Mike Zamansky, Computer Science teacher at Stuyvesant High in the US:

The tenor of the times is that anyone can design a course, anyone can teach, and in fact, we don’t even need teachers, just videos or computer based systems. If you’ve ever tutored a friend, you’re more than qualified.

That might be a strong statement but everywhere you look you see "education" programs designed and implemented by non teachers. It seems that its believed that teaching only involves the most superficial of transfers of information.

Education quote of the year. For some background, Audrey Watters’ Top Ed Tech Trends of 2012 series is worth a read.

A frequently-amusing take on what Silicon Valley thinks is “disruption” in educational technology.

  Failing Coursera →  August 17

Tim Owens, on “failing” Coursera courses:

For much of the course I felt like a bystander. Here I was watching a set of videos chosen by my professor. I may or may not have a quiz at the end of the week to gauge my learning. The videos were interesting, but I left feeling like I hadn’t participated. […] I can’t tell you the name of a single other person that was in this course and it started with over 40,000. I think that’s a shame and something they could improve on.

I’ve yet to pass a single Coursera course myself–I’ve failed Algorithms and HCI so far. However, I do feel like I’ve really learned something from the parts of the courses I’ve taken, and I appreciate how Coursera and other MOOCs (what a great name) have encouraged all these subject matter experts to curate and present all this useful information in brief, easily digestible chunks for teachers and students.

Khan Academy does Computer Science, courtesy of John Resig, creator of jQuery. His blog post goes into some detail about the pedagogy they’ve adopted and the technology behind it.

Looks promising! Reminds me a little about how I was introduced to programming through the Logo Turtle and mucking around with DOS QBASIC games like Gorillas. We’ll see if we can try these exercises out with students at some point.

Slate’s summary of a recent debate sparked by two teachers satirising a Khan Academy lecture, in a series of “Mystery Teacher Theatre 2000” videos:

In their low-tech, Mystery Science Theater 3000-style video (below), Golden and Coffey spend roughly 11 minutes commenting on a Khan Academy video about multiplying and dividing positive and negative integers. It’s not smash entertainment, but the teachers solidly critique small missteps that Khan makes during his tutorial: putting a positive (“+”) sign in front of some positive numbers but not others, for example, or not citing his sources.

(Original video embedded in the article.)

Sal Khan followed up by posting an updated version of the video being critiqued. However, the discussion seems to be growing, thanks to a follow-up critique on Wired, which Khan Academy’s Facebook page linked to, and posted a surprisingly defensive-sounding call for support. There are also quite a few interesting commentaries being posted on the #mtt2k hashtag on Twitter.

A recurring theme among Khan’s defenders is that the critics (MTT2K and Wired) should, like Khan, be out there doing something good for education, instead of tearing down others’ work. (“Where were were you scumbag teachers when I needed help at math? Well? Khan is there! 24/7 how about you?”, laments one Saul Souza on Facebook.) I’d argue, however, that these folks have sparked a much-needed debate about pedagogy in online education. That’s a good thing, as long as everyone involved remembers they’re doing this to improve education.

Anyway, it’s early days yet. I’d be far more worried if teachers don’t feel the need to point out how others could teach better, and if Khan doesn’t take pedagogical criticisms seriously. A light-hearted comment from Hacker News sums this up best for me:

“This video is perfect as a Khan Academy parody—they just throw some shit together, and maybe it isn’t very good, but it’s better than nothing.”

Barack and Michelle:

But we only finished paying off our student loans—check this out, all right, I’m the President of the United States—we only finished paying off our student loans about eight years ago.

Wow. That makes me feel a lot better about the six-year scholarship bond I completed nearly two years ago.

Also, has someone made an audio loop out of “check this out, all right, I’m the President of the United States” yet?

A long, detailed piece on Stanford’s history, its ties with the valley, and some interesting remarks by former president Gerhard Casper challenging some of Hennessy’s decisions. OLD CODGER FUZZIE VS. OLD CODGER (with boring textbook) TECHIE FIGHT

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.

Siew Kum Hong makes an impassioned commentary on higher education progression in Singapore:

According to the Heritage Foundation, Singapore has the second freest economy in the world (after Hong Kong). But there is one aspect of Singapore that has always felt to me like a command economy: the way the Government tries to calibrate supply and demand in higher education.


This is the sort of misguided social engineering that leaves a bad taste in many Singaporeans’ mouths. It stems from a fundamentally-misconceived view of higher education as being a means to the end of creating people to fill the jobs out there.

(This is over a recent statement by Minister of State for Education Lawrence Wong, who when asked if there would be more places for ITE students available in the polytechnics, noted that there would not be enough ITE graduates if everyone made it to poly.)

A good read. As much as I feel for my ex-colleagues who have to defend such positions (and yes, I used to be a small part of this “calibration process”, so I would have had to do the same), I hope views like this take deep enough root in the public consciousness for our political leaders to notice, and to strongly consider decoupling higher education progression from “manpower planning”. (See this parliamentary reply for a taste of what goes into planning higher education places.)

High school introduces iPads for everyone, parents get annoyed, tell media gems such as the following:

Mr Lim said he was told at the briefing that in school, cyber wellness was the teachers’ responsibility.

But at home, it would be the parents’.

He asked: “Why is the school giving me additional things to do?”

Great, now I have an additional thing to do: hunt this parent down and slap him on the head.