These are from my bookmarks on del.icio.us:
- Software / Technology
- Quick-R is a help site for those using the R statistics tool instead of SPSS/SAS.
- Hippocampus is a homework and study help site with multimedia resources and course materials.
- Road Ready Teens is a program that includes a free driving videogame. See this article.
- First look at Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron – the nest version of Ubuntu due out soon
- A report on open source video editing in Linux.
- Skype 2.0 for Linux has been released.
- New Classroom-Friendly Mini-Notebooks from HP
- Another great video on using and developing 3D educational worlds with Edusim in (Croquet-based) Cobalt. Here is more info on the Croquet-based Cobalt application used, and see also this tutorial for building a simple world in Croquet by Matt Schmidt.
- A video preview of Alice 3.0, the 3D programming environment
- Bionic Arduino – incredible course/workshop on creative uses for the Arduino microcontroller board.
- Adobe Photoshop Express Online – an online version of the image editor. I haven’t tested to see if it is any better than Picnik or other editors.
- More info on the next version of Java (update 10) and the new java plugin. See the article: Are Applets Back?
- OpenOffice.org and MS Excel: What’s the Difference? – There are some little differences that may get you, especially the use of semicolons instead of commas for passing parameters to functions. You get a cryptic “#NAME?” error if you use commas.
- Mahara 1.0 has been released – an open source electronic portfolio tool that integrates with Moodle
- On the quest for better screencasts – an interesting idea to make screencasts searchable and seekable via subtitles
- An overview of the samples that come with the Netbeans Java IDE.
- Amberjack is a free tool for creating guided tours of one or more websites.
- A new pdf book on the Scala programming language that runs on the java platform: Scala by Example
- Yahoo Announces Open Search Platform – Google discontinued their API for using their search engine from 3rd party apps long ago, so this is welcome.
- The Best Tools for Visualization
- DJ NativeSwing: JWebBrowser, JFlashPlayer, JVLCPlayer, JHTMLEditor
- Sites / Articles
- The call for papers for the 2008 Open Education Conference has been released. The submission deadline is May 30th.
- Multimedia Authoring Tools: The Quest for an Educational Package
- Video Research in Education describes a free pdf report from NSF on using video in educational research, which also was the basis for the book video research in the learning sciences.
- Grounded and Transferable Knowledge of Complex Systems Using Computer Simulations with links to the netlogo models used
- States’ Data Obscure How Few Finish High School
- Celebrating Seymour (Papert) – an article by David Shaffer on Seymour Papert’s legacy
- Numbers Guy: Stanislas Dehaene and Number Sense
- So Much for the Information Age – an interesting commentary at chronicle.com
- Educational Technology Magazine (pdf) special issue on open education resources
- The Truth According To Wikipedia – a video commentary on Wikipedia (via Larry Sanger)
- Becta Emerging Technologies for Learning Report
- A MacArthur series on Digital Young, Innovation, and the Unexpected
- An interesting article on Places to intervene in a system
- Multimodal Learning Through Media: What the Research Says – another positive lit review from the metiri group
- Cognitive Phenomenology: Marriage of Phenomenology and Cognitive Science
- Computational Thinking and Thinking About Computing – presentation with interesting examples of computing in everyday life by Jeannette Wing
- Computer Science Enrollment is Going Down
- From Java Platform Improvements to Better Teaching
- Robotic drumstick keeps novices on the beat
- The proceedings of the Tangible and Embedded Interaction Conference have been made available. See also the Symposium on Haptic Interfaces.
- Fritzing – a physical prototyping tool
Another item has been added to the debate between cognitive load theory, direct instruction, and worked examples on one side, and inquiry learning, problem-based learning, and game-based learning on the other (which I have covered before here and here). Wolfgang Schnotz and Christian Kürschner have published an article in Educational Psychology Review entitled “A Reconsideration of Cognitive Load Theory.” I’m afraid the full text is not available without a subscription at the moment. Schnotz looks at some of the anomalies and contradictions in cognitive load theory. Is more cognitive load good or bad for learning? Well it turns out sometimes it is good (germane) and sometimes not. When to tell which from which is one source of problems with cognitive load theory. There other articles also that are problematic for cognitive load theory and for the advocation of using pre-worked out examples over inquiry-based approaches. A few that come to mind include:
- Miller, C. S., Lehman, J. F. and Koedinger, K. R. (1999). Goals and Learning in Microworlds. Cognitive Science, 23, 305-336.
- D. Charney, L. Reder, and G. W. Kusbit, “Goal setting and procedure selection in acquiring computer skills:
A comparison of tutorials, problem solving and learner exploration,” Cognition and Instruction, vol. 7, no.
4, pp. 323–342, 1990.
- And recent work by John Black (AERA 2006, ICLS 2006), Richard Lowe, and myself (AERA 2007) that show that interactive or controllable animations and simulations, while requiring more “cognitive load,” are much more effective for learning than passive animations. Richard Lowe and Wolfgang Schnotz also have a book due out soon entitled Learning with Animation: Research Implications for Design.
