Archive for March, 2012

I nearly died reading this comment thread on Facebook:

A young man comes out to his friends, hopeful that they’ll be accepting and supportive, and they are! Except when it comes to the design of his coming out blog post. Tolerance only goes so far, and these geeks just can’t accept someone being honest with himself and his loved ones if he doesn’t at least have a grasp of CSS.

“Have you told your family that you don’t use style sheets? That’s the hardest part.”

Ah, Blackboard:

Short version: I love CUNY and I love public education. Blackboard is a parasite on both. Writing free software is the best way I know to disrupt the awful relationship between companies like Blackboard and vulnerable populations like CUNY undergraduates.

Wired Educator (not Wired/Educator, though, judging from the terrible logo) on the AppleTV instead of a projector (or worse, interactive whiteboard):

Using my iPad and AirPlay, I can wirelessly mirror any content on my iPad to the screen at the front of the room. The real advantage is evident during collaborative activities. Students can use their own iOS devices to connect to the AppleTV to share their work with the rest of the class. I can be anywhere in the room and still run my lesson. I can pull up sound and video clips on my iPad and instantly share them with my class without being attached to any particular location in the room.

There’s so much potential here, especially with AirPlay support for Macs in Mountain Lion. TVs are cheaper and higher-resolution than most projectors, too.

(Aside: the AppleTV has become one of my favourite Apple devices in recent memory. So great.)

Matt Langer on the ridiculous “Curator’s Code“:

First, let’s just get clear on the terminology here: “Curation” is an act performed by people with PhDs in art history; the business in which we’re all engaged when we’re tossing links around on the internet is simple “sharing.” And some of us are very good at that! (At least if we accept “very good” to mean “has a large audience.”)

But we should not delude ourselves for a moment into bestowing any special significance on this, because when we do this thing that so many of us like to call “curation” we’re not providing any sort of ontology or semantic continuity beyond that of our own whimsy or taste or desire.


Aside: I wondered how I’d feel if the untrained masses who produce instructional YouTube videos called themselves ‘teachers’–they don’t seem to, at least not yet. I think I’d be fine with it, because the act of putting together something instructional requires so much more effort than posting links on the Internet, and who can claim that Khan is any less effective a teacher than most of our “trained” colleagues?

  Poor diplomats →  March 8


Many times, Mr Tan said the unreasonable requests stem from a misconception on the kind of consular assistance [the Ministry of Foreign Affairs] provides. He cited an instance where a Singaporean complained about racial discrimination just because he had received a smaller piece of KFC chicken compared to what the locals had.

Mr Tan said: “He wanted MFA to investigate this incident and seek justice in that foreign country for the unfair treatment he claimed to have received. To assist such request will require conduct of delicate chicken diplomacy with another foreign country. And it would have been very difficult because the evidence – the subject of the complaint – had been consumed and we can’t follow up.”

Achievement unlocked by “Mr Tan” for finding an opportunity to use the phrase “chicken diplomacy” literally.

(via Adrianna on Twitter.)

An interesting argument: that calculating devices are now ubiquitous, and math should focus on computational problem-solving instead of drilling and memorisation. An example the author cites:

Computer languages allow students to transform ideas into action. Here is a simple rule that a math teacher might describe to her students: If the number is greater than 9, carry the 10’s place; otherwise add the number to the bottom row.

The solution for this can be expressed as a simple if/else statement:

if (number > 9)
    carry += number / 10;
    bottom += number;

There are, as expected, plenty of opposing views in the comments, but it’s good food for thought. Also noteworthy: the comments aren’t completely stupid. Not-completely-stupid comments! On the Internet! WHAT IS THIS WORLD WE’RE LIVING IN

Interesting piece on protecting teachers from destructive management through data-driven evaluation, with corollaries to how programmers are evaluated:

Bill Gates is making the same crusade he made for developers — protection from the type of overly simplified management incentives that destroy your ability to focus on the tasks at hand when working in a complex, creative profession.

Related: Confessions of a ‘Bad’ Teacher, in today’s New York Times. This teacher, who received an “unsatisfactory” rating wasn’t even evaluated on any automated effectiveness metrics, though, which speaks of how tough a problem this is.

From the blog behind the “Invent Your Own Computer Games with Python” book:

“[For] the casually interested or schoolchildren with several activities competing for their attention, programming concepts like variables and loops and data types aren’t interesting in themselves. They don’t want to learn how to program just for the sake of programming. They don’t want to learn about algorithm complexity or implicit casting. They want to make Super Mario or Twitter or Angry Birds.”

We’ve actually found that our students are usually quite happy to spend lots of time making silly console-output programs, like printing a pyramid of asterisks. However, the intro programming courses we’ve conducted have been for a fairly self-selected bunch.

The book is available online for free, and it certainly looks like a great instructional resource.