Posts tagged ‘media’

Leslie Lamport tells Computer Scientists to go create ebooks (and other new media)

Yes! Exactly!  That’s why we’re trying to figure out new media for expressing, learning, and talking about computing.

“If you succeed in attaining a position that allows you to do something great, if you do something that really is great, and if you realize that it’s great, there’s still one more hurdle: You have to convince others that it’s great,” he told the graduates. “This will require writing.”

He exhorted graduates in biological physics; chemistry; computational linguistics; computer science; language and linguistics; mathematics and physics to find new modes of communication.

“There must be wonderful ways in which a writer can interact with the reader that no one has thought of yet, ways that will convey ideas better and will make reading fun,” Lamport said. “I want you to go out and invent them.”

Source: Computer scientist Leslie Lamport to grads: If you can’t write, it won’t compute | BrandeisNOW

August 11, 2017 at 7:00 am Leave a comment

CS students need to learn to use Powerpoint effectively

Rich DeMillo has a great story about visiting alumni (with our current Dean, Zvi Galil) and being told that they wished that they had learned how to use Powerpoint better. It’s a story about communications, but in particular, about visual communications and making a point simply.

Zvi ask someone at the end of the table, “What’s the one thing you wish we had taught you?”

The answer came back immediately: “I wish I had learned how to make an effective PowerPoint™ presentation!” If the answer had been “more math” or “better writing skills” I would have filed it away in my mental catalog of ways to tweak our degree programs. It’s a constant struggle in a requirement-laden technical curriculum — even one as flexible as our Threads program — to get enough liberal arts, basic science, and business credits into a four year program, so I was prepared to hear that these young engineers wanted to know more about American history, geology, or accounting. After all, I am a former dean. I had heard it all before.

But PowerPoint? Everything came to a stop. Zvi said, “PowerPoint!” It was an exclamation, not a question. Here’s how the rest of the conversation unfolded” “Look, the first thing I had to do was start making budget presentations. I had no idea how to make a winning argument.” From the across the table: ” Yeah, we learned how to make technical presentations, but nobody warned us that we’d have to make our point to a boss who didn’t care about the technology.” “It’s even worse where I work,” said a young woman. “Everybody in the room has a great technology to push. I needed to know how to say why mine should be the winner.” And so it went. This was not a PowerPoint discussion. We were talking about Big Animal Pictures. If you understand Big Animal Pictures, you understand how to survive when worlds collide.

via Big Animal Pictures « WWC.

July 1, 2011 at 12:41 am 11 comments

Struggling to Create the Mobile Campus

An interesting article in The Chronicle of Higher Education on how well Universities are using mobile technologies.  I read the article as highlighting two particular problems of using the mobile technologies on-campus:

  • First, getting enough wireless to all the students for all the gadgets.  One example they cite: Duke scaled back their mobile technologies program, and has instead focused over the last 3 years in just getting wireless coverage over at least 95% of campus.  The quote below highlights how students love their phones (presumably with 3G access), but the iPad hasn’t taken off because Stanford can’t keep up with the WiFi demands of all those iPads.
  • Second, we’re still trying to figure out how best to use these technologies and how to sustain them.  An interesting story in the article: Stanford built a cool 3-D, interactive map of the brain for the iPad, but then the prof who wanted it stopped teaching that course, and nobody else wants to use the iPad, so nobody is using the cool gadget now.

Stanford University, birthplace of Google, Yahoo, and Cisco, is surely one of the most tech-savvy campuses in the world. A survey last year of 200 iPhone-owning Stanford students portrayed them as digitally obsessed, even addicted. Most slept next to their phones. A quarter said their phones were “dangerously alluring.”

But when Stanford’s School of Medicine lent iPads to all new students last August, a curious thing happened: Many didn’t like using them in class. Officials had hoped to stop printing an annual average of 3,700 pages of course materials per medical student, encouraging them to use digital materials instead. Some students rebelled, and Stanford was forced to resume offering printed notes to those who wanted them. In most classes, half the students had stopped using their iPads only a few weeks into the term.

via The Slow-Motion Mobile Campus – The Digital Campus – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

May 9, 2011 at 10:59 am 3 comments

Not “Gamification” — it’s “Exploitationware”

Ian’s call to re-brand “gamification” as “exploitationware” is getting a lot of attention. It was covered in the Wall Street Journal’s blog yesterday. It’s certainly true that the term “gamification” is getting traction, e.g., I was just on an NSF panel where reviewers praised proposals trying to “gamify” educational software.  Ian points out that the language matters.  Consider the different connotations between “global warming” and “climate change,” where both terms are describing the same phenomena but from different political perspectives.  Most of the comments on Ian’s blog seem to be saying, “Give up! It’s too late.”  But I agree with Ian’s strategy. It is possible to change language, by calling attention to it and offering a significant alternative.

Note how deftly Zicherman makes his readers believe that points, badges, levels, leader boards, and rewards are “key game mechanics.” This is wrong, of course — key game mechanics are the operational parts of games that produce an experience of interest, enlightenment, terror, fascination, hope, or any number of other sensations. Points and levels and the like are mere gestures that provide structure and measure progress within such a system.

But as Frank Luntz has shown time and time again, reality matters far less than perception. When people hear “gamification,” it’s this incredible facility that registers, the simplicity, smoothness, and ease with which the wild, magical beast of games can be tamed and integrated into any other context at low cost and high scale.