My colleagues at USU Brett Shelton and David Wiley have published their edited volume entitled The Design and Use of Simulation Computer Games in Education. A pdf of the book is also available. You might also be interested in the L2TD project (Learning about Learning-Technology-Design), which also has a book coming out soon.
I posted earlier a list of a few blogs that discuss educational research every now and then. Since then the Education Research Report blog has been discontinued as a free resource. Here are a few more related blogs, as well as some educational gaming/simulation blogs:
- Mark Guzdial – GT professor in the area of computer science education
- Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning
- The Pulse: Education’s Place for Debate
- How We Learn
- Bill Kerr
- Education with Technology
- Unbounded – exploring the potential of technology-based learning (out of Ohio University).
Educational Gaming/Simulation blogs:
Haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been criss-crossing the country interviewing for ed tech jobs. I’ll write more on that soon.
Some conference proceedings and papers have been made available online recently, such as the AERA 2007 conference program. Their website is quite horrible I’m afraid. Don’t use the back button or multiple browser windows or tabs.
At AERA I’ll be discussing my initial research on students learning with an animated AC circuit simulation, as measured by a test of their conceptual knowledge (a “concept inventory”). Here is the proposal, which for anonymizing purposes has no references, so here is a big reference list. I’ll post a link to the full paper when the conference is closer, and hopefully a link to the simulation as well. Until then I’m mainly busy continuing to re-program it as well as writing a journal article about earlier research on AC circuit (mis)conceptions with my former colleagues.
The SIGCSE conference (computer science education) is occurring next week near Cincinnati. Here are the papers and topics being presented there. As always Mark Guzdial is very involved in that conference, along with the ICER 2007 conference (International Computing Education Research) in Atlanta later this year. The papers from last year’s ICER 2006 conference are online. I am not a CS person or really interested in CS education, but rather making it easier for hobbyists and beginners to develop interactive educational software. So I think there is a close connection to what they are doing, but actually both the SIGCSE and ICER seem to be almost solely about formal CS education in classrooms.
I posted earlier about all the ed tech related conferences coming up in 2007. Here are a few interesting ones:
- International Conference on Imagination and Education
- NECC 2007
- ED-MEDIA 2007
- Improving University Teaching
- National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
- and the International Conference on Enactive Interfaces, the one I would love to present at one day (read my proposal you’ll see why).
I have a whole rant about the inefficacy and costliness of conferences, but I’ll spare you.
Are animations better than a series of static diagrams or pictures for helping someone understand something such as how some system behaves and functions? Will Thalheimer summarizes some of this work, but more in-depth papers and reviews are listed below. Most studies have shown that there is not much advantage overall of animations over well-designed diagrams, but I’d say when designing real educational software, animations can be very useful. For one thing, the reviews discount studies where the animation provided more information than the diagram. For a designer, however, this is not a confound but rather an advantage, and sometimes the extra information is inevitable. Consider for example an electrical circuit diagram which provides no explicit information about the behavior of current at all vs. an animated simulation. Most studies also do not give the learners control over the pacing of the animation (as in an animated simulation). As Richard Lowe’s work (below) shows, “user-controllable” diagrams/animations can be more effective. And in the quote from the Tversky paper below, I highlight their qualification about user control and interactivity:
- Animation: Can it facilitate? (pdf) review by Barbara Tversky, Morrison, and Betrancourt. A quote:
“Animations of events may be ineffective because animations violate the second principle of good graphics, the Apprehension Principle, according to which graphics shouldbe accurately perceived and appropriately conceived. Animations are often too complex or too fast to be accurately perceived. Moreover, many continuous events are conceived of as sequences of discrete steps. Judicious use of interactivity may overcome both these disadvantages.”
- See also the chapters by Betrancourt and Mary Hegarty in the Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning, edited by Richard Mayer.
- User-Controllable Animated Diagrams: The Solution for Learning Dynamic Content? (full text requires subscription) and Animation and learning: Value for money? – papers on user control and animations by Richard Lowe.
- Also, it’s not an either/or choice. You can work with animations/simulations and then diagrams. Letting students experience a more open-ended learning environment like a simulation before a lecture or text is more effective. 
Clayton Wright has created a list of many of the ed tech related conferences coming up in 2007. See the word document at the bottom of the page. Some others not mentioned are listed here (sorry, requires a free subscription), including ICLS (2008), Frontiers in Education, SIGCSE, Visualization in Science and Education, Engineering Interactive Systems, Enactive, Physics Education Research Conference, Multimedia in Physics Teaching and Learning, the K12 Online Conference, and others.
