“Learn to Code,” Says Everyone, Everywhere

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digital backgroundBy Henry Kronk for eLearning Inside

This week, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson took the stage at Norfork High School to deliver a familiar message: learn to code.

“If you have broadband internet and know coding, you can run the world from right here in Norfork,” Hutchinson told students, according to the Baxter Bulletin.

One million tech jobs, the governor said without a reputable citation, are currently vacant. “The tech world needs those guys, they need them,” he said.

Earlier this month, Apple CEO Tim Cook traveled to France to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron about developing the European tech industry. He issued a similar pronouncement to French children: “If I were a French student and I were 10 years old, I think it would be more important for me to learn coding than English,” Cook told the French outlet Konbini.

“I’m not telling people not to learn English in some form—but … this is a language that you can [use to] express yourself to 7 billion people in the world. I think that coding should be required in every public school in the world.”

In September, Ray Dalio, head of Bridgewater, the world’s biggest hedge fund, appeared on Fox Business. He stressed to host Maria Bartiromo, “Everybody has to learn to code. It’s like not knowing how to read and write in the new age.”

“By in large, the world is going to largely consist of people who can take language and put it into code, which then allows the computer to operate like a brain or people who are going to be displaced by that,” said Dalio.

Sage advice from non-coders

Dalio, Cook, and Hutchinson all have a few things in common. First, they all occupy powerful positions. Second, they recently said something incorrect to the press. And third, they either don’t know how to code themselves, or haven’t held a coding job in years.

If someone could run the world with a broadband connection and a knowledge of coding from Norfork, Ark., as Gov. Hutchinson says, then they would also probably get around in their flying car.

Back in the real world, you shouldn’t necessarily learn to code before you learn English. As Quartz’s Nikhil Sonnad points out, you need to speak a human language to learn, write, and implement code. And more often than not, that language isn’t Mandarin. “The codebases for nearly every major programming language, library and API are written with variable names, comments and documentation in English,” Sonnad writes.

Cook probably would have known that if he had done any coding work recently. It’s possible that he did some developing for IBM or Compaq in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but his role at Apple has always been business operations. In 2008, he likened his job to the dairy industry. (“If [inventory] gets past its freshness date, you have a problem.”)

Dalio, typical of Fox News guests, is even less coherent.

Why do so many leaders and managers want other people to learn to code?

For one, paying coders is expensive. Glassdoor currently puts the average software engineer at $109,087 in the U.S.

If more people knew how to code, there would be more competition, and companies like Apple would be able to pay their coders less.

Many companies have already begun to make strides in this direction. Several successful tech companies have partnered with online educators—Coursera, edX, Udacity, and many others—to create computer science vocational programs to funnel talent.

When students complete these courses, they are trained for a specific job and usually have zero industry experience, allowing the companies that trained them to hire them for a much lower salary.

Tech companies have also been driving efforts to incorporate computer science education into K-12 school systems. Often employing Hutchinson-, Cook-, or Dalio-esque language, industry leaders rationalize their efforts by arguing that it will better-equip students for a changing workforce and help them succeed in their professional lives.

But the Guardian’s Ben Tarnoff says this rationale is based on a false premise. “[T]eaching millions of kids to code won’t make them all middle-class,” Tarnoff writes. “Rather, it will proletarianize the profession by flooding the market and forcing wages down—and that’s precisely the point.”

NYU President Remains Quiet After Shia Professors Claim Sectarian Discrimination From Partner Country UAE

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new york university abu dhabiBy Sam Raskin for NYULocal

NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) has become embroiled in yet another controversy after two professors were denied security clearances by the United Arab Emirates over the summer. Though he has yet to make a public statement, NYU President Andrew Hamilton addressed the issue in a letter Wednesday afternoon following calls from multiple professors urging Hamilton to speak publicly on the matter.

