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Google claims MOOCs SOLVE code-for-kids teacher training problem

Shock finding as Big G learns free online stuff can attract, engage, lots of people

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Google's latest contribution to the global movement that advocates teaching kids to code as the solution for every problem has discovered something revolutionary: if you put good content online, lots of people will read it and some of them may even engage with it.

The revelation comes from Google Research, which has run its eye over the numbers emerging from Harvard University's Creative Computing Online Workshop, a six-week massively online open course (MOOC) “for educators who want to learn more about using Scratch and supporting computational thinking in the classroom and other learning environments.”

Google's now touting the course as a tremendous success because it “... had 2600 participants, who created more than 4700 Scratch projects, and engaged in 3500 forum discussions, compared to the 'in-person' class held last year, which reached only 50 educators.

Those expecting data from the in-person class to compare outcomes with the MOOC will be disappointed. Google Research doesn't offer a single supporting digit other than the attendee and project numbers mentioned above. It has also dug up a few other MOOC success stories suggesting those who participate in them quite enjoy the experience.

The findings are, however, a long way short of representing the "Unique Strategies for Scaling Teacher Professional Development" Google's blog post claims. For starters, no teacher is compelled to do this course, so there's no proof it can scale professional development unless teachers are keen to do it. Let's not forget, also, that online educational resources have been with us for years. MOOCs may offer a better experience than previous tools, but declaring one course's success is a harbinger of major change seems unwise. Google's account of the research also fails to offer any sentiment analysis, so we don't know if participants can't wait to do another MOOC or have run away screaming with mental scars so deep they'll never look at a computer again.

And of course let's not imagine that just because teachers learn Scratch they're ready to teach computational thinking to kids across several years of school, as will be required under Australia's nearly-complete Digital Technologies Curriculum.

That wave of cunning kids ready to code away the world's problems may not be as close as Google hopes, is it? ®

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