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Reading Grab Bag: Flipped Discussion, iPad Simulations, MOOCs, and the Cognitive Tutor Study

By Justin Reich — December 11, 2013 2 min read

I’ve been furiously writing some of the first round of course reports for HarvardX courses, so things have been slow here (drafts are in a review process now, hopefully more to share soon). I’ve also accumulated some tidbits that I’ve been meaning to share, some for a while, so here are a few things for your reading pleasure.

Public Reactions to the Flipped Classroom

I had a few comments on a piece for PBS NewsHour that aired today. I published the video earlier, but I wanted to point people to the Facebook page for NewsHour, where there are some interesting comments that provide a good cross section of public reaction to the approach. Lots of both concerns and optimism, generally quite civilly discussed.

iPad Simulations in Astronomy

There are many claims made about the potential benefits using simulations and models while teaching with tablets where people can tap, pinch and zoom, and little evidence to back those claims. While 3-D models or apps look really cool, we know little about to what extent they support learning.

But some folks at Harvard’s Smithsonian Observatory released some preliminary details about a research study on tablets and astronomy, particularly on simulations that help students to better understand the scale of the universe, something often misrepresented by print illustrations. They had some really good results both from short exposure to an app and especially from longer instruction. http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2013/12/can-ipads-help-students-learn-science-yes/

This doesn’t mean that magic science apps will make kids learn more than ever before. But it’s also a very nice piece of evidence that tablets may be particularly effective at helping certain kids learn certain concepts, especially when supported by well-designed instruction from thoughtful educators.

Explaining the Cognitive Tutor: Algebra Study

I wrote a while back about a study of the Cognitive Tutor: Alegbra system, and some of the public reporting about it that I found misleading. The authors of the research study have published a summary of the study for educators, and it’s excellent. It’s readable, accurate, and fair. Note to educational researchers, if you aren’t publishing something like this alongside your journal articles, you are doing it wrong. This is a great model, tip of my hat to John Pane and his team from RAND.

Making Sense of MOOCs

Jeff Young, a fellow Berkman Fellow and the Technology Editor at the Chronicle of Higher Education wrote an e-book, Beyond the MOOC Hype, which I think is a great summary of the policy and practice landscape of MOOCs as of this fall. It’s worth a few bucks, both for the reading and to keep great journalists like Jeff on the beat.

For regular updates, follow me on Twitter at @bjfr and for my publications, C.V., and online portfolio, visit EdTechResearcher.

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