Failing Coursera

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.

“Computer Science is not Digital Literacy”

Jodie Fraser:

Digital literacy means the the skills and confidence to take an active role in engaging in networks, and in shaping and creating opportunities – social, political, cultural, civic, and economic, and we shouldn’t be collapsing these broader rights into the relatively narrow concerns of computing science as a curriculum area.

Article via Fraser Speirs (that’s a lot of Frasers). Mildly surprising, to me at least, is his strong support for the argument raised in the link article, given that he’s a programmer and Computer Science teacher. This piece of his on “technology for subjects not traditionally well-served by technology” may serve to explain why, but I’m still trying to digest all of this.

BBC: ICT to be replaced by CS in schools

From September, England’s schools will offer computer science classes instead of ICT (a.k.a. IT ‘skills’ such as PowerPoint and Excel):

The current programme of information and communications technology (ICT) study in England’s schools will be scrapped from September, the education secretary will announce later. The subject will be replaced by compulsory lessons in more rigorous computer science and programming.

Not sure how they’ll start this up so quickly, given this glaring problem:

“There are, of course, significant challenges to overcome, specifically with the immediate shortage of computer science teachers.”

See also this Guardian article: “Out of 28,000 teachers who qualified in 2010, just three individuals had a computer-related degree.” Similarly the case here, although the return of A-level Computing should imply that NIE will be doing something about training CS teachers.

I’m still on the fence about whether CS absolutely needs to be taught at a pre-tertiary level. There was some interesting discussion on this recently between a couple of Mac developers — see this blog post by Guy English on “Scripting is the New Literacy”, a response to this piece by Daniel Jalkut encouraging everyone to “Learn to Code”.

(News via Matt Johnston.)

The maker movement in education

An interview with Dale Dougherty, co-founder of O’Reilly Media and MAKE magazine. Tim O’Reilly sums it up:

“When you see kids at Maker Faire suddenly turned on to science and math because they want to make things, when you see them dragging their parents around with eyes shining, you realize just how dull our education system has made some of the most exciting and interesting stuff in the world.

Dougherty explains in detail the promise of the maker movement in education (and government). Pretty inspiring.

Fraser Speirs on 1-to-X computing

A supercomputer in every backpack:

We are already at a point where the ratio of professionals to computers is 1:2. A laptop and a smartphone are standard equipment in our society. With the advent of the tablet, we may be moving towards or beyond three computers per person. The fact of the matter, though, is that this ubiquity of computing devices is not reflected in most schools.

(There’s also a bit about how Stallman showed up to heckle him at his lecture. Wha?)