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This week I read a post called, “9 truths that computer programmers know that most people don’t.“, by Macleod Sawyer .
Below is a summary of Mr. Sawyer’s nine points about programmers and programming, and by the way, he is 17 years old.
1. …the funny thing about code, the website or program may work beautifully, it may run smoothly, and it may be absolutely beautiful on the front-end side (what the user sees). But, behind everything that makes it work it will have so many errors, and work arounds that barely work and that shouldn’t work, but do for some strange reason.
2. 25% of the time involved in programming …we have to sit back and think of how the end-user will end up MESSING it up. (Macleod used an unneeded explicative term, I kindly replaced it and hope in the future he chooses to reserve these for serious situations).
3. A programmer is one who deals with algorithms and design principles, not the one who repairs a computer. We may know how the internal workings of a computer work, how code fits together (or rather hacked together as I explained in Fact #1). But, that does not mean we know how to fix hardware.
4. Most of programming is spent sleeping, walking around, staring out the window, or doing anything else that helps you relax and think. Relaxing is a major key to programming, it’s not just sitting down and writing a thousand or more lines or code, and pushing out a program or app. We have to sit down, walk around, and just think.
5. This is important in every programmers life. Counting starts at 0 – your “1” is my “0”, your “10” is my “9”. The reason why this is because computer programming is all about efficiency, and even small improvements in efficiency can make big differences at scale.
6. Ever wondered why programmers are known as nightbirds? Why we stay up all night? Because it allows us to get into the zone, it allows us to focus on one thing and not have to worry about being interrupted by someone – because they are all asleep.
7. If you have a problem you are told to sleep on it, forget it, put your mind at rest. But, with programmers its the go to way to solve the problem not because it gets us away from it, but because it for whatever reason helps us solve the problem with our code.
8. Programs are written like a hierarchy. With the parent managing the processes below them.
9. Just as you’re usually not impressed when we brag about how much we know about computers, we’re not impressed when you brag about how little you know about them.
When I read these, and all the comments, I realized that I agreed with 100% of the points. I also saw many other experienced programmers commenting and agreeing. These points apply to any type of work related to programming or systems design.
As I pondered these, I reflected on education and curricula. I asked myself, as I am now asking YOU, “does [my] your school and curriculum actually facilitate students being able to work and solve problems?”
It is clear that the requirements are time, space, and distraction. The requirements do not fit into a schedule, yet, programmers work on intense personal deadlines.
In the past few years there have been massive initiatives related to programming. For example in Estonia, they are starting all students in programming from year 1. Next year in the U.S. State of Arkansas they are requiring programming at all public schools at the high school level. The question is, do these initiatives actually allow students to go beyond simple in-class programming structures and actually make something? Do they allow them to experience the horror and magic of putting a piece of code out into the world to watch it live, die, or thrive?
Anytime a student speaks-up like this, everyone needs to listen. In his article he has some good quotes to connect his thoughts to professional practice. For the before morning coffee crowd, that means he did research.
His 17 year old world view on this topic, is my view. I go to work every morning. Do I work? Yes. I do certain things in the morning so that I can actually start being creative in the late afternoon or evening. I can’t write a line of code, even HTML, before 10 am unless I have stayed-up all night and am wired in.
From 8PM – 3AM I can do more productive work than I can in 16 hours of a normal work cycle.
Admittedly, I only have to do programming certain times of the month. I have a diverse job, so I do not mind the schedule, and I work with people who must be ready to work by 7:30 am, so if I am to support them I have to be alert and ready.
I save big programming projects for holidays and weekends because I need to be able to slide out of the constraints of my contract and get lost in the problem. I wonder what would happen if just a few students had that flexibility and were allowed to see the whole year of curriculum in June (assuming an August start)? What if the solved it, did it all in the summer, and did it well? It is something to consider.
Also, most of YOU cannot count. When I help students with math, I tell them to count from 0-1. I also tell them if they do it correctly it will take them forever. I learned this from programming, and that single concept helps me reach students more than any other.
Enjoy contemplating that.
Still not interested in technology? Still think that technology is impersonal and keeps people from connecting with one another? The video above shows just how important and how technology can change lives and connect people in various ways. Love it!
