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?


#moocmooc tagged twitter posts for first six days of MOOC MOOC

** Update Data now complete through midnight Saturday. Tweet count for the final day was 264.

I have been watching the twitter traffic #moocmooc all week. Here is an interactive graph showing daily tweets by time over the six plus days since the MOOC MOOC started. The data is current through ~9:45 am EST on Saturday the 18th.
Continue reading


My #moocmooc twitter saga

I have been trying to participate in the MOOC MOOC on and off all week.  They are relying heavily on twitter as a mechanism to stimulate group interaction and to aggregate information.  This is common practice and is done by including a hashtag such as #moocmooc in all of the tweets you want seen by the group.

I noticed early in the week that some of the tweets I tagged with #moocmooc were not showing up in the stream. As the week progressed, more and more of my tweets failed to show up.  In order to find out why, I submitted the following support ticket:

Regarding: Search and trends
Subject: Tweets on home page but missing in search
Description of problem: My tweets are being posted and are visible on my home page but are not showing up when I search by hashtag or use “from:andrewstaroscik”

This makes it very difficult to participate in group interactions that are dependent on aggregation by hashtag
Full name: Andrew Staroscik
Twitter username: @andrewstaroscik

Notice, it is not just #moocmooc, my tweets don’t even show up in a search of tweets based on my own username.

After a few less than helpful email exchanges, I received this rather dismissive message earlier today:

a_nace, Aug 16 10:16 am (PDT):
Hi andrewstaroscik,

Thanks so much for your email. This article covers common reasons why some Tweets might not be found in search: http://support.twitter.com/articles/66018-i-m-missing-from-search

Please note that to provide the best possible search experience for all users, as well as due to resource constraints, not every Tweet will display in search results. We’re striving to include as many Tweets as possible while keeping search quality high.

Rest assured that your followers will still see all your Tweets and @mentions. The best course of action is to continue tweeting, retweeting and mentioning others to gain resonance amongst your followers so that search results are up to date for your account.

We really appreciate your feedback and I’ve reported it to our team for review.



Twitter Support

I am sharing this partly out of frustration and partly as a cautionary tale to educators enamored with the potential of twitter to promote connectivity. Twitter has great promise, but it is not perfect.  When I figured out that my tweets were not going to show up in the #moocmooc stream, I felt less connected to the community and stopped following the thread.  Not a big deal for me, but it is something educators might what to keep in mind if they are going to rely on hashtags in distance learning. Novice twitterers may be especially vulnerable to exclusion.

For some reason, the twitter filter algorithm has deemed my use of the #moocmooc hashtag as inappropriate.

Funny that the spammers are not having any trouble getting through.

And… none of this explains why “from:andrewstaroscik” gives flawed results.






#moocmooc first three days of activity based on tweet abundance

Here is an update of yesterday’s graph containing the first three days of activity binned in 15 minute intervals.

Spam started appearing in the thread midday yesterday and accounts for some of the increased traffic in day’s 2 and 3, but I have not tried to figure out how much.

Interesting that the 10 pm (est) video discussion replaced the the 6 pm social hour on day three.

click image to enlarge

Stats for the first three days:

  • 865 tweets on day one (Sunday)
  • 1100 tweets on day two (Monday)
  • 1084 tweets on day three (tuesday)
  • As of 4 pm EST on day four there were over 100 more tweets than there were at the same time on either of the previous two days.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Spamming is increasing traffic
  • There is an bug in the twitter search system that is preventing some tweets (including most of mine) from showing up in the #moocmooc data.

#moocmooc wordle Aug 8 – Aug 14 2012

Three more wordle using all the tweet data tagged with #moocmooc since August 8th through about 9 am this morning.

The first was generated using the same criteria as the one generated yesterday. The data for this was pulled at around noon EST on Wednesday:

click image to enlarge

follow this link view on the wordle site

The second one is based on the same set of tweets but all of the @usernames were removed to reveal the most common words:

click image to enlarge

follow this link view on the wordle site

Finally this one shows the most active tweeters. This is drawn from the same 3478 tweets using only the user names of each tweet. The largest names generated the most tweets. Wordle splits words at underscores, so I had to remove all underscores. This means names such as chris_friend show up as chrisfriend.

click image to enlarge

follow this link view on the wordle site

About the data:

  • Based on 3478 tweets with the hashtag #moocmooc
  • mooc, #moocmooc, @moocmooc, RT and variations were removed
  • About 900 of the tweets were retweets

snapshot of activity at #moocmooc using tweet abundance

I am intrigued by the potential for twitter activity to indicate engagement and participation in a cMOOC. It is too soon to tell, but if twitter is a good indicator of participation, what will happen to tweet abundance and average tweet per person over the course of the short week long moocmooc course?

It is too soon to tell, but here is a first snapshot of twitter activity binned in 15 minute intervals by day from August 8th through 1:30 pm EST today, August 14th. The course officially started on August 12th.

click image to enlarge

So far tweet activity is increasing day over day.

There were 869 tweets on day one and 1108 tweets on day two. Day three is not over yet, but tweet’s are up by about 10% over the same time yesterday.

The daily twitter socials are quite apparent in the data. There were 504 tweets between 5:30 and 6:30 on Sunday and 554 tweets over the same two hour interval on Monday.


#moocmooc wordle Aug 8 – Aug 13 2012

Wordle: #moocmooc Aug 8 - 13 2012I am intrigued by the potential to pull information about the current moocmooc by mining twitter data. Instead of contributing to the collaborative google documents yesterday, I worked to wrap my brain around the data api’s offered by Twitter. Here is my first pass at playing with the data:

A wordle from all tweets tagged with #moocmooc between Aug 8th and earlier this morning ( ~8 am Aug 14th EST).

it contains2108 tweets. I removed over 5000 mentions of “mooc” and “moocmooc” and 1029 incidences of the term “RT” because these terms dominated the visualization.

A set of @’s dominate the image. One interpretation is that we are using a diverse vocabulary targeted at a small number of participants.

Click on the centered image to see a larger, more crisp version of the image.
Click on the thumbnail at the top left to see the java version at the wordle site
Click here to see the raw text I used to create the image.