How Technology is Helping Kids Learn Better – A TweetLog


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LinkLog: Nature Field Trips Go Digital

From  Nature Field Trips Go Digital

The buzz around the pond these days isn’t coming from bees. It’s coming from middle-school students on a data collection field trip to a local pond. But on this trip they’ve traded paper and pencil for mobile phones and environmental probes. With their smartphones, students access interactive media such as video, audio, 3-D models and animations to learn about the ecosystem they’re visiting as well as answer specific and open-ended questions about their data collection activities. Their probes measure environmental variables that contribute to water quality.

Over a decade ago (somewhere in 2001), I used to attend meetings of a special group called EOE (Education Object Economy). This group of educators gathered once in a month to talk about learning objects, improving education and some of their studies. I recall one of the educators mentioning how in Bangladesh teachers used to ask the students to go out, observe specific parts of nature (the land, farm animals, people) and come back and write essays on their field trips. They did not have technology to help them. It is nice to see how technology is enabling a different kind of exploration.

“Technology in and of itself does nothing for learning, but it can be a catalyst,” says the project’s principal investigator, Christopher Dede, Timothy E. Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies at Harvard. “We’re interested in why technology impacts learning as much as whether it does or not. We are always concerned with how effective we can make these technologies and what the limits are.”

I think there is a huge opportunity to increase engagement by students (right now they don’t fully relate to a lot of learning that happens in the classroom). I think we can leverage technology (smartphones, IOT, sensors) to help to make students life more fun and interesting.  We need to provide them more context for what they are learning and why they are learning it.

We need to have students “Get out of the classroom” and explore. With technology, we can help them get more out of these explorations.

In Science

Loved this snippet:

In science, there is always an experiment to be performed, an unexpected result to troubleshoot, a poster to prepare, a conference to attend, newly published research to read, old research to brush up on, a minus 80 to de-ice, primers to borrow, a protocol to overhaul, a technician to train, a bench to disinfect, equipment to order, reagents to prepare, glassware to clean, and malfunctioning computers to turn off and on again. And, of course, there’s never a time when a scientist can’t be thinking about his or her research. Often, this thinking permeates through scientists’ entire lives — not because they’re required to, but because they’re driven to. By curiosity, by pride, by the challenge of pushing knowledge forward. Scientists are workaholics. Caffeine-addiction likely fuels their work-addiction.

It is an article on which professions drink most coffee and Scientists and Lab Technicians top the list.

I am surprised that programmers did not figure high on the list!

How To Fuel The Internal Engine of Learning

From How to Fuel The Internal Engine of Learning.

Learning outside school is necessarily driven by an internal engine. … [I]ndependent learners stick with the reading, thinking, making, and experimenting by which they learn because they do it for love, to scratch an itch, to satisfy curiosity, following the compass of passion and wonder about the world.

Even while you are learning at an institution, there are things you may want to learn outside the institution itself. A great example of this is programming. Many colleges start with ‘C’, not necessarily the best language to get students interested in learning programming. Some of the most successful schools have been teaching Scheme and have now switched to Python (MIT, Berkeley). The programming language does not matter as much as having some one experience the joy of creation as early as possible. That is probably one of the reasons school children start with MIT Scratch.

School isn’t very good at dealing with the multiplicity of individual learning preferences, and it’s not very good at helping you figure out what works for you.

Schools are constrained in many ways. They have large classes. Even figuring out individual learning preferences take time. And most schools are not set up for dealing with multiple learning style. A few things may help – setting up a place for students to explore and experiment. Labs are supposed to be meant for this but seem to rarely do it.

your ability to sustain internal motivation … is to situate what you’re learning in a context that matters to you. In some cases, the context is a specific project you want to accomplish, which … also functions to support your sense of progress.

To learn anything well, you need strong internal motivation. Context is certainly a big problem. I had no context for more than 99% of what I learned. Putting this entire burden on teachers is not fair. However, if each teacher can share some context that helped students understand why they learn what they learn, we can make some big strides.

The exchange of knowledge is a very human way to learn.


