Archive for February 11, 2013

College Degree, No Class Time Required: Just Religious Faith in Tests

The announcement from U. Wisconsin (that they’ll test students to get a degree, rather than requiring any coursework at all) is showing enormous and unsupported (almost religious) faith in our ability to construct tests, especially online tests.  Building reliable and valid assessments is part of my research, and it’s really hard.  Can I come up with assessments that are at least as good as having 32 (roughly) teachers assess you over a four year period?  I already know that there is a lot that I don’t know how to assess in computing education (because we’ve tried and failed), e.g., the kinds of process knowledge that one gains in software engineering and senior design classes.  I’m sure that there are many assessment experts who are far better than me, so certainly, someone else could do what I could not.  Since I’m also a consumer of others’ assessments, I don’t see high-quality assessments (e.g., I trust them, they’ve been shown to be reliable and valid) that cover everything that we want students to learn. So, no, I do not believe currently that we can build tests to assess an entire computer science undergraduate degree.  To create programs like what Wisconsin proposes is having unsupported faith that new assessments will miraculously appear.  (“Miraculous” because as far as I can tell, no funding is going into building new assessments, and that’s pretty expensive to do well!)

Now, educators in Wisconsin are offering a possible solution by decoupling the learning part of education from student assessment and degree-granting.

Wisconsin officials tout the UW Flexible Option as the first to offer multiple, competency-based bachelor’s degrees from a public university system. Officials encourage students to complete their education independently through online courses, which have grown in popularity through efforts by companies such as Coursera, edX and Udacity.

via College Degree, No Class Time Required – WSJ.com.

February 11, 2013 at 1:14 am 4 comments

Michael Littman’s new blog: End-user programming for household devices

I’m excited about the direction that Michael Littman is taking with his new blog.  It’s a different argument for “Computing for Everyone.”  He’s not making a literacy argument, or a jobs argument.  He’s simply saying that our world is filled with computers, and it should be easy to talk to those computers — for everybody.  Nobody should be prevented from talking to their own devices.

The aspiration of the “Scratchable Devices” team is to help move us to a future in which end-user programming is commonplace.  The short version of the pitch goes like this.  We are all surrounded by computers—more and more of the devices we interact with on a daily basis are general purpose CPUs in disguise.  The marvelous thing about these machines is that they can carry out activities on our behalf: activities that we are too inaccurate or slow or fragile or inconsistent or frankly important to do for ourselves.  Unfortunately, most of us don’t know how to speak to these machines  And, even those of us who do are usually barred from doing so by device interfaces that are intended to be friendly but in fact tie our hands.

We seem to be on the verge of an explosion of new opportunities.  There are new software systems being created, more ways to teach people about programming, and many many more new devices that we wish we could talk to in a systematic way.  The purpose of this blog is to raise awareness of developments, both new and old, that bear on the question of end-user programming.

via Scratchable Devices Blog | End-user programming for household devices.

February 11, 2013 at 1:09 am 1 comment


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