NYU professors Mohamad Bazzi and Arang Keshavarzian planned to teach at NYU Abu Dhabi during the fall of 2017 and spring 2018, respectively. University administrators contacted both professors during the 2017 spring semester and invited them to teach courses at NYU’s newly-minted location. After submitting their applications and paperwork, they had not heard back until summer of this year, when they were informed they would be unable to teach at NYUAD. Their appeals, which were filed by the university without their knowledge, had also been denied, the pair was told. A third NYU professor, whose identity is not yet public, was also denied clearance to teach in Abu Dhabi.

Bazzi’s circumstance was first made public in late September. An Associate Journalism professor who has twice taught in Abu Dhabi during January Terms, Bazzi detailed his experience with being denied a visa by the UAE government in the New York Times. His application was rejected, he believes, due to his religious sect, which professors are required to provide on both their NYU and UAE forms. “It is usually easy for American citizens to get a work visa for the U.A.E. Why was I denied? I am also a Shiite Muslim born in Lebanon,” he wrote. Bazzi went on to call upon NYU to, at the bare minimum, acknowledge the limited academic freedom at NYUAD. “This is far from the free movement of people and ideas to which N.Y.U.’s leaders claim to aspire,” he wrote.

Iranian-born Keshavarzian, a Shia Muslim, was named a week later in a letter addressed to President Hamilton and other university officials as a second professor who was denied security clearance when applying to teach in Abu Dhabi, as reported by Washington Square News. The letter, signed by 10 NYU professors, called upon NYU to uphold norms of academic freedom at NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus, or at the very least to act transparently and clarify it is unable to do so. Like Bazzi, Keshavarzian suspects his rejection was due to his religious sect.

In response, NYUAD spokesperson Kate Chandler pushed back against the claim that UAE immigration policies pose academic freedom challenges for the university. “Like the UAE, the NYU Abu Dhabi community is extraordinarily diverse: it includes faculty, students and staff from well over 100 countries, representing a broad collection of faiths — including those identifying as Sh’ia, many of whom joined as recently as this semester,” Chandler told Washington Square News.

Chandler went on to request that people understand the UAE government’s right to craft its own immigration policies, even if they were not in keeping with one’s own beliefs. “While we continue to press for the free flow of scholars across our global network,” she continued, “we also recognize that, as in the U.S., it is the government that controls visa and immigration policy.”

Bazzi and Keshavarzian say that the university’s response has been insufficient. They feel as though the university is dragging its feet on meaningfully addressing the issue. The professors expressed frustration that they have yet to receive unequivocal public backing from Hamilton.
“We would like to see a public statement from the administration condemning this policy and our denials,” said Bazzi on a call with NYU Local Monday evening. “We would like to see the administration take steps to see these denials reversed and make sure there is movement of people and ideas across the campuses that they claim to aspire to.”

In an interview, Keshavarzian indicated he too would like to see a more forceful response from the university.  

“What they haven’t done is to come out and publicly support the faculty that have been denied entry [and] have been even accused of being some sort of security threat,” Keshavarzian said on Monday. “I’d like to see a statement made by the NYU administration supporting the faculty at least, and ideally, condemning the UAE’s policy of rejecting faculty and students.”

He also noted that NYU seems to be applying different standards to the UAE and U.S when it comes to responding to occasions in which students and faculty face obstacles due to immigration policies. “This is particularly striking because in the past year year and a half, Andy Hamilton and various members of the NYU leadership, have issued very strong statements, and I support this, against Donald Trump’s policies [of] the weakening of DACA and the other policies that the U.S government has issued,” Keshavarzian said. “So the silence in the UAE case is quite noteworthy and unfortunate.”

Indeed, the NYU president has not shied away from criticizing certain immigration policies when he feels inclined to do so. In emails, letters and statements, he has criticized President Trump’s positions on DACA and the January Executive Order introducing the Travel Ban, and promised that NYU employees would not disclose students’ immigration statuses.

