Math is the probability that there will be no more rainy days. It’s the ratio of smiles to blank faces as you walk down the street.
~ Carol Abbott
Math is the universe's poetry, and science is its memoir.
Math is the probability that there will be no more rainy days. It’s the ratio of smiles to blank faces as you walk down the street.
~ Carol Abbott
Math is the universe's poetry, and science is its memoir.
Go forth and do something great.
David Hoffmeister, wrote a relatively objective piece on the proliferation of coding schools. The driving question of the article is how should higher education institutes react to these new and growing coding bootcamp academies? Having been designed curriculum and instructional for traditional high education models and now helping direct the curriculum and instructional model of Mobile Makers Academy, I can only have one answer: celebrate them.
Education isn’t The Highlander - there can be more than one [model]. Deep, meaningful learning doesn’t occur only in a classroom - it’s happening everywhere, across a life-time. A new mother doesn’t retreat to a classroom to figure out how to soothe her crying baby: she relies on learning from other mothers (mentors), support groups (peer learning), online blogs (self-directed learning), and her doctor (expert practioners). I encourage all higher education institutes to reflect: are you so ready to say, definitively, that people can learn only in your model? Are you really ready to look a plumber, who went through the local union’s apprentice program - which typically lasts 4 - 5 years with formal training - that her time spent doesn’t count as learning?
This isn’t about a new and radical form of education emerging, it’s about society embracing diversity of learning - in this case, training. The growth of these academies means that there are more and different opportunities for people to grow as humans and become productive citizens. If you’re against that, then I urge you to reflect upon what you believe education is.
Here’s a few myths of these academies debunked:
People aren’t getting a quality education
The educational model is apprenticeship-based, often rooted in constructivist and collaborative learning - which mimics the life-long learning that occurs within the field of software development. Gina Trapani, a programmer, says that "Good coders are a special breed of persistent problem-solvers who are addicted to the small victories that come along a long path of trial and error.” Thus, when students leave these academies, they are not only competent in the skills but also they have the know-how to be successful as a life-long learner in their field.
The model is structured around students practicing the trade, mastering the tools, and learning the theory as they go. This works in the field of software engineering because right now, it’s a vocation. The model is perfect for the need of that trade.
People aren’t getting a thorough, well-rounded education (aka the liberal arts and cultural literacy that comes with a four year degree)
We all want our citizens to be well-rounded, thoughtful humans. But I will ask: does this only happen in a four year degree? If you believe it does, what does this say about the role of art museums and cultural centers? If “culture” is only taught in a classroom, then why do such museums and cultural centers exist? I really encourage all of us in education to think about reconstructing our assumptions and see the integration of learning in the day-to-day as a victory of our field and as a way to explore new ways to teach “liberal arts".
This model of education is a fad
This model has proven itself in the United States since the mid 1600’s. So...
The companies teach only those who can demonstrate a propensity to coding
Yes. That’s the whole point: find people who can learn the skills, who want to learn the skills, and then teach them those skills. With the demand for developers so high, the options - as a marketplace - are either to train current populations in these skill sets or to outsource. The academies focus on identifying those who want to become developers and who can become developers to build out the workforce that’s needed.
So, returning to the question: how should higher education institutes react these new and growing coding bootcamp academies? The workforce needs workers and traditional education isn’t providing them. So, the field hacked the system by adopting a tried-and-true method to the new needs of today. We should celebrate the fact that the field of education is growing to meet the needs of this society. We - as educators - can’t grow without diversity of models and changing demands. Without them, we would stagnate. So I say, cheers. Welcome to the field.
Moral of the Story: Education is a life-long, life-deep, and life-wide affair that we have with ourselves. We cannot possibly assume that all critical forms of education can fit in the box of a classroom, bootcamp, workshop, or book. We must embrace and embody the mindset that learning is ever-present, and comes in many forms.
After pulling together some resources for our instructors here at work, I came across a great article that outlines Carl Roger's theories on psychology, which align themselves with educational theories. Rogers is often associated with taking Maslow's hierarchy of needs to the next level, and often leaves a bit to be wanted when it comes to implementation in a learning environment. How can one construct a learning environment that simultaneously elicits strong self-worth while also building ideal self? Here's how. According to Rogers, a fully-functioning person is one who is open to new experience, lives in the moment without judgement, trusts their feelings, involves creativity, and lives a fulfilled life. All these things are vital to a successful learning environment, so it's fitting that we architect an environment to strengthen and elicit these notions.
As this involves the acceptance of life circumstances and emotions that come with it, a learning environment can do the following.
This means to live without preconceived notions of what will happen. It encourages living in the moment, and a learning environment can do that through the following.
