Anyone Can Code: Algorithmic Thinking (new open-access book)

 My second book in the Anyone Can Code series, titled Algorithmic Thinking, is now available as an open-access resource:   As the second book in the series, Algorithmic Thinking focuses on the logic behind computer programming and software design. With a data-centred approach, it starts with simple algorithms that work on simple data items and advances to more complex ones covering data structures and classes. Examples are given in C/C++ and Python and use both plain text and graphics applications to illustrate the concepts in different languages and forms. With the advances in artificial intelligence and automated code generators, it is essential to learn about the logic of what a code needs to do, not just how to write the code. Anyone Can Code: Algorithmic Thinking is suitable for anyone who aims to improve their programming skills and go beyond the simple craft of programming, stepping into the world of algorithm design.   The book is f

What truth can AI tell?

ChatGPT and other conversational agents (chatbots) based on artificial intelligence (AI) have experienced rapid growth recently. Their application and impact are being widely discussed, and so are the importance and ways to regulate them . When Geoffrey Hinton left Google with concerns about spam, government abuse, and super-intelligent machines, more attention was drawn to possible risks. Chatbots' shortcomings in giving an answer that can be considered “the truth” have been questioned to the point that Elon Musk is proposing an alternative to the existing products, referred to as TruthGPT. Such efforts aim at an AI that s not trained by incorrect, biased, or limited data and so can give the true answers. In a short article , Mark Bailey (National Intelligence University, USA) and Susan Schneider (Florida Atlantic University, USA) argue that chatbots shouldn’t decide what’s true. Their argument is based on the black-box nature of artificial neural networks that prevent transpar

Is AI taking over our jobs (and classrooms)?

 “AI is here, and it’s coming for your job.” “AI is replacing artists.” “ChatGPT: The end of programming as we know it” “The college essay is dead.” Sensational headlines such as these are all over the news and the Internet these days. Since the public release of the AI-based text-to-image tool, DALL-E-2 , by OpenAI back in November 2022, followed by the release of OpenAI’s conversational agent, ChatGPT , in December, there has been a growing discussion about how Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing the creative, professional, and educational world. While DALL-E and other text-to-image tools started to show up in 2021 and 2022, and AI conversational agents have been around for a while, It was OpenAI and its two products, DALL-E 2 and ChatGPT, that turned the trend of generative AI into a mainstream topic. ChatGPT reached 100 million users in less than two months, which was a record for any new app or social media. One can argue that this user base includes many who were curious

Remote Work: A (Possibly) Hurtful Convenience

These days going to the university campus has a feeling that we have not experienced in more than two years: there are people, movement, and activities everywhere. While K-12 schools tried to remain open for in-person learning during the pandemic (as much as they could), universities were among many other workplaces that were almost fully virtual. Going back to in-person work and study certainly feels strange and brings many positive and negative feelings (getting stuck in traffic is only one of them).  With the COVID restrictions being gradually removed, many workers are leaving the home offices they established throughout the pandemic and returning to their traditional work environments. Many are negotiating the continuation of remote work or some mixed arrangement, while others are happy to be back to in-person work (and study). The debate involves workers and employers (and in universities, the students) and includes topics such as productivity and collaboration on one side and fle

Pedagogical Training for Faculty Members

An article related to this post has been published in University Affairs . Universities are key spaces to develop skills needed for a society and their success heavily depends on faculty members. Research confirms the positive effect of faculty training on students’ experience. However, research on specific skills, needed or wanted by faculty, is sparse. For example, many students suffer from mental health issues but faculty members rarely receive training on well-being and emotional support. Universities, and society as a whole, need to provide supportive environments for faculty and students. Improving educational environments requires more than just better training, but understanding faculty training needs and desires is an important step towards it.   While teacher education in K-12 can be highly regulated with dedicated training programs, university educators have a less regulated appointment and training process. This rather ad-hoc process has been a concern in academia as ea

Online Classes: Lessons Learned

The Fall 2020 academic term is approaching the end. While many of us transitioned to online teaching and learning at the start of COVID-19 pandemic, or went through a full online course in summer, this was the first full-load academic term that was entirely online. We prepared for this all summer, as much as we could. We had workshops on how to design and run online courses, discussed how to keep students emotionally engaged, and shared our ideas on how to balance asynchronous and synchronous activities to make sure we don't lose the human contact when we go online. But nothing could fully prepare us for what was coming: having thousands of students taking full load of courses without ever seeing the instructors, TAs, and each other. Even for those of us who had done online courses before, this was a new experience as we were dealing with normal-size classes of students who, just like us, were isolated, who have been isolated for months, and still were taking regular number of co

Is There Anybody Out There? - Online courses and the need for connecting to students

Working from home and taking online courses are not new phenomena, but the COVID-19 global crisis made them household topics for all of us. Online courses saved our winter term (thanks to the great collaboration of instructors and students, and support from the university), and they are going to stick around for summer and possibly fall terms. They may even become a more significant and permanent part of our educational system. As we try to solve all logistic issues to move our courses online (and turn off our video streams to hide our messy hair and pyjamas), we may overlook something essential: the need for human connections and interactions.  The university community is planning and sharing experiences on how to run our courses online. Among many suggestions, one being raised increasingly is to avoid synchronous sessions. It is a good one that I have advocated myself ( ). We should not assume the students are physically and men