How we think about coding and computing literacy

I’ve been meaning to write about Annette Vee’s Coding Literacy: How Computer Programming is Changing Writing for a while now. The book looks at the current interest in “coding literacy” from the perspective of literacy studies. I picked up the book because I was interested in this outside perspective, and two quotes in the introduction immediately told me I was going to enjoy this book: Programming as defined by computer science of software engineering is bound to echo the values of those contexts. But the concept of coding literacy suggests programming is a literacy practice with many applications beyond a profession … Continue reading How we think about coding and computing literacy

To-do list from SIGCSE 2019

The timing of SIGCSE (the technical symposium for ACM’s special interest group on computer science education) as midway through the Spring semester is a nice lead-in for course revisions that might happen over the summer for the next year, but the trick is to actually remember those intended revisions. There’s also so much one can take away from SIGCSE that I’ve committed to, each time I attend, identifying three manageable things I can do to follow up from the conference in the coming year. Top of the list is a revision to my OO programming course inspired by Prather et … Continue reading To-do list from SIGCSE 2019

Just silliness

I always enjoy the updates to Math with Bad Drawings that reflect on the process of teaching math. The recent entry The Serious Truth About Silly Mistakes rang particularly true for me, especially when I think about teaching programming. Orlin writes about how students do sometimes make careless mistakes – what I might think of as “typos” or “silliness” as he calls it – but that students (or, in his case, their parents) can struggle to distinguish an actual careless slip and an instance of “silliness” that reveals a lack of underlying understanding. He suggests the following for why mathematics … Continue reading Just silliness

The Other Reasons Small Classes Matter

A couple of weeks ago Inside Higher Ed briefly higlighted a BioScience paper, Do Small Classes in Higher Education Reduce Performance Gaps in STEM? The answer seems to be “perhaps for women”. It’s an interesting result but despite my interest in the topic what it really got me thinking about was how this is one more in a long string of “are small classes better” articles that talk about the question only from the perspective of whether students acquire particular knowledge or skills better. Obviously, this is important. But small class sizes permit a classroom experience where the outcomes for … Continue reading The Other Reasons Small Classes Matter

Defining a Liberal Arts Major

Over the past few months I’ve been spending more time than usual in discussions about the value and mission of liberal arts education, coming at it from a few different directions. This seems to align with an increased number of articles in various sources (mainstream and higher-ed focused) about the value of the liberal arts. There are a lot of pieces to the challenging problem of explaining liberal arts education. One piece I keep coming back to, though, is my frustration with the phrase “liberal arts majors”, generally intended to mean arts and humanities majors. If it were up to me, we would insist on being clear … Continue reading Defining a Liberal Arts Major

Exploring for information

There are a series of good quotes in this article about how librarians can get students to start understanding the scholarly frame for exploring information that highlight the general shape of the argument being made: That exploration is important in learning: “When small children observe and imitate, they are testing the physical world around them and coming up with their own understanding of how things work. Explicit instruction short-circuits that process.” That various pressures prevent students from seeing library research as exploration: “They are intensely curious about what the teacher wants, if not about the topic they’re researching, and often focus … Continue reading Exploring for information

Getting to Effective Ed-Tech

This Chronicle article discussing the Jefferson Education incubator at University of Virginia has been rolling around in my head the past couple of days as I’ve been part of a number of conversations about education, computing, and classroom technology. The problem Jefferson Education says they are setting out to solve is that the ed-tech industry is light on efficacy research for the technologies they are selling, and “”universally, everyone thinks it’s not their fault or not their problem” that the research isn’t a bigger part of the purchasing equation.” So their group will study “the political, financial, and structural barriers that keep companies … Continue reading Getting to Effective Ed-Tech

Prioritizing beyond deadlines

A friend shared this article about university students struggling to read entire books on Facebook, and while there are many thought provoking things here, one quote in particular struck me: “I would say that it is simply a case of needing to prioritise,” said Ms Francis, “do you finish a book that you probably won’t write your essay on, or do you complete the seminar work that’s due in for the next day? I know what I’d rather choose.” Reading that sentence, I had the dual reactions of “of course” and “the fact that that’s the decision is the problem”. … Continue reading Prioritizing beyond deadlines

Advice for the Returning

It is the time of year that the media, newspapers, blogs and higher-ed focused venues put out articles on advice to college freshmen. I was thinking of adding to that collection, but it struck me that there’s an audience that could use some back-to-school advice as well but which seems to be largely ignored: sophomores. It’s an interesting omission, given that missteps, meandering, or general malaise is so common in the sophomore year that there’s an entire phrase for it: the “sophomore slump”. And yet while a Google News search on “freshman advice” returns a top-ten links filled with tips for students starting college (8 … Continue reading Advice for the Returning

Argument for Ambiguity

I got directed to a recent piece about tolerance for ambiguity as a job requirement and a skill education should help develop through this quote from a responding blog post: “To the extent that we can provide assignments and experiences in and among classes that give students the experience of getting a little lost and finding their way back, we may be able to build some of that tolerance for ambiguity in the kind of settings Selingo discusses.” While the original article focuses more on the idea of a “growth mind-set” and encouraging students to think of perseverance rather than … Continue reading Argument for Ambiguity