Computing Education Blog



MOOCs are a fundamental misperception of how teaching works
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY, 2013/01/04

focuses on xMOOCs like Coursera and Udacity, basically ignoring cMOOCs. He argues MOOCs misrepresent how teaching works because:

  • The main activity of a higher-education teacher is not to lecture
  • A teacher is an expert at teaching the topic, and the teaching is dependent on the domain
  • The job of the teacher is to educate, not filter, and that includes motivating students

He writes, "There is evidence that MOOCs do not teach. We knowthat MOOCs have a low completion rate. What most people don’t realize is that the majority of those who complete already knew the content. MOOCs offer a one-size-fits-few model, unchanging between content domains, that does not change for individual students (I know that they hope that it will opne day, but it doesn’t now)."

Today: Total:75 [Comment] [Direct Link]
Home About Computing Education Blog Definitions of “Code” and “Programmer”: Response to “Please Don’t Learn to Code”
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY, 2012/12/20

So should people learn to code? That is, should people learn how to create scripts and programs that eprform software tasks? Audrey Watters explores the question in her excellent 'Trends of 2012' series, looking at examples like Codecademy. Jeff Atwood responds negatively, exhorting students (and the general population at large) "please don't learn how to code" (don't miss the extensive discussion in the comments). He writes, "It assumes that more code in the world is an inherently desirable thing," which is is most definitely not. It "assumes that coding is the goal" and "puts the method before the problem." All very true. But, as explains in this post, learning to code isn't about creating solutions or becoming softwrae developers. People use code to visualize, to help themselves comprehend data, to try things out. Being able to code is being able to see the world in a certain way, and as such, has value beyond the specific applications developed.

Today: Total:86 [Comment] [Direct Link]
Website that takes your online classes for you
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY, 2012/09/20

This is probably fake, but it's funny. "‘We Take Your Online College Classes for You and Get You an 'A'’ You are struggling with your online classes or homework and you want someone to do it for you. We can handle almost any subject and customer service is a priority. Our company culture revolves around making sure you feel safe and satisfied knowing that your work is being done by an expert within your specified deadline."

Today: Total:72 [Comment] [Direct Link]
Sebastian Thrun bets education over driverless cars
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY, 2012/08/28

The key part of Mark Guzdial's conversation with Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun is this: "He's not out to replace the lower end.  He’s trying to create a new, low-cost option at the upper end of the higher-education spectrum.  He wants to create an inexpensive, high-quality 'Elite' (to use Rich DeMillo’s term): An E-Ivy, or an ubiquitously-accessible Stanford." My take: the learning system is simply the set-up for the testing system, and he's betting he can create a testing system with Ivy-league credentials.

Today: Total:50 [Comment] [Direct Link]
Home About Computing Education Blog Proposal in Texas to move higher ed classes to MOOCs
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY, 2012/08/27

Mark Guzdial comments, "Admittedly, this is Texas, whose state Republican platform recently recommended no teaching of higher-order thinking skills or critical thinking skills.  It may be an outlier. It may also be a leading indicator.  The Houston Chronicle has published an op-ed which proposes replacing more university courses with MOOCs." Via Texas can cut down on the cost of higher education – Houston Chronicle. I have it in mind to offer a MOOC sometime late in 2012 or 2013 on reasoning and critical thinking - an update and rewrite of the Critical Literacies MOOC we ran a couple of years ago. Anyhow, on the story, Mike Byrne notes, in the comments, "the op-ed in the Chronicle comes from the 'Center for College Affordability and Productivity,' an organization that expressly wants to mitigate 'the burden that colleges impose on society.' Warning bells there, at least for me. You can read a more complete version of their vision (which says nothing specifically about Texas)." But you know, I'm of two minds. I really dislike the attack on the school and university system being mounted by such organizations. But I also really dislike the almost total indifference to public good being demonstrated by these same school and university systems, especially the ones catering to the more affluent sectors of society.

