[IAEP] What is a Lesson Plan?
Antoine van Gelder
antoine at g7.org.za
Tue Jul 8 13:35:17 CEST 2008
On 07 Jul 2008, at 20:19, Edward Cherlin wrote:
>>> Edward wrote:
>>> Writing lesson plans needs to be a whole program in itself,
>>> integrated with
>>> rethinking textbooks to make use of the available software and to
>>> Constructionism, or possibly just creating textbooks within
> Nobody has anything to say about this program?
There appears to be some kind of invisible and impregnable force-
shield surrounding South African schooling which deflects anyone
wanting to try original approaches to a problem which stubbornly
resists solving despite repeated applications of the same medicine
which has had a 100% failure rate for decades now...
...so I ended up deciding to spend a large-ish chunk of last year
working with a lecturer in the chemical engineering department at one
of our local universities doing a preliminary investigation into
developing curriculum using dynamic media.
So, this work deals with undergraduate students but I do think that a
lot of it would apply to developing dynamic media curriculum for any
Some technical considerations:
* Cairo output is breathtakingly gorgeous but rendering performance
sucks for realtime graphics even with the OpenGL accelerated backend.
* Python is a truly fully hey shoo-wow just plain _awesome_ language
to hack in but performance has a tendency to suck grievously when it
comes to realtime simulation and there exists no short-term strategy
within the Python community for fixing this except for advice to write
performance-critical code in C or use one of the fast-array-
manipulation packages. While this is good advice it has the
unfortunate side-effect of obliterating the educational value of the
simulation source code itself.
* Despite feeling bad about the fact that the current generation of XO
hardware would probably get squished by mesa I've been having a lot
more joy in my life since I switched to a combination of SBCL and cl-
* That said, I honestly think that eToys is the best of all the
possible available options right now for any serious curricula
development work as it involves neither a laborious (but enormously
enjoyable) reinvention of the wheel, nor waiting-for STEPS to mature
and - most importantly - understands what you mean when you say
"Smalltalk inspect." 
Some insights gained:
* Given a semester of teaching, any student can learn the concepts
behind programming in a traditional language but only a handful
actually enjoy programming enough to want to dig into the simulation
* However, those students who do not enjoy programming still want to
dig deeper into the simulation!
* The paradox of graphical programming languages (gpl)  are that:
- a gpl which makes it easy for anyone to write simple programs is
difficult to use to write larger programs
- a gpl which makes it easy to write larger programs is difficult
for anyone to learn
* The assumption I wanted to challenge is that using a simple special-
purpose gpl tailored to a specific simulation is in conflict with
having access to a general-purpose gpl.
* The first part of this challenge was to develop a very simple gpl
which was specific to the domain of our simulation and letting
students at it. The non-programming students loved it and the
programming students immediately wanted to know how they could extend
* The second part of my challenge will have to wait until I'm able to
write some more code!
* By far the largest part of the work was spent dismantling curricula
into its component concepts and figuring out how those concepts
related to each other. This is important to understand because I think
a lot of folk have have the intuition  that the hard work is coding
up the simulation system or the simulations themselves but it's not.
The really really hard part of the work is getting over the
realization that you, yourself, actually don't understand the
curricula nearly as well as you thought you did, figuring out how the
curriculum translates to a simulation, how to represent it in such a
way that it can still run on something smaller than a 2048 processor
SGI cluster and how to integrate peacefully with sensitivities to the
fact that there are limited teaching hours available each semester!
* Developing curricula using dynamic media is hte awesome.
* If the institutional environment you are working with are still
caught up in the moodle-y  excitement it is likely that a
successful preliminary investigation will be met with looks of
incomprehension, nervousness and even outright hostility.
* The world is big, the dust shakes easily off our feet and until
TheDayWhereAllMayFreelyLearnOnline  arrives no one is in any danger
of running out of other institutional environments  wherein
students may be found to roam.
 Yeah, I know. Everyone has an opinion and wants to defend it
vigorously. Well this one is mine. Nyah!
 with apologies
 Well, I know for a fact that I at least had that intuition before
I started! :-)
 moodle rocks. really. but it's already been done. very well in
fact. because moodle really. rocks.
 Oh wondrous, oh happy day!
 Applications are open. Maybe _your_ institution will be the next
to feel hte awesome!
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: one pager - draft 1.pdf
Size: 151404 bytes
Desc: not available
-------------- next part --------------
More information about the Its.an.education.project