Educational technology news:
Here is a rather dramatic example of unguided (or self-guided) discovery learning. See also this PBS video feature on the same story. A man in India put a computer with net access in a wall next to an alley so that poor children could use it. They developed quite a fluency in its use. The man nudged them once, showing them that the computer could play music, too. But for classroom purposes, I was also interested in another little experiment he did with classroom students. The part quoted from the article is in italics below:
Well, I tried another experiment. I went to a middle-class school and chose some ninth graders, two girls and two boys. I called their physics teacher in and asked him, “What are you going to teach these children next year at this time?” He mentioned viscosity. I asked him to write down five possible exam questions on the subject. I then took the four children and said, “Look here guys. I have a little problem for you.” They read the questions and said they didn’t understand them, it was Greek to them. So I said, “Here’s a terminal. I’ll give you two hours to find the answers.”
Then I did my usual thing: I closed the door and went off somewhere else.
They answered all five questions in two hours. The physics teacher checked the answers, and they were correct. That, of itself, doesn’t mean much. But I said to him, “Talk to the children and find out if they really learned something about this subject.” So he spent half an hour talking to them. He came out and said, “They don’t know everything about this subject or everything I would teach them. But they do know one hell of a lot about it. And they know a couple of things about it I didn’t know.”
That’s not a wow for the children, it’s a wow for the Internet. It shows you what it’s capable of. The slum children don’t have physics teachers. But if I could make them curious enough, then all the content they need is out there. The greatest expert on earth on viscosity probably has his papers up there on the Web somewhere. Creating content is not what’s important. What is important is infrastructure and access … The teacher’s job is very simple. It’s to help the children ask the right questions.
And I would mention now, based on the earlier papers I cited in my last post, if the teacher followed up with the children on a lesson about viscosity, they would learn even more. That is what has been variously termed a teachable moment, or a time for telling. The students explored on their own and learned a great deal, but still had many questions and areas they did not understand, plus areas they may have understood incorrectly. The teacher at that point could help fill in the gaps, so to speak.
- Here’s a post at IGN about the use of videogames in education.
- Abdulaziz Ghuloum has written a tutorial about writing your own compiler. The difference is that it is a progressive tutorial rather than incremental. You don’t have to wait until the end before you can actually try the compiler out.
Richard Hake, one of the creators of the well-known Force Concept Inventory for assessing physics understanding, posts a lot of very informative material to the physlrnr, phys-l, and math-teach lists. Lately there was a re-hash again over a research article by Klahr & Nigem about direct instruction vs. discovery learning. In a typical unfairly designed psych experiment, Klahr compared direct instruction to a group in which students were left to fend completely on their own (unguided discovery). Students fared better in the direct instruction condition (although actually they had a discovery activity before the instruction began as well). People in the government and people who favor traditional schooling approaches jumped on that article as proof that direct instruction is best.
Here is Hake’s response to it from back in 2004. See the archives of the above lists for more recent discussions. I would also add some other references that counter the mis-interpretation of Klahr’s study, and clarify when and how direct instruction can be useful. There is an article entitled “A time for telling” from 1998 by John Bransford in the journal Cognition & Instruction. Also another 1991 article showed that giving students a discovery-learning experience before a lecture made for much better learning gains:
Brant, G., Hooper, E., & Sugrue, B. (1991). Which comes first: The simulation or the lecture? Journal of Educational Computing Research, 7(4), 469-481.
Here’s a related paragraph from a review I wrote a few years ago:
Simulation before instruction. A number of studies have found advantages to using simulations in sequence with other forms of instruction such as a lecture, but not necessarily during a lecture as earlier examples demonstrated (Thomas & Hooper, 1991). This makes sense when again realizing that simulations are environments that do not provide information to students so much as they require information from students to be used effectively. Particularly effective is allowing students to use a simulation before a lecture or other activity (Brant, Hooper, & Sugrue, 1991). Even though students may or may not fully understand the model underlying the simulation they use, after exploring the environment they may have formed questions or strategies for learning about the domain. So even when a simulation is not completely understandable to a student, it may engender a preparedness for future learning, and the students may attend differently to a subsequent lecture or other learning activity.
Here are some more general paragraphs from earlier in the review:
In a large-scale analysis of mathematics classrooms, Harold Wenglinsky found higher student achievement in classrooms using computers for simulation and data exploration activities. In contrast, achievement scores actually declined by six tenths of a year in eighth-grade classrooms in which computers were used for decontextualized drill activities instead of simulations (Wenglinsky, 1998).
Students learn more than just facts when using computer simulations. Njoo and de Jong (1993) have found that the educational benefits of simulations are revealed more in tests of intuitive knowledge, such as reasoning about “what if” scenarios, rather than tests of more factual knowledge. Similarly, Thomas and Hooper (1991) concluded in a review of research that the use of simulations is more effective when the educational goal is for students to transfer and apply knowledge to real-world problems rather than memorize facts or procedures. This is not as surprising when considering that the primary design principle of simulations, fidelity, is designed to lower the amount of work needed to transfer one’s knowledge to the actual system it is modeling.