Parson’s Problems for Interactive Assessment

Parson’s Puzzles help efficient learning and assessment in all fields.

Screenshot of a Parson Problem

In his Computing Education Blog, Parson’s Problems have the same learning gains as writing or fixing code, Mark Guzdial highlighted how useful Parson’s Problems can be for interactive learning modules.

Not Just Computer Science
The article emphasizes how useful these exercises can be for computer science, but these same concepts could be used for many other fields. For example, a healthcare module might use this technique to ensure that the students can follow the specific steps needed for specific procedures such as taking blood pressure or drawing blood.

One of the most interesting points to this learning tool is adding in distractors. Instead of a one-to-one answer, add in extra items that don’t meet the procedure being tested.

This is a sample Parson Puzzle, CSS Flexbox, built using Articulate Storyline 360, that I include in one of my web programming tutorials. The tutorial shows the code with examples and this puzzle is used as a summary page midway through the tutorial.

Here is a screenshot of the correct answer ;-)

Answer for Flexbox Palmer Puzzle

Here is the original study, Parson’s Programming Puzzles: A Fun and Effective Learning Tool for First Programming Courses by Dale Parsons and Patricia Haden.

Articulate Storyline 360 – Highlights

Highlights showing our favorite things about Articulate Storyline 360

Articulate Storyline 360 logo

I’ve been working on a list of Articulate 360 Highlights with Amanda Bell, another course developer. This is the newest version of Articulate. The software is now more cloud-based and it is very well designed.

I thought it would be helpful to others to see a list of the features that Amanda and I really appreciate and use on a regular basis.


Tools

  • Allows fast development with a very professional look and feel.
  • Everything is responsive automatically, works on all devices
  • Three development tools for different levels of development:
    • Basic: Studio 360 Converts Powerpoint to stand-alone tutorial
    • Intermediate: Rise – Quick module development
    • Advanced: Storyline 360 – a detailed development environment for very interactive and branching tutorials. Interactive slides created in 360 can easily be included inside of a Rise module.

The interface between all these tools is very consistent and fluid.

Auxillary Development Tools

  • Peek – Records screencasts similar to Camtasia and Storyline 360 has this feature built-in.
  • Publishing a course involves the click of a single button and finished modules run on any device.
  • Content Library
    • Contains 1,000’s of public domain images, with instant search and automatic accreditation to the copyright owners
    • Hundreds of characters, each having 20+ different poses and expressions – a click away. A wide diversity of people and occupations are represented. This collection is continually growing.
    • Images, illustrations, and icon are immediately available for all types of training situations
    • Templates for quizzes, click and drag, scenarios, and whole presentations. For everything. These are very professional looking and designed to be customized with any content.
    • Modern Fonts – Nine built into Rise and Articulate 360 with the ability to add custom fonts making font choice unlimited.
  • Articulate Review allows detailed collaboration between developers and stakeholders with version control.
  • Text-to-Speech is built in – Blocks of onscreen text can be immediately converted to voice and can be used to match various character avatars. This is a vast improvement over separately recording individual voice-overs and maintaining all those sound files. The speech is life-like.
  • Video Enhancement with Q/A Options Any video included in a module can automatically include questions throughout, making them much more interactive.
  • Interactive Tutorials from Screencasts A screencast demonstration can be automatically converted into a step-by-step simulation with the click of a button.

Community

  • Articulate has a huge community of thousands of active eLearning developers.
  • The ability for course developers (and stakeholders) to work together using the Articulate Review.
  • Very extensive online tutorials and training.
    • Short and concise – less than 5 minutes – focusing on a particular technique
    • Weekly emails with examples and tutorials from Articulate and other developers.
    • Regular challenges published showing how other developers solve eLearning problems.
    • Articulate Live – Live webinars with eLearning experts. New ones available every few days.

Leveraging Learning Concepts

  • Easy-to-implement branching with feedback based on student’s decisions
  • Easy-to-implement click-and-drag screens with a wide variety of templates to build on.
  • Interactive objects including buttons, sliders, dials, hotspots, input, and click markers
  • Gamification easy to set up using Articulate templates
  • Scenarios, timelines, process, tabs, and related content can all be built using existing templates.