And in March, when Hamilton penned an op-ed in the Washington Post to make the case against a proposed budget that cut funding for science, he wrote that the U.S’s “posture towards immigrants is already imperiling our ability to attract the most talented people from around the world…” But Hamilton, months after the two NYU professors were denied access to one of its campuses and three weeks after Bazzi’s op-ed, had not made a peep in public channels.

Meanwhile, several NYU professors had grown frustrated with NYU’s inaction. So, on Tuesday evening, the NYU Middle East and Islamic Studies Department (MEIS) sent a letter to President Hamilton. The letter, sent via email by department chair Marion Katz, urged Hamilton to take a public stand and expressed disapproval toward’s Keshavarzian’s and Bazzi’s rejections of security clearance. “[T]his development calls into serious question NYU’s willingness and ability to ensure the free movement of faculty and students across what the administration terms the “Global Network University,” to prevent religious discrimination against its faculty by the UAE and to protect its faculty’s academic freedom,” the department wrote. “It also indicates that NYU Abu Dhabi is not really in a position to decide who it wants to teach its students and conduct research, free of interference on political or religious grounds by the UAE authorities.”

The letter went on to criticize the administration for its silence on the issue. “We find it extremely distressing that no NYU leader has thus far seen fit to speak out publicly in defense of our colleagues,” they wrote.

The department expressed that, in light of recent events, they had reached a consensus to avoid the Abu Dhabi portal campus for the time being in solidarity with those that have been prevented by the UAE from teaching there. “Until NYU’s leadership addresses these issues seriously,” the letter continued, “the majority of the MEIS faculty…feel compelled to call on NYU faculty based in New York to consider refraining from teaching or participating in academic events at NYU Abu Dhabi until such time as all NYU faculty and students are free to do so.”

Shifting the Paradigm: Making Digital Learning the Norm

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digitalBy Dr Helen Dixon

As an educator, making the transition to digital can be an exciting but challenging (even frustrating) experience. Just because you host your slides on a Digital Learning Environment doesn’t mean you are providing a digital learning experience. Will your students absorb information more effectively just because they have read it on screen rather than on paper? As yet, there is a lack of conclusive evidence on whether online reading accommodates more in-depth comprehension of material. Digitising your learning resources will not necessarily improve the learner’s experience.

What digital learning has presented us with is an opportunity to ‘rethink’ how we convey information and assess students’ knowledge and skills. Rather than distributing old content in a new way, we need to adapt their teaching methods to align more closely to the needs of today’s students and their future employers. The challenge is to go further than simply making our materials available online. What is required is a paradigm shift where our attitudes and practices are transformed for the digital society. It’s not simply about using technology but rather about embedding digital literacies throughout the curriculum.

For some educators, this may seem like a daunting prospect, but the key is to remember that this transformation will be a gradual, continually evolving process as technologies develop. You don’t need to be an expert in every application – you just need to be willing to learn along with your students. By adopting a systemic approach that prioritises realistic objectives, you can implement digital learning in a manner that is going to create genuine value for your students and yourself, rather than as a checkbox exercise. By taking the following factors into consideration, you can begin the process of rethinking your teaching and ‘go digital’ successfully.

Communication

How can you use technology to disseminate your course content in a more absorbable manner? Often there are better ways to transfer knowledge than text-based resources – audio-visual materials, in particular, can help to bring a topic to life. You can easily transform an uninspiring table of data or list of statistics by creating an eye-catching infographic using Piktochart or infogr.am. Try using a video to demonstrate a process or create an animation using a site like GoAnimate to explain a key concept. The effort to produce video content that can be viewed by students repeatedly will be justified when you don’t have to reiterate the same information several times in class!

Of course, teaching involves a lot more than delivering course materials and online technologies can help to make all your communications more efficient. Discussion boards make it easy for tutors to post updates or clarify any instructions. Social media can be used to share useful resources and post reminders. You could even create a class webpage or blog to reflect on the progress of your class.