Western cultures are horrible at emotional intelligence. We don't include a lesson about how to be angry, sad, or joyful. We don't teach it. But we should. Here's how a classroom can encourage that.
This should be the most familiar. Fostering creativity in a classroom is something many strive for, so I won't pretend to have the best ideas. Here are others who have much better ideas than me:
To me, this is a combination of all the above. A fulfilled life is when a learner is interested in taking risks, feels confident and comfortable, and wants to explore more about the world and themselves. It also means feeling important to the group. Many of the same techniques can apply here, but this can also include peer teaching, peer advocacy, and committee membership. Any time you can provide student voice to the classroom, the stronger the classroom.
If you're part of an edtech company, you need to read this article from EdSurge. It will help you avoid the common pitfalls of edtech when it comes to implementation. For me, I gravitate to the fact that too many people see educational technology as a solution in of itself, but it's not. The solution doesn't reside in the tool - it resides in how you use it. And if you don't teach those using it how to actually use it, the tool will fail.
I'll keep this short: educators need to be on social media with their students. There's a litany of reasons why, but I think the most compelling is that students need modeled behavior. We've starved them of that and it's literally costing them jobs. We need to stop treating social media like our culture treats sex - a dirty act that you shouldn't do, shouldn't talk about, and should rebuke cultural pressures to do it. Instead, we should fold it into our educational behaviors - just like we do "please" and "thank you."
Sure there are bad apples who abuse the medium, but there are bad apples who abuse the medium of the classroom too. Poor choices by educators on social media are just that: poor choices by educators. We need to train and hold them accountable to proper behavior on social media, not punish the lot and blame the medium.
Social media must be included as a form of communication between students and faculty. There are too many invisible walls between academia and the working world. Including social media in the behaviors of the school is a great way to meet our students where they are and to help them grow into ethical citizens.
Standford's article The humanities and medicine (April 6, 2014) poignantly captures the value of humanities education.
For the fan of hard evidence
Education in the humanities also provides us with unique and powerful opportunities to hone our skills of critical analysis and develop clarity of thought and expression. In every pursuit and profession, the expression of ideas is inextricably linked to the formulation of ideas. It is through written and spoken communication that we shape and refine our thoughts.
Translation: humanities force us to practice critical thinking and analysis, and practice makes perfect.
For the fan of pontification
Examining differences in values and reasoning enables us to reflect thoughtfully on the normative framework we have as individuals and as members of a society. The humanities challenge us to question our assumptions, examine our beliefs and develop new ways of thinking about “conventional” wisdom. This appreciation for other modes of thought enables us to see complexity and uncertainty as key elements in the process toward discovering new truths. When viewed in this context, the journey we travel becomes as important as the destinations we reach.
Translation: humanities makes us better people.
The government is scared of being accused of making university education the preserve of an economic elite, but it’s coming close to mis-selling student loans as a result. Loans are there to ensure that no one is stopped from going to university by their financial situation. It’s the government’s duty to impress this upon students: student debt is a last resort, not a default. If your family can help with either fees now or your first mortgage later, you shouldn’t assume that the second is the better choice. ~ Carola Binney
An interesting concept. I think many see student loans not as the last option, but as the only option. If student loans are meant to be the last resort, then that means the majority of students shouldn't need or use them. However, that's not the case - more than 60% of the students who attend post-secondary education take out loans and 57% graduate with debt. Even more interesting is that the majority (70%) of people who struggle to pay back the loans say it's because it's harder to make ends meet over the past four years.
I don't think it's enough to lower the cost of college. We need to address this from multiple fronts: it's going to need a cultural shift, not just a financial shift, to sooth this ailment.
[T]he long-used proxies for quality in higher education—seat time, faculty profile, institutional reputation, tradition, even endowment size ― all of these indicators are insufficient, even invalid. What really matters—fundamentally, the only measure of educational quality that matters ― is learning; that is, what students know, and what they can do with what they know. Of course, as assessment experts, you made this connection long ago. You know better than anyone that any viable definition of quality must be firmly rooted in results, in specific learning outcomes.
The Lumina Foundation is actively working toward building new ways to measure quality in higher education, and thank goodness for that. I agree: the use of seat time is not a strong indicator of rigor, success, or even of learning. The industry is moving more and more to demonstrative means of learning - see competency-based education models, for example. More emphasis will focus on how are your students proving they have gained the learning outcomes. My favorite example is that from psychometric expert Thomas Zane: don't ask students to explain how to change a tire, ask them to change it.
So, if your school doesn't have strong, measurable learning outcomes, now might be a good time for program revision.
