AP Computer Science Demographics Report for 2015 completed #CSEdWeek How Small a Part Research Plays in Making and Implementing Educational Policy

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  • 1. Raul Miller  |  December 14, 2015 at 9:32 am

    On a related note, “educational technology” tends to retain ancient concepts when they prove useful. Chalkboards, spoken words, …

    But, anyways, this essay is particularly interesting to think about in the context of the computer based educational artifacts (for example “Khan Academy”): One thing the poor have in abundance, when compared with the rich, is people.

    Would it be possible to re-inject the “human element” into computerized educational artifacts through the use of study partners, mentors, or whatever else? Or do issues such as social pressure or frustration negate this apparent benefit?

  • 2. alanone1  |  December 14, 2015 at 9:50 am

    If she had realized that writing and the printing press are educational technologies, who knows what she might have said! Think of the alienating effects of writing, taking the reader to a place so far from the richness and touchiness of oral discourse, that readers could start to detach from their own culture and it’s modes of thinking …

    It’s not that most of her complaints about idiot approaches to education are not valid — many of them are — it’s that she can’t deal with the larger issues of both education and technological media in the service of education.

    This is like the arguments that use the fact that most predictions of the future don’t turn out, to conclude that no one can predict the future.

    A much better approach is to take one piece of her advice — try to understand how learning happens and can be fostered — both in general and for specific kinds of learners — and then ask about what will help. That would have made a far more interesting and useful keynote.

    One of many pathways e.g. would be to look at how autodidacts use books and other parts of their environment — including people — to help their learning. Then e.g. take a look at Vygotsky’s ZPD and ask how that works for different kinds of learners (one way to look at it is that the mediator is providing scaffolding that creates a system that is like what autodidacts are able to do for themselves). Then ask what parts can be mediated by suitably invented technologies. And ask whether the “mediators” can themselves be internalized (yes, they can! Etc.)

    To get started, I would also pick a few learning areas that lend themselves to very high quality mediation. Some of the choices would involve the quality of sensing that can be done.

    Just to take an example — as a former pro musician, music teacher, and longtime avid amateur classical pipe organist — many really helpful things can be done to facilitate music learning right now in ways that only enhance the art and artistic pleasures. The key is to draw the quality of experience line high enough (a criterion that most technologists, consumer marketeers, and their prey do not take the trouble to figure out the quality line, draw it, and stick to it). Not doing this leads to crap and a generally crappy outlook. (See Don Norman’s and Bruce Tognazinni’s critique http://www.fastcodesign.com/3053406/how-apple-is-giving-design-a-bad-name)

    In other words, we have to avoid the phrase and attitude “what can we do?” and instead ask “what is really needed?” If we can’t do it with a technological invention at any point, then we should look elsewhere, or try harder until we can get above the “quality needed” threshold. This is what we need to talk about. And we need to do it in the context of what writing and the printing press have meant to education and the outlook of entire civilizations.

    • 3. Mark Guzdial  |  December 14, 2015 at 10:21 am

      Alan, have you seen the jamStik+ yet? (See http://www.amazon.com/Portable-SmartGuitar-Interactive-Bluetooth-Connectivity/dp/B0149YRRXA/ref=sr_1_1?s=musical-instruments&ie=UTF8&qid=1450106420&sr=1-1 for Amazon Ad for it.) I bumped into it while shopping recently, and was reminded of your critiques of Guitar Hero and the like. The jamStik+ makes visible chord fingerings and provides feedback on them.


      • 4. alanone1  |  December 14, 2015 at 11:06 am

        Hi Mark

        I think I’ll get it and try it. I was worried about their photos without a strap or brace, but then they do show there is a strap (you really do not want to support your guitar with either hand, especially when learning, so a strap is really needed for a peanut sized instrument like this).

        And it will be interesting to see both how good the sensor and the sensor-interpreter are. (By the way, Todd Machover — who is a cellist — and the Media Lab some years ago made a fabulous sensor bow for Yo Yo Ma, that could really pick up nuance, and this is the kind of thing that would be used for a “cello learning mediator”.)

        One thing I didn’t mention — but it is a principle that is not just big in music learning, but for most learning — is that part of the deal is to help the learner be able to build enough fluencies in a number of areas so that they can also pay close attention to their nuanced results while playing — this can take awhile, but it is obviously a big deal.

        One of the overall ideas here — I’ve been using the metaphor of “extending and scaffolding autodidactism” — is that autodidacts who reach for real fluencies don’t do it completely as hermits (just semi-hermits). No one learns to be a really fluent musician just from a book or listening to records, but it’s important to understand just how much can be learned along certain important pathways. This is partly because fluencies in developed art/crafts generally require a lot of “system 1” training, not just “system 2” learning. And just how the shaping of the real-time not so good at learning parts of our minds is done, can have a huge influence on being able to stick with it. Tim Gallwey, the great tennis teacher, used to say, you still have to hit thousands of balls when you learn the “Inner Game of Tennis” what is different is both how you feel while doing it, and the amount of sustained focus brought to bear.



  • 5. Andy Ko  |  December 14, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    From a meta perspective, the article is a great illustration of the need for us to be clearer about how we frame the work we do (not surprising that it came from a self-described cultural studies critical theory perspective). Intelligent tutoring systems can be framed as “robot tutors” or “the computer programming the child”, and there are many who think of them that way. They can also be framed in a myriad of other ways: 1) an interactive textbook, 2) a narrowly defined activity that provides pedagogy diversity to a larger curriculum, 3) a neon sign that draws a learners attention to a new subject, 4) an embodiment of a theory of learning, 5) an rudimentary, poorly trained, socially ignored automaton through which all hope is placed and lost.

    The problem is that these framings aren’t always knowable from the surface features of a project. The very same educational technology can be thought of from all of these perspectives; it’s up to us to surface our intent about how they be used. In some ways, this intent is just as important to the impact of ed tech as are the functions of the tech itself.

  • […] The Algorithmic Future of Education: The History of the Future of Education […]


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