Mar 14

The Challenge of the Future Internet

What stuck with me most from the readings/videos this week was the necessity for diverse input into creating the current state of the Internet as well as its future.   It’s easy to find flaws in the current network models or lament the new styles of crimes that can be perpetrated thanks to the new technology.  But I think Robert Kahn hit the nail on the head in his responses to the interview questions, even if we redesigned the Internet and started from a blank slate, this would only be a temporary fix for the issues.  Eventually all the same problems would come back, just maybe in different formats.   Anil Dash’s post, Rebuilding the Web We Lost, had me thinking about the people who have historically had input into the Internet and software that runs on it.  I’d love to say that software development classes are much more diverse these days, but the truth is that they aren’t.  I think the hope for the future it to get people from multiple backgrounds and even disciplines to give input to the issues of the web and the software of the future.  But to do this, more people need to be engaged and focused on the issues and see themselves as more than just “users” of technology and more as “contributors” to the technology or “collaborators” – and therein lines the challenge.


Feb 14

Week 4: Social networking or the lack thereof


This wee’s assignment made me realize that I don’t have much of an online network related to my professional work.    In the Heil PLN, I’d rate myself firmly in the “entrenched in a real world network”  or the “between two worlds” groups across all the concepts/tools.   I do have real-life networks of computer science instructor buddies that I see at conferences, but not really anything in the digital world.

But I’ve been a member of a large online discussion board for moms for the past 6+ years and have over 10,000 posts.    I definitely understand that it’s nice to have a network of diverse folks with whom to share info and bounce ideas off of.  Why don’t have I have this same type of network for professional stuff?   I dunno, I guess it never occurred to me to make one.    And honestly it doesn’t sound that fun.    My online mom community is a lovely distraction from work stuff.   I don’t have to invest tons of time and always get the info that I’m looking for.  There are thousands of members so threads move really fast and you can always get the skinny on anything from what items are the best deals on Amazon this week to more serious stuff like people’s experiences with IEPs and bizarre childhood illnesses.  The discussion board is sort of one-stop-shopping for all things mom-related.   On the other hand, building a professional network sounds like work.

So in an effort to try to make building a professional network a fun & enjoyable experience, I turned my attention to my good friend Pinterest.  I’ve never even heard of diigo until I did the reading for the week and Twitter feels really weird to me.  (I did follow some new Comp Sci people in an effort to give Twitter somewhat of a fair shake).   I think part of what makes it hard to build a professional network is that there’s too much information and it’s not sorted very well.  Doing a Google search or scanning a particular hashtag on Twitter is often like getting hit in the face with a fire hose.     I like Pinterest because the data mining is somewhat distributed and I can usually find good stuff without a lot of effort.   Or maybe all the pretty pictures makes it more appealing than scanning URLs and text blurbs.

So I spent some Pinterest time resisting the temptation to look a quinoa recipes and fun things you can do with recycled plastic containers and dug around for people and pins related to computer science education.    My favorite gem is this lovely little blog full of fairy tales for teaching computer science topics: Computational Fairy Tales which reminds me a lot of the brilliant “Princess and the Palace” story created by Stephen Davies.   He introduced me to this allegory last spring while we were co-teaching EagleIce and now I use it when I teach functions in my own classes.    I think the fairy tale blog will have some winners as well.

An interesting tangent related to using Pinterest to dig for CS Ed information is that (I think) the Pinterest community predominantly female.  And the computer science community is overwhelmingly male (less than 20% of undergrad Computer Science degrees are earned by women).   I wonder if more female-friendly materials will show up on Pinterest than would show up in other social media (or real-world) networks.

Feb 14

Week 3: Reflection on Reflecting

I have  two sort of disconnected, sort of connected thoughts for the week.

First an update on the CPSC eportfolio project

I asked all my intro students to sign up for Domain Of One’s Own using DTLT’s awesome instructions. (Seriously, really well done – can you come make instructions for every software install that’s required in my courses?) Near everyone was able to do this solo without assistance – probably about 25/28 students had signed up before the next class period.   Martha visited us on Weds to walk everyone through installing WordPress either on the main domain or a subdomain, and some of the choices they have in configuring their space.  That seemed to go really smoothly and she was able to trouble shoot a few students with trickier situations (people who had already signed up for DOOO in the fall and forgotten/lost passwords, etc).

