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Working notes

Proposal for work on OERs using the MCE at C16

General comments

  1. I am mindful of Piet's concern that what we have built in the course of the project isn't well-orented towards teacher's classroom and curriculum needs. I don't see any way of changing the character of the 'OERs' based on construals that we build - it seems to me that we need to exploit them for what they are, and accept that the idea of building a construal that is good for one specific target groups of students and learning objective is not appropriate. The best we can do I think is to provide resources that show how we can compile educational materials around a construal in such a way as to create something accessible to a teacher that can be adapted to several different purposes.
  2. The great contribution of the final MCE prototype is that is oriented towards presenting construals for use and adaptation. This is in line with Hamish's proposal that our audience has to migrate from use to adaptation to construction. Until now, I think the initial interface to a construal as presented in the MCE has been too daunting and disorienting, and this has made the approach Hamish proposed hard to promote. The rich interface that the expert maker needs is still present in the new MCE, but it is no longer in the foreground and can easily be ignored. This does mean that we need to consider the best way to introduce the making agenda. This brings me to the next point.
  3. The Getting Started with JS-Eden worksheet first developed by Antony Harfield is once again out of date (which I believe is a good thing!), There are several different approaches that could be taken to addressing the Getting Started agenda, which now requires a different initial interface (much simpler than the 'Browse Agents' one). The key question is how best to exploit the new presentation features -- the 'book' and the 'page' layouts. Nick has taken one approach in his Solar System construal (PID=39), where the student has nothing to type, but has to learn the mechanism for executing definitions and interpreting the results. An alternative approach, simillar to that adopted by Ant -- and approved by teachers -- is to oblige students to enter definitions themselves, so as to experience the satisfaction (and frustration) of framing their own definitions etc. The question is then where do they enter definitions? There is no longer an Input Window as such, and the basic role of the Observable List can be to a large degree played by embedded queries in a page. Students could build up their own scripts wthin that environment, potentially (in due course) practising a particularly interesting variety of 'literate programming' where code and commentary are blended. Nick has proposed that we create a alternative to the 'New Project' by way of a starter presentation that gives the novice maker a simple pre-structured presentation environment in which they can create their own script. His template for this (which requires some auxiliary guidance) is the Blank Presentation construal (PID 110).The Explorer view associated with the 'spanner' icon is also an option that is quite close in spirit to the original interface in the first versions of the MCE (see the Dog construal with PID=41 and VID=244).

Topics for OERs

Here are some OERs we might consider working on together with the above comments in mind:

  • Solar system and extensions: build an OER around the theme of the planets
    • This could still serve as an introduction to JS-Eden, but we'd need to look closely at point 3 above. Nick's Solar System construal (PID=39) has a lot of merit, but may be rather more advanced than the original, which needs to be revisited. A good source from which to begin work on a revision might be the lab I prepared for the i<tag> conference last October.
    • It would be excellent if a teacher felt sufficiently confident to organise a session with schoolchildren such as we held in Athens a year ago. The basic solar system construal (PID = 86) includes notes on the introduction that I gave at the time, and can be developed into a something a teacher could readily adopt (and which coud now be given better support in the MCE).
    • It would be good to blend in here some more interesting topics such as Russell's Mars-related construals (e.g. his Mars launcher construal {PID=111)), my attempt to make a construal of the rocket trajectory (to be improved!), and potentially some recent exploration I've been doing on phases of the moon (as an exercise in figuring something out from scratch --which I hope I have!). This last exercise is quite interesting from a basic 3d modelling point of view, as the appearance of the moon (crescent / full moon etc) is ideally modelled in a 3d graphical setting.
    • Other subjects such as the story of Galileo and the discovery of Jupiter's moons, or the links between the calendar and the solar system (e.g. the seasons) etc could also be worth exploring.
  • Resources for using the MCE in conjunction with a physical computing application

This is not an area to which I have contributed much, but it would be good see consolidation that brings together the work that has been done at UEF by Tapani and Ilkka and the MCE development at Warwick. It is essential to bring these developments into the same github context for instance, as we have been aiming to do for some time

We should follow up the work done by Tapani and Nick on integrating the MCE with Arduino by documenting what needs to be done to deploy Arduino with the MCE In the classroom, developing starter activities, revisiting the Arduinola concept etc. There seems to be a useful role for 3D modelling here.

The proposal for exploiting the Raspberry PI should be evaluated and developed further (especially if this means that teachers can use the MCE with Arduino without the logistic /political problems that implementing servers on school networks entails), and we should consider how best to approach Raspberry Pi Foundation (with CONSTRUIT 2017 in mind).

