Research Log of Web Science Students

Computer Science is not simply programming

What is my (thesis) problem?

with 4 comments

I have now started to write the first draft of the Hardwire paper and the first thing that’s on my list is the abstract. I remember writing an introduction last sem and so before I started I had to figure out the difference between the two.

What I’ve found out is that an abstract is a summary that is (1) seen at the beginning of the paper and (2) states the purpose of the paper and its main conclusion. On the other hand an introduction (3) entices the the reader to read further giving a foretaste of what to expect.

#1 is obviously pretty easy to do but I had to do more sleuthing for #2. I found out that an abstract is only 100-150 words tops! Hooray! Less writing and more coding. But then I have to jam motivation, problem statement, approach, results and conclusions in 150 words where each section is more or less 1 sentence. Goodluck to that.

The problem/motivation

Suddenly I had the feeling I wasn’t quite sure what problem we were solving. Going back to the introduction I wrote last sem
I found that we identified two “problems” there.

1. The way we learn has not evolved but other things around us evolve
2. 80% of what we learn comes from informal learning but there is no conceptual framework let alone something concrete to help us go through with it.

The first thing that came to my mind is that we’re solving a hell of a lot of things (It’s probably why we look so aimless in the first place). But then I thought that one of them might be the bigger problem here and the other the more specific one. What is the connection between them?

If I were to draw the them both in a venn diagram in terms of which is the bigger problem, I’d say it looks like this:

I figure that through technology, the way we do business, the way we socialize, the way we communicate has radically changed from 10 years ago the way we learn has not evolved with them. With the technology giving us faster means for communication, new ways to search for knowledge and new tools to make work products, there is nothing out there that binds these things together so that we might use them for learning.

I highlighted problem # 1 there but problem #2 is not that obvious and I’d like to expound even further.

I found an article way back in wikipedia describing informal learning

Informal learning is what happens when knowledge has not been externalized or captured and exists only inside someone’s head (citation needed). To get at the knowledge, you must locate and talk to that person (citation needed).

It pretty much explains what informal learning is but I am worried about the “citation needed” comment. So let me state what informal learning is by saying what it is not —- formal learning which is “highly institutionalized, bureaucratic, curriculum driven, and formally recognized with grades, diplomas, or certificates” — meaning inside the classroom. Informal learning happens outside the classroom. For instance in

1. in a fireside conversation between friends
2. a consultation with your teacher
3. a phone call to helpdesk which has information one needs
4. a meeting with a real agenda

Before the internet became popular informal learning took place this way. It still happens today but analogously and MORE RELEVANTLY today with technology informal learning also happens

1. a an instant/text message conversation
2. an email correspondence with your adviser
3. a voip call to technical support
4. a Web-based meeting with a real-time agenda

So what problem does Hardwire attempt to solve? For starters I don’t think it does solve the whole problem of the ancient way we learn. But it does make a small contribution. I remember attending a talk on tech startups where I heard something like, “Don’t make a big contribution to small problem but rather make a small contribution to a large problem”.

So how specifically then does Hardwire relate to all this?

For one when informal learning takes place we ask people for resources on a topic we want to learn. Sometimes we say, “send me a link”. I rarely hear anyone say, “lend me the book”. Ok fine the latter might still be relevant but what would you prefer the book or the link? This is where our thesis comes in because it’s basically a site full of modules and links to resources compiled by other learners. So instead of looking up something yourself in Google or Wikipedia and figuring out if this works for you why not try something that has already worked for other people?

Hardwire also provides a way to compile your learnings. Simply collect your learnings. For example you might have done a reflection and posted it in your blog. This post is actually a reflection not only of my thesis but also on how to make an abstract. Then you might have been videotaped doing something that you’re good at but didn’t learn in school, that is a work product of your informal learning . It happens a lot these days. Just go to YouTube and you’ll see a lot of people showcasing their talents. I personally go there watching freekicks and “how to do a rabona” videos. I haven’t tried them myself but theoretically and given time and practice I can do a rabona. The freekick has been coming along pretty fine for the past few years btw.

Well i guess that’s it. After a lot of coding I have more or less reacquainted myself with our research component and brainstormed what to write for my abstract. I have given my take on the problem/motivation and methodology. Now all that’s left are results part of the abstract and implications. We’re not there yet so I guess I’d have put that on hold for now and start with the first three “sections”.


Written by Jose Asuncion

January 1, 2010 at 6:28 pm

Posted in Hardwire

4 Responses

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  1. Learning has been evolving ever since. OTOH, TEACHING and SCHOOLING have remained the same. For this reason, tools that adapt for new ways of learning has to keep up. Most tools are concerned about the OLD ways of learning — just to ensure that the tools are used by schools and teachers.


    January 1, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    • Actually that’s what I meant. Thanks for clearing it out for me sir.

      Jose Asuncion

      January 2, 2010 at 5:23 am

    • Reading my post again, I think what I meant to say was, “the way we learn [in school] has not evolved” haha.

      Jose Asuncion

      January 2, 2010 at 5:25 am

  2. […] noticed that the abstract immediately presents the problem we’re trying to solve. Although I wrote about having to jam motivation, problem statement, methodology, results and conclusions in t… putting the problem outright is I guess a bit too early. Furthermore, the abstract is there to […]

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