From what I've seen, the extra time was well spent. The browser-based API to perform the programming exercises works well. Iris was up and running (tweaking the sample programs provided) in minutes. In six weeks, the class will cover:
SyllabusThe class is free. It's a great diversionary activity for kids who are suffering through standardized exams this season. In addition to having fun, they might just learn something useful.
CS101 topics are covered with a mixture of video lecture and active lab work, all in the browser:
- The nature of computers and code, what they can and cannot do
- How computer hardware works: chips, cpu, memory, disk
- Necessary jargon: bits, bytes, megabytes, gigabytes
- How software works: what is a program, what is "running"
- How digital images work
- Computer code: loops and logic
- Big ideas: abstraction, logic, bugs
- How structured data works
- How the internet works: ip address, routing, ethernet, wi-fi
- Computer security: viruses, trojans, and passwords, oh my!
- Analog vs. digital
- Digital media, images, sounds, video, compression
Kids 13 and up can sign up with parental permission. The class is certainly appropriate for advanced kids younger than 13, but they can only do it with an adult. (Sorry, that's the law governing internet correspondence with minors, not Coursera's policy.) I signed up using my email address, log Iris in, and then take a hands off approach while she plays around.
Thank-you Coursera, Nick Parlante and Google for giving him time to work on this project.
What am I doing? I'm learning from data. This Caltech class is so much more challenging and rigorous than the AI class I took last Fall. Limits, functional analysis, proofs by mathematical induction, perceptron learning algorithms, error bounds and a heck of a lot of homework problems that can only be solved by writing your own code.
It's a time commitment, but I am enjoying the deep dive into rigor. I also like how you can view the lectures live and then ask questions, just like in a real class. Students type their questions in and the head TA reads them aloud to the professor during the Q&A session following each lecture.
Here's another computer/human hybrid teacher story:
At Virginia Tech, computers help solve a math class problem
She just finished the exercises for lesson 1 and proundly announced that she got an A+. Thank-you so much, Nick, for giving her something more useful to do on the computer than dress and groom ponies or Barbie!