Computational Thinking, LiuLiShuo & Audiobooks

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Why Computer Science Education in K-12 Settings Is Becoming Increasingly Essential by Mehran Sahami, The Huffington Post, 14 Sep. 2016.

Is computer science for everybody? In this blog post, the author reminds us that in today’s world, computer science goes beyond programming for programmers. It is more and more part of our everyday lives. The author asserts, “This is the reason we don’t talk about teaching CS as just teaching ‘programming,’ but rather as a means for students to develop ‘computational thinking’ skills.”

Ex-Google Guy Builds English Teaching App That Adapts to Student by Selina Wang, Bloomberg Technology, 13 Sep. 2016.

Chinese parents spend quite a bit of money for English lessons for their children, then find out that their children don’t speak English very well. In steps LiuLiShuo, which means “speaking fluently,” an app which incorporates gaming and social media into English learning. While it has its critics, it also has 30 million (yes, million) users.

Audiobooks Can Support K-12 Readers in the Classroom by Kate Stoltzfus, Education Week, 19 Sep. 2016.

Audiobooks have been around for quite a while, and their usefulness for struggling readers has been supported by research. With the growth of digital media, audiobooks are becoming even more important as a tool for learners, especially students who have trouble reading. A study by the American Association of Schools Libraries in 2012, which focused on elementary students, found that “audiobooks improved students’ reading scores, increased students’ positive attitudes about their reading ability, and offered students more personal choice in what they read.”

A Successful Public Health MOOC: Interview with Dr. Satesh Bidaisee

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

One Health, One Medicine: An Ecosystem Approach was a five-week public health MOOC offered by Dr. Satesh Bidaisee1 at St. George’s University, Grenada, in summer 2016. The course attracted 582 students from all over the world and was especially popular with students from the Caribbean, United States, and even Sub-Saharan Africa and Europe.

Among the 582 who enrolled, participants, or “students who took at least one graded activity in the course,” numbered 98, which is 17% of the total enrolled. Of the 98 participants, 52 completed the course. Completion is defined as achieving “at least a 50% in the course, which required them to get full participation and quiz credit and at least one additional exercise (case or presentation).”

Calculated in this way, the completion rate among participants was 53%, four times the rate in previous years. Of the 50 students who completed the survey, 98% rated their overall experience in the course as good or excellent. To the question “Would you be interested in pursuing a degree from St. Goerge’s University?”, 82% answered yes. Of this number, 30% preferred online courses, 16% preferred on-campus classes, and the remaining 36% had no preference either way.

Dr. Satesh Bidaisee, St. George's University, Grenada.

Dr. Satesh Bidaisee, St. George’s University, Grenada.

ETC: How would you explain the high rate of completion for your MOOC?
Bidaisee: The key factors were: (1) A user-friendly online course management system, SGUx, which is built on the EdX platform. (2) Accessible course team. (3) Interactions with students through live seminars, live office hours, discussion blogs, Twitter communication. (3) Case study reviews, peer-review evaluation of student-produced seminars. (4) Focused course topic and content on One Health, One Medicine.  Continue reading

My Changing Expectations About Social Media: Facebook

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

When I arrived in Albania to teach future English teachers at a university, I wanted to use online resources to stay connected with my students like I do in the US. After trying several different free learning management platforms, I decided to set us up on FaceBook. Most of my students already have FaceBook accounts, and they were used to using it. Although things did not work exactly as I had planned, it did form a basis for online communication among the students and with me.

My intention was that “our” FaceBook page would be a place for English-only communication about issues related to English and English teaching. I linked to the American English website and the British Council so we’d get their feeds. I asked the students to do the same when they find relevant links.

What actually has happened is that the site has functioned primarily as a social networking page for the students with daily posts of selfies and a lot of comments in Albanian. At first, I was upset by this because it did not meet my expectations. However, as time has gone by, I have accepted the social aspect of this and how it has created a sense of community among the students in a different way. I do use it to post class-related information and to link to “professional” resources, and they do occasionally post in English. However, the next time I do something like this with a group of students, I want to try to create more of a learning environment.

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Eryk Bagshaw’s article “Social media is teaching the world English1 about using social media to offer “snack-size” English language lessons gave me some ideas about how to do this. This Australian initiative has found that users respond positively when offered small bits of English – a few idioms, a few uses of modal verbs, difficult spellings, etc. Bagshaw says, “It is all about giving people context to hang that learned language on.” He also wrote about how the BBC uses Twitter to connect English learning and current events and mentioned that creating a community is a part of the service and part of the appeal of using social media in this way. “You can get instant feedback from other users a world away, they collaborate, correct, rework. That is how you learn and that is really exciting.”

As a teacher, I recognize the importance of building community among learners. Therefore, I intend to take what I learned from my experience in Albania and what I learned from Bagshaw’s article and think about how I can change my expectations about social media use for a group of students so that it functions as a more effective learning tool, as well as for community-building .

I would like to hear others experiences with using social media in learning environments. What has worked? What hasn’t?

__________
1Sydney Morning Herald, 26 June 2015.

Social Media in TESOL: An Interview with John Wasko

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

[Note: This interview was prompted by an email, sent by John to Lynn, re her article “Technology Advice for First Year International Students in US Colleges. -Editor]

John Wasko, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Samoa, is president of American Pacific University in Pago Pago, American Samoa. Part of the university’s mission is to help foreign students develop academic English language skills and cultural competence so they can successfully complete study at colleges and universities in the US. Mr. Wasko commented that “too many foreign students come to the US unprepared to face an American classroom.” A commitment to using “21st century digital learning tools and resources” helps students accomplish their language and cultural competencies.