Worth Sharing

I hope Rex the author of Foundation of Game Design… does not mind sharing this (entire) Introduction. Long before I heard this story, I heard Sid telling me that he got started programming by typing BASIC programs into the computer. Many of you can relate to variations of this story.

So that Christmas morning, in a giddy fever, I ripped open the red-and-white candy-cane wrapping paper. It was everything I had hoped for: a state-of-the-art Commodore Vic-20. It had a whopping 5K of memory, the latest cassette-tape storage drive, and a display of 16 colors. The computer at school could just display two colors: green and black. I was in heaven! I fumbled with the instructions and, with trembling hands, carefully plugged my gleaming new Vic-20 into the family TV set and switched it on.

Nothing happened. The TV was completely blank, except for a small, calmly blinking blue square at the top left corner of the screen.

“Where are the games?” I thought, “Where’s Ms. Pac Man? Where are the aliens?”

I jiggled the power cable and fiddled with the wires at the back of the TV. But, no, there was just that steady blue, blinking square, silently mocking me. This blue square, I discovered, was called the “cursor.” I hated it and felt sick.

The games, it turned out, came on audio cassettes that you could load into the computer by hooking up the cassette player and pressing the play button. But you had to buy them. They cost $20 each. The nearest shop that sold them was a 45-minute drive, in a car, over a mountain. It was impossible—there was just no way. And, anyway, I was supposed to be using this thing to “do my homework.”

But in the computer’s box I found a book about BASIC programming. I had no idea what that meant and couldn’t understand anything in that book at all. It was full of all kinds of bits of scrambled English words and numbers written in big capital letters that were supposed to make the computer do things. “Programming code,” it was called. Maybe this was just stuff for grown-ups? “No,” I thought, “computers are for children, and grownups are scared of them.” And so I persisted. At the very back of the book, I found a section called “Programs to try.” My eye fell across the words “Killer Comet.” It was a video game! Beneath it was a long list of inscrutable codes. But I finally figured out that if I could type these codes into my Vic-20, I could play a game.

That was it!

If “programming” means “you can play video games for free,” I was going to figure out programming. I spent the next two days in a frenzy, reading through the book and typing in all those codes, trying to get Killer Comet to work. I had barely any idea what I was doing and my computer kept displaying “Syntax Error! Syntax Error! Syntax Error!” over and over again whenever I tried to run the program. I was pulling my hair out and wanted to scream! But then, late on the second day, something miraculous happened—it worked:

A small white square moved from the top of the screen to the bottom of the screen.

If you pressed the right number of keys in the right way, the square disappeared.

That was all.

It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in my life.

And that’s when I discovered that making video games is way, way, way more fun than playing them. And so, here, Dear Reader, you have that book that I truly believe should come in the box with every new computer. Hope you have as much fun reading it as I did writing it!

I think writing games is one of the best ways of teaching programming. It  develops multiple skills – algorithms, strategy, UI design, visual design, event handling, AI and more. So most of the courses I teach and internships are starting with games.

Data Science – A Few Tweets and Links

What is Data Science?

What is Data Science from Wikipedia Talks a bit of the history as well.

What is data science? – O’Reilly Radar

Data Science Courses and Recipes

Coursera Introduction to Data Science Course

RT @radar: Want to be a data wrangler? School of Data offers free online data science  courses

Applications, Tools

If you are wondering about the applications of Data Science, please watch the first couple of videos from this course

RT @StartupYou: DIY Data Science – when will this happen and think of how big it will be

Data Science Tools: Tools slowly democratize many data science tasks

“Deep Learning – The Biggest Data Science Breakthrough of the Decade” – Free webcast from O’Reilly

Tim O’Reilly – “Data science is transformative. The first wave was marketing analytics, before that financial arbitrage.”

Mapping Twitter’s Python and Data Science Communities

Data science and the analytic lifecycle  by @bigdata #strataconf

Other Resources

A bitty bundle of data science blogs Collected by @hmason. via @mikeloukides Call for more (look at the comments in the blog for more resources links)

What’s A ‘Data Scientist’ Anyway? Real-Time With m6d’s Claudia Perlich”