TA Spotlight: Ken Brooks

Each week we spotlight an OMSCS TA, so you can get to know who's behind the screen. Here are four questions for Ken Brooks, who TAs CS6460: Educational Technology.

Ken Brooks

What do you do professionally?
I received my BIE and MSIE from Georgia Tech many years ago and worked in operations consulting for 10 years before moving into publishing and then educational publishing. I've had a number of different roles at companies such as Bantam Doubleday Dell (now Random House); Simon & Schuster; Cengage Learning; McGraw-Hill Education; Macmillan Learning; and now Wiley, where I'm the chief content officer for the education publishing and professional learning divisions.

Why do you TA for OMSCS?
For the last 10-plus years, I've been heavily involved in preparation of digital content, assessment, and tools to improve learning outcomes. One of my major interests is in ed tech: putting together the pieces of a learning platform that can provide an effective learning environment for both instructor- and student-driven scenarios. Another is auto-generating content and assessment for intelligent tutoring systems.

I find the creativity, competence, and sheer results from the CS6460 students to be breathtaking, and I love the challenge of helping them through initial challenges with their projects to see what they come up with in the end. 

What's your advice for future students in OMSCS?
It's really easy to slip into viewing some classes in the OMSCS as just "punching a ticket" to get to the degree. Because I came to this later in my career, I decided to take the time to dive in to each course and really explore what it offered. I have many examples, but some that are top of mind include learning LaTeX, how to write a stack overflow in C, how to build machine learning pipelines in R (and Python), what good requirements and user stories look like, how UX design should work. The list goes on!

What's your best study hack?
By far my best study hack is using spaced repetition to learn huge amounts of content. Early on in the program, I found Cerego and started to use the free version to build factual quizzes for myself. Even for the most content-intensive courses (Intro to InfoSec, for example), I found that I really didn't need to study for the final; I already knew and had practiced the material. And for courses such as reinforcement learning, it helped in remembering equations and algorithm sequences. There are other tools out there (Anki is an open source, cross-platform example), but Cerego really did it for me.