Jan. 18th, 2012

terriko: (Pi)
I'm taking an online course on How to teach webcraft and programming to free-range students taught by Greg Wilson, who some of you may know. If you don't know him, you might want to listen to this talk he gave at CUSEC several years ago. Anyone who's ever thought about the world critically will probably get something out of that talk, though it was geared undergraduate software developers.

Our first assignment is to look at these recommendations about best practices to improve student learning and Greg's post about which of these he's managed to apply, then write about how we have or haven't managed to incorporate these ideas into our teaching.

A story about pencils, 7 recommendations, and a lot of discussion... )

Conclusions?

So, lots of these things work and are common practice in my classroom experience, but not so many as far as mentoring goes. I think a few of them could apply more if I was looking for/creating opportunities for discussion and revision, but the past couple of years I haven't kept close enough tabs on my summer of code students' work to be effective at leading them down those paths. Definitely food for thought! But i feel like some of it, like quizzes, would feel incredibly forced outside of the classroom environment. Plus, repeating stuff just isn't that much fun... but maybe it could be?

Ages ago, a friend was telling me about a role-playing game she was in where she had to level up her Jedi (or maybe it was Sith?) by doing things like making web pages or doing photo editing and taking quizzes on the software she learned. I thought it was interesting that this group of people was clearly trying to help train their members outside of the game while they were training their characters in it, a gamification of life long before I'd ever heard that term (or, perhaps, before the term had been invented, though I do so love the assertion that Weight Watchers with its points is one of the most well-known examples of gamification of life). Anyhow, her game included little photoshop and story writing contests and such that seemed to keep her engaged and interested in her game "assignments" -- I wonder if there would be ways to bring some of that to free-range programmers? We have contests, but not at learner levels. We sort of have ranks as open source developers sometimes (bugs solved, commit access, invited to maintain $foo), but they're often not explicitly defined so it's hard to use them as motivation.

This might be interesting, but I can't shake the feeling that trying to force things like quizzes to work for free-range learners might be like clinging to the pencil as a way of learning.

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