This is a great video to show students to show them that technology just isn’t hiding behind a computer and pounding away on a keyboard. Check out how people are helping each other at the Collective Project and the Limbitless Solutions.
A whitelist is a a list of users, IP address, etc. that have permission to do something, and a blacklist is just the opposite. For example, organizations routinely blacklist websites that employees should not use.
In a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) model, schools are often faced with the issue of how much they should or should not manage devices and user access. Due to the cost of many management solution, and the choice of BYOD for the sake of resources and budgets, schools often cannot afford corporate level BYOD security systems.
Many schools choose to use their firewalls, Wifi Controllers, and other core components to create user access lists using MAC addresses, leased IPs, and whitelists/blacklists of users. Most of this work is done manually, so having a good strategy is extremely important for efficiency and human resource management.
The key issue is to decide what your philosophy is. Are you going to punish or are you going to reward? Another way to state that would be, “is good network behavior going to earn a student freedom?”.
I believe if a school chose BYOD, and they did so for reasons other than saving money, the school should adhere to the principles that BYOD supports, such as independence, self -management, and self-reliance. If the school adheres to these positive principles, then the goal should not be to directly manage devices, unless a student violates school policy. The goal would be to use a blacklist system to manage those students who continually fail to manage their devices and fail to behave properly.
Deciding, without cause, to lock down the property someone else owns (even a student) is not a core principle of a good BYOD program. That is a core principle of program that needs resources and simply does not want to buy them. Locking down systems also means focusing massive amounts manpower into a process that is disconnected from teaching and learning. Anytime people in a school spend most of their time not working toward education, there is going to be an opportunity cost paid by the students.
As technology diversifies, and students are flooded with entertainment and pointless apps, the options for regulation become limited. Access to the Internet at school might be a privilege, but students equipped with small high-speed mobile devices can choose to by-pass a school network in order to achieve whatever goals they have.
Obviously this type of circumvention will disconnect them from their teachers and learning resources. Choosing to whitelist students by directly managing their personal equipment, will spark their urge to deploy their mobile options.
Allowing student freedom, until they push to the bounds of the school’s AUP (Acceptable Use Policy) to far, is normally seen as a reasonable response by most students. The student community as a whole will always want some management and protection from theft, fraud, and other malicious behaviour. Therefore blacklisting students who act maliciously and giving other students as much freedom as possible will strengthen the BYOD community and various initiatives,
I don’t like LiveBinders – period. I think it is a lousy way to share online resources with people. However, I do like Blendspace. If you have a bunch of online resources to share with your class (or anyone for that matter) then look no further than Blendspace to fulfill your needs. Here is the quick review, it is very visual, easy to organize and easy to add materials. Other people can contribute and you can share it in a variety of ways, even print it out if you want! Still unsure – then keep reading to get my full review. I think you’ll find it a great resource as well.
I don’t know why I do this section anymore. It is dead simple to sign up for Blendspace (and just about any other service). On the homepage in the top right hand corner you have an option to login or sign up. Click the Sign Up button.
Then it will ask if you’re a teacher or a student – I obviously picked teacher.
Then it asks for the same old information as any other site, or if you have a Google account or a Facebook account – you can sign up with that which makes it even easier.
If you sign up with your Google account, it will ask you for permission and I imagine the same is true with your Facebook account.
When you login you are welcomed to this very simple to navigate screen.
Here you can find lessons you’ve made, lessons that have been shared with you and featured spaces. Of course this where you would go to create new lessons as well. I love the fact that everything is just a click away. No need to dig and click and explore. Nope – you can find it all in a click which is great. It makes the learning curve of such a service very manageable and even those people who are afraid of time vampires (programs/systems that take a long time to learn) can feel comfortable and at ease.
Creating a lesson
Blendspace calls their spaces lessons. To create your first lesson, click on the New Lesson button. Blendspace will take you to a new window where you will see six empty cells – this is the bulk of the workspace. On the right hand side is where you can add/search for content (more on that later) and of course there is a place where you can add a title.
For this example we are going to make a lesson about creating podcasts. To add your first resource look to the search area along the far right hand side. Here, Blendspace gives you quick access to a bunch of resources such as:
– Google (images by default)
– Google Drive
– Upload your own file or link to a website and more
Once you pick a service, just search and then drag it over. Check it out in the badly pixelated GIF below – watch it to the end :)
Now repeat the process over and over again until your lesson is complete.