So far the students have been really open to this project which has been great. When I started using eportfolios a few years ago (with the seniors), I got a fair amount of pushback/whining related to the assignment each semester. The students didn’t all buy in to the usefulness of the project. Even though I’m using basically the same sell when I pitch the project in class, I’m not getting the pushback anymore from the seniors.   I thought that the intro students might be less vested in getting a job and more resistant to thinking about the future so I was expecting an initial struggle with the project. At least so far, no one has complained – possibly because I didn’t ask them to do much yet or possibly because they feel warm, fuzzy and supported thanks to DTLT’s instruction & classroom visit or possibly because having a digital identity is less foreign/scary to today’s students.

Reflecting on Reflecting

The faculty initiative materials for the week got me thinking about the need for reflection as part of the learning process. I think we all know that reflection is a pedagogical best practice, but it’s so easy to skip over that piece in the traditional classroom.

I teach a senior level software engineering course where a lot of the course is about the experience, so I have reflective assignments built in throughout the semester. It’s easy to put reflection into a course like that and of course the students get a lot out of the experience and the reflection process. But the video this week (Professor Alec Couros: “The Connected Teacher,” 2013) reminded me that I should be doing these same types of reflective activities more across the board in my classes.

This semester I’m going to make an effort to weave that reflective piece more into my intro classes. As the student post artifacts from coding projects on their portfolios, I’m going ask them to do some reflection on what they learned by doing the project – either as a video or as part of the artifact documentation. I think students will benefit because they’ll have to think through why various things were assigned (obvious to me but not always obvious to the them), how they learned about syntactic things that weren’t covered in class, and also by creating a “snapshot” of where they were on their path to becoming software developers when they wrote a particular chunk of code.

This week I’m having the them write a bit about what they love about computer science (or programming) in an “About Me” style post. I’m hoping that having students think about why they like CS (or their limited view of it) will give them some extra motivation to power through the hard and frustrating parts of the course. Or maybe it’ll help them realize that CS is not something they enjoy and that’s okay too. It’s better to figure it out in an intro course than when you’re 4 courses in to the major.

Feb 14

Taking Stock of Digital Identity (Week Two Post)

I never spend a lot of time – honestly any time – thinking about my digital identity.   I kind jumped ahead on the search for your current identity activity during our discussion last Monday and Googled myself during our group meeting.   I was a little surprised by the results.

Some folks on campus probably don’t realize that “Anewalt” is my maiden name and that I only use it at work.   So in searching for “Karen Anewalt”, I fully expected to see all sorts of professionally oriented things.  I didn’t expect that little pieces of my non-professional life would spill in as well.   Also, Anewalt isn’t a very common last name, so I also expected everything to be about me rather than other folks sharing my name.

The top few hits were to be expected: UMW’s Meet the Faculty and RateMyProfessor.  I would have guessed those would make the front page.

The top 4 images were interesting because they are 2 faculty photos of me, then a photo of a little girl who I’ve never seen in my life, then an image from a site about making lunch boxes for American Girl dolls.  That last one I didn’t see coming.  It’s from one of my Pinterest boards.  I pin a lot of crafts to do with my kids and my daughter loves making stuff for her dolls.  I don’t pay a lot of attention to who follows my Pinterest, but based on that photo being included as one of the top hits related to me, I’m guessing that most of my followers are also AG crafting fans.   I guess I do get a lot of repins anytime I post something new on that board.  After about the first week on Pinterest, I stopped paying attention to who repinned or “liked” my pins.

Next up, we have a website from Project Kaleidoscopee, an interdisciplinary STEM faculty initiative that I’m part of, although I haven’t been all that involved for the past 5 years – maybe it’s been even longer.   That link is one of the few spots on the Web that includes my married last name.  Interesting.    The link is broken and I’m not sure what ever lived there, but I doubt it was something that I put together.

Then there’s my YouTube channel containing all sorts of video goodies for my courses.

And a LinkedIn account, which isn’t me, but is a Karen Anewalt who is a proposal manager for a civil engineering firm in NY, NY.  I didn’t see that one coming – probably a distant relative.

Next up we have one of my bigger journal pubs.  Then some pretty normal stuff rounds out the first page: facebook, Google+, ancestry.com.

Interestingly, if you Google my legal name, there’s not a single hit on the first page that is actually related to me.   I wouldn’t have guessed that, but I’m not all that disappointed either.