life is a rum go guv’nor, and that’s the truth

per central – Conference services as a sustainability model

Lyle Barbato, the comPADRE lead developer talked about conference services as a model for sustainability. Each collection in comPADRE is focused around supporting existing community or a particular course. Teachers, Courses, Specific Students, Specific faculty. They offer workshops etc to those communities. The Physics Education Research community has existed since the 60s. It has grown alot in the past 10 years. Until recently, they had few publication outlets. Robert Beichner came to them asking them to build a central repository which became p(e)r central and a Physics Education Journal, and a PER conference established in 1998. That has become the premier outlet. In 2007 PER came to comPADRE to provide a portal for hosting the annual conferences. It fits into the library model because it allows them to capture and preserve a full record of what happened. They are adapting existing services including rubrics for evaluating abstracts and resources. The conferences and the new content they provide has driven the use of the website.

This work reminds me some of what Justin did with 51weeks – a platform for supporting communication around a conference and the other 51 weeks of the year.

Open Source Physics – Adoptable, Adaptable, and Understandable – Power to the people

Bruce Mason – Open Source Physics. Modern Physics is done with computation no matter whether you are a theoretical or experimental. Our current classroom practice doesn’t allow with this well. A tri-partrate learning platform. Their project combines Open Source Physics, Easy Java Simulation, and the Compadre Library.

Modeling is important because it is what scientists do. It is also a valuable way to interest and help students learn. You can do problems that are too hard or impossible to visualize, that you just don’t see if you don’t have the computational resources. “The difference between physics and math is that I have fun demos. In physics as opposed to math. We do have answer. It is what I measured”. The Falling Slinky Model: What happens to the bottom when it begins to fall? Physically, it is hard to see. The bottom doesn’t know it has dropped until it gets a message from the top of the slinky. Colliding Galaxy model. There is no way for someone to do this on paper.

Adoptable, adaptable, and understandable. They have to be modular, adaptable, visual, interactive, internationalization, quality control, easy to get to, vetted by other teachers, descriptions of how it has been used. Francisco Esquembre – creator of Easy Java Simulations. He says the most important characteristics are adoptable, adaptable, and understandable. This gives power to the people. This was my theory and excitement in my dissertation study. Give the teachers the tools, and they will create. My findings can be summarized by the 90-9-1 rule. 1% of teachers have the time, interest, and skills to create. Of course more powerful tools make it more possible for people to participate.

He showed an Inferior Ptolemaic Model of what it would be like if the earth was the center of the earth and Venus went around the earth. How could you tell which model is right? People can conjecture and explore.

He showed the Falling Loop Model. A loop that is falling through a magnetic field. Faraday’s law. It creates a current that opposes the falling. Other physicists can open (download) the model and modify it with minimal programming. His students can do this as well. This is similar (but more advanced) to my work in the eNLVM that allows users to configure and serialize applets. They connect EJS to the library to make it easy for people to find, discuss, and share their models. Their library allows users to rate, collect, relate, comment, sort, annotate, and share. Again, the themes of our Mellon work and the ODLMS shows its head. One of the contributors to Open Source Physics has written a text book for which their File Cabinet contains the resources aligned with the sections of the text book. They have build into EJS the ability to browse repositories of EJS models. There is a professor in Taiwan who has over EJS 150 models. Doug Brown, Wolfgang, and Lyle Barbato are some of the key people. A project called Tracker that generates video from EJS simulations. They have also done a Data Tool.

Their stats (Open Source Physics?) are 350 resources, 1700 users per week, 31,000 downloads per month. By comparison, the NLVM has about 110 applets and gets 40,000 users per day.

90-9-1 principle – getting people to contribute

Dan Garcia is charged with motivating users to participate. 90-9-1 principle. 90% of users are audience, 9% of users are editors, 1% of users are creators. Creators are not representative of who the community is. Cites alertbox/participation_ Nielson research about 90% of postings come from 1% of the users. We want to reward participants for contributions. rewards participation by displaying user ratings on their home page by recent activity and all time activity. gives badges to represent activities they are trying to model. Example badges, including: completed profile, voted 300 times. They show how many people have each bad to help indicate how valuable (rare) a given badge is. In Ensemble they have prototyped a rewards system.

