Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Student-Centered Learning vs. Teacher-Centered Learning

We have all been in the position of not understanding something even after someone explains it. This is completely normal because the human brain is like a muscle. We must train it like any other muscle in order to strengthen it. Could a baseball pitcher be "told" how to pitch? Or does he/she have to practice? This similar principle applies to learning in school as well. 

Recently, I have been taking a science pedagogy class and some of the things we talked about were quite relevant to this blog. An interesting article speaks on why, "Lectures aren't just boring, they're Ineffective, too". The issue today is that with an ever-growing student population, classes sizes are growing and student-centered learning is diminishing. College campuses often have lectures with over 300 students and with this kind of class size, it is a logistical challenge to create an active learning environment. Unfortunately, the reality is that many professors simply give lectures and talk about things they find interesting themselves because asking the class to participate is difficult. This is teacher-centered learning because the things that are occurring within the learning environment are being catered to what makes the teacher's life easier. This is rather unfortunate because a study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, "concluded that teaching approaches that turned students into active participants rather than passive listeners reduced failure rates and boosted scores on exams by almost one-half a standard deviation". The good news is that in recent years, teachers have been trying to find innovative ways to create a more active learning environment even with 300+ students in a classroom. 

The most recent methods teachers have used to create an active learning environment in large lecture settings is the use of clickers. The teacher simply puts up a multiple choice question on a large screen and students answer using their personal clickers. From these clickers, teachers can see the results of the class as a whole and also the results of individual students. Some of these clicker questions are often graded and are given sporadically throughout the duration of the class. With the aspect of points being earned throughout the class, students are much more engaged. 

Another tool teachers could use is Kahoot. It is similar to clickers and is usually presented as a multiple-choice question on a big screen. The primary benefit to this method is that it is more fun and also given a competitive aspect. An in-depth post regarding Kahoot from January 2016 on our blog can be found here.

All in all, creating an active learning environment is the key to creating a successful learning environment. The use of Clickers or kahoot are simply examples of innovative ways teachers have used technology to create student-centered learning even when the class size is 300+. Lastly, innovation does not stop at these two tools, so I encourage you to test new tools and share back with us here what you have found effective!

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Affinity Photo Workbook

Quite a while back I discovered an offer to beta test a new photo editing app for the Macintosh that had the potential to be high quality and less expensive replacement for Photoshop.

Photo from  

I applied and beta tested Affinity shortly after working with the app through the beta period and started using the Golden Master and through the updates, I deleted Photoshop.
Then came Affinity Designer(I own that as well) and deleted Illustrator.
Now, I have never looked back.
At the moment, there is a Photo Workbook to get you started and to help you become a master of the app.
Well worth the price.

Contribution by Bill Martin

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Code Academy

What is a skill that is valuable for all STEM majors in 2019? Coding. Getting every bit of coding skill/experience is important in convincing your next interviewee to hire you. Nowadays, there are many different languages for coding, however, they all have similar basic skills. In universities, computer languages such as Matlab and C++ are being taught because schools realize that their students will benefit tremendously from these skills. However, education at universities nowadays is costly and is not affordable for everyone. 

My goal in this blog is to help you, the reader, to find cheap (or even free!) online education resources, that could perhaps model a college experience. Codeacademy is an excellent online resource for coding. You even get a free trial for the first 7 days!

In my opinion, the user interface is quite friendly and very suitable for a beginner. 

What makes Codeacademy such a great resource is because it provides hands-on experience alongside instruction. Coding is like learning any skill in life. It takes time and it takes practice. Would a skater be able to learn moves by only watching others? Would a basketball player be able to make free throws by just being told how to shoot a ball? They must first practice by doing, and this is the type of learning Codeacademy promotes.

Using the next bars on the bottom of the page, Codeacademy provides you with additional tasks to code. In addition to this, there are also many different courses that Codeacademy provides. Since I have a very limited skillset in coding, I was put in the most basic coding lesson. However, when you first sign-up for Codeacademy, they will provide you with a short questionnaire regarding your coding skills, then proceed to place you in the most suitable lessons. 

In addition to the lessons Codeacademy provides, there is also a community in which can provide specific support and learning. Overall, this is a fabulous low-cost resource for acquiring a skill that is simply too valuable nowadays.