The Edurobotics 2016 conference suggested a number of ways in which making construals can be linked to educational robotics. This is a particularly interesting topic given that the Horizon 2020 eCraft2Learn project has expressed such interest in adopting the MCE as its platform. C16 will be a good opportunity to consolidate on this idea and help to develop useful resources for that purpose.

  • Maths education is a good theme for us to address via construals. We have a number of examples of topics for which construals can have an illustrative role (there is a kind of progression which the MCE supports from an illustrative example for presentation by the teacher to an animation with constrained interaction to an exploratory resource to support conversation between teachers and learners). Topics of interest might include:
    • ratio / trigonometry / triangles / symmetry / number representations / 2d geom modelling
    • Steve has had some interactions with the experts who specialise in addressing 'maths anxiety', and there are themes that should be explored relating to that agenda.
    • recreational maths (Nim / Penny Rolling / Hailstorm puzzle) and historical reconstructions (abacus / Napier Chessbboard Abacus) are also worth exploring.
  • Shopping (need I say more!)

There is a collection of OERs that were developed some time ago that may now be much more accessible in the latest MCE. It will need to be remodelled so that it is appropriately presented and this might be a task to do in a collaborative fashion. The resources here include: various OERs for teaching the principles of shopping and currency etc, the shopping game, the vending machine, giving change plus associated construals that serve a role in introducing the concept of making a construal (see e.g. the purse and scenes from shopping construals).

  • Sorting
    The relationship between making construals and computing education has always been puzzling. At last year's CAS meeting, I talked about the potential for using construals as way of "giving computer support for computing unplugged". It would be good to follow up on that idea. Sorting is one topic that could be used to illustrate this:
    • Gary Shearn (a teacher at Marlborough College) devised an unplugged exercise to introduce sorting which has been implemented in the MCE. It can be the source of a number of OERs that stimulate thinking about the characteristics of sorting algorithms. An associated construal has been developed by Jonny Foss.
    • A bubblesorting construal is a useful way to introduce the principles of making construals. We can now exploit new features in the MCE, which allow associations between natural language descriptions and more formal representations of sorting concepts to be explored.
    • A number of themes can be illustrated by using the two sorting-related construals, either by extending them (e.g. to motivate/illustrate probabilistic sorting algorithms, to expose the redundancy i bubblesorting) or by bringing them together.
    • Construals of more advanced sorting algorithms (e.g. heapsort) exist in older versions of EDEN, and may be re-engineered to work in the MCE.
  • Miscellaneous other construals may have potential applications as OERs, or resources for introducing making construals. These include:
    • The OXO laboratory
    • Conway's Life
    • Charles Crook's Factor Snake game as implemented by Elizabeth Hudnott
    • Hex colouring
    • Nim
    • The Light Box
    • Music-related construals, such as Jonny Foss's Artiphon construal and other construals developed by Jonny and Elizabeth.

Support for collaboration in the MCE

The new MCE offers far better prospects than previous variants for collaboration in developing OERs from construals. Hopefully, many of the obstacles that have made this difficult are now easier to overcome:

  • The new presentation modes (Layouts > book, page) make it possible for non-specialists to develop commentaries using markdown rather than raw html, and alow script fragments to be embedded in these much more easily.
  • Saving and accessing projects is much simpler: it is possible to import, fork and to retrieve versions of projects,
  • It is possble to add commentary to projects and to create construals that primarily serve as obkcts-to-converse-with ranging from illustrated documents for discussion (largely text) to construals that can be shared and explored together.

A good objective for C16 is to establish an appropriate mode (or perhaps "appropriate mdoes") of working for participatory design.

Key issues to address are

  • how we organise ourselves: though it seems somewhat against the spirit of the project it may be that having pairs to represent each partner working together on an OER topic would work well. For instance:
    • Hamish / Chris Hall
    • Manolis / Rene
    • Peter / Michal
    • Possible representatives deputising for Tapani / Ilkka, who are unfortunately in Eritrea at this time

Nick and Elizabeth would be an excellent support team for this, and Dimitris and WMB can take an overall interest in the agenda from the perspective of how far the project is delivering to its goals.

  • how to integrate this with Virtual Workshop elements (e.g. Eemil, Samuli and Indian students at UEF), with local teachers (such as Daphne, Pola etc) and with the SciFest 2017 agenda?
  • how to direct work towards the open online course, the CONSTRUIT 2017 conference and the documentation for the MCE.

Supplementary notes

I am referring to the construal that you get at the url:

http://jseden.dcs.warwick.ac.uk/construit/?load=41&vid=244

as 'the construal with PID=41 and VID=244'. This is a specific version of a particular construal.