Designed for learning

learning – teaching – research – design – technology

this is your brain on code

Hannah Wright has an interesting study on cognitive advantages of programming, which she finds are similar to those of bilinguals:

The performance of 10 professional computer programmers (aged 22–25) and 10 adolescent computer programmers (aged 14–17) is compared to age-matched and IQ-matched controls in two executive control tasks. In the Attention Networks Test, as predicted, programmers recorded faster global reaction times than their monolingual peers; the difference was significant. In the Stroop colour-word task, programmers recorded slower reaction times; however, these results were not significant. Overall, the results suggest that extensive computer programming experience may, like bilingualism, be associated with enhanced executive control. Whatever the direction of this relationship, it could have important implications for education; these are discussed, along with areas for future research.

Hannah is very cautious about her results, and is well aware of the difference between correlation and causation. Nevertheless, this does warrant further investigation. In fact, here is one area of educational research where pre- and post- tests would be meaningful. And, I wonder if there’s a case for a cognitive neuroscience perspective? Yes, surely coding changes your brain – just like any tennis, or any activity you practice regularly. The question is, how?

Another perspective (personal plug – Mor & Noss 2008) is that programming creates mental bridges between mathematics and narrative. Narrative, as Bruner showed, is the means by which we organise experience into meaning. As Hirsh, Mar & Peterson argue: “A growing body of theory and research indicates that the broadest and most integrative levels of an individual’s knowledge system can be characterized as narrative descriptions of reality”. For example, Mar (2011) shows a strong link between narrative comprehension and theory of mind – our core mechanism of social cognition.

What has all this to do with Mathematics? Very little, and that’s the problem. Most people find mathematics hard to grasp, precisely because it is de-narratised. Wittgenstein said “Mathematics is invented to suit experience and then made independent of experience”, stripped of person, time, context – all the elements that make a narrative. The pure perfection of maths is the source of its power, but it leave our narrative apparatus nothing to latch on to.

And this is where coding comes in. Code is narrative in form, but mathematics in essence. A wolf in sheep’s skin. It tells a story, but that story has no tolerance for ambiguity or error. By putting our picture of the world into code, we tell a story – and in doing so construct meaning – but that story is mathematical.

Hirsh, J. B.; Mar, R. A. & Peterson, J. B. (in press), ‘Personal narratives as the highest level of cognitive integration’, Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

Mar, R. (2011), ‘The neural bases of social cognition and story comprehension’, Annual review of psychology 62 , 103-134,

Mor, Yishay and Noss, Richard (2008). Programming as mathematical narrative. International Journal of Continuing Engineering Education and Life-Long Learning (IJCEELL), 18(2), pp. 214–233.


December 16, 2012 Posted by | narrative learning, neuroscience | Leave a comment

I wordled my phd

I wordled my phd.


October 29, 2009 Posted by | design patterns, my phd, narrative learning | | 3 Comments

Guess my X and other techno-pedagogical patterns: my EuroPLoP’08 paper

I’ve finally posted my EuroPLoP’08 paper on telearn.

One of the most successful activities of the WebLabs project was the Guess my Robot game. This game served as a model for several other activities, and eventually gave rise to a set of design patterns for learning mathematics through construction, communication and collaboration. As often happens, I was too busy with other projects to properly publish the results. I mean, I’ve published a few papers which referred to the game or its descendants, but the patterns themselves have always remained informal creatures.

The first attempt I made at collating these patterns for publication was at EuroPLoP 2008. The feedback I received there are invaluable, and encouraged me to rewrite the paper dramatically for the proceedings.  Since then, the patterns have made their way into my thesis and in the process changed again. So there are some things about the proceedings version which I obviously wish I had done differently. But there’s no end to that. It will take some time until my thesis gets processed to publications.

“publish early, publish often”, right? so here it is:

Mor, Y. (forthcoming), Guess my X and other patterns for teaching and learning mathematics, in Till Schümmer & Allan Kelly, ed., ‘Proceedings of the 13th European Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (EuroPLoP 2008)’ .

Most people see learning mathematics as a demanding, even threatening, endeavour. Consequently, creating technology-enhanced environments and activities for learning mathematics is a challenging domain. It requires a synergism of several dimensions of design knowledge: usability, software design, pedagogical design and subject matter. This paper presents a set of patterns derived from a study on designing collaborative learning activities in mathematics for children aged 10-14, and a set of tools to support them.


Mor, Y. & Noss, R. (2008), ‘Programming as Mathematical Narrative’, International Journal of Continuing Engineering Education and Life-Long Learning (IJCEELL) 18 (2) , 214-233 .

Mor, Y.; Tholander, J. & Holmberg, J. (2006), Designing for cross-cultural web-based knowledge building, in Timothy Koschmann; Daniel D. Suthers & Tak-Wai Chan, ed., ‘The 10th Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) conference (2005)’ , Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Taipei, Taiwan , pp. 450 – 459 .

Mor, Y.; Noss, R.; Hoyles, C.; Kahn, K. & Simpson, G. (2006), ‘Designing to see and share structure in number sequences’, the International Journal for Technology in Mathematics Education 13 (2) , 65-78 .

