Adam Cannon receives provost funding for Computing in Context

Adam Cannon

Adam Cannonhas been awarded a provost grant to support Computing in Context, a new interdisciplinary course aimed at teaching humanities students the basics of programming and algorithmic problem solving. The funding is provided through the Hybrid Learning Course Redesign and Delivery program, which supports faculty in developing innovative and technology-rich learning strategies.

Cannon’s proposal was one of forty received from faculty across fourteen schools within Columbia University, with sixteen selected to receive funding. Awards were made by a senior faculty review committee based on the potential for enhancing teaching and learning. Many of the projects introduce innovative pedagogical approaches, including team-based and experiential learning and “flipped” classes where students first gain exposure to new material outside of class and use class time to discuss and apply that knowledge. The award provides faculty with both funding (from $5000 to $20,000) and access to the resources of the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL) for content development, instructional design, media production, and assessment.
Computing in Context for which Cannon received the funding is designed to get liberal-arts students to think algorithmically. The course will teach the basics of coding so students can better understand how programming and algorithms apply to problems in one of three tracks chosen by the student: history, economics, or literary theory. In weekly lectures, Cannon will give a comprehensive introduction to Python to all students, while professors in each of the three disciplines will lead different sections to discuss applications of Python: Matthew Jones for history, Karl Sigman for economics, and Dennis Tenen for literary theory. All section specific lectures will be recorded.
The money awarded through the provost grant will help defray the cost of the course, which is higher than usual because it entails four faculty members. Future semesters will use the flipped classroom model, with the digitized lectures assigned as homework and with PhD candidates leading the sections in place of the three track professors.
The course (profiled in this Columbia Spectator article) was developed by Cannon and Julia Hirschberg and is one of the first serious efforts at exposing liberal-arts students to big ideas in computing in a choose-your-own adventure setting. If it succeeds, Cannon hopes that it will become a model for other universities.
Posted 12/29/14