Today: Total:67 [Comment] [Direct Link]
How does higher education funding relate to teaching quality?
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY, 2012/08/06

This chart is pretty interesting - if it has any validity at all (proper lables would help) it indicates a correlation between funding and student achievement. So is the concept of a 'computational freakonomics' course (alternative title: 'algorithms of pseudoscience'? Perhaps that's a bit harsh, but I still don't think universities should offer degrees in economics until it's shown to be something more than flim-flammery and voodoo, and the same goes double for 'freakonomics'. All of that said, I can't help but think that once "the Guardian’s impressive open data journalism site" is integrated into online courses we'll see something new in the field of learning online.

Today: Total:50 [Comment] [Direct Link]
Universities on the Defensive: What is it we do
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY, 2012/07/25

Good questions: "Are Universities under attack?  De-funding is a form of attack.  Why do we have universities, then? What do Universities exist for?  Why did we collectively decide not to fund education?  Maybe decision makers don’t understand what we do.  And the question at hand: do MOOCs replace what we do?"

Today: Total:72 [Comment] [Direct Link]
Secret Sauce of Successful Summer Camps
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY, 2012/03/28

I spent four summers in all - two as camper, two as counsellor - at summer camp. One the one hand, a summer camp can have a Lord of the Flies aspect to it. On the other hand, the camps taught me to be at home in the outdoiors, to be self-reliant, to value challenge and adventure, and to learn from my surroundings. Now summer camps provide me with an alternative perspective on learning. But the same old lessons apply:
- First. Kids who come to computing summer camps aren’t interested in lectures. They want hands-on, project-based, discovery-driven learning opportunities.
- Second, use formative evaluation and iterative development.
I don't think it's such a secret (I dislike the phgrase 'secret sauce', which implies there's some special formula that can be captured and exclusively monetized). Today: Total:58 [Comment] [Direct Link]

The Scientific Method is wrong: Scientists don’t test hypotheses, but build models
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY, 2012/02/27

This post makes a good point. Many educators (and education theorists) labour under the illusion that scientists create and then test hypotheses. Modern science does not work that way, and has not for some time. "Rather than test hypotheses, scientists do experiments to influence their models of how the world works. The hypotheses they test come out of those models, and a 'failed' experiment doesn't disprove the hypotheses as much as it feeds more information into developing a more correct model." Today: Total:50 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Online CS courses: What does it mean, “willing to put in the effort”?
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY, 2012/01/26

Interesting question. David Evans describes the online course process as, "anyone who is willing to put in the effort will be able." Mark Guzdial asks, "What does it mean, 'willing to put in the effort'? ... How do you measure effort? I’m seriously wondering — what does it mean to put in 'enough' effort? Are we measuring cognition, or time, or somehow 'mental pain'? If you don’t have the prior knowledge, and have to go read lots of background literature, is that part of 'enough' effort? Is effort measured in terms of time-on-task? If we don’t know how to measure 'effort,' how do we know if our class is demanding too much 'effort'?" He makes a good point. It's like saying "You will succeed if you have faith" - a statement that is followed by explaining "You failed because you didn't have enough faith." Today: Total:54 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Teaching the On-Line Stanford class at UMass Lowell
Fred MartinFred Martin, Computing Education BlogCC BY, 2011/12/16

Fred Martin reflects on his experience participating in the Stanford Artificial Intelligence MOOC. "I don’t have to lecture the material. When we meet, my students have (largely) worked through the lectures and homeworks. So I don’t have to explain things to students for the first time. Instead, we use in-class time to have an interesting conversation about the parts of the material that people found confusing or disagreed upon. We’ve had some great arguments this semester." Interesting how we are told "Thrun’s colleague at the Stanford AI Lab, Prof. Daphne Koller, is a pioneer of this approach, and discussed it in a recent NYT essay.... a lot like the approach suggested in 2006 by Day and Foley in their HCI course at Georgia Tech. They recorded web lectures, and then used classroom time for hands-on learning activities. Koller calls this 'the flipped classroom.'" Someone tell Karl Fisch. Today: Total:75 [Comment] [Direct Link]

