Tuesday, July 07, 2015

It’s Worth A Try–Or Is It?

Is the BBC’s ‘Micro Bot’ the Silver Bullet). With a new set of announcements today the discussion has started again.There were a rash of comments on it in the CS education forum on Facebook. I confess I am excited by shiny new toys and this one is shiny and new. But beyond that we don’t know that this will work. We don’t know that it will bring more students into computer science.

One of the early comments was “It's worth a try.” But is it? Mark Guzdial replied to that statement with “I don't think it is. It's a very expensive PR stunt that we *don't* know will work. There are lots of things that we know *will* work that are *less* expensive than sending everyone a tiny computer.”

I think it is pretty clear that this is largely a public relations stunt. It’s a one year one shot program with no plan for what will follow for that one cohort of students. And what about the next year’s cohort? Will they be the “beneficiaries” of some new idea on a totally different topic? No one really knows.

I can understand the frustration of people who have been hard at work for years on expanding participation in computing and know, via solid research, some ideas that demonstrably work.  If the money that is going to this PR effort when into proven programs wouldn’t that be even more “worth a try?”

I also understand the excitement of the people involved in the BBC effort. I know some of the people involved in the TouchDevelop interface for example and they are very excited and optimistic. But they are researchers and one probably can’t be a good researcher without some serious optimism about your projects.

Is this going to be “worth it?” I guess that depends on how you define worth. It’s getting the BBC a lot of attention and generally a lot of good will. So that means it is probably worth a try for them. For students and broadening participation in computing? Well the jury is still out but I’m not betting on success.

1 comment:

Garth said...

It is interesting to read education theorists ideas on new things. "More research is needed." Heck, if the BBC is willing to pony up the cash, give it a whirl! What is there to lose? The kids will learn something, the teachers will learn something and the researchers may learn something. I try and do something new with the kids every year. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not but I have yet to have a kid implode because of that. This year I want to get some EV3 robots so I can play with Small Basic's new module. Can I teach the exact same thing a different way cheaper? Definitely. Can I or the kids have more fun with out the EV3s? Probably not. Making things do things with code should be fun. The Microbit looks like fun. If NBC gave me some nifty new toy to play with, in exchange I would watch NBC with more enthusiasm.