'Real help from real people in real time' is Helpouts [sic] tag line. It’s essentially an online service where one can find an expert in a given field, and pay by the minute to receive realtime help and guidance from the expert using a web cam.
Google Helpouts takes a great idea already used in education - ad hoc mentoring, apprenticeship, or research - and makes it available to the masses. It takes the concept of a village, where you could walk across the street to ask the baker how much sugar to use, and puts it into a digital world. More proof that the walls between industry and educational institution are dissolving, and even flipping in some cases.
Totally useful for higher ed institutes, where it can fill all types needs, and a good model and stepping stone to help merge industry and institution.
Read the whole story here: Why Google's Helpouts is a Brilliant Idea for Online Education. Although, I argue that this isn't a new idea for education at all; it's just the tools are catching up with the methodology.
In the early days of online education, our industry copied what worked in the classroom into an online environment. Over time, we found that students did not behave the same online as they did in the physical space, and that a new form of teaching needed to be developed. We are on a similar threshold with mobile learning, but we need to learn from our experiences: we cannot take what we know about learning via a computer and apply that to a mobile space. Let’s first learn how people naturally behave in this medium and marry it with learning science. Then can we build to its strengths, understand its limitations, and integrate its capabilities to support learning in everyday use.
Exact Target recently released the results of their Mobile Behavior study. Although the study focused on consumer behavior, the data provides insight into the natural tendencies, habits, and thought-process of all people as they engage on their mobile devices, including learners. Other studies have been conducted in the past, specific to the educational field – such as Fares Benayoune and Luigi Lancieri’s study in 2004 and Noel-Levitz survey in 2012 – but the Mobile Behavior study tracks user behavior on their devices and conducted a survey to provide context and insight to behaviors. Also, we needed a study on devices that weren’t around in Benayoune and Lancieri’s study (i.e. smartphones and tablet computers). Below are the key take-aways for us in education.
Mobile means behavior, not transportability
People associate the term “mobile” with specific capabilities and behaviors – not transportability. Note: the study refers to all participants as consumers, but the word user may be more apt. “Consumers most frequently associate ‘mobile’ with a smartphone/cellphone (54% selected this association), while only 14% said tablets/e-readers” (6). The reason for this is based on what users do on each of the devices.
[box type="shadow"] Tablets are used more frequently than smartphones for passive activities like watching videos or movies (40% do this on a tablet, vs. 30% on a smartphone) and reading (57% do this on a tablet, while 43% do this on a smartphone) (7). [/box]
Tablets, although are compact and transportable, are not sen as mobile devices by users because they are more often used for sedentary or passive activities, such as reading and videos (7) rather than shorter bursts of interactivity: texting, emailing, etc. On the other hand, the most performed activities on a smartphone are those that engage with someone or something else: 91% check email at least once a day, and 90% text at least once a day (13) on their smartphone.
Armed with this, we can create frameworks for mobile education that seamlessly fits with the natural behaviors of tablet smartphone usage:
When building educational technology for the mobile devices, ensure your feature set supports activities for each device appropriately. For example, all LMS mobile apps should allow for seamless access and input to the discussion boards and/or instant message.
All About Ease of Access + Completeness of Content
Ease of Access
Unsurprisingly, “90% of consumers say access to content any way they want is important to them” (17). People like choice, and when it comes to adult learners especially, having your learning content available on all forms of devices is vital.
In addition to having content on any device, ease of access is also important. Using any extra technology, like QR codes or augmented reality, can get in the way of the end result if too much cognitive demand is needed to navigate the systems. “In some cases (like scanned coupons or QR codes), people may not know how to activate these mobile relationships. Brands must overtly explain how to opt in, the frequency of communications, and above all, why opting in will be of service” (26). Our key take-away from this is that we need to use technology to get itself out of the way of the learning. Don’t use it for use sake, but use it because it makes the learning experience EASIER, more accessible. “The brands with the easiest-to-access content wins”. (34)
A simple helpful tool: make a week’s learning content a downloadable zip file. People can download everything they need for the week and take it offline.
Completeness of Content
“While 54% of consumers agree that it’s easier to find information on mobile-optimized websites, 54% are also dissatisfied, saying mobile-optimized websites don’t provide enough information…they aren’t meeting the user’s demands for how much content is actually stored on a mobile site.” (27). I would argue that this is true of all online learning content: if students can’t get to the content they need, it lowers their chances of getting to it at all.
