Article Review #3

A Case Study on the Use of Blended Learning to Encourage Computer Science Students to Study – Pérez-Marín & Pascual-Nieto, 2012

Honestly, I partially chose this article because the title made me laugh: “A Case Study on the Use of Blended Learning to Encourage Computer Science Students to Study.” The researchers get right to business finding ways to get CS students to engage with the material after class. Apparently, the study habits of CS students are so notoriously bad that the authors didn’t feel the need to go into the claim that their entire study rests on. While I would have liked to see more than one article back up their assertion, it was clear that they saw a trend in their computer science department and wanted to tackle it. I had already mentally committed to this article before I realized that they were gathering data from a class held in the 2007-2008 school year. The paper itself was published in 2012, so I thought we were dealing with more recent applications of blended learning. Still, there may be a valid takeaway.

To test the efficacy of blended learning study tools for university CS students, researchers took 131 students in the second-year course “Operating Systems” and let half of them use a computer program to study and the other half (control group) received a print version of the study content. The online study program, “Willow,” was developed by the researchers. Students were able to type in their response, have it compared against pre-loaded answers from the instructor, and then were given immediate feedback (Figure 1). Data was collected through pre/post assessments, and a satisfaction questionnaire. The experiment took place near the end of the semester and (weirdly) lasted as long as a one hour study session bookended by the assessments. All students were then allowed to use their study tool of choice for the month leading up to the final exam at which time they took the satisfaction survey.

Figure 1 – Screenshot of Willow

While the results showed that the computer study group had a higher positive difference between their pre/post assessment scores 75% of the time, it was by a margin that was not statistically significant (Perez-Marin & Pascual-Nieto, 2011, p.78). The authors weren’t surprised by this finding, as their actual goal was to show that students must study for an exam over the course of several weeks. I struggle to understand why they set up this portion of the experiment this way if they were actually looking to prove an idea that required an extended window of time for data collection. Once the initial study session was over and students were able to choose their study tool, 99% of students used a Willow account and researchers saw that students were using the program regularly in the weeks leading up to the exam (Perez-Marin & Pascual-Nieto, 2011, p.80). But then they compare the increased studying anecdotally to the procrastination observed in the past when traditional paper study guides were used; they did not have data to back this up.

The results of the satisfaction questionnaire were unsurprising, especially considering all of the subjects were in the computer science program. They overwhelming felt that using a computer to study was good, a positive complement to their classwork, and their preferred method of study for the future. Researchers also took into consideration observable satisfaction during the 1 hour long study session, which led to my second laugh in this article, “The first reaction observed is that students assigned to the control group complained more than students assigned to the test group” (Perez-Marin & Pascual-Nieto, 2011, p.76). Computer science students complaining about not getting to use computers: typical.

While I can’t say that this article gave me ideas for my classroom, or helped me make new connections, it’s always good to know what came before you. Articles like this are like being visited by the ghost of technology past. If you don’t understand what the field used to look like then you won’t fully appreciate how far we’ve come in just a decade. Today, I wouldn’t even think to hand my CS students paper study guides, but clearly that used to be the norm. Blended learning is something that is no longer just a study tool but an active player in daily curriculum. This article may lack the appropriate data to show a positive effect on student scores over time, but their reasoning behind using blended learning tools are solid and similar to our reasons today (student control, flexibility, personalization). Unfortunately, even with the normalization of blended learning tools, it’s been my experience that CS students still slack on the studying.

References

Pérez-Marín, D., & Pascual-Nieto, I. (2012). A case study on the use of blended learning to encourage computer science students to study. Journal of Science Education and Technology,21(1), 74-82. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/41413286

Article Review #2

Connectivism: Learning theory and pedagogical practice for networked information landscapes – Dunaway, 2011

Part of me wonders if I’m drawn to connectivism because it uses language similar to that used in my computer science classes. While I can see where connectivist strategies fit in my own classroom, I’ve been having a hard time envisioning how connectivism is general enough for any classroom. The digital jargon that is inherent to the theory make it feel a little cold compared to the focus on student experience and contextualized learning of constructivism. But I do think there’s something really interesting here! For this article review I wanted to poke around connectivism a bit more and see how some of the early adopters/developers were filling out this (potentially) new learning theory.

The article I found, “Connectivism: Learning theory and pedagogical practice for networked information landscapes”, was written specifically with librarians and those who work with information instruction in mind. The author, Michelle Dunaway, found a lot of overlap between the networked learning in connectivism and the role of those who teach students how to read, interpret, and analyze information sources. While it wasn’t exactly the K-12 classroom example I was looking for, the relationship between connectivism and information instruction is definitely strong and it was interesting to read about the environment where this learning theory thrives.

To sum up how this article defines connectivism, Dunaway says, “[t]he learning is the network” (2011, p.680). While I find this fairly catchy, it feels impersonal to describe learning without first mentioning the student; it’s as if information is first and then you apply the student, compared to other learning theories where you start with the student and apply information. Weird priorities, but maybe it’s just this article that pitches it this way. In connectivism, the student learns as they make connections between nodes of information. These nodes all reside in the student’s personal learning network which contains a wide variety of information sources and tools (Dunaway, 2011, p.676). Because learning rests in the ability to make connections, pattern recognition and that the ability to evaluate information sources are highly valued skills.