Another nice feature is the ability to enter notes and descriptions for each resource in your lesson. This is especially helpful when the resource may just be an image or something that looks like it is from left field.
Another nice feature about Blendspace is the ability to create classes. This is how you share specific lessons with specific people easily and quickly. To create or view your classes, select Classes from the dashboard.
When you get to your classes page, you have two options. You can create a class or view your current classes code and members. To create a class, simply give it a name and click the Add Class button.
When you create a class Blendspace will automatically give you a code. Give that code to students or other teachers. For a person to join they will need a Blendspace account first though.
You also have the options to show all your students your lessons. Now this does not mean they can edit them though.
Collaborating and sharing lessons
OK – I really like all the other features of Blendspace but this is the one that puts it over the top for me. The ability to share lessons and to allow others to collaborate.
I’m going to go ahead and open up my Podcast lesson. Let’s say I want to share it with a class and I want someone to be able to collaborate on this lesson with me. What I need to do first is click the Share button near the top.
Now I get this great sharing box. Here I can easily share it with any of my classes by just clicking it. There is no save or refresh button, it just happens in real time – very cool. You can even easily share it to your Edmodo class, Twitter, Facebook, etc. To be clear, when you share a lesson, those people can view it, not edit it.
Now I want to share it with another educator because we are teaching the same unit. To do this I just click on the Collaborate button. Then I add their email.
The person (or people) will get an email. All they need to do is log into Blendspace to find the lesson added to their list and they can then start working. Here is what is so awesome here. Whenever someone makes a change in Blendspace, everyone will see it in real time. It just updates – automatically!! No need to logout or refresh the page. It just happens. SWEET!! :o
One more option is the ability to change the privacy of. It’s pretty straight forward and not confusing about how that works. Check out the image below.
I’ll touch on these briefly. Blendspace has some other nice features such as changing the theme (gray or colored tiles). Both look good in my opinion. You can also change the templates which is just the design. So if you don’t like the squares in a grid set up you have some choices.
You can also present your resources in a slideshow format by clicking on the Play button at the top and even print out a PDF version of your lesson. It’s pretty simple but effective when talking with a class or team. The print out is not bad either, because it has all the original URL’s for the links and a QR code to quickly go to the lesson itself.
Using it in class
Obviously, you can collect resources and then share it out to your students but there are other uses too. What if you’re planning a unit with your team? This would be a great place to collect, collaborate and share out resources.
Students doing a research project? This is also a good organization tool. Often students get too much information or not enough. Here, you the teacher can actually take a look of what they have collected and have a very good idea of the state of their paper or where they are going with it.
If you are looking for ways to share links and online resources with your students or colleagues – this is your solution. There are plenty of choices out there but you (like me) want something that is easy to organize, not a vomitous mass of links, and is visually appealing. I can’t think of anything better than Blendspace for this task. Whether you agree or not, put it in the comments below.
Also, check out my Blendspace below to get an idea of what it can do for you.
I’m not kidding damn it. Don’t even think about it. If you are, then you need to splash some cold water on your face, shake your head vigorously from side to side or visit your school nurse and breathe in some smelling salts. In other words wake up!
Despite the title, I’m not just talking about the Watch either. I figured with the big Apple event the other night the title was timely. No, I’m talking about Android Wear or any other smart watch out there as well.
The good news is, I don’t think many of you out there are even foolish enough to consider about incorporating such a device into your classroom – good for you. Now on for the arguments.
Fitness? Give me a break
The most obvious use of smart watches in school is for PE class. Whatever-I’m not against wearables in class. I think using a heart rate monitor in PE class is a valuable, but you can get them far cheaper than the $350 USD the Watch goes for or the cheaper $200 USD Android wear watches are going for these days.
Also, read the reviews on these watches – they all have accuracy issues. Whether it be heart rate, distance, altimeter, they all seem off by a bit. Why invest all that money in something that is going to return less than precise data?
Even if schools do go for a fitness device, there are plenty out there that are $100 or less.
Charging will be a nightmare
These devices usually have their own proprietary charing cables. Which means if one goes kapoot or ends up missing, you have to order one. You can’t just jog down to your local Wal-Mart and pick one up. This will be leaving you out in the cold for a few days.