Matos, J. F.; Mor, Y.; Noss, R. & Santos, M. (2005), Sustaining Interaction in a Mathematical Community of Practice, in ‘Fourth Congress of the European Society for Research in Mathematics Education (CERME-4)’ .

October 18, 2009 Posted by | design patterns, games, narrative learning | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Copyright? kid’s play

Scratch is a programming language designed for children to learn and learn with. Coming from the long tradition of constructionism, dating back to the 60’s with the early versions of LOGO. It is one of the most successful and interesing in its family. A significant factor in its success is the scratch community site.


The FAQ makes an effort to encourege sharing and reuse, while respecting copyright laws, without actually using the big C word.

Modifying and extending other people’s projects is a great way to learn more about Scratch — and to develop more sophisticated projects than you could on your own.

While we encourage remixing of projects on the Scratch website, not everyone on the internet wants their artwork to be reused. It’s important to respect the original artist’s wishes. You can search for content that is licensed for remixing at the Creative Commons website. Whenever you use someone else’s work, be sure to give them credit and put a link to the original in your project notes.

Of course, the site has a copyright policy, with perfect legalese, all backsides covered. But we don’t want to confuse kids with this digital identity and intellectual property rights stuff, do we? We just want them to have fun, and learn. Well, guess what they’re learning, and it ain’t always fun.

gabycopyrightCredit to Masked, again. Click ‘ ? ‘ before you start.

Dont use the background, I downloaded it from a FEE website which im a member of.

This is Carrmx’s song, dont use it unless she lets you.

Click thingys :3


I was BORN with a Alice Curren hair.

Sorry for the stinky drawing I dont use my tablet its broken o.o

wow 3rd Top Viewed in 2 days! ive been on scratch for only 3 days! thank you scratchers please dont knock me off lol


user_icon Gabbylence shared it 2 days, 12 hours ago

user_iconBased on MaskedStar‘s project

But look at the comments (hundreds, in just two days):
Dis is messed up…im speechless bout dis whole thing……i feel so bad for masked…..dis is just…ugh!
Your just impersonating a scratcher just to be a celebrity! that is the dumbest idea Ive ever heard of!!! I can’t believe a hallow head like you could do some thing so desperate! And no one can have that color of hair! otherwise it’s a pathetic wig! And your saying that you look EXACTLY like masked star. No way. wallow in your pitiful guilt! but if you stop what your doing I’ll willingly take back all I have said. Deal?
(you know, it was really cool at first.people can be the same, anyone can have the same interests and dislike, there’s even a lot of people with alice cullen’s hair. but the problem is, you practically stolen masked’s idenity from her. T-T and i’m not sure if you know what crohns is, but it’s MORE than just stressing and going to the hospital. it just doesn’t ‘increase’ or ‘decrease’ either. it’s always good to be your own person instead of a carbon copy, no one likes that and you arent unique.)
I felt sorry for you when people blamed you… I trusted you, but you ACTUALLY STOLE Maskeds identity! THATS NOT OKAY. you must fix this now!! You just got Gabby sent to the hospital to get asurgery! Shes so upset shes vomitted BLOOD and you dont even care… I think it is best if you quit… NOW. I really tried hard not to be mean, but you’ve gone too far this time.
And Gabbylence fights back:
i copyrigthed it in Turkey,where i live. My uncle is a computer programmer also a designer so he dhowedme how to copyrigth it, now my character is legal at Turkey. i just saw it at that website! umh i dont remember its name, but website is Turkish anyways…
oh yea, ask Masked! i was wondering, why would Masked add me as a friend, or reply nice to me when i comment even thougth i tell about our look-alike; GENIUS?
Of course, I don’t know who’s right and who’s wrong in this debate. I don’t have the full details or the time to investigate them, but more importantly: I don’t have the legal tools: does this qualify as fair use? Is it covered by Scratch’s default creative commons licence? If Gabbylence did really copyright her charecter, does that copyright hold? And where?
The main issue for me is how easily this community, which was supposed to be all fluffy and naive, slips into copyright issues which are far from trivial, and how much they matter for the community members.
Want to get kids to understand copyright? Identity theft? Simple. Give them a site where they can share stuff, and talk about it.
And if you’re building a community content site, make sure it has the mechanisms to deal with rights and attribution.

August 25, 2009 Posted by | narrative learning | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

JCAL special issue on web2.0

(cross posted from

the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning has just released a special issue on Social Software, Web 2.0 and Learning

And, while we’re in the mood, I thought I’d mention:
Scott Wilson Interactive Learning Environments16(1):17–34(2008)

January 20, 2009 Posted by | narrative learning, technology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

time for a narrative parser?

Last week I gave a talk on, basically, the corrections I need to do for my thesis.

Anna Sfard commented that (if I understood her correctly) “if that’s your model of narrative, then you should be able to find linguistic markers for it in student texts”

I thought yeah. And then the ol’ computer scientist in me thinks, in that case I should be able to write a parser to do it for me. i.e., instead of parsing text for Chomskian grammar, parse it for narrative structure. Then use that to determine stuff like voice, semantic sequencing, genre. Spotting shifts in these paramaters (e.g from imaginative to paradigmatic) could help identify critical learning points.

December 15, 2008 Posted by | narrative learning | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment