Posted in Ecole 42

Assessing away learning

Note: This post builds on Sugata Mitra’s Hole in the Wall study.

How can I get my students to learn on their own, without imposing knowledge on them?

Well, how are you assessing them? Do you give them an exam in which they have to use correct key words to describe a concept? If so, you have already failed.

Education has changed since Pink Floyd weighed in on the issue. But not enough. We are still manufacturing graduates with tools that seem increasingly outdated. Other tools exist and are slowly making inroads in the educational community. Let’s build a framework to classify these theories:

The world of education is coming up with new movements, frameworks and theories to explain how learning occurs or how it should be conducted. Each has passionate supporters and detractors who debate on the effectiveness and inherent appropriateness of one over the other.

Broadly, however, almost all teaching-learning interactions can be classified as one of the following:

  • Those where the teacher or external resource determines the learning content and methodology. ƒ
  • Those where the teacher or external resource determines the learning, in consultation with the learners. ƒ
  • Those where the learners determine their own learning outcomes and how they will go about it.

The last of these encompasses theories such as Piagetian, situated cognition and constructivism.

– Sugata Mitra, 2000

Since I am at Ecole 42, I like to weigh in on what can be done within constructivism. Today we will focus on assessment. Specifically, within the Minimally Invasive Learning framework, how to assess outcomes when students learn on their own (and the teacher does not say anything to interrupt).

Evaluation of outcomes

Outcomes should be measured only in terms of the capability of a learner to perform certain tasks. In MIE the understanding of each learner maybe somewhat different depending on their learning styles and capacity. Therefore, measurement of understanding will not be a correct measure of their capability to use computers.

– ibid

Were you asking for keywords? Then your students cannot learn on their own.

You need to assess in a way that isn’t influenced by students understanding things differently. Don’t ask how the bike works. Ask them to demonstrate. If you’re creative, ask them to get you a bottle of milk at the shop. That shows they can apply what they’ve learnt.

We need to think away assessment as a knowledge checkup. You accidentally end up telling your students how to learn. And thus you imprison their minds.

Let them free. They will get it. And if you really, really, need the keywords, you can always add them later.

Posted in Uncategorized

Grading and learning from mistakes

“Would you really be comfortable being graded by someone who is not an expert in the subject?” a lecturer asked me the other day.

It sounds scary, doesn’t it? Someone who does not know the subject by heart, who is very unlikely to understand the subtler points you are making. Someone who cannot sort the wheat from the chaff and give you your deservedly high grade. Someone who cannot actually certify that you know what you say you do.

“Yes, that happens to me about three times a week.”

Okay, that is an overstatement. Given, most projects at ecole 42 take about a week, and need three to five corrections to get graded. But I don’t finish one project a week. I try to finish a massive project involving four students, six computers, three libraries and one new programming language. It is supposed to take six weeks and I also have exams on my plate. No way I can do things at the ideal rate.

“And don’t they lack the knowledge to assign grades well?”

Here’s the thing. They do, and it is not an issue. At my school, corrections are made by students. Usually they are finishing the next project in the syllabus, so they know what you are supposed to be doing quite well. Sometimes, though, they have just started the cursus and are very much behind. You spend most of the half-hour in your correction explaining the various ideas you used for your project, and they sit there and nod. You better be able to justify everything though; they can still fail you.

“I spend about four minutes grading a two thousand word essay. I read the introduction, get the gist, scan the upper body of text for keywords and look at two or three graphs. I glance over the analysis, size it up for some point, then I read the first part of the conclusion.”

That’s how professionals grade. Now who’s scared? When I learnt that this was how people actually did grading I finally understood why written feedback mostly looks like word bingo. Or astrological prediction. You will meet a dark stranger that will change your life. Your essay is somewhat dense and lacks key context. Provide an example or I call your bluff. You did read it, didn’t you?

“I can see your train of thought here, although in this particular function, if you receive a string that has length zero, your memory allocator will return null, as in it did not allocate any memory, and then your counter will try to access the memory that does not exist. This causes the operating system to signal your program, saying that there has been a memory access error, and your program will exit prematurely.”

I am afraid there has been a misunderstanding somewhere. 42 does not send in untrained students to grade you on a whim. They prime your corrector to be harsh, automatically test every known function and fact, grade you three to five times and fail you if you make a single error. Your corrector is also given a list of things to test, and how to test them. Professionals have an advantage in knowledge, but not in time, and the end grade might be better, but I didn’t learn anything from the process. And I cannot look my grader in the eye and ask

“Why is that wrong and how can I get it right the next time?”