Also, the batteries on these devices are not very good. You’ll be charging them … all … the … time. This is a pain and one must have constant vigilance with this too. If not you will find yourself needing them and they won’t be ready. Take it from someone who has managed laptop carts.
I can use it as a stopwatch
I won’t even engage in that argument it is so ludicrous. NEXT!
I can control my presentations
OK – how lazy are you? Really? Maybe you’re not lazy, but this is lazy. Just use a wireless mouse, your smartphone or time your presentation. There are plenty of other, more sensible solutions to clicking the spacebar on your computer.
They are sooooo pretty
I will say this – as a device they are fairly attractive and small and I can see kids “accidentally” walking off with them. Ooops! It’ll happen – trust me. It will not matter if your students are rich or poor – someone will get bold and try to steal one. Being small, all it will take is someone with a good plan, a good distraction and some quick hands to walk away with one.
It’s a personal device
With computers and smartphones there are ways you can engage groups of people or quickly share information. Smart watches are not that device – at least not yet. You are extremely limited what you can do and how you can communicate with a group of people. The main audience of a smart watch is the wearer in most cases. Not for a group of people.
My students want to use it as a BYOD
No, no, nononononononon. Two questions for you. Can they type on it, can they render a full webpage on it? Argument over.
Wrapping it up
These devices are pretty impressive and it seems to me that industries are trying their hardest to find the “iPhone for wearables”, but it is very far from being a meaningful device in a classroom. I know there are plenty of you tech lovers out there who are shaking your head as you read this, but all I have to do is ask myself this. How does this help my students learn and is that learning meaningful? If I struggle to find an answer or have to convince myself of that the answer is a good one, then I probably should be looking elsewhere.
Yep – I am calling it. Put it in your books people the role of integration specialists in schools will disappear sure as the sun sets everyday. Now, I know and have known integration specialists and I am here to tell you that these people are smart, hard working and a big help to the school. However, their role just won’t be there in the future. I’m not sure exactly when this will happen but read on to hear my analysis.
The next generation
In a school, when people start talking about technology integration and they talk about people who are resistant or need more assistance than others they are, mostly they are talking to the aging members of their staff. This is not always, but it certainly seems to be the implication.
Newer (or younger teachers if you will) walk into a role where the expectation is to use technology to be a big part of their class. Now, whether these newer teachers actually possess the skills to do this on day one or not is another story. However, they do have the advantage of starting fresh. They’re not getting rid of an older system for a newer one. They are starting with the “newer one.” This is helpful and as these systems change or transition to newer systems, the adjustments are not as difficult to make as to learning something new that is replacing an aging system.
With more and more teachers feeling more comfortable with technology, the demand for another teacher to push-in or help with tech planning just won’t be as necessary in the future. In an ideal situation, teachers will be collaborating with one another nearly seamlessly and working together to build units that are rich in content that leverages technology and its many benefits. Therefore a tech integration specialists just won’t be as necessary in a school environment. This day won’t happen next year or the year after that, but I would be surprised if well equipped schools ten years from now still employ an integration specialist.
As more and more software come out, it becomes easier and easier to use. Image editors are a perfect example. Take a look at PicMonkey. It can do a lot, borders, overlays, effects and more. It does these pretty easily too. Back in the day (not very long ago mind you) to accomplish a lot of these tasks, you would need a powerful, expensive and difficult to use image editor like Photoshop.
Editing videos is the same way. Most people don’t need Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut. They can do most of what they want in WeVideo, iMovie or Animoto. Hell, even YouTube has a basic video editor now. However, the most glaring to me is website creation. If you don’t know a line of HTML, you can still create a good looking dynamic website using Wix, Webs or Weebly.
I know my friend Tony would say that this is the dumbing down of technology and pandering to the lowest common denominator and this is a bad thing. Whether you agree with him or not is not the issue. The issue here is that as it becomes easier to create and express oneself, there is less and less assistance needed. Our teachers are smart people and can pick up something pretty quickly. They usually don’t require a three week intensive class to learn about Wix for example.
