is a world of difference between teaching “pure” math, with no context, and teaching relevant problems that will lead students to appreciate how a mathematical formula models and clarifies real-world situations. The former is how algebra courses currently proceed — introducing the mysterious variable x, which many students struggle to understand. By contrast, a contextual approach, in the style of all working scientists, would introduce formulas using abbreviations for simple quantities — for instance, Einstein’s famous equation E=mc2, where E stands for energy, m for mass and c for the speed of light.

Imagine replacing the sequence of algebra, geometry and calculus with a sequence of finance, data and basic engineering. In the finance course, students would learn the exponential function, use formulas in spreadsheets and study the budgets of people, companies and governments. In the data course, students would gather their own data sets and learn how, in fields as diverse as sports and medicine, larger samples give better estimates of averages. In the basic engineering course, students would learn the workings of engines, sound waves, TV signals and computers. Science and math were originally discovered together, and they are best learned together now.

via How to Fix Our Math Education – NYTimes.com.

October 6, 2011 at 8:09 am 8 comments

Should we change Universities deeply to get more women in CS?

I spoke to an expert on women in CS a couple weeks ago, who said that she really hates efforts to make deep changes in courses, like curriculum changes.  “That sends a signal that women can’t succeed in the current classes, that they need changes in curriculum in order to be successful.”  She’s concerned that these efforts make women feel inferior or inadequate.

On the other hand, here’s a study from Mary Frank Fox and colleagues saying that these smaller, surface-level, student-focussed changes are not going far enough to get more women into STEM fields.  They call for changes in “faculty and institutional structures.”  Is a call like this counter-productive, in terms of influencing self-efficacy in a negative direction?  Or are Universities “broken,” in the sense that the deck is stacked against women (and other minority groups), and we have to change the structure, just to get a level playing field?

Despite years of trying to improve the number of women undergraduates in science and engineering, a new study shows most universities are failing. Not only are women lagging behind their male classmates, efforts to close the gap too often focus on students instead of faculty and institutional structures.

This is first study that looks at the full range of programs for undergraduate women in science and engineering in the U.S. It gathered information from nearly 50 difference programs.

Despite seeming to understand the problem, the authors found that many institutions did not try to change the climate in the classroom, create more faculty advisors, or improve and strengthen the faculty commitment to educating women in science and engineering. Instead, they found programs often left these key structural obstacles “untouched,”—especially when it came to faculty. Diversity training for faculty, mentoring of undergraduates and new course components are examples of programs that could make a difference, researches say.

via Women in science? Universities don’t make the grade.

October 5, 2011 at 9:41 am 8 comments

Any cognitive benefit of video games? Video-game studies have serious flaws

Do video games provide some kind of cognitive benefit after the game play?  There have been arguments that video games lead to improved attention, quicker responses, and visual skills.  A paper in Frontiers in Psychology has reviewed the past literature and found that they are all flawed with some basic bias errors.  This doesn’t mean that video games don’t have cognitive benefits.  But we don’t have any evidence that they do.

Most of the studies compare the cognitive performances of expert gamers with those of non-gamers, and suffer from well-known pitfalls of experimental design. The studies are not blinded: participants know that they have been recruited because they have gaming expertise, which can influence their performance, because they are motivated to do well and prove themselves. And the researchers know which participants are in which group, so they can have preconceptions that might inadvertently affect participants’ performance.

via Video-game studies have serious flaws : Nature News.

October 4, 2011 at 9:33 am 4 comments

Who’s measuring the part-time students?

At the ACM Education Council meeting two weeks ago in Denver, we had a discussion about the for-profits.  We often use IPEDS data to track US schools. Does that include for-profits?  According to DeVry, not really.  IPEDS only counts full-time and first-time students.

So who is tracking part-time, non-traditional students? How do we know that they are being well-served? This is particularly important as we think about re-training, and women re-entering the workforce (which is a huge issue for NCWIT).  The answer may be: Nobody.

More than 250,000 students have graduated from DeVry University. We are proud of the determination it takes for many of our students to graduate, and we work to improve the rates at which they graduate. The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), which collects data for all institutions that receive Title IV federal financial aid, measures only those entering students who are full-time and first-time to college. New part-time students and those entering as transfers are excluded. Additionally, the standard IPEDS graduation rate tracks the cohort for only 150 percent of normal time to completion – three years for associate-seekers and six years for bachelor-seekers. Students who take a little longer to graduate are not counted.

Among undergraduates entering DeVry in Fall 2009, only 48 percent were first-time students. When the number of part-time students is also taken into consideration, the IPEDS-defined cohort accounts for only a fraction of our entering students.

via DeVry University | Student Experience | DeVry Facts.

October 3, 2011 at 8:52 am 2 comments

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