Ed Startup 101 collaborative activity – follow up

Proposed directions for a Ed Startup 101 space collaborative activity can be found in this google document.

If I have set it up properly, anyone with the link to the document can post comments without signing into google. If you would like editing privileges, give me the email address associated with your google account and I will add you as an author. You can send it to @andrewstaroscik on twitter, @andrewstaroscik on the edstartup 101 site or via my blog contact form.

This is just a draft. Please feel free to suggest modification to the assignment.

I’d like to finalize the assignment by EOD Monday and have the collaborative activity completed by Thursday or Friday of this week.


I do not trust DreamBox

As a parent who watched DreamBox fail to teach my daughter simple mathematical concepts I don’t trust DreamBox. I have not given the program much thought recently, but reading this teacher’s description of DreamBox on edsurge brought the memory of my experience back to the forefront of my mind:

The more help a teacher gives the student, the less the program is able to identify what the student truly knows. So, although teachers may be inclined to explain activities to students, this somewhat diminishes the functionality of the program.

Can an algorithm identify what a student really knows? No software should make a teach feel like they need to get out of the way and let the program do its job. This is not appropriate use of technology. Especially in early grades. The comment resonates because is matches exactly how I felt watching my own daughter work with DreamBox. Any help I offered, moved her through the exercises too quickly and was not welcomed by her.

My final, sincere effort to give DreamBox a chance involved packing boxes. Packing boxes is the abstraction they chose to illustrate base 10 notation. In the activity, students click and drag individual objects to pack them into a box. Once a box is filled, the box moves to another area of the screen, leaving the remaining objects to be packed into another box. Each box holds 10 items. If you have three full boxes plus four items left over, you have 3 in the tens place and 4 in the ones place: 34 items.

Sounds great, BUT it did not work. My daughter got the abstraction right away. She could pack boxes like no ones business. Click-drag, click-drag, click-drag, click-drag, click-drag, click-drag, click-drag, click-drag, click-drag, click-drag. Full box. Move it over. Repeat until you get a star. The problem was that she never recognized the importance of a full box holding exactly 10 items. The assessment was ineffective, her ability to pack boxes allowed her to pass on to the next level without understanding base 10 notation.

Of course, without actually learning what she was supposed to learn she was completely unable to do the next level of activities. After watching her struggle for a while, I did some adaptive teaching. I turned off the computer and found a different way to make sure she understood base 10 notation.

Abstractions are ubiquitous in education. I use many in my own teaching. When they work, they work well. However, they can also get in the way. I see this all the time. As an instructor, part of my job is to gauge student understanding, recognize when a particular abstraction is not working and be ready with an alternative.

This is what I did two years ago when DreamBox could not and did not adapt to my daughters situation. Younger students do not need adaptive learning, they need adaptive teaching.

Who is working on that?


A question for the Ed Startup 101 participants

I took part in the Mooc about Mooc’s earlier this month. It was only one week long, but in that short time the facilitators managed to create a strong sense of community among the participants.

They did this, in part, by giving a relatively open ended assignment on Monday then breaking us into groups of 50 to work collaboratively on shared google docs. The submission of the documents was followed by a lively twitter social hour.

It was fast, chaotic and disorganized, but it created a sense of community and resulted in some nice collaborative artifacts in the form of the google documents.

Next weeks assignment for the Ed tech 101 class offers an opportunity to explore The Ed Tech Startup Space as a group. Working in groups will give us the opportunity build some connections and gain a better feel for where each of us are coming from.

One idea would be to follow the MOOCMOOC model: break into groups and address an open ended question such as “what is an ed tech startup?”

Alternatively we could form groups to look at some or all of the nine companies listed in the space page through the filters we are going to use on our own ideas later in the course (idea, pain, solution etc).

Anyone interested in doing this? Leave a comment here or on the Ed Start up site.