Tech Doesn't Teach… But it can Help

Archive for the tag “learning”

Online Education

I know for a fact that I killed my chances at getting hired at a 2-year college because I gave an honest answer to their question of, “How do you feel about online education?”

To be honest, I totally flubbed the sample lecture as well – but this question made me immediately aware of myself in the present. I stood there knowing that I had two possible options before me: I could give them the answer they wanted to hear –

-“Oh, they’re great. I’m very excited about the possibility of bringing education to people wherever they live and whenever they have time. (Actually, a lot of this is true. I do feel this way)

or, I could speak my true feeling on the matter. 

I chose the latter. I don’t like to lie, especially in an interview. And even more so because saying that this was something that I would be interested in would mean that I would have no way out of it when they asked me to do it. So, I said, “To be perfectly honest. I think it’s a decent idea that I’ve never seen done well. In fact, the experience that I’ve had with it suggests that it’s actually worse than a bad idea. I’m sure it makes money for the institution, but I’m not sure that anyone actually learns anything.”

Great answer, huh? I actually said that. What was I thinking? 

I can tell you. I was thinking exactly what I said. 

Now, a year or so later, I think the world is changing. Kahn Academy is firing on all cylinders, I’ve said all the time here or on the downhousesoftware.wordpress blog, that I am simply in love with Codecademy. And since I’ve had that interview I’ve also been hearing more and more about Coursera.

I don’t know who first put Coursera on my RADAR, but it was probably 6-9 months ago. Since then, I’ve been trolling over the site now and again, wondering if I could take a class there. There are plenty of subjects that interest me: Math, Biology, Programming. But I worry about the time I have for such a project. Between teaching, these blogs, codecademy, my physical programming class I go to, trying to launch products from DownHouse Software and all the home responsibilities I have – not to mention that I really need a real fulltime job badly – how can I honestly say that I can add this new responsibility in and give it the time and attention that it deserves?

If you don’t know much about Coursera, the website is Coursera.orgImage

and there was a recent article in FastCompany about the the creators, Former Stanford Professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller, and what they hope to accomplish. Image

If you have any experience with Coursera or other services similar to this (there are actually too many to mention, but MIT’s open courseware does come to mind as a less structured approximation), let me know what your expereince has been. 

If you don’t have any experience with this, but would like to, perhaps we can try our first course together. I’m considering joining the Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python course ( starting October 15). I’d be happy to go into it knowing that there is someone else there that I can email/ chat with.



Why Technology in the Classroom Anyway?

The AppCampus Blog is premised on the notion that technology in the classroom is a good thing that educators should embrace, but why?

Here, I argue that technology (and gaming in particular) is a central part of many people’s lives. Games are the most embraced part of technology by younger generations and, over time, older generations have accepted gaming into their lives as well. Leveraging this interest to teach STEM subjects is vital to engaging students and improving global competitiveness.

Game use has increased not only in absolute number of users, but also in penetration of older age-group markets and amongst female users. A Pew Foundation report on teens and video game-play found that “nearly one-third of all 12- to 17-year- olds report playing video games every day or multiple times each day, and three-fourths report playing at least once a week.” The reach of video games greatly outdistances the number of students graduating with STEM bachelor’s degrees and may thereby extend the penetration of science instruction outside of the classroom. 1,2          Further, the reach of videogames into the older demographics has climbed such that more than half of all adults play video games of one kind and seniors are reported to play, on a daily basis, more often that all other demographics. 3

The public’s embrace of technology and gaming provides an opportunity for STEM education to reach out to students and the public at large. There exists an opportunity to seize the opportunity that mobile device technology offers to engage students of all ages in a form of entertainment that integrates education into the game seamlessly into an integral part of young people’s lives.

Despite the primary role the US has played in many technological achievements of the 20th century (including developing nuclear power for war and peacetime use and putting a man on the moon), the US is no longer a leader in STEM subjects. The 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report found that the proficiency of US students in Math is lower than many other developed nations including Iceland, Estonia, Poland and Slovenia. 4

Improving performance in STEM subject education will improve competitiveness in the world market. This connection is no hypothetical assumption lacking objective evidence, data from Hanushek et al shows a direct correlation between academic performance and Gross Domestic Product, suggesting that further improvements in education can have beneficial economic consequences. 5Considering the primacy of technical job skills in the current labor market, it follows that STEM education may be a driver of this relationship.

The use of interactive, multiuser games promotes not only collaborative-, but also active– learning. Together, these techniques improve student involvement and retention by instilling a sense of personal responsibility for the material. 6,7 Further, using mobile games immerses students in science and meets them in a technology that is a central part of their lives.


Alltogether, games-especially those played on mobile devices- should be part of a comprehensive approach to education because they engage students in science in such a way that is vital to capturing the imaginations of scientists-to-be.







1.     Mayo, M. J. Video Games: A Route to Larger-Scale STEM Education? Science 323, 75–79 (2009).

2.     Lenhart, A. et al. Teens, Video Games, and Civics. Pew Internet and American Life Project 1–76 (2008).

3.     Lenhart, A., Jones, S. & Rankin Macgill, A. Pew/Internet: Adults and Video Games. Pew Internet Project Data Memo 1–9 (2008).

4.     Peterson, P. E., Woessmann, L. & Hanushek, E. A. Globally Challenged: Are U.S. Students Ready to Compete? 1–48 (2011).

5.     Hanushek, E. A., Jamison, D., Jamison, E. & Woessmann, L. Education and Economic Growth. Education Next 1–10 (2008).

6.     Bonwell, C. C. & Elson, J. A. Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom. ERIC Digest. 1–5 (2012).

7.     Johnson, D. & Johnson, R. Active Learning: Cooperation in the College Classroom. (Interaction Book Company: Edina, MN, 1991).


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