Legitimate Peripheral Participation

I haven’t posted yet this year and felt the need to post something so here are some thoughts I am having here at the end of January. They may be more appropriate to twitter but I am posting them here nonetheless:

I have started reading Failure to Disrupt by Justin Reich and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I also recommend Justin Reich’s podcast “TeachLab” where he goes into a lot of detail about how to improve educational systems in the US. One of his guests recommended a large edit to his book, replacing the concept of “scalable education” with “public education”. The book would be much improved by this change. I may do a book review on this down the line.

I grew up in a community and family full of chances for legitimate peripheral participation. I got to experience it within my synagogue, my dad’s lab, and at summer camp. I got to experience it again in some ways within the startup community here in Boston and a lot during my masters in CS at Tufts. However, I feel that it is missing from my current Ph.D. experience. I think Covid is largely to blame here. It is such an important way to learn and I miss it dearly.

Relatedly, I think that the curriculum idea I have about CS1 could be improved by designing it to explicitly create environments that support LPP. If anyone is reading and has ideas about how to engineer for it, or why it is impossible to induce, I would love to hear them.

I found my first “expert” who agrees with me that Computational Thinking (CT) is a load of crap! I just joined the class Children & Technology taught by the wonderful Dr. Marina Bers and we had a short chat about it today. The short version on why CT is a bad concept, in my opinion, is that it describes too broad a set of skills and ideas to be useful to anyone. You can teach programming, algorithmic thinking, computation modeling, proof, etc. but the idea that you can teach a student something that will improve their skills across all of these things seems wrong to me.

I am working with Dr. Trevion Henderson to develop my CS1 curriculum within a course at Tufts called ES2! It has already been a spectacular experience to work with him and to watch someone teach my curriculum. The best part has been watching and listening to students while someone else stands at the front of the room. I have already learned a lot doing it as well. I’ll post more about it when appropriate.

This is going to be a very busy semester but I am very hopeful that I will have the time and energy to update this blog a bit more regularly. A belated happy new year to all!