They are a luxury
You know what type of doctor gets hit hard when the economy goes south? Dentist. I imagine integration specialists would fall into that category. While schools may get grants for devices and services now and new staff. When budgets need to be cut, the “less essential” and new staff face the chopping block. I’ve actually seen it as PE teachers lost their job and the school simply combined PE classes to make up for the reduced staff. It’s not pretty but it is a reality. I am sure if my school at the time had an integration specialist – I guarantee that person would have gone or at least become a classroom teacher.
Not dying – more like morphing
The title of this post tends to think that integration specialists will be out on the street searching for a job. This isn’t the case, but I believe their role will change. Right now, their roles are pretty defined. These people are tasks with bringing meaningful technology into a learning environment. In the future it won’t, it just can’t be this anymore.
As schools acclimate themselves more and more to utilizing technology in their daily lessons, this person’s role will shift or pivot to a more administrative position. That’s not to say that they will never help out in the classroom, but if they’re smart – they aren’t just Johnny on the Spot with a quick fix. They are teaching the teachers how to integrate in the process allowing for more creativity in the future. Therefore, the integrator may be needed less in the classroom and more of an advisory person.
The flip side to all of this, is as teachers utilize more and more technology – more and more systems need to be looked after. More and more workshops should be held introducing more complex and cross curricular opportunities. A knowledge base should be created and maintained. On top of all that the integrator will know more than any other person what tools are and aren’t working in the classes. This person will naturally be elevated to a role that is on par with a curriculum coordinator.
In fact, I dare say that this person will be slightly more important that the curriculum coordinator. This person will also be included in educational technology direction of a school. What hardware to invest in, what expectations should be set. I am not just talking expectations for teachers here – I’m talking expectations for teachers, students, administrators and even parents to a limited extent. I’ve met people in my travels who hope to become an integration specialists. I wonder if they see all the options?
I was listening to an older episode of This Week in Tech (TWIT), and one of the hosts said, and I am paraphrasing, “we are all walking around with supercomputers in our pockets.” Then I started hearing people imply this frequently. I have not blogged for over a month, but I have been traveling, and I found from Asia to Kentucky, people seem to be propagating this meme.
I am going to crush your world now and tell you, that in fact, you do not have a supercomputer in the shape of a smart phone in your pocket. As smart phones and app culture has increased, I have seen nothing but a decline in good software, and power users. I see people dependent on apps that have single and simple features, often riddled with ads. Since developers are all in on smart phones and low powered tablets, the potential for new and powerful software is fading.
How powerful is your smart phone? Well in 1987 it would be equivalent to powerful computer. So if you can time travel, you can go back in time and remove your smart phones CPU, and then use it in another computer to calculate stock predictions or weather patterns. Sure those calculations might take 2-3 months, but in 1987 people were more patient. Notice I said the CPU, the rest of the phone would be useless.
If you buy a laptop for $300.00-$400.00 today in 2015, you can out process your phone and skip the time travel. You can write software for your phone as well, try writing software for your laptop on your phone.
Yes, smart phones are more social. They have cameras and sensors that allow them to be useful in some niche situations. If you need to quickly project and unsubstantiated opinion, without references or context, smart phones are amazing.
This whole meme is troubling, because it is obviously coming from industry. The meme is designed to keep people buying fairly expensive, yet low quality hardware, with an app purchasing culture built into the life span of the product. This meme reminds me of the digital natives meme. I hear this everyday, and it drives me crazy.
People need to stop saying children are digital natives, and start actually watching what they are accomplishing when they work; and when they work on a timeline. Trust me, children/students in 2015 still need structure and skills training. Just because they can play games on their devices, or use 15 apps to share photos, does not mean they understand how to use their technology to solve real problems in a timely manner. Nor does it mean they can takes 100s of points of data and construct an argument.
Schools need to start critically looking at all these memes, and they need to stop propagating memes that cannot be substantiated. Educational Technology should be about creating. It should be a maker-culture with an emphasis on learning to filter garbage out of any equation .
If you truly believe today’s students are born to use technology without guidance or planning, then lobby to get rid of driving tests. They obviously grew-up with cars, and cars in 2015 are much easier to drive than cars from 1975.
Logic is logic. Digital Natives using Smart Phone Supercomputers = No Need for Driving Tests.