John Wasko

John Wasko

LZ: What are some of the social media online resources you use that have been effective?

JW: The most popular chat rooms in Asia and Southeast Asia are Wechat, QQ and IMO. I use them all to teach the kids English. First, they have automatic translators built in. Secondly you can share audio files for pronunciation. Third they have live video chat. You can talk and see the student in real time. Fourth they work great on mobile. There are even more chat sites specific to different countries. Zalo, for example is specific to Vietnam.

LZ: How do you use these resources in your teaching?

JW: I am now improving my teaching strategies by developing text modules and practical scenarios. Each builds on others to develop more complex sentence structures, vocabulary, contextual speech, jargon and slang. Using Google images in concert with text and audio messaging helps a lot and can be done on the fly.

LZ: Is there anything else you’d like to say?

JW: Here is the great thing. You don’t need any special set up or call center or anything like that. Just a smartphone. I use an iPhone 4. Works great. If we can develop mobile techniques to help these students, every university will knock on their door.

LZ: Thanks.

MOOC Sightings 002: Oxford Professor Declares MOOCs the Loser

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William Whyte, professor of social and architectural history at St John’s College Oxford, assures us that in the “battle” of MOOCs vs traditional campus-based universities, “The MOOC will prove to [be] the loser.”1 He parades the usual suspects for their demise: low completion rates and absence of credits and degrees.

He tosses Britain’s E-University and Open University in with MOOCs for what amounts to a clean sweep of online programs. Two birds with one stone, as it were. He cites E-University as a costly failure and Open University as “actually a rather traditional university.” Convenient, but what these institutions have in common with MOOCs is baffling.

He bolsters his prediction with survey results: “Only 6% of prospective undergraduates surveyed last year [want] to stay at home and study. The other 94% expected and hoped to move away to a different place for their degrees.”

Whyte declares traditional universities the winner because “people want and expect something rather more than a purely virtual, entirely electronic experience of university. They expect it to be a place.”

Strong reassurance, indeed, for those who see MOOCs as “a horrible sort of inevitability.” Traditional universities have not only withstood the MOOC challenge but actually emerged stronger.  Continue reading

Technology and Our Health

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Technology is rapidly morphing and changing, but what about the humans who use it? Numerous research studies as well as reports on various aspects of the connection between technology and our physical, mental, and emotional health are examining the various factors that may impact our lives.

box Can A Computer Change The Essence Of Who You Are?, by Lulu Miller and Alix Spiegel, NPR, Feb. 13, 2015.

In this essay, the authors explore the ways that technology can impact our lives in various ways. They focus on social media and how an individual used Twitter to document and call out people on bad behavior. Pete, who set up the Twitter account, soon found that over time, his tweets became harsher and harsher. The authors report that quite a few psychologists are trying to figure out how socializing is different online. For instance, when you have a bad day and post about it on social media, you are validated by not just one friend, but many “friends” who tell you that you are all right. This type of mass positive feedback can be addictive and can change the social dynamic. This post created a pretty lively exchange of comments, so be sure to read them, too.

box Internet Trolls Are Narcissists, Psychopaths, and Sadists: Trolls will lie, exaggerate, and offend to get a response, by Jennifer Golbeck Ph.D.Psychology Today, Sep. 18, 2014.

In this article, Golbeck reports on a study by some Canadian researchers published in Personality and Individual Differences which looked at people who purposely disrupt online discussion, so-called trolls. The researchers gave personality tests to over 1,200 people and surveyed their Internet commenting behavior. They found that respondents who scored high for narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and sadism also reported that “trolling was their favorite Internet activity.’ Trolls use the Internet to harm other people for their own pleasure.

box Long-term health outcomes and cost-effectiveness of a computer-tailored physical activity intervention among people aged over fifty: modelling the results of a randomized controlled trial, by Denise A. Peels et al., BMC, Oct. 23, 2014.

Rather than focusing on possible negative influences of technology, in this study a group of Dutch researchers examined how technology in the form of a computer-tailored physical activity program can improve long-term health outcomes among adults aged over fifty. “[S]timulating people to become more physically active… can result in better public health and thereby reduce health care costs.”

From ‘Yes Ma’am’ to ‘F*** You’

Tracey kashiwa 80By Tracey Kashiwa
Student at Kapi’olani Community College
University of Hawai’i

Justin Bieber Eggs His Neighbor’s House.” “Kendall Jenner…Calls [Her Mother] a…Whore.” “Miley Cyrus Twerks on Married Man.” In American society today, the media is filled with incidents of youths disrespecting their elders. In fact, even the idea that children should respect their elders seems nonexistent (“Respect for Others”). I’m only thirty-two, but even I wonder what happened to respecting our elders.

When I was a child, I looked to my parents and grandparents for advice and to learn about the past. I viewed them as wise old owls who had a wealth of knowledge and experience that I could tap into. Disrespecting my parents was never an option, and if I didn’t show respect, they would ground me for weeks or, even worse, break out the back scratcher. What has changed from my generation to this? Has the internet ruined our need to look to elders as knowledge keepers? Has social media eliminated our need for social pleasantries? Has the frown on spanking created an uncrossable barrier for parents and discipline?

To better understand youth, I interviewed my twenty-year-old housemate, John, a young man plagued by the need to disregard others. John is the kind of person who, if you asked how his day went, walks past you without eye contact or acknowledgement of your existence. He acts as though he is royalty and can’t be bothered by the peasants around him, and he always has music blaring through headphones to drown us out. I doubt he would behave so arrogantly if he knew how much he resembles a chicken pecking the ground for food when he bobs his head to the beat. Like I said, he is the epitome of a disrespectful youth.  Continue reading