Posted in Journeys, Uncategorized

New York, New York

If there is any place that really makes you think, it is an ex-elevator factory remade in true art deco style, dressed in white and Obama. It is a true hipster pLace, serving craft beer and lattes on draught. Filled with Melbourners, Brazilians and backpacking French and Germans making their way through the Urban Jungle, it also makes a great space to hang out. Cool and not mainstream.

Going to this place, a Taxi driver reminded me of the complicated debate around privilege, entitlement and opportunity. Or, in the words of the taxi driver, “disenfranchisement. ” He pointed out that “you know, before 11 we didn’t care about these… climate, We didn’t see climate as something much important, but recently, you know, the storms, recently, it makes you think.”  Then he told me that “normal people are disenfranchised” and are suffering a crunch. This while we sip our lattes.

Then, on a subway train ride through Harlem at 1 AM (don’t ask ; this is New York ; hostel people) I tried to explain how we look down on other people, and how intellectuals often describe normal people as incapable of understanding. You know, they can just do something about their situation, easy.

An it is true that climbing a few steps is easy, assuming that you get a chance and are not marginalised  because you have committed a crime, done drugs or time. And maybe you’re begging for food scraps because you are lazy. Or maybe you worked in an elevator factory that got turned into a hostel. Either way, you’re screwed now. 

AtAt the hostel we have tons of great people. Dirt poor, some of them and living on air either way. But we have each other. And it is a community that I choose to be part of, every day, actively, as it is amazing. They offer me a stay in Lille, Bermuda, Austin, food, jokes and space just because I’m there. I love those people.

And there is some young uni brat, living within the system and dreaming of becoming a banker, so they can sit on other people and look down. The brats are buggering me for attention, telling me that I have to “work for the team.” And I kindly ask them to sit, obediently, so I can do my job and get them good grades for some lazy teacher and ignorant committee. But, you know, I’d rather travel. Because there you’re not powerless.

So let’s go back to the lazy people. One last time. And I’m not buying your threats this time. Just because you are brats and would never help a starving homeless, doesn’t mean that the world is like that. So stop disenfranchise people and then blame them. Because you yourselves are about to be disrupted. And your buildings don’t go with Art Deco. 

New York, New York. It brings thoughts to your mind, feelings to your body. Mostly of empowerment. Feeling back in the lead of what’s going on. Feeling happy. It is good to know that places open spaces and let you in. It is a gateway to a new world, with a statue guarding it. Let’s make that here for everyone, and let’s make space a bit more mainstream.

So, after putting the final touches on the GCHQ commentary, I am now tasked to write on the changing church attitudes that come with the new pope and its impact on history. It seems like we will now be getting a good pope, a rarity yet an ideal ever since St. Petrus himself had the role, somewhere around two millennia ago. 

For those who cannot wait the mere two weeks before publishing, here’s a quick draft paragraph that may or may not be in the final article. Enjoy:

Being who he is, his actions are stirring up the usual emotions and tears, including the choir of traditionals who seem to believe that he is violating the church’s ideals. Abortion and same-sex marriage are, as well known by now, considered unkindly by (a common interpretation of) the bible. But the book does not primarily speak of such matters, traditional or not, rather, it covers the emotional aspects of life, primarily love and hate. Indeed it develops greatly on “Love thy neighbour” and why you should leave the final judgement to god. The pope’s comments are nothing but a reminder of why the church started in the first place, and a prod to hold those reasons to a higher regard.

It summarises, rather neatly, the main points and gives you an idea of what it’s about. For the rest of the article, I am afraid that you have to wait until it is published on The Student Journals. Until then!

 

Posted in Journeys, Uncategorized

a few words

so this is the moment when its all figured out when we’re already certain and we conquer the world from here on it only gets worse every day until we have passed all the fun in our way

does it have to be like that

for our inner belief in our routine is strong and we already decided the path that were on the path of others that pass us by the path of themselves and i cant tell you why

i am but what i seem to be fit contrast stereotypes perfectly for i am a person and a conflict as such for you that will know me you will know that much

for everyone else the matter is simple i am but a label implied and all simple as simple as such i am but my actions the actions you see that you think is me

i am not that simple and neither are you 

i wish you would remember that

Posted in Adventures

Making it all work

Arriving home at One AM, one could wonder whether this is some sort of youth showoff,  throwing the computer bag casually on the sofa and getting down writing an essay in thirty  minutes. But no, that’s me getting off work, a short week after landing in Ålesund, a small but thriving community along the HurtigRutten trail. A beautiful set of islands in the mouth of a gigantic fjord, framed at both sides with mountains so high their snow-dipped tops never melt, this scenic destination for tourists and backpackers alike (but more so for tourists, the prices are… rich) has now become my home for the summer, when the bars cry for help and the liquor flows.