Margaret Robertson has critiqued gamification on the basis that it takes the least essential aspects of games and presents them as the most essential. Robertson coins the derogatory term pointsification as a more accurate description of this process.

via Gamasutra – Features – Persuasive Games: Exploitationware.

May 5, 2011 at 1:26 pm 1 comment

Dr. Mats Daniels and the TTT Grook

Mats Daniels defended his thesis at Uppsala University this last week (Hooray!).  I received a copy of his thesis document in the mail yesterday.  Mats has been a longtime contributor to CS Education, and has been working on his doctorate for a long time, a period measured in double-digit numbers of years.

Mats maintains a mailing list to whom he mails a weekly Grook, and his grook for this last week was also the one that he ended his thesis with, reflecting his history with this document:


Put up in a place

where it’s easy to see

the cryptic admonishment


When you feel how depressingly

slow you climb,

it’s well to remember that

Things Take Time.

That admonishment also reflects our struggles with helping people (lay people, K-12 teachers and administrators, legislators and others who set public policy) understand computer science.  As my AERA experiences suggest, even at CS powerhouses like Stanford, people on the same campus don’t understand computer science.  We try to get computer science into the core curriculum, alongside disciplines that are hundreds (in some cases, over a thousand) years older than our own.  We worry about how people outside of our community understand computer science.  These are all well-founded worries, and I strongly support these efforts. I also recognize the wisdom of Mats’ grook.
It takes time to permeate popular culture the way that other disciplines have.  I have heard that there is an effort to create a television show that features a computer scientist as its hero.  Television is incredibly powerful in popular culture, but I wonder if we should also be thinking about slower, more pervasive ways of influencing popular culture.

The need for pop culture, paperback computer science: When I was a student in high school and undergraduate, many of my classes also required us to read some mass culture paperback that connected to the class.  I remember reading Future Shock for a high school class, and Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle in an undergraduate Engineering class (to lead into a discussion about unexpected effects of technological advances).  My daughter just read Dragons of Eden for her high school science class.

Many (maybe even most? all?) areas of science have books written for the the educated-but-not-specialist reader about topics in that area.  These books aren’t textbooks, and they are not surveys of the whole field. They are a slice, written in approachable (though not necessarily simple) prose.  They can be useful to assign in a class to get students to think about a perspective on the course that might not come up otherwise, and to feed into discussions.

Where are the popular culture, paperback books on computer science?  There are a few.  Danny Hillis’ The Patterns in the Stone meets the definition. James Gleick’s new book The Information (once it becomes “paperback”) may serve that role.  Almost no books like this actually contain code or describe algorithms. Do any of us CS educators actually assign these books in class and then discuss them?

We need books like these–and maybe not just “books” but also bits of software, simulations, videos, electronic books, and active essays.  We need media that are aimed at the educated-but-not-specialist reader with approachable prose (and other modalities), that are not textbooks, that don’t aim to cover the whole field, that describe a particular slice or perspective on computer science, and that could be assigned in a CS class for breadth and to spur discussion.  We need a lot of media like this, as much as has been written like this about mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, and other disciplines.

If we want to take our place in the popular culture, we have to make the same contributions of ideas to the broad public and provide accessible media.  It’s the slow path into permeating our culture the way that other disciplines do. T.T.T.

April 13, 2011 at 9:42 am 4 comments

iPads for College Classrooms? Not So Fast, Some Professors Say. – Technology – The Chronicle of Higher Education

I’d like to see the studies that this article is referencing.  I do agree — Window’s style TabletPC’s are much more flexible, and I find Ubiquitous Presenter to be a powerful educational technology.  (Great to see Beth Simon and Bill Griswold quoted in this piece.)  But I wonder if the iPad allows for a different kind of interactivity, one that can also be used for learning, but we’ll have to learn how to leverage that.

Despite the iPad’s popularity—Apple has sold nearly 15 million of them and just came out with the iPad2; and there are dozens of competitors, like the Samsung Galaxy—early studies indicate that these finger-based tablets are passive devices that have limited use in higher education. They are great for viewing media and allow students to share readings. But professors cannot use them to mark up material on the fly and show changes to students in response to their questions, a type of interactivity that has been a major thrust in pedagogy.

Even students have issues. When the University of Notre Dame tested iPads in a management class, students said the finger-based interface on its glassy surface was not good for taking class notes and didn’t allow them to mark up readings. For their online final exam, 39 of the 40 students put away their iPads in favor a laptop, because of concerns that the Apple tablet might not save their material.

“When they’re working on something important, it kind of freaks them out,” says Corey M. Angst, the assistant professor of management who tested the tablets.

via iPads for College Classrooms? Not So Fast, Some Professors Say. – Technology – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

March 14, 2011 at 8:32 am 2 comments

What counts as code to criticize: Software studies

I’ve heard of “software studies” once before, which is described as “applying humanities methods to problems in software, software culture, and computer science” (by Jeremy Douglas), but haven’t read much on it.  I was just perusing Jeremy’s movie “What counts as code to criticize” (slides are available in PDF) where he contrasts traditional textual programming, natural language programming (which is what he calls Inform 7), and programming patches with Max/MSP.  Honestly, I don’t quite get all that he’s saying, but the idea of using humanities methods to compare and contrast languages like these is intriguing.  Part of what we argue with contextualized computing education is that we are now getting students who think like us.  The students who aren’t in our classes probably don’t think like us.  We need to think about what we do in new ways to figure out strategies to engage those others.

February 4, 2011 at 1:53 pm Leave a comment

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