Your hard drive crashed – I don’t care
Yeah, I’m trying to get your attention and yes I do care – just not personal data. This post is about how schools should (and hopefully do) handle data. As a school and being in IT, I do care about data. I care a lot about it. I find it essential, but I don’t care about all data equally – that is just stupid. So read on if and let me know if you agree or disagree with what I have to say.
What is important
Here is what is happening at our school. We have issued 13″ MacBook Pros to our staff. We use a student information system, we use Atlas Rubicon for curriculum needs and we are a Google Apps for Education school.
That data is important to me. That is what we need for transitioning old staff to new staff. To keeping accurate attendance, grades, running transcripts and reports. Making sure that our curriculum is aligned vertically and horizontally. Yep – that stuff is important that is what we need. That info is backed up locally and in the cloud and with the exception of Google, we pay good money for this to happen and to protect this data. This is what is important to me and the school I work for.
What isn’t important
Now to the other side. As a school, I don’t care what’s on your hard drive. I just don’t because if that data is lost, then it isn’t going to hurt the school one bit. It will inconvenience the teacher – for sure – but classes will not be canceled, the curriculum will still be taught, students will still be assessed in a timely and professional manner and reports will be sent out on time. Here is quick excerpt from our user agreement that makes our stance quite clear.
I am empathetic to the teacher who loses data because I’ve been there and it isn’t fun. Honestly though – as a professional – I don’t care. Your music, photos, personal files and movies don’t interest me or the school for that matter, nor should they because they have nothing to do with the day-to-day operations. It really doesn’t. You should be backing up your data anyway – which is something Tony and I have written about. You can read about it here and here.
It’s not your computer
We issue laptops to people at our school but the staff treat it as their own personal laptop. I’ve seen teachers torrent media, fill up the hard drive with music and photos and install their own personal programs that have nothing to do with school. I’m not saying all people do it, but many have and when the computer dies, their data dies with it and they are frustrated, upset and generally unhappy but you see the school doesn’t care about that data. The school’s important data is already protected and backed up. The school cares about the computer being repaired and getting it back into the hands of a staff member so they can do their work and that teachers can do their job at a high level and that’s it. So if you’ve lost 75 GB of music – sorry for that, but you have classes and students who need your attention.
Issuing external hard drives?
Man this is such a bad idea. I know some schools do this, but they would be better off giving their money to charity. At least it will be going to a good cause. These hard drives are a money pit. Teachers will lose them, have them stolen or the hard drives will simply just fail. Let me tell you good reader, hard drives fail – it is not a matter of if but a matter of when.
If schools issue external hard drives to teachers, then when they fail, they need to go out and purchase new hard drives for those people. While they are not terribly expensive, when you expand that cost to include a staff of 100 or more, it gets pretty pricey.
Then when they leave what do you do? Does the school reclaim an old hard drive that will fail – only to give it to a new staff member? No, they usually just give it to the staff member leaving. Terrible – it’s just money down the drain.
The only reason a school would do this is to appease the staff and make them happy. That is it. It doesn’t truly benefit any aspect of the teaching and learning process. It also has a bad side effect of reinforcing that the school computer they are using is, in fact, for their personal use. I can see the though bubbles now Well, they gave me this computer and a hard drive, I might as well add all my media to it. I mean they’re letting me do it right? It is just a bad practice and needs to go away.
Ahh the cloud. If your school has Google Apps, Office 365 or Zoho, then your staff most likely has some sort of cloud storage ability. As I mentioned earlier – we have Google Apps and they give us 30GB of storage which is a lot!
For teachers, this is where they should be storing important documents such as quizzes, units, etc. It should also be on Atlas, but certainly here too. That way if there computer fizzles out all they need is another computer with Internet and they can go right on working. I’ve seen this in practice and man it makes me happy. Another bonus feature is that you can transfer data from one account to another as well! That is much easier than doing it from one computer to another.
If your school doesn’t have this, then get your own. Google Drive – free – 25GB. Microsoft One Drive – Free – 30GB and there are plenty more out there. This is where those important personal files need to go – online not just your hard drive.
If you keep everything on your computer’s hard drive and you don’t back up, then make sure you have a mirror handy. When it fails, then you know who to look in the eye and blame – not the school you work for or the company that made the hard drive.