At 15 crosswords per page and 129 pages, teachers have generated almost 2000 crossword puzzles (it’s been about a month). It’s one of life’s small things, but it’s a nice feeling–that something you built is useful.
Crossword Generator allows you to create printable crossword puzzles quickly using HTML5 Canvas. A few teachers gave some positive feedback during the Beta phase so I’ve packaged it up. I hope this is useful to you or a teacher you know.
Simple Example: Fruit
Advanced Example: Biology Unit
My wife wants me to teach her Ruby so I did something very DRY: I tried out Codecademy. This new EdTech site teaches you to program with interactive lessons. I know they’re onto something because I have many things to say and suggestions that could apply to any website.
Things to Improve
Make You Model Structure Crystal Clear
Poor Linkage of Documentation to UI
Get Serious About Gamification
Even though the badges are cute, it’s obvious that the game mechanics are not well thought out. I’m not the game designer in my company, but I’ve been around them long enough to know that you probably want to have leaderboards, levels, progress, more messaging on the “how” and “why” of the system, etc. As a student and a teacher in the system, it wasn’t clear to me where I was in relation to other players and where I should be going. This part’s not as big of a deal, since they seem to have their core competency down, engagement is a big part of any crowd-sourced content site.
Overall, Codecademy has captured the core experience, which is why I would use it and from what I hear 500,000+ other people would too. One additional philosophical argument I would echo from this piece by Audrey Watters is that the site is lacking the conceptual component. Sure, there’s a “glossary” that you can link to from what I can glean in the Markdown examples (yeah, I made the connection!), but it’s almost an after thought. It’s equally important to weave conceptual learning into this experience as well. But it’s likely they’ll add that soon since they only launched last August.
Check it out and let me know what you think
I’ve always been passionate about education and last weekend I finally did something about it. I spent 54 hours at Startup Weekend EDU immersing myself in the world of EdTech. At first I didn’t know what to make of it: 56 random people from diverse backgrounds giving 1-minute startup pitches ranging from a browser plugin for MLA citations to a “Million Student March”. Since none of the 3 ideas I voted for made the cut, I was disheartened. Was my gut really that far off??? Fate had other ideas apparently because the team I eventually joined won the whole thing.
The prize is a meeting with Andreessen Horowitz, but I already got my money’s worth. I had a candid chat with my teammate Ben, a high school teacher from rural Mississippi, who effortlessly shot down all my over-engineered and ungrounded ideas on how to “fix education”. I was inspired by an elderly woman and her son from Minnesota who combined her original songs with animated caterpillars to teach music and concepts together. Most valuable of all, I learned that we each hold but fragments of complete solutions.
At the end of our presentation, we whipped out an iPad and quipped “There’s an app for that!”. It was our flourish, demonstrating that what we built works seamlessly on the iPad as well as the web. I am simultaneously proud and embarrassed about it. I’m proud that we were able to build something that would have taken many times longer in the past but embarrassed that we spent the majority of our time building and not thinking. One day, Startup Weekend will produce startups that will build products, mature in the market and get acquired all before the 54 hours are over. Until then, I’ll be working on building the tools and improving the education needed to get us there.