Assessment

  • Multiple templates for self-grading quizzes for fast development
  • Ability to add assessment questions inside of videos
  • Graded quizzes that can be linked to an LMS
  • Controlled questions for branching
  • Built-in automatic feedback which can be customized very easily

The Articulate ecosystem allows the developer to focus on the content, not on the mechanizations.


If you have access to Storyline 360, check out the automated step-by-step tutorials that you can easily make from screen capture videos. Here is a three-part tutorial showing all the details. https://community.articulate.com/series/107/articles/articulate-storyline-360-tutorial-how-to-create-interactive-simulations

Battleship: Waterfall Design vs. Agile

The classic game of Battleship has been repurposed to demonstrate the effectiveness of agile methods.

Mark Suurmond has created a simulation, available on GitHub, that allows programmers and students to experience the difference between the waterfall design process and the agile process.

When the simulation first displays it is set to 40 iterations.  The player has to guess where on the board the ships are located, but doesn’t find out until the last attempt is finished.

There is some success, but also a lot of wasted effort, much like we often experience when developing a project using the waterfall method.

 On the second trial, the programmer gets feedback after every attempt. This would be like having the client at your side each time you wrote a bit of code. The finished product is much more “on target”, much like we experience when using agile methods.

The third and fourth trial is run, getting feedback every 5 iterations, and then every 10. Running this simulation the programmer can gain an appreciation of constant feedback vs. getting regular feedback after multiple iterations. It isn’t always possible to meet after every programming decision is made.

Here is a guide so you can implement this with your own students or programming team: lab: Battleship Waterfall vs. Agile


Photo courtesy of Wikipedia. US Navy 100530-N-2798F-011 Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Justin Stout and Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Anthony Bertolino spend their break playing the game Battleship aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S.jpg

 

Experience Agile – The Ballpoint Game

It is one thing to read about the agile processes and quite another to experience them.

This face-to-face activity quickly demonstrates how effective the iterative process can be.

The Challenge: As a team, the group must “process” as many balls as possible following specific rules. The group has four opportunities with a ‘SCRUM’ meeting in between each and a fifth “Grand Challenge” at the end.

The Results: The first time I directed this activity the team processed 15 balls during the first iteration and 88 balls in the Grand Challenge. They all experienced problem-solving, flow, and cooperation and had fun at the same time.

Reflection: The activity ends asking the group these questions:

  • How does this relate to agile code development?
  • What does this mean? “Every system has its own velocity.”
  • Flow is being totally focused and losing track of time. Did you experience this during this exercise?
  • How does that relate to other experiences such as programming or gaming?

Here is a PDF presentation you can use to implement this activity: labProcessFlow – The Ballpoint Game

Here is a video showing one team in the first iteration of the game:
You can purchase a bag of 100 plastic balls from Amazon for around $20: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01LX7BAK6/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Finding Free Images on the Web

Clients often need images for their website and printed materials. Here is a short list of resources where you can download free images as well as premium images.

Clients often need images for their website and printed materials. Here is a short list of resources where you can download free images as well as premium images.

DreamsTime

http://www.dreamstime.com/
Stock photos at a reasonable price. Web sites only need photos no wider than 400px.

Google Search


Using Google search to find Creative Commons images.


You can use Google to find photos that have a creative commons license. When you do this, always give the owner credit or attribution by including the website URL in the credits of your document.

Click on the image for a larger view

Google is constantly being redesigned so your click pattern may be different. This image shows the keywords to look for.

To keep track of the attribution store your creative commons images in a special folder. Include a text file or Word document that lists or shows a small thumbnail of the image and the URL of the site you got it from.

Often times photos are HUGE. Use an image editor such as http://pixlr.com to change the size of the image. Include the new size in the file name for quick reference and to keep from overwriting the original. For example: shetlandPony.jpg would become shetlandPony300x250.jpg.

Flickr

https://www.flickr.com

Using Flickr to find Creative Commons images.


Flickr.com is a good source for photos. You can show all the Creative Commons photos that are licensed for commercial use. They also offer the Flickr Marketplace showing professional photos that are available to purchase.

