Internet Portfolio and first week of school

August 20, 2013 at 9:48 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Last week was a very busy week! A lot got done and I am happy to report I have a really good group of students. I am looking forward to a good year.

To continue the discussion with the performance based assessments, I am going to reflect on the Internet PBT.  Looking back and pondering over how the Internet PBT fared, I realize that I should have been a lot more technical. I should have talked more about the design of the Internet and how the network as a whole functions.

I focused more on the impact and the cyber security aspects of the Internet. I asked students to work in pairs. They had to pick an area of impact and make a presentation using any sort of technology. After that they were asked to write a research paper on their findings.  They had to cite their sources – the articles, websites, and documents they found regarding their topic.  I worked with the students on their research papers. We focused extensively on impact of the Internet on specific fields, and somewhat on the cyber-security aspects of the Internet.  However, the research lacked depth of knowledge.

What I realized is that students did not understand the true impact the Internet had on society. They had not focused on how the Internet – the connection of millions of computers – has impacted everything that we do. The Internet has changed the way society functions. What was the underlying design that made this happen? What is the real long-term impact of this sort of invention? These were questions my students had not researched or comprehended.

This year I am going to give this PBT a complete new makeover!  I am going to focus on the design aspect of the Internet – its architecture, design decisions and impact. I will also focus on cyber security issues involved with the Internet. I am excited about teaching this content to my students; it will be interesting to see how the students learn this content.

CS Principles Portfolios: Data

August 5, 2013 at 8:52 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

This post will discuss my experiences with the Big Data PBT, the program that has brought the most amount of success to my course. My students love data analysis – and in fact, I do as well. At this time last year, the only PBT I was concerned about implementing was the Data component. I was constantly working on deciding what needed to be taught in the classroom, and how to teach it.

I spent a lot of time thinking and reading about data mining. I understood the concept of finding patterns in large data sets. Making these patterns into visualizations was also not difficult. The challenge, however, was figuring out what the visualizations should convey. For a given data set, what patterns were I looking for? I realized that the amount of relevant information collected depends on the types of questions that are applied to the data sets. These questions are fairly complex – you can’t find answers by simply scanning through one data field.

The other challenge is teaching this concept of data analysis. On a basic level, the concept is quite easy – taking simple surveys among a group of people is gathering data. The survey responses are a raw set of data that has been collected around the questions. This eliminates the problem of finding valid questions.  However there is the challenge of trying to teach students the idea of finding patterns in data sets.There  is also the challenge of finding visualizations that accurately map the results. Students need to be taught how to use the various computing and visualization tools to manipulate and analyze the collected data.

These are my challenges. I worked to solve them last year, and I am still working to improve my methods.

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