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C'est la Z

Tag: pedagogy

Necessity is the mother of invention

I didn't expect to read a Fred Wilson post on teaching online but that's what I found when I visited his blog this morning. Don't get me wrong - I suspect that Fred has the makings of a great teacher, it's just not what I expected to find. There have been many posts about education but I don't recall any about teaching or more specifically the art of teaching. I did find this post though which actually speaks to some of the thoughts today's post got churning.
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Remote Classes

Over at AVC Fred Wilson just posted about Outschool's efforts to support students and teachers in the event of school closures due to the Coronavirus. All the details and relevant links are in the post. I looked a bit into Outschool when Fred first wrote about them but never had a chance to do a deep dive. Now, internet based teaching is not going to be as effective as in person teaching but I was thinking about how far things have come.
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Teacher Centric Teaching

Every few years the experts give us some new magic bullet, some new teaching fad research based pedagogical technique. Teachers are trained in it, forced to use it - frequently as a one size fits all. If we do, we're good teachers, if we don't we get the dreaded ineffective on our annual ratings. I was reminded of this when reading Mark Guzdial's recent blog post on things he got wrong in Computing Education.
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Working with texts part 1 - cleaning the data

I run periodic professional development sessions here in New York with my partner in crime JonAlf Dyrland-Weaver. I call them PD for "APCS-A, similar or beyond" and they're designed to fill a professional development gap. We try to run them once a month but it's a little less frequent than that. The NYCDOE has taken on the monster task of CS for all and since they're trying to get to everyone they have to run a bazillion sessions but all at an introductory level.
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My test grading policy

I was working on writing a midterm the other day so figured I'd talk a bit about my test grading policy. Before getting to the specifics, let me set the stage. I spent most of my career at Stuyvesant - a public magnet school in NYC. There are many great students who are interested in learning but there's also a focus on grades. and this leads to a non-insignificant portion of the student body that is grade obsessed and will do everything and anything for every point possible.
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Teaching techniques - industry to classroom and classroom to industry

There are things we do in school and there are things we do in industry and they're not always the same. In school we might use a learning language or an IDE which gives additional support and at times even take away language features while at work you might you might make heavy use of continuous integration tools. On the other hand, sometimes we use the same things. Java is used in schools and in industry, StackOverflow consulted in both and many schools use professional IDEs like Eclipse.
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Pig Latin - a beginner lesson with some depth

I recently did a unit where I had my students convert words into Pig Latin. I like the problem because to start it only requires strings, functions and if statements but there is some depth to the unit. We start with simplified rules: If the word starts with a vowel, add "ay" to the end of the word If it starts with a consonant move the first latter to the end and add "ay" don't worry about anything else Students usually start with something like this: as students realize it's much easier to check for vowels rather than consonants.
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What Is Good Teaching

I had a conversation with my principal during my last year at Stuy. She said "whenever the superintendent or high level education people come and ask to see our best teachers I can never bring them to Jim's class." Everyone knows that Jim is the best. I describe him as "the teacher I aspire to be." What's the problem? The problem is that Jim didn't teach the way the powers that be wanted him to teach.
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Different languages, different techniques, different solutions

I spent this weekend diving back into Clojure or more specifically, Clojurescript. For those who don't know, Clojure is a Lisp that runs on the JVM. The solution it particularly seeks to "solve" is immutability. Clojurescript is Clojure that compiles to Javascript for web applications. Tooling aside, it's all pretty neat. I didn't do anything earth shaking, just a quick implementation of Conway's game of life and Snake. While the code isn't particularly good, you can check them out here (Snake, Life).
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Do It First

Reading Garth Flint's end of year post and Alfred Thompson's follow up had me thinking about a couple of things. One was spurred when Garth wrote "They also have to figure out the math before they code." This made me think about all the details we sometimes take for for granted. Things that are hard for our students that we just know. It's frequently math that we might find trivial but it could also be much simpler things.
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