No More Swikis: End of the Constructionist Web at Georgia Tech
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY, 2011/11/15

If the law really does prohibit any student work from being posted publicly, then I would have to wonder aloud about whomever promoted the law and why. And this, I think, is a problem: "Constructionism relies on the fact that the entity being constructed is public. The public nature influences the student’s motivation for doing it and doing it well. If it’s not public, it’s not constructionism. We can no longer have students construct public entities on the Web anymore for education at Georgia Tech. It may be that FERPA demands that no school can use the Web to post student work publicly." Update: Audrey Watters also covers this story. Today: Total:54 [Comment] [Direct Link]

There is No Profit in Education, No Competitive Advantage to Better Learning
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY, 2011/10/27

Mark Guzdial realizes the sad truth. Here's a synopsis: "There’s no profit to be made by making sure that your best work goes to people who can’t pay for it.... What would happen if we could teach computing better?...who cares? The Elites draw students because they offer far more than simply learning — they offer a network, prestige, great ROI... Education research can only succeed in non-profits. It’s a form of social work... But Universities aren’t non-profits — they’re totally in it to maximize profit..." And he concludes, sadly, "I’m in the wrong job." Today: Total:47 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Open Education: “The whole model hinges on excellent assessment”
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY, 2011/09/26

"That’s the real trick," writes Mark Guzdial. "How do you know that the students learned what they were supposed to learn? We know that self-assessment is a bad way of judging that learning. That’s the contribution that I see the Stanford AI class making – doing assessment, at least in the form of quizzes." But as one of the commenters writes, "the huge point about assessment is not mentioned — the article and idea gets bogged down in certification issues. What they need to think really deeply about — and come up with good solutions for — is above threshold feedback to the students in a variety of time scales." Today: Total:51 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Home About Computing Education Blog Eric Mazur’s Keynote at ICER 2011: Observing demos hurts learning, and confusion is a sign of understanding
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY, 2011/08/26

Interesting result that someone ought to try replicating: "observing a demo is worse than having no demo at all! The problem is that you see a demo, and remember it in terms of your misconceptions. A week later, you think the demo showed you what you already believed. On some of the wrong answers that students gave in Mazur’s study, they actually said 'as shown in the demo.' The demo showed the opposite! The students literally remember it wrong. People remember models, not facts, said Mazur. By recording a prediction, you force yourself to remember when you guessed wrong." We see what we expect to see, which is why it is necessary to be conscious of our expectations as we observe - which in turn suggests a need for an interactive and engaged learning process. "Confused students are far more likely to actually understand. It’s better for students to be confused, because it means that they’re trying to make sense of it all." So, what does this say to the 'worked example' set? Here's more from ICER 2011. Today: Total:75 [Comment] [Direct Link]

It’s not chronic poverty that hurts education — it’s the large percentage with any poverty
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY, 2011/07/22

Yes, another post linking poverty and poor educational outcomes. "Way too many students face some poverty. And that’s enough to inhibit their development. Poverty is by far the most significant factor influencing students’ educational development. The pervasiveness of poverty, not its chronic nature, is a significant problem for our society." With all the eagerness of politicians to devise plans to evaluate teachers against educational outcomes, one wonders why there are no plans to evaluate politicians according to how well they reduce poverty. Today: Total:57 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Student evaluations of teaching don't correlate with learning gains
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY, 2011/05/20

You need to be careful about drawing assumptions that are not in the data. Mark Guzdial summarizes Richard Hake, who cites (slightly) improved test scores, but declining evaluations, in physics classes. "Students don't necessarily 'like' teaching that makes them think," he writes. But the Arons Advocated Method can be argued to be the opposite of that. Hake cites Arons, with emphasis, that "It must be emphasized, however, that repetition is an absolutely essential feature of such instruction." That's not learning, it's indoctrination. And, in my view, students are quite right not to like it. That doesn't mean they should never do it, nor to reject everything in Arons (there's a lot to like there). But walking into a university physics class and having this imposed on you is something else altogether. Today: Total:50 [Comment] [Direct Link]

