All posts by Mike Deutsch

Crypto for high schoolers

At one of our recent Kids Code Jeunesse meetings, my friend, high school programming teacher Stuart Spence (see his site and his YouTube channel) was telling us about what his students are into.

One of the things they get most excited about–especially, he says, the girls–is cryptography. They think it’s really cool that they can use their just-beginning programming skills to reverse-engineer passwords and crack codes and stuff like that.
Continue reading Crypto for high schoolers

Education reading list for 2015

Via my friends Andrea and Adam over at inov8 Educational Consulting, here’s a list of interesting 2015 Edu books, published by Australia’s informED ed-tech-pedagogy blog.

I would personally skip the two about higher ed “disruption,” since nobody really knows how much of that (for-profits, MOOCs, finance/tuition reform, etc.) will stick—and, frankly, the blurbs are an embarrassing mix of hype and misunderstanding. From The End of College, for example: will the “traditional meritocracy” really be “upended” in the end? Who would describe the US college system as a “meritocracy” in the first place? It just goes downhill from there…

Some more promising books on this list, by my own reading of the descriptions:

Using Evidence of Student Learning to Improve Higher Education by George D. Kuh and Stanley O. Ikenberry. I cite this one because I’ve seen university teaching & learning be directly influenced by research, training, and classroom design. It’s definitely true that strong teachers and strong classes can be made, and it’s worth universities consciously investing in this.

Making Classrooms Better: 50 Practical Applications of Mind, Brain, and Education Science by Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa. This one interests me for my own application as a teacher and a geeky parent of school-age kids. It starts with cross-disciplinary scientific background and then touches on a range of practical topics, from classroom climate to metacognitive skills and mindfulness.

What Connected Educators Do Differently by Todd Whitaker and Jeffrey Zoul. In 2014 I read Elizabeth Green’s Building a Better Teacher and came away convinced that way we leave teachers isolated in North America, with a (well or poorly designed) curriculum on a page and no community of practice, simply doesn’t make any sense. I immediately thought of teaching Computational Thinking in North America—an obvious place where we can start to build a better system. I’d be interested to see what Whitaker and Zoul have to say about social media and professional development.

These are, on the surface anyway, practical and grounded in good research and analysis. Not all are published just yet; post a comment if you’ve read any of them (or plan to).

Was object-oriented programming a failure? – Quora

From the discussions in my Quora digest recently, a brilliantly simple and cheeky question:

 “Was object-oriented programming a failure?”
( free signup required to see the whole thread)

Note the use of the past tense. You gotta love trolling for Java apologists.

To be fair, you gotta love trolling for Python believers too. The difference, of course, is that the Python believers are usually right. 🙂

If you read the Answers, there are some very thoughtful critiques . The best of them seem (my favorite is by Joe Wezorek) to conclude that Object Orientation is a useful way of thinking about certain things – but maybe is a relic of the past, developed as a good response to the specific kinds of software problems that were prevalent in the 1980s, and probably gets used too abstractly and too blindly to be called good practice.

Another good response (by John Colagioia) appreciates the fact that Object Orientation provides some useful scaffolding: “You might not end with a great design, but you can have a passable design if you ‘implement every noun as an object, every verb as a method, every adjective and adverb as a condition.'” I can get behind that.

But the over-abstraction that we see in some languages–and really, this may just be because it’s being poorly understood and taught–is a real stumbling block to having more people become coders, and having our existing coders be expressive with their work.

My own opinion is that the over-abstraction may just be a natural interaction that happens when engineering meets the corporate business world. You end up with people who think a certain way about process and content and how they should work in the world, and before you know it, you’ve got a gospel that turns an otherwise creative, dynamic act (programming) into an exercise in over-architecture and bloat.

But my favorite bits are still the ones where the Java folks get teased.

Ooh, tough crowd

Just for fun, while I have Part II of Why, Exactly, Teach Coding? simmering on the back burner:

A few years ago I helped a couple of colleague friends do some really interesting analysis of university Course Evaluations. I caught up with them today as they were gearing up to revisit that project and relaunch it with some changes.

In the spirit of that, and Jimmy Kimmel’s “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets”, here’s a great little clip from Lehigh University: profs reading mean reviews from Rate My Professors.

Enjoy. 🙂

Why, exactly, teach coding?

So here we are, in another generation of Let’s teach programming to kids.

We’ve got Scratch, Tynker, Hopscotch, ThimbleMinecraftEdu, Codea, and many, many others — great ways for kids to get their feet wet with programming and building digital things.

Pick up the Education section of any newspaper or magazine these days and you’ll see a profile of someone who’s either teaching kids to code, or building a foundation or a policy to support someone who is. It’s a wave.

But this isn’t the first one. And this time, just as before, it’s worth asking why, exactly, teaching kids to code is so important.

If you’re part of this enterprise, what makes you so sure this is worth it? And how do you convince others they should join in?

Continue reading Why, exactly, teach coding?

A first word

As a simple introduction to Freshman Labs, I’ll paste my About blurb into a post.

I look forward to meeting new people and discussing the issues of the day… and getting this long-running internal commentary out of my head and onto paper. Sometimes it’s like Statler & Waldorf in here. 🙂

From the About page:


 

Hi, I’m Mike Deutsch, a 15+ year veteran in the Tech and Education worlds and a product of (and contributor to) several generations of “oh, this is gonna change everything!” … Over time I’ve learned to take those with a grain of salt, but I remain curious and optimistic and eager to do my part for good technology & learning in the world.

I’m based in Montreal, Canada, and Freshman Labs is a place where I think about, play with, and provoke the fields of Education and Technology from interesting angles.

Among the topics I’m likely to talk about:

  • Pedagogy – how people learn, and how best to teach in order to engender learning; especially of mathematical & technical subjects
  • Schools – curricula, school models, professions, etc. I’ve worked in or alongside K-12 and Higher Ed for many years and think about these a lot.
  • Analytics & Visualization – i.e., how to turn the inner workings (, data, records) of a system into something the eyes & brain can readily understand.
  • Trends and waves that build, pass by, or crash, in Technology & Education.
  • Usability – design and philosophy behind making tools (specifically technological ones) useful and dependable.
  • Business concepts behind or related to Education and Tech.

In other settings you can find me as myself (linkedin@mdeutschmtl); as the founder of The U of Me (www,@theuofme, US college admissions); and as a Startup Dad (www,@startupdads).