Seymour Papert might have predicted this. It doesn’t matter if they’re great or not. It is very hard for educational technology to disrupt school. School fights back, and schoolifies subjects and technologies. I said before: Education is technology’s Afghanistan. Lots of technologies have come in and tried to change everything, and the technologies come out limping.
Massive open online courses will not fundamentally reshape higher education, nor will they disappear altogether. Those are the conclusions of separate reports released this week by Teachers College at Columbia University and Bellwether Education Partners, a nonprofit advisory group.
Neither report contains any blockbuster news for those who have followed the decline of the MOOC hype over the last year or so. But they support the theory that the tools and techniques Stanford University professors used in 2011 to enroll 160,000 students in a free, online computer-science course will be subsumed by broader, incremental efforts to improve higher education with technology.
MOOCs are like free gyms, says Mr. Kelly. They might enable some people—mostly people who are already healthy and able to work out without much guidance—to exercise more. But they won’t do much for people who need intensive physical therapy or the care of a doctor.
The below-linked article is highly recommended. It’s an insightful consideration of the different definitions of “University” we have in the US, and how the goals of helping students become educated for middle class jobs and of being a research university are not the same thing.
This article gave me new insight into the challenges of discipline-based education research, like computing education research. We really are doing research, as one would expect in a research university, e.g., trying to understand what it means for a human to understand computation and how to improve that understanding. But what we study is a kind of activity that occurs at that other kind of university. That puts us in a weird place, between the two definitions of the role of a university. It gives me new insight into the challenges I faced when I was the director of undergraduate studies in the College of Computing and when I was implementing Media Computation. Education research isn’t just thrown over the wall into implementation. The same challenges of technology adoption and, necessarily, technology adaption have to occur.
At the “TIME Summit on Higher Education” that the Carnegie Corporation of New York and Time magazine co-sponsored in September 2013 along with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the disconnect between the views of the research university from inside and outside was vividly on display. A procession of distinguished leaders of higher education mainly emphasized the need to protect—in particular, to finance adequately—the university’s research mission. A procession of equally distinguished outsiders, including the U.S. secretary of education, mainly emphasized the need to make higher education more cost-effective for its students and their families, which almost inevitably entails twisting the dial away from research and toward the emphasis on skills instruction that characterizes the mass higher-education model. Time’s own cover story that followed from the conference hardly mentioned research it was mainly about how much economically useful material students are learning, even though the research university was explicitly the main focus of the conference.
Research Outcome: Professors work long hours, spend much of day in meetings, and tuition increases aren’t because faculty are getting raises
To all academics this is totally obvious. But I’m guessing that the general public may not know this. The general public may think that tuition rises are paying for rising faculty salaries, when the dramatic rise in salaries is with coaches and administrators. (Here at Georgia Tech, the faculty have not had raises across the board since January 2008.) As mentioned earlier this month, research funding has decreased dramatically, and the time costs for seeking funding have grown. There’s a blog (meta?) post that is collecting links to all the “Goodbye, Academia” blog posts – faculty who are giving up on academia, and explaining why. All of this context may help explain declining number of American students going into graduate school.
Professors work long days, on weekends, on and off campus, and largely alone. Responsible for a growing number of administrative tasks, they also do research more on their own time than during the traditional work week. The biggest chunk of their time is spent teaching.
Those are the preliminary findings of an ongoing study at Boise State University – a public doctoral institution — of faculty workload allocation, which stamps out old notions of professors engaged primarily in their own research and esoteric discussions with fellow scholars.
Special Issue of ACM Transactions on Computing Education: International K12 CS with “Georgia Computes!”
The special issue of ACM Transactions on Computing Education on primary and secondary schools’ computing has just come out (see table of contents). There are articles on the UK’s Computing at School effort, Tim Bell’s effort in New Zealand, and efforts in Israel, Germany, Italy, Russia, and several others.
