Wednesday, August 14, 2013

ICER Day 3: Theory in Practice via Food

When the inside of the brownies are uncooked it is theoretically much easier to not eat them. Unlike for pepperoni, the theory that removing the bits of sausage from the surface will result in the elimination of the meat from the pizza proves to be incorrect. Fortunately, three days of incredibly stimulating theoretical and applied discussions at ICER have prepared me to apply my newly primed computational thinking skills to the task of applying some of the theoretical constructs we learned in a greater context.

Were I to assess the brownie/sausage learning experience via an Active-Constructive-Interactive Framework (attributed to Chi and discussed as part of Quintin Cutts talk) in conjunction with Peer Instruction (PI) I would have to design a PI-centered analysis such that we moved through the Passive Stage (stare at the offending food items) to the Active Stage (cautiously pick up the offending food items) to the Constructive Stage (wrap the pizza around the brownie taco-style) to the Interactive Stage (turn to my friend and offer to trade my sausage brownie taco for her broccoli) while sending an unhappy message about the brownie via Clicker to the Dining Services food database. The pizza mess up was totally my own doing.*

If I assess the brownie/sausage learning experience while holding a Theory View of food choices I would decide that whether or not to eat raw dough and invisible sausage bits was only relevant if the problem was not NP Complete. If, conversely, I held a Programming View I would write a Python program to compare and contrast the tradeoffs of not eating at all vs. eating food that bordered on the undigestible. If however, I held a Broad View, I would pause and evaluate at length the possible origins of the dough, the sausage, the intermingling of ingredients as the two situate on the same plate, and the effect upon the ecosystem if they pass through my body or go straight into the trash bin.**

In the event that I approach the entire episode from an experiential perspective and applied the Zones of Proximal Flow theory (as presented in Alex Repenning's talk) I would take stock first of the momentary Anxiety I felt after I swallowed the solid lump of dark dough and felt the greasy sausage remainders sliding down after it. Then, as I became accustomed to this challenging experience and realized I could perhaps leverage the unwanted protein and sugar in new ways, I would make a mental note that I was in Vygotsky's ZOPED (Zone of Proximal Development). With the assistance of an experienced wise person, I could be scaffolded into a state of Flow (as made famous by Csikszentmihalyi), buzzing along with full attention on the post-lunch presentations and discussions - totally unaware of the nutritional experience taking place below. Much later, after I had fully mastered the experience of the afternoon I might find myself Bored. I'm happy to say that never happened. Although if I had I might have been challenged to eat something even more offputting and start the whole process over again.***

And so it goes. It was no doubt the depth and solidity of much of the research we heard over the last three days that led to so many members of the audience feeling happily brain fried. Whether presenting quantitative statistical results or rigorous qualitative analyses, or while engaging in dynamic give and take with a sometimes hard core questioner, the bar remained high.  Ray Lister, who is known for his willingness to say it like it is, made the point quite well when he said how much he hates claims that begin with "In my experience...." Ray called this The Yoda Argument. Brownies aside, Yoda was not present at ICER 2013. Yet we had a heck of a lot of fun while we learned - good pedagogical theory seen in action.

*(with sincere apologies to Quintin Cutts who, I hope, will forgive these unwarranted extensions of his rigorous and compelling work on engagement in the university computing classroom)
**(with full apologies to Mike Hewner who presented these Views of Computer Science as the heart of his research results, with absolutely no intention they be applied in this manner)
***(more apologies, this time to Alex Repenning who gave an incredibly  fascinating and solidly supported research talk on integrating computing into the middle school classroom with absolutely nothing remotely resembling unsound nutrition)

*****Overall the food was wonderful!!!!! Just want to make sure I said that***** 

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