The role of computing education in the productivity paradox
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY, 2011/04/05

I agree with this observation: "real computer revolution hasn't happened yet. We use very little of the computer's potential in our daily lives. Certainly, part of the problem there is the lack of enough good, usable software that taps into the real power of the computer (e.g., other than what-if games on Excel, what everyday-usable software has people building models and simulations?). Another way to look at the problem is that maybe we haven't taught people how to use the computer well." Me, I can code, make videos, edit audio, create animations, and more. If I need something, I make it. I get a lot of mileage out of my computer, and have created a career using it. But I had the advantage of learning some of the basic skills early in life. As larger segments of the population become computer-literate, as writing algorithms becomes as everyday as writing notes, the true impact of the computer will be realized. Today: Total:68 [Comment] [Direct Link]

What's wrong with online courses
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY, 2011/02/18

Mark Guzdial: "The author's point about online courses 'lacking the third dimension' (social, face-to-face interactivity) is a good one (and that's where OpenStudy comes in), but the side point he makes is more interesting to me. The media of online courses just is nowhere near what it needs to be! Powerpoint slides, PDF tests, and no feedback is just abysmal, and we can do so much better!" And then there's the stuff we've been doing with Connectivism and web radio and all of that, and I think there is a third dimension, but you have to kind of break a few rules to get to it. Today: Total:54 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Computing Education Blog
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY, 2011/01/20

All this emphasis on science and engineering graduates, and yet when you look at where people are actually getting jobs... Today: Total:48 [Comment] [Direct Link]

MOOC: Massive Open Online Course
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY, 2010/09/06

Mark Guzdial: "They talk about how much students like it, and about how energized the faculty were about doing it, and how the challenge was getting these huge number of students to 'behave.' But did anybody learn?" Let's define our terms first. By 'learn' do you mean "memorized prescribed data'? If so, probably not. But it's hard to say that a course could be "one of the most valuable learning experiences of her life" if nothing was learned. It's hard to say people could write hundreds of blog posts, or write reserach papers, or participate in these discussions, without learning. The question isn't 'did they learn'? Of course they learned; they'd have to be inert rocks not to. The interesting question is, what did they learn? The short answer - probably - not just facts, but skills, abilities, intuitions, sensibilities and community. Hm, but these are pretty hard to measure on the end-of-course test. Today: Total:71 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Tell Sally Your Stories: Monthly, For a Year
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY, 2010/09/01

Sally Fincher wants you to share your education stories with her. "In her keynote as the ACM SIGCSE 2010 Outstanding Contributions to CS Education awardee, Sally Fincher talked about the "useless truths" that education researchers publish.  While they're true, the published lessons are often too hard to take from their abstract, general form into the concrete, daily practice of the teaching practitioner." At her website she is collecting and documenting these stories. Today: Total:52 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Are all textbooks created equal?
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY, 2010/08/02

Mark Guzdial looks at a New York times article, $200 Textbook vs. Free. You Do the Math. The article profiles Scott McNealy, co-founder and former chief executive of Sun Microsystems, who has taken to investing time and a little money in Curriki, which produces open source curricular materials. McNealy and Sun Microsystems been involved with Curricki since 2007. In his commentary, Guzdial raises questions of quality control and innovation - the usual bugbears raised against open source. Some good discussion in the comments. Today: Total:50 [Comment] [Direct Link]

In Defense of Lecture
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY, 2010/07/27

Oh, I think this point in defense of lectures is exactly right. "If you recognize that the complete sentence is 'Lectures don't work…for inexperienced or lazy learners,' then you realize that using 'active learning' with professionals at a formal conference is insulting to your audience. You are assuming that they can't learn on their own, without your scaffolding." Now, sometimes they can't actually learn, even if they are professionals - if they are learning outside their domain of expertise, for example. But people who are interested and motivated and able to learn on their own need little help - they'll turn a lecture into active learning in their own way, through note-taking, engaging with the speaker, or simply listening with an active, questioning mind. Today: Total:83 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Psychologists are from Kansas City, and Education Researchers are from Rio de Janeiro
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY, 2010/07/22