Create for All Devices
We see this all the time in online education – content is not developed for consumption on a mobile device. There are few schools that have a robust mobile strategy that takes into account the multi-device accessibility of an online course and the ease at which they are accessible. Are videos designed with the intent of being watched on a tablet? Are discussion questions written in a fashion that can be answered on the train to work? Can a student take a quiz over the lunch break on their Android? Our content isn’t being developed with the behaviors of the student in mind. We’re building to an outdated design – let’s shake that off and do something better. Something more human-centric; if we really are trying to foster life-long learners, we need to integrate learning into their daily lives, their daily behaviors.
NPR’s strategy, Create Once, Publish Everywhere (COPE) is a great example of how this can work in action. Check out NPR’s Zach Brand’s slideshare on how they implemented their system.
Equity for Accessibility
[box] Those of lower income (<$25K) [users] are significantly more likely to spend more time per day on their smartphones (reporting 4.6 hours a day of use, compared to the average 3.3 hours a day) and tablets (they reported 5.1 hours a day of use, compared to the average 3.1 hours a day) than all other income levels. (12)[/box]
Our greatest charge in digital education is accessibility for all. The gap between the have and have-notes is directly correlated to the number of immediate access points a household or individual has to the internet. We’ve known this since 1995, when the U.S. Department of Commerce conducted a slap-in-the-face survey of rural Americans. Although it focuses on connectivity, my favorite line from this sums the issue up nicely: “While a standard telephone line can be an individual’s pathway to the riches of the Information Age, a personal computer and modem are rapidly becoming the keys to the vault.” I would argue that with the creation of the smartphone and the tablet, this divide is growing at a startling rate.
This throws an interesting curveball for curriculum designers building for those types of students. Often, because of budgetary or time constraints, they can only design for one medium: smartphone or tablet. However, if you are in education and you are not creating learning content that can be accessible on a smartphone, you are not providing equitable access. Rethink your design strategy. There is an answer out there waiting to be found. Go forth and find it.
A few key points that we can immediately bake into our DNA:
Use this to help identify when students will be likely to text faculty with questions, drop ideas into the discussion boards, or even check in to download the week’s material.
People interact with push notifications at an alarming rate of consistency: “Only 8% wait or ignore the notification before checking it” (22) However, this should come with a warning: like any good thing, moderation is key. If you over-send push notifications, users will turn them off and you’ve lost them. They should be poignant, at a time where they can respond or interact with them (8am – noon or 6pm-9pm), and short.
Some great uses of push notifications in mobile learning:
Closing: Why mobile?
Our goal of educators is to develop life-long learners, which means we need to integrate learning into everyday life. We have a rare opportunity in this age to disperse our learning science application into everyday behaviors, breaking down the idea that “acceptable” learning only happens in the confines of a building. Injecting ourselves into the natural behaviors of the everyday is a tall order, but you know what: challenge accepted.
Incorporating technology in the classroom doesn’t render the role of the instructor obsolete—it’s just the opposite: technology can extend the teacher’s role as a facilitator to keep students engaged. Going digital allows greater opportunity for students to collaborate, and for instructors to provide feedback in an effective and instantaneous fashion
Provost Robert Groves from Georgetown explained that Georgetown puts strong value behind a brick and mortar, physical face-to-face with faculty type instruction. Good news: there will always be a percentage of the student body and of the marketplace that needs this type of education. Other good news: our student population and marketplace needs are diversifying, and we have an opportunity to diversify our education support all students wanting to learn. Thankfully, we have some clarity around how our student types are diversifying. There are three main elements that help us understand student needs, which can help us better architect learning to support them: student learning goals; student psycho-social goals; and factors that influence student lifestyle.
George Tang, Make Milliron, Parimender Jassel, and Ray Martinez outlined the typical student learning goals in their panel Students in Higher Education: the New Student Normal:
The panel continued to outline two psycho-social goals of students - an important element that is too often overlooked, but equally important to understanding students. Although the two goals often blur, one is typically a larger driving force than the other:
Finally, external factors that directly pull or push our students (i.e. family needs, physical location, etc.). These factors are unique to each student, but we can see common themes:
The intersections of those three things provide a foundation to help an institution architect the delivery of the educational experience. Given such variance, we find new needs for educational delivery arising.
This is where I think it’s foolish of us to assume that what works for any one university will work for every institution. For some students, the physical face-to-face, 4 year full-time on campus is exactly what the student needs. However, the percentage of students who fall into that contingency is no longer the majority. It's important to find what's right for your institution, your student population, and the market you serve.