Remixing web content

Lois Delcambre is talking about the new ensemble portal and the CS1 project being motivated by the CSTA. There is an intellectual debate about what you should use to introduce people to computer science. Their community site is intended to promote discussion. The site uses drupal as a platform. They have added their own content types: textbook post, software/other resources, language post, syllabus, teaching strategy. I wonder the value of this over just allowing users to tag content. She also talks about their subdocument tracking project using fine-grained pieces of digital content. Their overlay approach that allows you to select content from multiple resources, copy it into a workspace where you can adapt it, keeping track of where the content came from. Their tools for extracting their resource are prototype plugins for Microsoft Word and Open Office. When you copy content, a link to where it came from is preserved.I shared with her some of my similar work in Send2Wiki and the eNLVM. Send2Wiki allows you to copy content into a wiki with a single click, while preserving credit and licensing. The eNLVM lets you annotate interactive web resources with your own instructions and questions. Boots Cassel says they are calling their project a distributed portal – many places that take you to lots of places.

Jim Jenkins asks about how attribution and copyright works when you copy resources from one system to another. In Send2Wiki we address this by embedding it in the database. In eNLVM we track the source and attribute it in a status bar along the bottom.

Modeling users to provide recommendations

Frank Shipman has worked for years on a Interest Profile Manager (IPM) that runs locally on a users’s computer. They model users based on 3 sources: (1) interaction with their knowledge browser, (2) browser history, and (3). They are starting a new project to explore pooling individual models to community models while anonymizing the data. They model users using weighted term vectors clustered by interest. For example, to model Joel, they might identify 5 interests STEM, software development, bicycling, each of which is represented as a term vector. For example, STEM might be represented as:

nlvm^.5 nsdl^.3 math^.7 learners^.2 education^.8 “grand challenges”^.7

The advantage of identifying and modeling interests are that instead of modeling the average of a persons interests, you model specific interests. Then when you match people or documents, you match them with specific interests instead of the average of their interests. You can see the benefit of this when you consider what the average of math and bicycling is? Alex and I have discussed this issue, but have not yet implemented it. I’m interested to see any research that compares the two approaches.

So some of the questions related to modeling a learner using term vectors are:

  • How many interests you should model?
  • How do you discover the interests?
  • How many terms should you include in each term vector?
  • How do you do modeling and recommendations efficiently?

In Ed Fox’s presentation we are listening to Peter Brusilovsky talk via Second Life about the kinds of data that they use to model users including: search, tagging, comments, resources they have created including paths (Walden’s Paths), collaborative recommendations, and social navigation (guides users to most active resources). They uses these models to provide recommendation of content and other users. CUMULATE is their group modeling framework. They are tracking of browsing and problem solving. Steve demonstrated a bunch of tools they have in Second Life for Ensemble.

We are addressing similar approaches in Folksemantic. “Systems support personalization by adapting functionality to individuals, by allowing users to customize the system, and by supporting human interaction inside of the system.” We allow people to register their bookmark, blog and other feeds. We also will be using click, search, comment, and share data to model users and provide recommendations.

Fostering Learning in the Networked Role – The Cyberlearning Opportunity and Challenge

I’m listening to Arlene De Strulle, Bruce Mason, Kimberly Lightle, Cathy Manduca, Darrell Porcello in the opening panel at the NSDL annual meeting.

Dr. De Strulle is talking about the report Fostering Learning in the Networked World: The Cyberlearning Opportunity and Challenge.

Highlights of the report:

  • Crossdisciplinary approach – use
  • Platform perspective – adopt & integrate with existing platforms – support
  • Learning across the lifespan – achieve decentralization while retaining what we know about learning and education
  • Promote OER
  • Sustain innovation – build on previous work so that it has life beyond its own project

Cyberlearning – learning mediated by technology (formal ed, informal ed, brought together by networked computing and ICT). Think about life long learning.

We need to think about redistributing learning over time. Cyberlearning is not restricted by the constraints of schools. Not limited by time, location, formal-informal boundaries.

