To Code or Not To Code

There is an interesting pair of essays about how universal “learning to code” ought to be over at Coding Horror: Please Don’t Learn to Code and a follow-up So You Want to be a Programmer. The first essay questions whether we really need more programmers, and whether learning some basic programming is that valuable a skill as compared to learning how to understand a problem and its solutions. The followup clarifies that what is being criticized is learning to code for the sake of knowing how to code, as compared to learning to code in order to solve a problem … Continue reading To Code or Not To Code

Interactive Learning Startup Top Hat Monocle Wants To Turn Your Homework Into A Tournament

This article about a company that produces classroom engagement technologies such as in-class polls, discussion forums, and homework tournaments is making my head spin. I can get behind the value of in-class polls or quizzes, where students get immediate feedback, and professors get an immediate sense of what they sank in or not. But this: Top Hat offers an SMS-based response system, while all others access its platform through the web. Students can ask questions during lectures without interrupting teachers and get instant feedback from other students. Why would we even bother all getting together in the same room, if … Continue reading Interactive Learning Startup Top Hat Monocle Wants To Turn Your Homework Into A Tournament

Tablets for all

I’ve been thinking a lot about tablet computing in educational settings, partially because of some research I’m doing, and partially because of the splash of Apple’s announcement of iTunes U back in January which doesn’t seem to have been followed up by much. My gut reaction is that tablet computers are awesome, but for certain purposes. I absolutely love mine when I’m not working – vacations, weekends, messing around online in the evening. But when it comes to my teaching, I’ve yet to find ways that it really supports or helps me, and it makes me suspect that it isn’t … Continue reading Tablets for all

Also, the lack of symmetry has always bugged me…

It is nice to see studies confirming that we’re not all as taken up with shiny new technologies and clever marketing strategies as it sometimes seems – here, a “youth marketing company” finds that, out of a sample 500 college students, 79% could not successfully scan a QR code. Only 19% did not have smart phones, and only 20% weren’t familiar with QR codes, so that leaves a large portion of students with the awareness and ability but lack of inclination to have ever figured them out. I suspect the comment about not wanting to download an app to handle … Continue reading Also, the lack of symmetry has always bugged me…

Thoughts on Thiel and the value of college

This is just the latest article I have seen about Peter Thiel’s scholarships to students to develop entrepreneurial ideas instead of going to college, motivated by a belief that college is not serving these students well. Listening to the interview and things he has actually said elsewhere, I think that Thiel is focusing on a very small set of students – highly motivated students with specific ideas for projects they would like to take on – and he is saying that these students ought to be encouraged to take a chance on those ideas. I have no issue with the … Continue reading Thoughts on Thiel and the value of college

Also a reasonable test for psychopaths

If you hang out in logic/math/education/psychology circles (as one so often does….) you’ve run into the Wason selection task – give people four cards, each with a destination on one side and a mode of transportation on the other and ask them to flip over all and only the cards necessary to ensure that the scenario described doesn’t involve someone violating the ruled “If you travel to Boston, you take a plane.” The general point is that people are bad (really, epically bad….) at propositional calculus and inference. Bruce Schneier wrote recently on an interesting twist I hadn’t come across … Continue reading Also a reasonable test for psychopaths

CaN yOu ReAd ThIs?

So many fun things to explore in this suggestion that students learn better from materials printed in harder-to-read fonts. First, I have only skimmed and not read the source paper, but they do acknowledge up front that this is part of a larger body of work that suggests that students learn better and retain their knowledge longer when they have to exert more thought in obtaining the information or knowledge. What is novel is that something as simple as the presentation font can trigger this effect. I liked the finding that just shaking a page while copying it to make … Continue reading CaN yOu ReAd ThIs?

Back to school – spend some money, make some money

It is time for back to school sales, services and advice to start flowing, and a few things have caught my eye recently. There is always interest in saving money on textbooks, and the Lifehacker guide to saving money on textbooks isn’t a bad start, though the comments do rake them over the coals a bit for suggesting photocopying as a valid option. But you get the standard list of sources for new and used books and a wonderful reminder at the bottom to make sure that you are getting the correct book. If at all possible – remember to … Continue reading Back to school – spend some money, make some money

I know that a lot of schools are looking at outsourcing more and more services to save money – both physical services like facilities maintenance and technological services. I liked this student perspective in a recent Yale Daily News on Yale’s plan to transition their email to Gmail. Besides enumerating some of the privacy and accessibility concerns that such plans have raised, the article argues for an open process when making such a significant change. It seems, from these students’ perspective at least, there are questions they would like to have answered about the services Gmail will provide before a … Continue reading

No Wookies in the classroom

This article via Wired about whether geeky decorations turn women away from computer science has me conflicted. The article is definitely provocatively titled, “Star Trek Stops Women From Becoming Computer Scientists”, but the underlying study being reported shows that sitting in a room with Star Trek decor correlates with women responding more negatively to a survey of attitudes about computer science, with men not showing the same effect. As always with this type of study, there are things to poke at – would other strongly themed decors have the same result? What about a non-neutral room with lots of academic … Continue reading No Wookies in the classroom