[IAEP] What is a Lesson Plan?

Bobby Powers bobbypowers at gmail.com
Wed Jul 9 06:07:40 CEST 2008

On Tue, Jul 8, 2008 at 7:35 AM, Antoine van Gelder <antoine at g7.org.za> wrote:
> 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
>>>> implement
>>>> Constructionism, or possibly just creating textbooks within available
>>>> software.
>> 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 age human.
> 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-opengl.
> * 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." [1]
> 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 code.
> * However, those students who do not enjoy programming still want to dig
> deeper into the simulation!
> * The paradox of graphical programming languages (gpl) [2]  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 it.
> * 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 [3] 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!
> Conclusions:
> * Developing curricula using dynamic media is hte awesome.
> * If the institutional environment you are working with are still caught up
> in the moodle-y [4] 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 [5] arrives no one is in any danger of
> running out of other institutional environments [6] wherein students may be
> found to roam.
>  - antoine

On a similar note, I'm an intern working on an activity for
graphically modeling and simulating systems using System Dynamics.


there are a ton of lesson plans and course materials, most free, for
system dynamics lessons available:

While my focus right now is getting the activity working and
simulating, I've been following some of the threads about lesson plans
and lesson bundles with interest, as the easier it is for teachers to
integrate activities into coursework the faster things will get picked


> [1] Yeah, I know. Everyone has an opinion and wants to defend it vigorously.
> Well this one is mine. Nyah!
> [2] with apologies
> [3] Well, I know for a fact that I at least had that intuition before I
> started! :-)
> [4] moodle rocks. really. but it's already been done. very well in fact.
> because moodle really. rocks.
> [5] Oh wondrous, oh happy day!
> [6] Applications are open. Maybe _your_ institution will be the next to feel
> hte awesome!
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