Digitally Literate #237

The Knapsack Problem
Digitally Lit #237 – 3/14/2020**

Hi all, welcome to issue #237 of Digitally Literate.

I posted and shared the following this week:

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Think Like A Coder – TED-Ed Playlist

Think Like a Coder is a 10-episode series that will challenge viewers with programming puzzles as the main characters— a girl and her robot companion— attempt to save a world that has been plunged into turmoil. In our digital age, coding has become a basic literacy skill which gives us a deeper understanding of the technology we use everyday.

Follow along with the lessons for episode one on the TED-Ed website.

I’m using this as a challenge with my kids as we’re remaining sequestered over the next week or so.


Times which Require Greater Care: Ethos in Online Learning

Communities across the globe are feeling the effects of the Coronavirus this week. In fact, if you’re sick and tired of reading about COVID-19, I don’t blame you. I’ll try and provide a balanced mixture of info about the global pandemic as I share the news of the week.

One of the most insightful pieces about planning for instruction as educational institutions move to online only offerings comes from Sean Michael Morris.

The post shares valuable insight on the ethos, or the what and why of online pedagogy, as opposed to just focusing on the how.

Plus, the post begins with this image. 🙂

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If you’re looking for resources on addressing engaging youth in these times, this resource from the NY Times will regularly update with projects. I also recommend this resource on making sure your learning materials are accessible for all. If you’re in higher ed, please help document your experiences.

Coronavirus will also cause a loneliness epidemic

Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for “community mitigation strategies” to limit the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, which include recommendations for “social distancing”—a term that epidemiologists are using to refer to a conscious effort to reduce close contact between people and hopefully stymie community transmission of the virus.

Ezra Klein indicates that this may prevent the pandemic from worsening, but it may also cause a “social recession” in which populations already vulnerable to isolation and loneliness may be at extreme risk.

In earlier issues of this newsletter, we’ve examined the possible negative impacts of digital, social spaces on human relationships and mental health. As I connect with others online, I’m encouraged by what I see, but also trying to identify ways to support the mental health of others…and stay connected.

What does a screen do?

As a member of the Screentime Research Group, I spend a lot of time thinking, talking, and writing about the challenges of living and learning in the age of screens.

This post in Slate by jane c. hu indicates that the research that examines screentime and behavior is difficult to design and difficult to execute, leaving us with fewer causal conclusions and more associative studies to rely on for decision-making and policy.

How the Mathematical Conundrum Called the ‘Knapsack Problem’ Is All Around Us

The knapsack problem is a fictional dilemma in which you are constrained to fill a fixed-size knapsack with your most valuable items.

This thought experiment is providing new opportunities for engaging in computing and processing tasks. It also gives us an opportunity to think about computational thinking and real-life problems.

Humans may have a problem with optimizing multiple, smaller problems as they are faced with “choice overload.” But, humans are also need to pay attention to everything, while also ignoring some data. We’ve learned how to store only the most pertinent stimuli in our mental knapsacks as we go through the day. Computers aren’t there…yet. 🙂

Build Trust in your team with SCARF

Google crunched the data on hundreds of high-performing teams, and found that one variable mattered more than any other: “emotional safety.” Also known as: “psychological security.” Also known as trust.

So how do you build trust and psychological safety in your team? Researcher David Rock has carefully studied the brain science of trust and engagement at work, and breaks it down into 5 key ingredients — summed up by the cozy acronym “SCARF:”

Status: A sense of importance and belonging.
Certainty: Clarity. An ability to predict what will happen.
Autonomy: Agency. A sense of freedom and control. Being treated like an adult.
Relationships: Connecting on a personal level. Feeling like we know each other.
Fairness: The rules are fairly applied. Things are fair and above-board.


Don’t blame tech for your distracted brain. Take control.

These three tactics will help you focus on the task at hand.

  • Reimagining the trigger as a sensation of curiosity
  • Reimagining the task itself
  • Avoiding self-limiting beliefs regarding your temperament



Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution. If you don’t have any problems, you don’t get any seeds.

Norman Vincent Peale

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Digitally Literate is a weekly review of the news, notes, tips, and tricks from the week that resonated with me. I leave a trail of digital breadcrumbs. Feel free to pay attention if you’d like to check my notes. 🙂

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