"Psychology is a real science, They can measure things." So says Mark Guzdial in this post, more than a little tongue-in-cheek, as he tries to draw out the distinction between psychology and education. The post is full of (acknowledged) over-generalizations, but if you all those to be used for effect (which I do here) then I think there's a good, if subtle, point being made. "We're all working on the same problem, but from different directions. Maybe we'll meet somewhere in between. Bring your fMRI data, and I'll grab my course evaluations, and we'll have lunch in Acapulco." But don't try to drive - there's a thing called the Darien Gap. Today: Total:57 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Tools for Building Tutors, and Tutors for Computing Education
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY,

I was going to pass on this - but then: wait a second, tools for building tutors? Mark Guzdial writes, "The Cognitive Tutor Authoring Tools (CTAT) that the CMU folks have built are amazingly cool! They've built Java and Flash versions, but the Flash version is actually totally generic. Using a socket-based interface, the CTAT for Flash tool can observe behavior to construct a graph of potential student actions, which can labeled with hints, structure for success/failure paths, made ordered/unordered, and made generic with formulas. The tool can also be used for creating general rule-based tutors. CTAT really is a general tutoring engine that can be integrated into just about any kind of computational activity." Today: Total:49 [Comment] [Direct Link]

The Right to Hack, not to Flash
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY,

There is, of course, no right side in the Great Flash Debate. I have always been frustrated that Flash is basically closed, and that I can't simply hack out some interesting Flash applications. So it is contrary to the spirit of the web. But Apple, in simply deciding, by fiat, that it will not allow Fash on ots platform, sets a horrible example. What next will be banned -- RSS? Javascript? A platform vendor should not have the right to dictate what will and will no run on the platform. Once it's in my hands, it should be mine to hack around with as I please. Related: Alfred Thompson, Point them in a direction and get out of the way. Today: Total:78 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Apple removes Scratch from iPad/iPhone/iTouch
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY,

Want to learn programming and reading at the same time? There's no app for that. Apple has removed Scratch from the iTunes store, which means it's not available for the Touch or the iPad. "Its a business decision," says a writer on Scratch forums. "Apple wants to be in complete control of what can make apps for their machines so they ban all app creators except their own." Tom Hoffman is less than sympathetic "considering their own lack of good faith and transparency in licensing, particularly for a publicly funded educational project." Today: Total:72 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Rationalizing Academic Blogging
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY,

What is the role of academic blogging. This post postulates two major rationalizations:
- Blogging is a new form of non-amateur journalism.
- Blogs can provide the narrative knowledge that connects research to practice.
There are elements of both of these, of course. But I would add a third:
- Blogging provides a narrative whereby experts document practice for the benefit of learners. Today: Total:53 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Rationalizing Academic Blogging
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY,

What is the role of academic blogging. This post postulates two major rationalizations:
- Blogging is a new form of non-amateur journalism.
- Blogs can provide the narrative knowledge that connects research to practice.
There are elements of both of these, of course. But I would add a third:
- Blogging provides a narrative whereby experts document practice for the benefit of learners. Today: Total:61 [Comment] [Direct Link]

The standard for online courses is firmly in place?
Mark GuzdialMark Guzdial, Computing Education BlogCC BY,

The standard for online courses, we are told, is firmly in place. Mark Guzdial protests. "Surely, this can't be it - it can't be that Sakai + Twitter + a blog or Wiki is what all future studies will call the 'traditional' form of online courses? What about amazingly and powerful collaborative spaces like Kansas, and provably better ways of teaching with technology like cognitive tutors Surely we can do better than what's being used today? It's that second step that's more promising. We can do much better than that.  It's not even very hard.  Have you seen the great new tools that CMU has made available for building your own cognitive tutors I've learned that there is a term for those trying to change education through radical on-line approaches: 'edupunks.'" Today: Total:85 [Comment] [Direct Link]


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