Nuzzel Improvements

I first became interested in Nuzzle as a way to track the links provided by the Twitter users I followed. I am not a big Facebook users so my experience was limited to Twitter. Nuzzle would provide me a list of the most frequent links included in the Tweets of this group.

This approach made great sense but was not particularly useful for me. The problem was mostly a matter of scale. I did not follow enough individuals to get a benefit from the service. The most frequent links from my friends might total 3 or 4 for a given day. There was little differentiation among the more popular links and I would probably note these links on my own by scrolling recent tweets in my feed and so did not benefit in the way someone who would miss thousands of tweets might benefit.

The folks at Nuzzle probably understood this issue and now offer some new possibilities. Using their “Discover” feature, I can offer a topic I want to explore (say educational technology) and receive a list of “influencers” and popular recent links. Either offers an interesting approach to discovery (as opposed to search). As I understand the role of “influencers”, these individuals might represent individuals with a more productive friend list than my own and I would be able to share what this larger or more prolific group might surface.

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Nuzzel offers many existing categories, but I find using search to identify my interests to be more useful.

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So here, I locate stories and influencer feeds I can follow on the topic of educational technology.

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Coding – Beauty and Joy

In the recent State of the Union Address President Obama made mention of several forward-looking proposals regarding education. Among the advocate changes was the provision of computer science coursework for every student.

In following up on just how this might be accomplished, NPR identified an interesting MOOC Berkeley computer scientist Dan Garcia titled “Beauty and Joy of Computing.

The course emphasis both coding and the social implications of advances in computer science. The curriculum, which is freely available, is used in many secondary computer science classes. The course makes use of Snap which can also be accessed online.

I applaud Prof Garcia for making his content freely available.

The Beauty and Joy Curriculum – Coding and Social Implications

Snap

 

Balancing STEM

fetcrobota

fetcrobotsbSTEM, STEM, STEM, robots, robots, robots.

I was walking through the FETC exhibit hall looking at what the vendors had to offer and I had a strange thought. I wondered if many of the educators taking in the same sights felt left out. So much of the focus was on coding, robots, and science. What about reading and writing, the humanities, and the social sciences. Perhaps those who might recognize the narrow focus were not in attendance.

Yes, I understand some have noticed that STEAM is also a word and try to use this as a logic to include the arts. Kind of a strange approach, but if that is all you have you give it a try. It is clear where the companies believe the money is at this point. The message the vendors have embraced becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that appeals to parents and perhaps more importantly, politicians. Perhaps educators should be satisfied that politicians see any reason to invest in education. Here we go with another trickle down model.

Yes, I understand some have noticed that STEAM is also a word and try to use this as a logic to include the arts. Kind of a strange and weak argument, but if that is all you have you give it a try. It is clear where the companies believe the money is. The message they bring becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that somehow has appealed to parents and perhaps more importantly, politicians. Perhaps educators should be satisfied that politicians see any reason to invest in education. Here we go with another trickle down model.

I wonder just what problem the emphasis on STEM is supposed to solve. Some see this as an economic issue with science and technology allowing the nation to gain some kind of economic advantage and providing the solutions to some significant problems. I agree, but I just do not see the universal emphasis on STEM for all students providing an efficient benefit. Realistically, most students will not move into STEM careers. If advancing science or technology is the goal, STEM for all is likely less important than offering options for more capable and interested students.

Another argument suggests that technology is part of so many areas of life we need more programs and all need to better understand how technology works. When it comes to the suggestion that coding providing insight into technology-enabled challenges I believe this to be a weak argument. For example, computer literacy is a very different thing from programming. Those promoting computer science make this argument all of the time. It should be recognized that the argument works both ways. Programming is a vocational skill. Many problems associated with technology (e.g., privacy) or even areas of application are really more issues of computer literacy than programming experience.

K12 education is, in reality, a zero sum game.  Increasing a focus on STEM means subtracting time and resources from other subjects. Many of our most serious problems are economic, behavioral, and/or political in nature. The social sciences and humanities folks presently lack strong advocates and can offer fewer sparkly toys to impress parents and politicians. Too bad!

FETC – the outside aisle

Whenever we attend a tech conference, we have taken to identifying a winner of what we call the “outside aisle” award. The award is given to a smaller company (or at least one we have not heard of before) that has a very interesting product. The way vendor space is allocated the smaller “booths” tend to be arranged around the outside of the vendor arena.

outsideaislefetc16This year’s winner is the Ozobot (Smart Toy Robot) – the small devices on the iPad.

These are programmable robots that can receive instructions in two ways a) from colored lines (the color of the line conveys the instruction) or b) from the Blockly app.

Information about OzoBlocky.

Pricing (also available from Amazon)

Getting students into computer science

We are attending FETC and the keynote for today was Reshma Saujani the founder of Girls Who Code. Most edtech types are likely well aware of the gender differential in computer science degrees, enrollment in university computer science courses, AP programming courses, etc. Girls Who Code is an attempt to address this equity issue. Much of Reshma’s presentation addressed culture as a major factor in the gender differential.

Here is one thing I know Computer Science advocates note as an important issue and a second factor I think is an emerging and serious problem.

The Computer Science issue – very few states count a secondary-level computer science course toward a math or science graduation requirement. So even when schools (say larger schools) offer a course in programming many students have less of an incentive to take the course.

The Grabe observation (you will see it is related to the issue above) – it seems that more and more students at all level are being discouraged from exploration. The idea is to be efficient and move on. College costs are high and this discourages college students from taking “extra courses” and colleges are pressured to reduce the credits for a degree. More importantly, many high schools are allowing and encouraging students to take “dual enrollment” or other early college courses. So rather than explore and experiment (say be taking a programming course), a high school senior might find a way to take say Introduction to Psychology as such courses meet a general education requirement at nearly all colleges. It is about the money. All of this runs contrary to what we know about the developmental stage of college students (see Marcia’s work on Ego Identity) much less the maturity of high school students.

This may be one of those foolish things that seems logical to so many. Most college students change their majors. Many change multiple times. The notion that high school juniors know where their lives are going is misguided and assuming you are going to be lawyer, doctor, engineer or whatever is actually a bad bet when you are 16-17. It would actually make more sense to experiment and explore in high school when you are not paying by the credits. Even colleges used to require a diversity of course from multiple categories knowing that students should be exposed to topics they may not take if left to their own decision making. Pressure to do education on the cheap has led to a reversal of some of these assumptions. Get out and get a job while spending as little as possible now seems to be the guiding principle. I have spent time advising too many upper division college students who complain about credits they can’t use to think this is a good idea.

Was, might be, WHY

ISTE is working on a revision of Standards for Students. A draft is available online and you are invited to provide comments.

I must admit I am neither pro nor con when it comes to standards. To me, standards are vague and lack the specificity of examples and expected frequency  that actually matter when it comes to implementation. What qualifies as an experience meeting some expectation and how frequently are students to have such experiences.

As a potential consumer of these standards (assume I shape educational experiences for future educators and want to do the right thing in focusing this preparation), here is what would be helpful to me:

  • What has changed – this is the what was and what might be? I have considered making this an assignment for the students I work with – here is a copy of the existing standards and here is a copy of the proposed standards, what has changed?
  • Why are these changes justified? I cannot help asking this question. I came to my interest in educational technology as an educational psychologist and educational researcher. I want to know why changes are made. Are these “trending topics” or is there research support for these topics? Just tell me what citations I should read. I want to offer these sources to the potential instructional designers I work with.