This is a particularly big deal for Barb and me, because in this issue, we publish the capstone journal paper on “Georgia Computes!” and describe what resulted from our six years worth of effort. We present both the positives (e.g., big increase in Hispanic participation in CS, teacher professional development touching 37% of all high schools in the state, great summer camp programs spread across the state) and the negatives (e.g., little impact on African American participation, little uptake by University faculty).
Georgia Computes! (GaComputes) was a six-year (2006–2012) project to improve computing education across the state of Georgia in the United States, funded by the National Science Foundation. The goal of GaComputes was to broaden participation in computing and especially to engage more members of underrepresented groups which includes women, African Americans, and Hispanics. GaComputes’ interventions were multi-faceted and broad: summer camps and after-school/weekend programs for 4th–12th grade students, professional development for secondary teachers, and professional development for post-secondary instructors faculty. All of the efforts were carefully evaluated by an external team (led by the third and fourth authors), which provides us with an unusually detailed view into a computing education intervention across a region (about 59K square miles, about 9.9 million residents). Our dataset includes evaluations from over 2,000 students who attended after-school or weekend workshops, over 500 secondary school teachers who attended professional development, 120 post-secondary teachers who attended professional development, and over 2,000 students who attended a summer day (non-residential) camp. GaComputes evaluations provide insight into details of interventions and into influences on student motivation and learning. In this article, we describe the results of these evaluations and describe how GaComputes broadened participation in computing in Georgia through both direct interventions and indirect support of other projects.
Barb will probably do her demographic analysis in the Fall. Gas Station Without Pumps analysis on raw scores is out now and is quite interesting.
The Computer Science A exam saw an increase of 33% in test takers, with about a 61% pass rate 3, 4, or 5. The exams scores were heavily bimodal, with peaks at scores of 4 and at 1. I wonder whether the new AP CS courses that Google funded contributed more to the 4s or to the 1s. I also wonder whether the scores clustered by schools, with some schools doing a decent job of teaching Java syntax most of what the AP CS exam covers, so far as I can tell and some doing a terrible job, or whether the bimodal distribution is happening within classes also. I suspect clustering by school is more prevalent. The bimodal distribution of scores was there in 2011, 2012, and 2013 also, so is not a new phenomenon. Calculus BC sees a similar bimodal distribution in past years—the 2014 distribution is not available yet.
Great interview with Sebastian Thrun. I particularly found fascinating his candid response to this important question.
That doesn’t sound like democratizing education, if only the affluent can afford the version that works.
I would be careful to say this is not democratizing it. Any alternative path is actually much more expensive. We managed to lower the cost by a factor of ten. Going to the extreme and saying it has to be absolutely free might be a bit premature. I care about making education work. Everything else being equal, I would love to do this at the lowest possible price point. Where we’ve converged is right. You don’t need a college degree anymore. I would be careful with the conclusion that this is the end of democratization. We still have the free model for students. It just doesn’t work as well — it’s just a fact.
Alfred Thompson raises an important question here. I agree with him — we haven’t reached consensus. We also will never have a national CS curriculum in the United States, because we have a distributed education model. It’s a state decision. I do fear that there may be a de facto standard now.
But the bigger concern is at a higher level of abstraction: How should we make curricular decisions in CS (or anywhere else)? I hope that we make our decisions based on empirical evidence. I don’t see that we have the empirical evidence that any of the below classes ought to be the dominant model.
Oh boy are things up in the air in the HS CS curriculum these days. While we have some great advice from the CSTA (CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards) the implementation of those standards are still left up to individual schools/districts/states. Still it is easy to come to the conclusion from watching social media and some conferences that there is a consensus on a high school Computer Science curriculum. Today I got the following from a friend.
Is it an incorrect read or has a national consensus for CS in HS’s been achieved with a sequence of :
–ECS (Exploring Computer Science) Curriculum
–CS Principles/BJC Curriculum (Beauty and Joy of Computing)
–AP CS (JAVA [for now])