What I’m doing right now: makeing learning about computers more fun.

My job right now is to work on an undergraduate resercher on an undergraduate research project with a grant from the College of Engineering here. It’s been a fantastic opportunity, both professionally, and personally. One of the promised ways that I am disseminating my outcomes is on a project blog. After talking with my advisor we decided that putting this on my existing blog space is a better idea for me in the long run.

The basic question I’m looking at is how can we better get students to practice the hard, or “unfun” skills that they need to succeed in cs. Ideally we’d like to see them practice on their own, and translate this engagement into better outcomes. We already have a lot of interactive modules developed here, but they aren’t linked, and don’t do a whole lot to encourage repeated use and exploration. I was aready aware of Spaced Repitition systems like SuperMemo and Anki, and had the idea of trying to get students to continue practicing. Some other research done by Milan Neema, a grad student here has explored how well these ILM modules worked, and found that the loops(No seriously go try it), had much much higher student engagement than some of the others. After hearing about this I had the idea that some kind of gamified system that was aware of spaced repitition intervals might be able to get students to achieve more proficency than existing systems.

I’ve basically spent the last three months finding out what’s already been done, and setting some curriculum design objectives for the system, looking and possible game mechanics, and planning how to split those out into bite sized delivery checkpoints. Over the next few weeks my focus is going to be on making demos of those byte sized options, and seeing what is actually possible before I start on a more integrated sytem that allows for a more gamelike progression.

The ability to make this public as I work on it, and to release as open source the code products that I’ve produced was really important to me. I became involved in CS as a result of my interest in education, and I would like to see more of the awesome stuff that researchers come up with get out there without being locked away. In particular Mel Chua’s explanation of how to do open research, has inspired me to try to be open about how I do this project, and getting the products out to be shared. This blog is part of that, and over time a series of public code releases of the activities, and eventually the whole system will all be open source and available to everyone.

2 thoughts on What I’m doing right now: makeing learning about computers more fun.

  1. Whoa, that’s awesome. I’m glad the blog post was inspirational — it was very much a “gee, I’m trying to figure this all out myself” first-cut, and I was surprised it resonated with other people!

    Looking forward to following along with your project; I’m interested in the idea of “deep practice” but don’t have a great understanding of what it means for cognitive domains like CS quite yet, so I look forward to learning. :)

  2. Pingback: Fail Better » A Ticin' Viking

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