Arlene comes from a Virtual Reality background from the military and illustrates cyberlearning through examples. She’s using examples of virtual worlds, earth systems sensors providing real time data. One example shows a person explore a 3D model of climate change including historical data.

Example: interacting with a dynamic model of a virus as one million atoms interacting with each other.

Haptic table a tool that lets people who can’t see, you can feel the images. Assistive technologies allow people with learning challenges to participate. Virtual laboratory allow people to practice surgery using remote surgery tools. This allows people to practice procedures repeatedly without the consequencies of real mistakes. The future workforce will require that people have skills to use technology. University of Pennsylvania. The GLORIAD network is an optical network that supports cooperation between scientists, educators, and students. It is an example of cross-institutional networks of faculty and students through the use of collaboratories. This helps faculty members focus on educational issues. Science museum virtual reality allows students to become emerged. This is essential to create cognitive presence in the learning environment. Game-based learning is being used to train our troops. It affords tremendous transfer of knowledge and individualization. Research is increasingly showing the power of effectively designed game based instruction. Game based learning increases public engagement in science and policy. Next to LaGuardia airport there is a plot of land that is set aside for a park. They have created a virtual version of Second Life and have invited the community to help design the park in that environment. Part of the design decision is the discussion and learning about the science of water and land related to land use. New mobile small devices have been created that allow data to be gathered in remote situations and provide access to STEM content. Mobile technologies are a democratic device because they allow everyone to access to all kinds of knowledge and to participate in the discussion. It allows people to learn information about their very location, for example the tree that they are looking at. It also allows remote communities to easily communicate (e.g. classrooms around the world). Adler Planetarium lets students look through the best telescopes in the world in real time and report them to the scientists. Technology based learning allows learning and teaching to be tracked and evaluated. The use of avatars in virtual worlds is an area of major research. She pointed us to additional reports: Cyberinfrastructure for Education Workshop Series, NSF Cyberinfrastructure Vision for the 21st Century.

What surprises did you encounter implementing cyberlearning?

Cathy ManducaPedagogy in action. Implementation in the Geoscientists. Implementation as a library. The goal is to help teachers and faculty to make better choices about education. If teachers and faculty had more information and examples about methods in subjects they teach, they would make better decisions about which methods to use and the barriers to adoption would be lowered. They created a catalog of teaching methods connected to examples. That was widely used by lots of people, so they created a service structured as a library. People can draw from the library to embed them in their websites and contribute content. Tracking demonstrates people are using the resources. Interviews give evidence that the site has given them new methods and confidence to try them. The resources speaks directly to teachers and supports adoption of the technology. Pedagogies and actions. Their project highlights cyberlearning comment such as teaching with data, models, visualizations, and games. You need to treat it as learning (remember all of the standard instructional design issues). The design takes advantage of teacher motivation PBL where the problem is what I’m going to teach today and collaborative allowing. The innovation have been able to allow teachers to author web pages. Cloning allows you to copy content into your website

David Porcello (SMILE Pathway) targets informal education of science and math. Learning Sciences and Informal Environments, people, places and. It talks about 6 strands of learning: learners experiencing, exploring, participating, reflecting about science. Recommendations include: learning objects should have learning goals, be interactive, have multiple ways to approach and use iterative design. Front line staff need support to actively discuss questions for diverse cultural views. SMILE is a central place for hands on science activities. NSF is building a lot of tools that include lots of personal content, mobile access, and widgets. It sounds a lot like what we are proposing for the ODLMS. SMILE is creating tools and services to support these in informal learning. They want to encourage people to use the SMILE tools. Focus on the educator and their needs.