What made this article stand out over others about connectivism is that it goes beyond just explaining the theory; Dunaway also addresses two important literacies that are nurtured by connectivism (neither of which I had ever heard of). First, metaliteracy: “an overarching and self-referential framework that integrates emerging technologies and unifies multiple literacy types” (Dunaway, 2011, p.679). Apparently there are a lot of 21st century literacies floating around and metaliteracy ropes them all together and highlights their similarities to benefit learning. Second, transliteracy: “the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media[…]” (Dunaway, 2011, p.679). Not only should students be able to gather information from multiple mediums, but they should know how to move information efficiently from one format to another. Transliteracy focuses on the relationship between users and their digital tools (Dunaway, 2011, p.679). This section of the article challenged my understanding of the term literacy, especially with concepts like metaliteracy where you’re trying to think about being literate in literacies. Transliteracy is easier to wrap my head around, but I also question if it’s an actual literacy or just a skill, or maybe those two things are the same?

Connectivism in the context of research libraries and information instruction makes sense to me as they are basically in the business of helping students build personal networks of information and matching students with information tools; it’s also a theory I can see integrating pieces of into my own classroom. But even after reading this article I’m struggling to envision how to sell this new learning theory to the English teacher in the classroom next door whose classroom is only lightly blended. I think the theory is too jargon heavy at the moment to be generally accessible in the same way some of the past learning theory are. Yet, despite its shortcomings as a potential learning theory, I’m not ready to give up on connectivism; I do think there has been a change in positioning of information, teacher/student roles, and learning because of the internet and digital tools. Here’s hoping I can form some clearer opinions about it over the course of the semester!

References

Dunaway, M. (2011). Connectivism: Learning theory and pedagogical practice for networked information landscapes. Reference Services Review, 39(4), 675-685. https://doi.org/10.1108/00907321111186686

Web Album

My images are hosted on Google Photos:

ED 659 Web Album – Sunset Paddle

All of the images were taken with an Olympus E-M10 Mark II with a 40-150mm lens. Other than resizing and cropping no editing has been done to the photos.

Print Format

Feather

Good grief, I paddled around this stinking feather forever. I wanted to practice some close up shots with the bigger lens, and as you can see I got incredibly lucky with the light. I have rule of thirds working in my favor, and while the reflection is nice I think it’s the details on the feather that are really interesting.

I have about 20 versions of this photo as I tried to manually set the ISO, f/stop, and shutter speed. The light was killing me on manual and I wasn’t quite skilled enough to get dark water and lit up feather on my own. So I’ll confess now that I used the auto setting for this one, but I just want you to know that I tried.

Aperture: f/5.6

Shutter Speed: 1/250

ISO: 200

Blue

Again, I was practicing my close up shots. I love the color and lines in this one. Composition could be better as it doesn’t make great use of rule of thirds. I tried to focus on the top band of the shell, and it’s leaning toward a bokeh style (but the focus caught a little too much of the rock!).

Had to up the ISO and reel back the shutter speed on this one compared to the feather photo as I had moved over to the shady side of the lake. Since we were out at sunset my biggest challenge was adjusting to the ever-changing amount of light. I wanted to keep the colors cool and a bit dark.

Aperture: f/5.6

Shutter Speed: 1/80

ISO: 500

Monitor Format

Swans

Meet our friendly neighborhood honkers! We have some very curious swans on the lake who manage to swim just close enough for pictures. I’m glad I was using my bigger lens for this project as I was able to get some nice details on the swans. The lake edge creates a nice 1/3 line, and I kind of like the unusual placement of the swans on the top left side.

There was a lot of light hitting the trees and the swans when I was trying to set up for this picture. I think f/9 ended up being the largest aperture I used for the whole project. I have a lot of washed out versions of this picture. It was chilly out there and I wanted that reflected in the cool tones in the photos!

Aperture: f/9

Shutter Speed: 1/250

ISO: 200

Paddle

This one is my favorite, and not just because it’s of my husband. I generally shy away from action shots and pictures of people. Let’s be honest landscapes and architecture are a little more forgiving for the amateur photographer. This photo started vertical and I cropped it into a horizontal close up. I tried to take all photos in this series from water level which gave this shot a particularly interesting angle.

He was paddling very, very slowly so I could get this picture. Had he been going full speed I would have needed a faster shutter speed. Again, I was going for darker tones so it kind of worked out to use a lower ISO and still be able to get some detail clarity.

Aperture: f/5

Shutter Speed: 1/200

ISO: 200

Web Format

Creek

Upon reflection, this photo wasn’t the best choice for the Web format because now that it’s a super small it lost some of its depth. I wanted to create contrast between the dark foreground with the creek leading towards the lit up trees in the background. Symmetry was also working in my favor on this one.

I guess the aperture is leaning towards larger (compared to my other pictures) in this case and I think that helped keep the foreground darker and create depth. A low ISO number kept the plants in the foreground sharp without lighting them up. This was a weird one with the contrasting light and I had to try quite a few different combinations to find something that worked.

