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Keynote: Adele Goldberg

The morning keynote for day 2 of PyCon was given by Adele Goldberg . Unfortunately I overslept this morning and missed the first half of the talk1_. Goldberg’s topic was eLearning, and the state of computing in education today. My background working in education is very different from the schools she was talking about: she’s apparently been working with computer-based learning in public schools, and studying the aggregate information about the results. My experience was working for a private, K-12, well-funded (regardless of what administrators ever said, the truism was that if they wanted money to be there, money would be there) school. So a lot of the statistics about teachers complaining about computers being out of date didn’t apply.

But the other things, about what works and what doesn’t, just isn’t a suprise. I wish I could remember the examples through the lack-of-coffee haze, but I was suprised by the similarity — I would have thought “money changes everything” (to quote the Cindi). And two points that hit home: teachers (in the aggregate, I presume) haven’t had a pay raise of more than 1% since the 1990-1991 school year, and that the way to get students to learn is to get them to build things and explain what they built to other students.

I was exposed to the latter theory in my Software Engineering course at IPFW . Dr. Modesitt, on the first day of class, presented the idea that there are five levels of learning, with lecturing being the least effective, up to building as the second most effective, and teaching others being the most effective. Now Dr. Modesitt used this to set the stage for how the class would be structured, with most of the work occuring at those upper two levels. And that class was like drinking from the firehose, but I did learn a lot. So although it was in a completely different context, I can attest that it really works.

It was also interesting to hear that Goldberg had built a course/school system on Zope 2 (hmm, that sounds familiar ), and that she’s currently working on rewriting it in Zope 3. And in building that from an “instructional” perspective versus “content management” perspective (which is what STOA definitely has). The new tool, CourseCloud, uses XML to represent exercises and instructional content, with the goal being to present the exercises in multiple contexts.