On a hunch I decided to go there, so as to explore not just the place but my own boundaries.  I had as a goal to find suitable employment within a week; legend states that you can do it in two days, so that seemed fair. And guess what; two days later I was finalizing the deal with Number Two, even though there had been a bank holiday in between (apparently, the second that my father missed when running the dates past him, after Bristol). Unfortunately, few non-living almanacks provide good worldwide coverage over bank holidays, although, after this, it seems like I might just need one.

In either case the whole venture has gone surprisingly well so far, considering that I did not know the place, the occupation (waiter) or the tax system.  Getting a ticket was easy enough. It was all the uncertainties, such as “Will I find work”, “Where to go”, “How much time do I have” that made it so very interesting. For someone who usually has got everything planned in minute details… Well, that’s another story. A bit like this one, just that, as my Croatian friend who had travelled all over Asia pointed out, when you want to go somewhere, you just go. You manage. I hope that’s a lesson that we will now know well.

Posted in Adventures, Journeys

A Bag’s Life

Rrrratch says the bag as it’s being dragged over the metal mesh. Pretty poor treatment for something that’s going to be tucked into a cold, cramped and dry place deep in the belly of a big metal bird. It would probably be much happier standing in a big, fancy shop window. But even the most luxurious palace would not be enough for those who make a life out of being on the move. They rejoice their liberty and take every moment to appreciate the new role as ambassadors of global travel.

Most bags that get out travelling acquire a fresh breeze and plenty of new sights. They get lived out of, making them feel important and getting to help someone in their daily travails. They get to open up a lot even as their internal structure gets revised day after day. Obviously the bag doesn’t mind, it’s just happy to share. But it does help brightening the day of the worn traveller with everything convenient and accessible, while providing new insights in how we live our lives.

Bags also get to notice some oddities along the way. How some people seem to spend their days in splendid riches and how others starve in sticky mud. How they both, in many respects, seem equally happy. They will be confounded by security checks, whom seem to get more concerned with every passing, usually not far from those already starving. Many bags might wonder whether there’s a correlation.

The grass is greener not far away

Though avid travellers, Bags would be surprised to discover that the people travelling with them spend most of their time at home and interact with friends and others only sparingly. They would be baffled at how easily the will to experience and explore is put away, just as easily as they tuck the solemn suitcase back up the attic. They would be equally astonished at how they symbolise movement,  as they find themselves patiently waiting for action most of the time. But for the impatient bag which gets brought down ahead of time, it is all too clear that the live they know isn’t exactly what is expected of their walking companions.

Humans seem to have taken unto themselves the role as guardians of the land and in some aspects taken that role so seriously that it’s now a crime to move on, something that bags do find both laughable and sad. The humans, who themselves invented many new modes of travel, have not taken the heart the lesson that became the bags’ raison d’étrè, that urge to see new sights, live new movements, even live up to your potential. But under the protective umbrella of routine, many humans have tried to take shelter from the winds of change and rain of regrowth.

This staleness, that humans take onto themselves is normally justified by the belief that humans think of themselves as sedentary creatures. Bags disagree, they were built for movement. They stalwartly await the time when humans take the courage to tread new paths and there’s a need for the reminder that what you become is only limited by what you do. Even though a bag might go through a hard time as it is being shuffled around different back seats, never really getting to where it wants, it always retains the hope that bravery in front of the TSA and stalwartness when the thief comes will let the bag get over and ahead, no matter the odds or difficulties.

Nevertheless bags rejoice in the brief moments when people grab them off their stand and brings them out in the world. Even the ones that get left behind at a flight or dragged through the mud feel and experience more than any attic can provide. Has the human learnt something from the bag’s cheeriness when they go along on the pavement (bags’ wheels don’t like grass) in a monotone but happy chugga chugga? One may hope so, as no matter how advanced our culture gets, the bag seems to retain, if not its shape, its intrinsic value in our society. Thus, all change, movement, exploration that we do can, and hopefully will, be summarized in the age-old phrase, “Pack your Bags”, now starts the adventure.

Posted in Skola 42

Warwick

På väg igen, denna gång rullande ut från stationen i Coventry. Det är en ganska kort resa, så jag får hålla det kort. Warwick visade sig vara… intressant. Ingen annanstans, förutom en gång, har jag mött sådan omsorg och hängivenhet till att få dig att lyckas. Att förstå hur du kan ha problem att ta dig dit som en internationell student, att skicka ett personligt brev till dig, även att ta sig tiden, då man dyker upp oannonserad efter att ha tagit en sista-minuten flight över en helg, att diskutera programval, ge tips om studiebelastningen och även erbjuda sig (ansvarig på departementet) att personligen ta tag i min matte-“certifiering”. Det känns verkligen som att de bryr sig på djupet.