List of Free Photo Sites

http://www.wheretofindfreeimages.com/
This page includes many sources of free photos.

RGBStock has some great photos.

http://www.rgbstock.com/
Their licensing is very generous. You may use their images:

2.a In digital format on websites, blogs, multimedia presentations, broadcast film or video and on your cell phone or personal computer as screen background or desktop wallpaper.

2.b In print to decorate your home or your office.

2.c In printed materials such as magazines, newspapers, books, brochures, flyers, text books, wherein the image or images used are for the purpose of illustration and not the primary content for sale or redistribution of the printed materials.

FreeImages.com

http://www.freeimages.com/
This site offers both free images and premium images for sale.

iStockPhoto.com

http://www.istockphoto.com/
This is the standard site for commercial stock photos. Originally started in Calgary, Canada by two young men, they sold the company to Getty images. Most small images suitable for the web run around $40. You can get a 10 image, 1-month subscription for $40.

Read the licensing carefully. They have strict limitations on how an image can be used.

They have recently partnered with http://leanin.org/about/ including photographs of women changing how women are portrayed.

Very high quality photography.

Adding JavaScript to WordPress

In my Advanced Web (CSC245) class that I’m teaching at Concordia University, St. Paul, the students needed to know how to add JavaScript to their WordPress blog postings.

I put together this demo page walking them through the process along with this video.

Adding JavaScript to WordPress

Here is the source code for the JavaScript function used in the video.

How old is each mask?

edoIvoryMask1500

Ivory Pendant Mask: Court of Benin. Iyoba, Nigeria

ifeKings_Head1100

Yoruba (Ife) bronze casting of Oduduwa

ngady-aMwaashKubaRoyalMask1890

Ngady aMwaash, Kuba Royal Mask, Peabody Museum, Harvard University

Credits:
edoIvoryMask1500Creative Commons, Wikipedia Edo Ivory Mask

ifeKings_Head1100Public domainIFE Kings Head

ngady-aMwaashKubaRoyalMask1890Creative Commons, Wikipedia Ngady aMwaash, Kuba Royal Mask

Building your digital story, one digital block at a time…..

By Paul Wasko

Image of DS106 Assignment Bank pageMany educators are beginning to explore digital storytelling as an assessment methodology within their courses or programs.   The ideas behind “digital storytelling” are not new and began to emerge in the later part of the

20th century. (If you are interested, the Center for Digital Storytelling has a brief history at  http://storycenter.org/history ).

As the former director of eFolioMinnesota, I am very interested in the use of digital portfolios to support digital storytelling efforts.

What is new in digital storytelling are the tools students and educators can use to author their digital content.  

Historically, digital authoring tools often involved some knowledge of HTML commands.  However, with today’s online tools, creating a simple photoshow is straightforward using tools like http://Flickr.com.

So, if digital storytelling tools have become accessible to the average digitally literate student/educator then why are we not seeing digital storytelling emerge in classes throughout our education community?  The reason: the tools might be simple but we still have to figure out how to apply and use them. This takes practice and knowledge. (I know how to use a hammer but I still couldn’t build a house on my own.).

Helping you and your student’s proficiency using several different story-telling tools is a goal of the University of Mary Washington’s DS106 open class (http://ds106.us/ ).

For educators, an especially useful component of the course is the Assignment Bank.  The course author’s have done a wonderful job pulling together assignments that build proficiency with a variety of web-based authoring tools and services.

For example, check out “Your Favorite Teams Mashup” assignment in the “Mashup” section. The instructions for the assignment are as follows::

“Combine the logos of two or more of your favorite sports teams. Don’t just create an image with the two logos next to each other! Make the final logo look natural and cohesive.”

For educators, consider using some of these assignments as a way to build student proficiency.  It is a fun, straightforward way to help us return to the art of storytelling in the 21st century.

Note that not every assignment is appropropriate for all age groups so K-12 teachers may want to modify the assignment based on their grade level.

Special thanks to my friend and colleague John Ittelson, author of Documenting Learning with ePortfolios, for introducing me to DS106.