Aperture: f/7.1

Shutter Speed: 1/320

ISO: 200

Symmetry

If you don’t take a reflection picture, were you even really on a lake? I did my best to not create any extra ripples so that the reflection of the trees was as clear as possible in the water. The colors were awesome and the reflection just emphasizes that point. My goal was symmetry so it was also important to get the shoreline straight!

Honestly, I can’t remember why I set the shutter speed so high. I was struggling to get a darker version of this picture for a while. Instead of bright yellow I wanted the trees to be more orange and to be able to see variation in that color. Aperture and ISO are both middling, so I bet the shutter speed was just get reduce the amount of light coming in.

Aperture: f/4.5

Shutter Speed: 1/640

ISO: 500

 

Article Review #1

Managing the gap between curriculum based and problem based learning: Deployment of multiple learning strategies in design and delivery of online courses in computer science – Bygholm & Buus, 2009

Thus far in my teaching career I have been running my computer science courses on a blended model. Often I can piece together what I’m looking for with a couple different programs and some choice collaborative “unplugged” activities. I’m constantly poking around the internet for new curriculum, but generally they all have similar patterns: direct instruction through video/slides and then individual practice. The more self-contained the course is online the more likely it is to follow this pattern. Looking for the “why” wasn’t going to be particularly productive, so I broadened my search. For this article review, I sought out studies about online computer science curriculum and some of their potential structures.

The article that caught my eye was “Managing the gap between curriculum based and problem based learning: Deployment of multiple learning strategies in design and delivery of online courses in computer science,” which is a bit of a mouthful if you ask me. Between 2004-2006, 40 online computer science courses were jointly developed and delivered by the University of Strathcylde Scotland and Aalborg University in Denmark. The article was written by the researchers from Aalborg University, who prior to starting the project had a considerable investment in problem based learning and discussed it in detail in the article. They defined problem based learning as “aimed at providing the student with abilities to acquire knowledge appropriate to solve problems within the domain. Focus is on learner experience, participant control, learner self-management and guidance” (Bygholm & Buus, 2009, p.13). In fact, their whole university is so passionate about problem based learning that they have a variation of it called “The Aalborg PBL model” that uses problems as the starting point for learning with curriculum assigned as needed to solve the problem or is related to the theme (Figure 1) (Bygholm & Buus, 2009, p.17). They eventually decided that their personal version of problem based learning was too “radical” for their more traditional, curriculum based partners over in Scotland, and that used alone it failed to support the project’s need to reach stated learning objectives (Bygholm & Buus, 2009, p.19).

Figure 1: Aalborg University PBL model

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The partners at Aalborg University had a clear prerogative to get more problem based learning into the online computer science courses. The problem, of course, is that those at the University of Strathcylde were more inclined to instructor led, curriculum focused learning. I’m not sure why they decided that they were a good match for each other in this project, but there you go. The two school were speaking different learning languages and their project ended up being a learning model creole. Their eventual compromise supported both learning strategies by providing opportunity for students to organize their own learning around specific problems within a set module and also be exposed to content through more direct teaching (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Co-designed model for online computer science courses

Within the article there is a brief discussion on the varying definitions of success between the curriculum based and problem based models. This was an issue I hadn’t previously considered. It’s easy to look at the activities used in each model and spot the differences, but it’s a little harder to process that they have entirely different overall learning goals. Success in the curriculum based model involves a “specified quantification in certain methods and techniques” (Bygholm & Buus, 2009, p.18). It is about absorbing a wide-breadth of content knowledge, generally through teacher-led instruction. Alternatively, success in problem based learning takes the form of “competencies to solve problems within the [content] area, independent of specific curriculum bites” (Bygholm & Buus, 2009, p.18). Their co-designed learning strategy and included activities seek success from both models by passing control between the teacher and student and providing opportunity for both direct content delivery and hands-on practice. Students would be both exposed to a breadth of necessary content knowledge and learn how to problem solve within the domain. Overall, I think the model they developed together is well constructed, especially for computer science where even at lower levels it can have a lot of content-specific knowledge before you can start building, creating, and solving. The courses I come across online may have a creative aspect so that students are developing their own projects under certain restrictions, but in general we severely lack the collaborative/group component and extended student-led learning. 

I also didn’t realize how political course development could be. Not only do individual people have their chosen learning strategies, but entire universities may ascribe to a particular model and want to push that agenda. Even in an article about finding the learning model middle ground, there was clearly a lot of stubbornness during the process, and the authors often came across as smug about their school’s personal use of one model of the other. I guess I hadn’t thought of it as a competition? Maybe I should be less surprised about the repetitive online course structures, clearly it takes a lot to get educators on the same page, or to even mix models outside of their comfort zones.

References:

Bygholm, A., & Buus, L. (2009). Managing the gap between curriculum based and problem based learning: Deployment of multiple learning strategies in design and delivery of online courses in computer science. International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology, 5(1), 13-22. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.proxy.consortiumlibrary.org/docview/886577964?accountid=14473