Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Mark Frydenberg -- using a wiki and Popfly

The business school at Bentley College offers a mandatory Introduction to Technology from a Business Perspective course for incoming freshmen. For students who do not need the standard introduction to IT concepts and Microsoft Office, they offer special sections. One of those, the "technology intensive" section, is taught by Mark Frydenberg. The course varies from term to term, but Frydenberg is trying to present basic IT concepts through the lens of Web 2.0.

You can review the syllabus, class wiki, and student blogs and contributions at the course Web site, but let me highlight a couple of items.

Freydenberg encourages the students to take control of the course via the class wiki. For example, students are assigned to post and revise class notes on the wiki each week. They are also encouraged to suggest exam questions, with answers and discussion. You can hear Frydenberg discuss their use of the wiki in this two-minute audio excerpt from a longer video interview.

Frydenberg also includes a taste of programming in his class. The emphasis is on algorithmic thinking and programming concepts like input-process-output, object, method, property, parameter, data type, and repetition, selection and sequential execution.

In past semesters, he has used simple VB.NET assignments to illustrate these concepts, but, with his focus on Web 2.0, has switched to Microsoft Popfly. He has developed two simple applications -- a coin toss program and a mashup between Microsoft Virtual Earth and an RSS feed of real estate listings. These not only illustrate the programming concepts he teaches, they illustrate aspects of Web 2.0 -- RSS, a mapping mashup, and easily incorporating an application into a Web page or blog post.

They also illustrate the power of building an application on top of network resources -- the students are surprised by how easy it is to create a complex application -- these Popfly programs are surely more impressive than the temperature conversion programs Freydenberg used when teaching with VB.NET. (This is similar to our contrasting an application developed using an Internet database service with the equivalent ASP.NET application).

Freydenberg demonstrates these applications and discusses his use of them in teaching programming concepts in this video.

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