Back in the Industrial Revolution, workers were hired into a shop, learned the technical skill sets needed on the job, and worked - all at the same time. Many scholars are calling the time we're in the Information Age, and the need for skilled workers to do things like write and edit code is akin to the sudden need the Industrial Revolution had for skilled workers. Although we've gotten better about working conditions, child labor laws, and other such things, we haven't seemed to figure out that maybe we're back to the need of apprenticeship in our culture. James E. Zull, a Professor of Biology, Biochemistry, and Cognitive Science at Cast Western Reserve University, points out that we have an unneeded wall between education and the workplace. He argues that in order to really teach the needed skills of the world, students need to be exposed to specialists while in the field:
[Students] need models…If this were so, schools would be viewed as 'boundary-free.' They would be less of a place and more a range of opportunities. The entire community should be available for discovering what experts actually do, what they care about, and how they work and learn. Apprenticeships and co-op activities might be the norm rather than the exception. ~ From brain to mind; Using neuroscience to guide change in education. (2011). pp 43-44.
Not every skill can be learned on the job and there is definitely a place for college-based education, but there is a loud cry for people to execute work that doesn't require a 4 year degree. For example, the number of software developers needed in the field is expected to grow 22% between now and 2022, which is about 14% faster than the average job growth (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013), and more and more companies are hiring based on the programming experience over the weight of the degree. It's why so many new avenues to learning code have cropped up. Just see Code Academy, Dev Boot camp, and Mobile Makers. People have figured out how to gain the training needed outside the price tag of a 4 year degree.
The information industry is hungry for workers, and I think apprenticeships are necessary in some of these fields. However, I think three things need to happen in order for us, as a society, to meet this demand:
For industries that need workers and executors, a suggested path would be:
Regardless, the separation between education and industry needs to be re-evaluated - as there are many fields in which the 4 year full-time degree programs are not providing the industry with the needed workers. We need a new path to get students what they need and the industry the workers.
The myth about social media in the classroom is that if you use it, kids will be Tweeting, Facebooking and Snapchatting while you're trying to teach. We still have to focus on the task at hand. Don't mistake social media for socializing. They're different -- just as kids talking as they work in groups or talking while hanging out are different.
- Viki Davis
We cannot put blinders on this issue. We HAVE to teach social media skills: it's a key component to being a digital citizen.
Perhaps we fear teaching social media in the classroom because it's a non-Newtonian medium: it's a solid fluid, hard to create clearly parameters around it. However, that shouldn't stop us from using it and teaching our students about it. If we don't help collaborate with our students to learn about this medium together, they will be happy to define it without our input and then we will be the ones who are lost. I'd venture so far to say that we may already be in that position.
Regardless, here's Viki Davis' entire article.
I don't agree with everything Allie Grasgreen says, but a side-by-side of the graphs from her article Ready or Not about how the workplace puts weight behind different criteria than the public is interesting:
We need to recalibrate: it's a good challenge [accepted] to us in education to add value to the knowledge and skills of our students - as that's what they'll use in the field. If our grads cannot apply what they learn to be productive citizens, we are watering down our own image. Let's help the perceptions align by providing good education, not just pomp and circumstance.
Many scholars from Sir Ken Robinson to Albert Einstein have recognized the importance of creativity in our lives. However, our culture too often forgets to make practicing creativity and imagination part of our mental workout routine. We fill our time with academic focus on deliberate skill sets specific to our field or job. Yet, if we listen to those who understand neurology, like Scott Barry Kaufman and others, we'll see that creativity is one of the highest functions: allowing ourselves to deconstruct and reconstruct prior knowledge in a unique situations to develop innovative perspectives/solutions. Dr. John Kounios defines it "as the ability to restructure one’s understanding of a situation in a nonobvious way." A clinical way to say that creativity allows us to see the world anew, full of new beauty and possibility. Regardless of the definition, the message is the same: practicing creativity and imagination is imperative to our cognitive health.
So, I encourage you to include a creative event or "goal" in your professional development plan. Encourage yourself to go to something like Creative Mornings. Or sign up for a photography course at your local community center. Stretch yourself out beyond the direct-measured professional development to become a better thinker and problem solver. Don't let your creativity atrophy.
ARTICLE: Confessions of a Subversive Student An interesting read about the need to balance linear, predetermined paths of curriculum with loosely structured situations wherein messy, exploration-based learning can occur. Reminds me of Seyour Papert's interview, wherein he argues that academics must
"give up the idea of curriculum. Curriculum meaning you have to learn this on a given day. Replace it by a system where you learn this where you need it. So that means we're going to put kids in a position where they're going to use the knowledge that they're getting. So what I try to do is to develop kinds of activities that are rich in scientific, mathematical, and other contents like managerial skills and project skills, and which mesh with interests that particular kids might have."
Regardless of level, those messy and chaotic moments in project-based learning provide a real opportunity for learning that is different than linear-based. A balance is needed to be sure.