Interaction

As well as expediting communications with learners, technology opens up new avenues for interaction. Discussion boards and social media work best when used for dialogue rather than broadcast and can give quieter students a voice. Simple online polls like Poll Everywhere can allow you to quickly assess students’ understanding or offer them a choice in what topics they will cover. Tools like Nearpod and Socrative allow you to make your lessons interactive by facilitating online activities and providing live feedback. Or you could try using Kahoot to apply gamification techniques which can encourage participation.

There are a myriad of exciting educational technologies available but they cannot guarantee interaction. In order to successfully embed technology, it is necessary to create digital resources that are going to aid the acquisition of knowledge and motivate students to become more engaged in their learning.

Collaboration

Teamwork is always an important part of education and technology can facilitate collaboration by providing students with an online space where they can share ideas or work together on a project. Wikis make it easy for students to contribute to a group document or they can use sites like Padlet to share ideas and resources. Google Docs and Office 365 allow students to collaborate on a variety of documents such as presentations or reports. Prezi is an alternative presentation tool that students can use to coproduce dynamic presentations that will inspire their creativity and encourage them to think beyond bullet points!

Assessment and Feedback

The electronic management of assessment (EMA) is becoming increasingly popular in education with many establishments using online testing software and/or e-Portfolios. As well as streamlining the submission, grading and verification of assessments, technology can allow us to quickly provide specific feedback which incorporates links to useful resources that can aid students’ development. Alternatively, audio or video feedback using tools like Jing can present students with a more personalised and supportive experience. Peer evaluation can also be facilitated using blogs or vlogs where students are encouraged to provide each other with constructive feedback.

Experimentation and Evaluation

With so many tools to choose from, you will need to be prepared to experiment. Set yourself a challenge to try a new technology every week, month or term – whatever time-frame is feasible. If an application or resource isn’t working for you or your students, give it up and try something different. Build up a Personal Learning Network (PLN) on social media – networking with other educators on Twitter or discussion forums is a great way to find out about new tools and get ideas for how to use them.

Continual evaluation of your efforts is essential in order to ascertain if your adoption of digital learning is achieving the desired results. Most Digital Learning Environments allow you to track students participation and completion of activities but soliciting feedback directly from students will be the most informative way of gauging their expectations and experiences. Short online surveys are a great way of gaining insight into students’ reaction to the content and activities you have provided online. If you don’t have an institutional survey tool, Typeform and SurveyMonkey are two popular options.

With the widespread use of technology and social media in society, where communications are increasingly fragmented and non-linear, catering for the needs of learners has probably never been more challenging. However, technology has provided us with an unprecedented opportunity to transform education and create flexible and personalised learning experiences for students. Ultimately, the term digital learning may soon disappear as it becomes the norm within all learning activities.

Daring to Learn How to Learn

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learningBy Sandra Milligan, Associate Professor, University of Melbourne for the Pursuit

Why do some of us learn easily and quickly, while others struggle, left behind plodding along?

Part of the answer, at least in the online learning space, is that learning is a real skill in of itself, and some people are more skilled at it than others. And the good news for the plodders is that it is a skill that can be readily grasped when we break it down.

I’ve analysed the data from over 100,000 learners on the University of Melbourne’s various MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) - every click, tap, swipe they make, every document they consult, and every word they write in chat forums and exercises.

What emerged was a remarkably consistent pattern of what learning behaviours work and which don’t. It means that it should be possible to design online learning systems that not only teach skills and knowledge, but also at the same time teaches students how to best learn.

Overall, the analysis suggest that learners with lower levels of learning expertise are likely to be passive in their behaviour. That is, they receive input, limit their interaction to consuming content supplied by the teacher, and are unengaged with their peers, taking responsibility only for themselves. They seek guidance only from authoritative figures about what to read or think, and adhere to contexts and perspectives similar to their own. They regard learning as the mastery of reasonably static, generalisable knowledge, easily transferred in books, or by lectures.