Kim LightleMiddle School 2 portal patheways. Teachers, students, and policy that affects teaching at the middle level. At Ohio State, Serena Nair is working with students to design learning environments for students. Mary Henton is looking at the policy of how to change what happens in middle schools. At the MS2 project they have built a portal for teachers. They are using a Ning based platform to connect content important to for teachers to know about in a way that it is all based in the technology. As teachers are learning about systems knowledge they are in wikis, in forums, and blogging. They are becoming part of a virtual learning environment for teachers. Surprises: Kim is not convinced that the “Digital Native” actually exists. Kids can buy shoes. Example: many 21 year old teachers didn’t know . Architecture of participation. If you build it, they might not come. They are putting content in lots of places to people will find it: Curriki, Indigo. “We are “. Object centered sociality – when you build a social network, you have to have content to build it around. The more complex the object, the more gravity it has and the more discuss. They have 570 registered members. Objects that have attracted attention are about integrating technology. It is interesting what people are looking for. The average age of registered members has 15 years of teaching experience. We should focus on second stage teachers. That is where we should focus (teachers who have figured out how to manage and are saying, I need something more). People found about the portal through friends primarily. One size doesn’t fit all. CBANS – Concerns based adoption model helps you understand what the needs of teachers are at a given stage. A social network allows differentiation by allowing people at each level to congregate and help each other. Book: Daniel Pink a whole new mind. He talks about symphony and about stem. We should focus on creative aspects of stem, not recal. Design for the future, not the past.

Bruce Mason, Director of Compadre. It is a service organization for teachers and learners in physics and astronomy. They try to bring people together to learn and find new methods. One of the biggest challenges of running Compadre. He wears 3 hats: Faculty member – don’t like change, showing them really cool stuff they can do is cool, but it will take a lot of work to get them into their classroom. Developer – he helps develop resources, faculty members evidence that approaches work and the materials and plans to easily fit new resources into what they are doing. We need to bring the results of past educational research into the world of cyberlearning. A community of educators that focus on the learning is powerful. The idea of a platform is a big challenge. Just last week 2 publishers came with learning platforms, but they already have Desire2Learn at their college. NSDL member – we really need to provide these services, not just a library and content. More important is that we show others how to develop content and use the tools. This should part of our sustainability model.

Questions: The cost of higher ed has multiplied. New technologies are being laid on top of them all and we are being charged for them all. How will cyberlearning address this? The open opportunities to do new things rather than replacing or substituting. It is far more expensive to not teach well. How do you evaluate student learning while technology is changing so rapidly? Use stable measures of learning consistently measure each technology. Teacher confidence is impacted heavily by reading websites. What does participation mean? What are they getting out of the experience?

Make… Cool stuff!

I’m falling in love with Make. Their site has too much cool stuff on it, to actually do, like this magnetic sculpture – make sure to watch to the end when he plays with the ferrofluid.

Magnetic Sculpture kit from Collin Cunningham on Vimeo.

Or at least watch other people do, and think how cool it would be to do :-)

STEM Challenges

A couple of years ago I started Models for Learning. The company’s tag line is “engaging the students of today to solve the problems of tomorrow.” The mission of the company is to interest and prepare youth for careers in Science, Technology, Education, and Mathematics. Along those lines I have worked on the STEM Challenges model of engagement. A STEM Challenge is an engagement model designed to increase learner interest and preparation in STEM by engaging them in solving real world problems.

Today I came across the STEM Challenges website, a new site created by STEM Net in the UK:

A new initiative to inspire the next generation of British scientists and engineers was launched today (Monday 12 October 2009) on the Olympic Park in London. All secondary schools in the UK are being urged to take part in a series of ten STEM Challenges which encourage pupils to explore the challenges involved in delivering the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and tackle them using science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills.

This sounds really cool and aligned with my idea for stem challenges. Centering challenges around something as interesting as the Olympics, creating a public forum for sharing solutions, and rewarding responses.

Each term there will be a regional winner of the Challenge, chosen by a panel of STEM Ambassadors and online voting by all of the participating schools. Each of the ten regional finalist teams will then go on to compete at national level for a change to win an ‘experience’ prize, related to the Olympics.

I’m interested to see what comes of this. I think similar competitions could be centered around the grand challenges.

Compiling bcrypt-ruby gem for Windows

I am a heretic. I develop Rails apps on Windows. I own a Macbook, but I usually boot it into Windows. Justin thinks I should just should just move to developing on a Mac. I keep holding out. But periodically I try to install a gem that needs to compile native extensions for Windows, and it fails. This just makes me mad. My latest encounter was with the bcrypt gem. I did some googling and finally found a solution:

  1. Dug up my old copy of Visual Studio 6 CDs and installed the command line utilities. Apparently, not just any version will do; you have to be in sync with the version used to compile ruby.
  2. Added VS6’s bin directories to my Windows path. Default install locations are:
    C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio\VC98\Bin;C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio\Common\MSDev98\Bin;

    Alternatively, you can get a command prompt in  C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio\VC98\Bin and run VCVARS32.BAT to add those directories to your path.