Det står i stark kontrast till närliggande Coventry. De tar inte kort på bussen och vägrar till och med att växla en tiopundssedel. Aldrig tidigare har jag blivit -nekad- en busstur på grund av den sortens pengar jag har haft på mig (även fast det blir dyrare i Karlstad). Till slut tog jag mig dock till Campus, där tacksamt nog den resan var över.

Så Warwick, som lovar att ge betydande frihet i de kurser man väljer (utöver vattenkokaren i datasektionens egna kök) skulle verkligen kunna vara en möjlighet ändå (kom ihåg tidigare). Det beror egentligen på vilka trollkonster ansvarig kan utföra, men, det här -är- England och de bryr sig verkligen.

Så vad som kan hända nu är verkligen ute i det öppna, men en möjlig totalförändring runt hörnet. Warwick har verkligen gjort ett bra jobb att visa vad de kommer att ge under tre år; ett solitt stöd som hjälper em dit man själv vill. Det kan vara värt mycket.

Posted in Ecole 42

Warwick

On the move again, this time heading out of the Coventry station. It’s a short ride, so I’ll have to keep it brief. Warwick proved an… interesting experience. Nowhere else, except once, have I met such care and dedication to make you succeed. Understanding how you might have difficulties getting there as an international student, sending you a personal letter, even taking the time, when I show up unannounced after catching a last-minute flight on a weekend, to discuss programme options, give you tips about your course load and even offering (the dean did that!) personally to fix the issue about my math “certification”. At some level, it feels like that, well, they really care.

That stands as a very stark contrast to nearby Coventry. Not only don’t they accept card on the bus, but they won’t change even a tenner. Never before have I been -denied- a ride on the basis of the money I was carrying. But in the end I got to the campus, where nothing of that really existed.

So Warwick, which promises to give significant leeway with which courses you can take, (on top of the water boiler in the faculty kitchen), really could be an option after all (remember yesterday). It all depends on what wisardry the dean could come up with, but, well, this -is- England and they really care.

[Piece Edited Out]

Because of that I am very careful that I choose the right place, and it isn’t just for what they may offer. Warwick was the first place to show me that and that just makes me think. I don’t know and another day will tell, but for now, it might just end up being that.

Gate is open, got to go. Will translate later.

Posted in Resor, Skola 42

Bristol och KTH

Hej Lena! Till slut på hotellet. Vilken resa! Idag har jag hunnit med tre större städer (Bristol: Check) och har varit på stående fot nästan hela tiden. Jag har sett ingenjörssektionen, data (som var låst) och utsidan på lag-fakulteten där den tornar upp sig som ett slott över gatan nedanför. Lite svårt att ta sig runt, då de har ledigt idag. Trots det fanns det inte en enda sittplats då biblioteket var överfullt med studenter som stålsatte sig mot hettan och jobbade mot examen.

 

Bristol är ett väldigt vackert universitet, med ståtliga byggnader och mycket historia. De är kända för deras naturvetenskap och elektronik. I London anses de vara snäppet under Oxbridge och de lägger mycket pengar på både forskning och utbildning. De satsar framåt och hjälper leda England in i informationsåldern.

 

De ställs nu främst mot KTH. Sämre med pengar och mindre stöd så har Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan manuvrerat sig till att bli världsledande inom data, med företag som Skype och Spotify upptänkta inom dess väggar. Få känner till det, i ett okänt land med ett okänt språk men ytterst få kan matcha den entrepenörsanda som skapas av NADA och de möjligheter den leder till.

 

Teknisk Fysik har mer matte än Comp. Science and Electronics som har mer matte än Datateknik. Det är förstås inte avgörande men det är en av de punkter som skiljer dem åt och valet måste falla på något. Även med Warwick’s internationella anda faller just de nog på den punkten, eftersom det är för centralt i allt man gör för att underlåtas.

Det var som konstnären fick veta under resan från Paddington. Ett träd, ett enda träd, har samma förhållande mellan längden på grenar som hela skogen har i längden på träd. Att förstå detta behövs för att måla en skog, samtidigt som det är förståeligt för de som målar. De formler som visar detta är lika vackra när de skrivs ut som de mest vågade skulpturer. Det är konst som är centralt i livet självt.