Expert learners, by contrast, are likely to scan different sources of information, seeking out a range of potential sources of learning in the environment. They regard valuable knowledge as somewhat volatile, context dependent, widely distributed, and including tacit understandings, as well as generalisable understandings.

They actively seek out the views of others and conduct dialogues with peers in which they collaborate, mentor, and even teach their fellow students. They actively review and consider the perspective of others, and are critically aware. They are prepared to reject anything they see as unhelpful, and are independent-minded enough to take the social risk of expressing a contrary view. They produce learning artefacts, try out new ideas and skills, potentially risking public failure and embarrassment, and they share learning activities and resources with others. They interact with feedback to exhaust its value for learning and provide feedback themselves to peers and evaluate peer performances.

The study found that 90 per cent of learners from any MOOC could be reliably grouped along this curve of learning skill by analysing their behaviours in the log stream of online courses. I found that an individual’s position on the learning skill progression was a good predictor of grade outcomes in the MOOC.

 

In essence, this progression describes the differences between learners more or less skilled in learning in MOOCs, and supports the view that learning is itself a learnable and transferable skill. It means that people can get better at learning if they know how to go about learning to learn. Indeed, it is possible that the progression captures something about learning skill in general, and that it can easily be adapted to any learning by anybody at any level.

By analysing the progression of learners I was able to identify five distinct levels of learning:

  • Level 1: Reader – MOOC as a textbook
  • Level 2: Consumer of Instruction – MOOC as a tutor
  • Level 3: Self-regulated producer of learning – MOOC as a tutor with a user support group.
  • Level 4: Collaborative learner – MOOC as a collaborative learning environment
  • Level 5: Reciprocal teacher – MOOC as a reciprocal, distributed learning environment

For me the most exciting aspect of the research is the potential for putting it to work.

Because the analyses are based on learning progressions along which individuals develop, and not just an end result, assessments of expertise in learning can be fed back to every participant in even the most massive of MOOCS. That feedback could show every learner the level of expertise in learning they are at, together with hints, encouragement, suggestions and resources to help them move to the next level of learning expertise. And feedback, learning science suggests, can be the rocket fuel of learning.

With this possibility in mind, the algorithms underpinning the assessment of learner position on the progression in MOOCs are being further developed for use in the Melbourne MOOC program in ways not previously attempted.

Early results suggest that these progression-based analyses do indeed have practical utility in providing formative feedback as well as informing course developers and learning designers about ‘what works’.

By showing that learning is a skill within large-scale digitally mediated programs, the research will help to develop both the quality of programs and the capacity of learners to make the most of them.

In a society categorised by fast-moving technology, business disruption, and multiple career changes, knowing how best to learn will be a critical skill.

 

Israel to Muzzle Professors on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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freedom speechBy Arabia Higher Ed Editorial Team

The Israeli establishment is frustrated that some professors who teach about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Israel as well as in the United States are designing their own courses that undermine Israel’s legitimacy in the minds of their students.

This issue surfaced this past June after the Ministry of Education in Israel distributed guidelines for how faculty members should deal with such controversial political issues.

The proposed guidelines were rejected by the National Union of Israeli Students, the Alliance for Academic Freedom in the US, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), and the Academic Engagement Network.

The guidelines have been submitted for possible adoption by the Israeli Council for Higher Education, and  would become government policy if adopted.

The Alliance for Academic Freedom issued a statement condeming the proposed policy, stating that it "promotes ironic and Orwellian constraints on speech."

The Alliance iterated that "the proposed regulations not only run counter to the fundamental Western principle protecting freedom of speech, but also overturn the decades-long practice defining universities in Western democracies: A university faculty is a voluntary and self-regulating body of scholars that itself establishes the principles guiding professional conduct.  Therefore, it is unrealistic for universities to expect that they can persuade faculty to abandon deeply held views."

The statement urges Universities to provide students with opportunities to be exposed to a range of perspectives on contentious issues like the Arab-Israeli conflict.

 

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