  3. Added some typedefs and a function to C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio\VC98\Include\SYS\TYPES.H that are not available on Windows:
    #ifndef _UINT_T_DEFINED
    typedef unsigned char  u_int8_t;
    typedef unsigned short u_int16_t;
    typedef unsigned int   u_int32_t;
    typedef unsigned __int64 u_int64_t;
    #define _UINT_T_DEFINED
    #ifndef snprintf
    #define snprintf _snprintf

Now I can do:

gem install bcrypt-ruby

I get the “Building native extensions. This could take a while…” message and it works!

I’m happy once again. I’m satisfied. And I didn’t even have to change religions.

Presenting at Teachers College Columbia University

I arrived in NYC today with Bob Heal, Jim Dorward, and Patricia Moyer-Packenham. Tomorrow we are making a presentation titled “Using Virtual Manipulatives to Support the Development of Mathematical Understanding” at the Teachers College, Columbia University. Daniel McVeigh has been an advocate of our work with the NLVM for a number of years and arranged for us to come out.

In my part of our presentation I plan to talk about Teacher Training and Curriculum development. Here are some links I plan to use / reference:

Teacher Training. A process I have used with teachers:

  1. Demo a lesson
  2. Discuss / critique the lesson together based on a rubric
  3. Have teachers observe students while the lesson is taught
  4. Debrief the experience
  5. Revise the lesson
  6. Reteach

Training Goals. My goals are for teachers to learn:

  • Content knowledge
  • Instructional strategies
  • Familiarity with using high quality materials
  • Where to find high quality materials
  • Material evaluation / selection
  • Help them enter a community
  • Implementation issues
  • Barriers / workarounds
  • How to adapt existing resources
  • How to evaluate student learning
  • Processes for continuous improvement

Developing Interactive Math Curriculum

When developing curriculum, one of the first thing designed are the elements and structures of design and the processes of design, whether they be ad-hoc or structured. Curriculum design structures include time, learning outcomes, content models, instructional strategies, messages, representations, and media elements such as pages, displays and controls. Important design activities include:

  • analyzing content,
  • identifying desired learning outcomes,
  • recognizing common student errors and difficulties,
  • developing an overarching design,
  • using design tools that allow for quick inexpensive prototyping and iteration,
  • putting off expensive development as long as possible,
  • using modular approaches,
  • expert review,
  • testing with real users,
  • iteration

Considerations for Designing Interactive Math Curriculum

The design of interactive math curriculum should take into account the affordances that the medium can offer. These include efficient rich, dynamic, and linked representations, exploration, simulation of physically in-accessible situations and events, guided practice, immediate feedback, easy revision, recording sharing and replay, collaboration at a distance, linkages to real-time data, data sampling, and complex computation.

Contexts of Use

  • Group presentation – projection, activity, discussion, worksheet
  • Classroom station
  • Computer lab (self-paced, pairs)
  • Home work (self-paced)

Three Levels of Adaptation

  • Activity instructions (via web or worksheet)
  • Problem sequence (via web or instructions)
  • Virtual manipulative (via configuration or code)

Multi-Disciplinary Teams

  • Mathematician – Make sure the concepts / content / terminology / representations are correct
  • Instructional Designer – Translate ideas into concrete technology designs
  • Programmer – Develop virtual manipulatives
  • Educator – Instructional sequences, strategies and types of activities
  • Classroom Teacher – Access to students, anticipate student responses, guide implementation

Some Observations

  • When an interactive model is on the screen, students ignore the text
  • Text must be short and to the point
  • Questions that require responses can help focus attention
  • Transitions (going to lab, setting up equipment, getting people started, etc) waste time and need to be taken into account when designing experiences
  • Always test out exact usage before going live and check again in the morning
  • Developing virtual manipulatives is expensive
  • Leverage existing manipulatives
  • Choose areas where the impact will be greatest
  • Teachers are much more likely to adapt than create activities