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Teaching Open Source Learning Objectives

August 24, 2010 2 comments

My experience is that learning objectives are the centerpiece of program accreditation and review. Although the intention is to be explicit about our student-oriented approach when we design a course and, therefore, always start with stating learning objectives, the reality has shown that students pay no attention to them and teachers kick and scream when they are asked to craft them. Learning sciences and education research have been trying to convince us of the contrary.

One thing I learned though is that learning objectives are of limited help by themselves. The key is to align them with two other indispensable components: (1) assessments to verify that students learn what the objectives claim and (2) pedagogies and interventions that prepare students to learn what the objectives claim. An important ingredient to this alignment is that learning objectives are measurable. I recommend that we add a bullet number #3 where the S-K-A formula is described in Teaching Open Source: How to Write learning Objectives; and list another useful resource, Carnegie Mellon Enhancing Education along with MIT Teaching and Learning Laboratory.

My take is that the TOS book (as we think of it being used in a course) should have around 5 learning objectives, and each chapter should refine the granularity of some of these top-level learning objectives for the purpose of validating the kind of assessments included in each chapter. I don’t think it’s useful to have learning objectives for each section. Or, we should replace those section-level learning objectives with assessments that measure how much students have learned according to the initial learning plan (i.e. learning objectives). For example, we probably agree that ‘apply’ or ‘demonstrate’ are very suitable action verbs for TOS learning objectives. However, to reach this cognitive level, it’s useful to expect students to ‘identify’ and ‘illustrate’.

What I’m trying to say is that scaffolding the learning process needs support from instructional means and assessment means, always in line with our mantra-like learning objectives – we got so far :-). These means are the essence of the book anyway. We simply need to tie them back to what learning objectives they serve.

POSSE Worcester: Day 4 – And more development

June 13, 2010 Comments off

Fedora on a stick with persistent overlay and other persistent-wise features (or live USB) has been a challenge. That’s something future POSSE will need to have solved. A pre-POSSE set of activities should involve participants in getting ready. Creating a live usb could be such a preliminary activity.

We had a very informative discussion on infrastructure and students’ involvement with an open source infrastructure in support of teaching and learning open source. Heidi shared her experience with the Software for Humanity (SoftHum) project and similar efforts (see www.xcitegroup.org). The final list of infrastructure tools included: source version control, bug trackers, IRC channels with bots, wikis, planets, blogs, lists, hosting, VNC server, codepad.org, pastebin.org, doodle, piratepad.net.

P.S. POSSE Worcester folks are real, walk, eat, drink beer, and have fun!

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POSSE Worcester – Day 3: It’s development time!

June 12, 2010 Comments off

(going back in time as I try to catch up with blogging about the amazing time I had at POSSE Worcester).

Tasks of the day: hack, translate, package, and evaluate pedagogical purpose of Measure activity.

We created a clone repository for Measure. Gary and I tackled a new defect in Measure that is ticketed 1911. The problem we found is that no timing is implemented when sound sampling is chosen for 30 seconds, 1 minute, and so on. The combo box and sampling button had confusing labels and tool tips. Gary made changes in sound-toolbar.py file to rename them and toggle the sampling button tooltip name with start or stop sampling. The correct timing task is left for tomorrow.

I learned about translation in SugarLabs and did some translation for Measure. I first located measure_activity.po file in Honey and use the web interface to translate 39 of the existing 41 strings. I must have omitted to hit the commit button for two of the strings. To type Romanian characters, I used this little tool.

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POSSE Worcester – Day 2: Hacking

June 9, 2010 Comments off

Walter Bender from SugarLabs explained the source code of Abacus activity in the Sugar Labs git repository. I have not coded in Python before, and here I had the chance of giving it a try. The task was to add a Decimal abacus to the existing list of seven abacus tools. I modified two files to do that by copying, pasting, and making minor changes to existing code. Having Kristina by my side was a big help. I have also learned about Sugar version control on gitorious.

Mel explained the requirements a Sugar activity must meet in order to be added to a Sugar on a Stick release. To facilitate the formation of teams for the second day deliverables, each of us chose to contribute work pertaining to one ore more of the activity requirements. Mel, Walter, and Peter Robinson have divided same requirements among themselves. I am on a team with Kristina for packaging an activity, with Peter Frohlick for activity translation, and with Aparna for making a case for the activity’s pedagogical purpose.
The activity chosen for our project is Measure.

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POSSE Worcester – Day 1: Entropic order

June 7, 2010 Comments off

The 8:30 to 3 schedule, a carefully bulleted agenda, and eight attentive teachers quietly keyboarding at their computers would undoubtedly give the impression that things are in order. In essence, though, it turned out very entropic.  How many times we assure our students that good problem solving process is of an unsettling nature, as we aim at delivering a solution, but with many twists and turns in between? Today, at POSSE Worcester 2010 Day 1, we experimented it on ourselves.

The challenge for me was doing many things at the same time, with no full understanding of what I was doing  or what the tools and means I was using were… as if I didn’t have my head and I was not using my hands.

In the end – defined, arbitrarily, by the closing time of 3 pm, deliverables were orderly and neatly checked in a table on the white board.

Lessons learned:

One thing is certain. Engaging in open source is like learning to ride a bike: can never be forgotten.

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