Teaching Kids Programming With a Robot

Submitted by Xiang Liu on Mon, 09/29/2014 - 9:51am.
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This NY Times article is a very cool idea. The little blue robot can be programmed by kids through a tablet or smartphone. Per creators, the interface and procedures to program this robot is appropriate for children around five years old.

I agree with the creators that teaching kids programming at a young age is very important, especially for the development of mathematical thinking. Some mathematical concepts (like logic operation, sequencing, looping, etc) cannot be easily understood by kids most of the time. Programming a robot would be a perfect way for them to learn these concepts.

The article also mentioned that computer programming is part of the first grade curriculum in Estonia. I was shocked by this fact. The K-12 Math and Science education kids receive in this country is lagging behind in many areas compared to their international peers.


Palestinian Education

Submitted by Bismark Appiah on Sun, 09/28/2014 - 7:17pm.
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It appears that Palestine has emulated some aspects of K-12 education in the United States. In the Palestinian Territories and Jordan, students must take the General Secondary Certificate Examination (GSCE) in order to be on track for higher education. This exam is similar to SAT, but slightly bigger. It is common for communities in Palestinian territories and Jordan to host parties, fireworks, and gifts to illustrate the importance of this exam. However, due to the crisis in Gaza, students have been reluctant to celebrate their achievement in passing the exam.

The crisis in Gaza has inflicted a lot of pain and shattered a lot of students’ dream. For instance, over 200 students have died in the ongoing crisis, mostly killed by Israeli airstrikes. Among those are 18 students from Gaza. These students didn’t have the opportunity to receive their scores. I think this is sad because to work hard for many years to achieve your goal, and as you’re about to take the final hurdle. you lose your life. This adds to a long list of reasons why Palestinian children continue to struggle to receive a decent education. To add to the crisis, Palestinian students who earn scholarships or admission to study abroad are barred from traveling outside of Gaza. You can learn more about their plight here.


Learning Outcomes and Assessment

Submitted by Xiang Liu on Fri, 09/26/2014 - 9:44am.
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This article talks about measuring learning outcomes in MOOC settings. It does have some good points. They pointed out that current peer grading is like producing teacher clones which might not be the best approach. It is problematic that we ask peers to rate each other like a teacher would. I was thinking that instead of giving peers holistic scores, learners would simply extract features that would be helpful to predict or classify learning outcomes. It is pretty funny they mentioned "teachers grade students in the way the USDA grades beef." The image is just hilarious.


Gaming and Education

Submitted by Khalil Abubakar on Fri, 09/26/2014 - 12:14am.
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The White House recently invited teachers, game developers and policy makers to witness gaming softwares that might play a part in how we educate children in the future. At the event, some of the biggest game developers presented games they created in 48 hours to teachers and selected students. The event was deemed a success. President Obama has preached for continuous investment on educational gaming. Studies have shown there is a 12 percent increase in learning outcomes when students engage in gaming. I think gaming is a great concept to incorporate into class activities. However, it might not produce the desired educational outcomes due to the makeup of schools and lack of instructional time for educators.


Market Failure

Submitted by Ahmed Bagigah on Thu, 09/25/2014 - 12:45pm.
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Market failure occurs when the market fails to produce efficient results. This also means the market is experiencing negative outcomes. There are different factors that cause market failures such as positive and negative externalities, environmental concerns, monopoly abuse, public goods, informational asymmetries and regulation. Externalities cause market failure because the creator of externalities do not pay all the cost of spillovers which impacts others. People are impacted by the decision of others. Monopoly causes market failure because the prices are too high in order to make profit at the expense of the consumers. In information asymmetry, people do not buy because the sellers know more about a product than a buyer. Public goods are goods which create spillover benefits, non-excludability in consumption and things people can consume without paying are under produced in society.


Web Skills tied to Family Income Level

Submitted by Dana Haugh on Thu, 09/25/2014 - 10:40am.
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An interesting article in the Times about the relationship between online information literacy and average family income: Academic Skills on Web Are Tied to Income Level. It suggests that students coming from wealthier families are better at online academic research than those coming from middle to lower class families.

“Teachers have to expect and recognize that they can’t just say ‘Google something,’ because some of our students still don’t know what that means, believe it or not,” said Susan B. Neuman, a professor of early childhood and literacy education at New York University who is a co-editor of Reading Research Quarterly. In the study, the researchers polled the students about whether they used the Internet for schoolwork. They found that three quarters of the students in the lower-income school had been required to use the web for sch


MOOC Business Model

Submitted by Xiang Liu on Thu, 09/25/2014 - 9:44am.
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An interesting and possible MOOC business model.


A Good WYSIWYG Editor for Markdown

Submitted by Yudan Li on Thu, 09/25/2014 - 9:13am.
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When you edit documents on BitBucket, you will use the Markdown syntax. Markdown is a new type of text-to-html syntax, which is comprised entirely of punctuation characters. The punctuation characters have been carefully chosen so as to look like what they mean.

As I'm creating a long README file using markdown on BitBucket, I have to save the text from time to time. I do this in order to inspect what my latest input looks like and also to make sure all work is saved in time. However, I noticed saving of the work was taking a long time. I think this is because my document is very long.

I searched online for potential workaround for this and found mou (http://25.io/mou/) editor, which you can install on your MAC and work on markdown document locally. The great thing about it is that it has two screens, one for input and the other for output. With this, you can work on your documents in a WYSIWYG style, which will save you a lot of time.


Google's Culture and Interview Process

Submitted by Pranav Garg on Wed, 09/24/2014 - 8:38pm.
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This is an inspiring article on how Google does self reflection in their culture and interview process.


Comparison of Different Machine Learning Algorithms

Submitted by Xiang Liu on Wed, 09/24/2014 - 4:45pm.
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This paper talked about results of comparing different machine learning techniques in classification problem. The results are interesting and somehow expected. Support Vector Machines (SVM) and Artificial Neural Networks (ANN) performed best overall. Also, feature selection is a a great factor for any algorithm. Selecting irrelevant features will have a huge impact on any of them and Linear Discriminant Analysis (LDA) suffered most. Apply some sort of filter before using features as it is very important, especially for LDA.

The results are can be very helpful in choosing which ML method. And using a filter is a great idea!

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