Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mini-monsoon does not stop attendance at APCS Principles Class; Podcasts available too

For those of you still curious about details of the content of the APCS Principles pilot course, I am very pleased to be able to point you to where you can see and hear podcasts of every lecture. Go to the podcast site at UCSD and look under the course list for CSE3 - Fluency/Information Technology. You can click through to a listing of all of the course lectures and pick which one you want. You are able to hear instructor Beth Simon and see the slides she puts up, complete with her interactive note-taking on them during class. You can experience some of the interesting and innovative pedagogic techniques I have been discussing.  

If you have never listened to a Podcast there are instructions available for you to read about how to do it. Generally class podcasts come down shortly after the course completes to make room for new course podcasts, so if these interest you, don't wait until January!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. In two weeks the students will be taking their midterm. One of the pedagogic goals Beth has is to do everything possible to help students prepare for the midterm. She is thinking about, and has begun to implement, some strategies.

Beth has been encouraging students to utilize all the resources available to help them since the beginning of class, and yesterday she took things one step further. She used the technique of clicker questions to ask the students to click in about how they  felt they were doing in the course - with the promise that no one was going to look at the individual responses. She asked them [brief paraphrase] "How are you doing?" and the choices were [also slightly paraphrased for brevity]:

a) Doing fine, I totally understand this stuff
b) Doing fine, I have had to work at it, but I'm pretty sure I get the concepts
c) Not sure I know the concepts as well as expected
d) Pretty lost
e) Have no idea

Note that grades had been posted a few days before so that students could see their personal cumulative progress from the point of view of their instructor. They were also able to see the course distribution and compare where they were in relation to the rest of the class. Armed with that information, they were now asked to report spontaneously how they felt they were doing.

The responses, as percentages, were as follows:
a) 8%
b) 36%
c) 39%
d) 10%
e) 7%

Though these percentages are opinions, which are influenced by various factors (confidence, self expectations, were they paying attention to the question?) they give everyone something to mull over.

Beth would like to see an additional 20% in the b range on this question. So she reinforced then and there the resources available to students - of which there are many. Many alive and breathing resources. Beth spoke more about the best ways to prepare for the exam - practically giving it away by telling them (not for the first time) that the exam would be based in great part on the interactive clicker questions they worked on during every class. These questions cover content, as well as design, debugging and abstract thinking skills. Students are able to return (via the podcasts and hardcopy access to slides) to the clicker questions and re-take them live.  Not just look at the question and answer. Clicker success rates on questions are going up although Beth would like to see them consistently at the 90% success range. Beth even said that she would be lonely in office hours if no one came - which created smiles across the lecture hall.

This brings up another point. All the evidence indicates that the students love coming to class. We are having very weird weather for October in San Diego. Normally at this time of year we are dealing with the famous Santa Ana winds and threat of wildfire. It rarely rains in October. Well, it has been raining. And raining. And raining. Yesterday there was a deluge reminiscent of living in the Pacific Northwest (I feel qualified to say that, having lived there). Umbrellas? Who has umbrellas here? Nonetheless, the lecture hall was filled - Beth can verify this numerically because she can see on her personal display how many students are in the lecture halls via the clicker registrations. Students came out for class and were as dynamic and engaged as ever (although damp).

While she works on the issue herself, Beth would also love to hear any creative advice (via this Blog) about what to tell students to do to help themselves prepare for the midterm.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting the podcasts. Very interesting to follow!