Nice to hear that computing education will be at SXSW.
I’m pleased to announce that my SXSWedu proposal “Engaging Students with Computer Science Education” has been accepted as a panel discussion! Here is a brief abstract describing the purpose of the session:
“Current trends show a loss of student interest in computer science careers and degrees across the U.S., especially among women and minorities, even though the need for qualified candidates in this field has never been greater. Across the country, computer science experts, computer science educators, researchers, and even policymakers are developing initiatives that address these problems.
In this panel, the leaders of three such initiatives will share their perspectives on computer science education, gender and diversity in the field, and high-quality instructional design for computer science students and teachers alike. Their respective programs, Project Engage (University of Texas, Austin), Exploring Computer Science: Los Angeles (UCLA), and New Mexico Computer Science for All (University of New Mexico) represent the latest large-scale efforts in computer science education. Educators, practitioners, and researchers can all learn from their collective expertise.”
Not sure how (if?) we can see this in the US, but it sounds really good.
A sharp, witty, mind-expanding and exuberant foray into the world of logic with computer scientist Professor Dave Cliff. Following in the footsteps of the award-winning ‘The Joy of Stats’ and its sequel, ‘Tails You Win – The Science of Chance’, this film takes viewers on a new rollercoaster ride through philosophy, maths, science and technology- all of which, under the bonnet, run on logic.
Wielding the same wit and wisdom, animation and gleeful nerdery as its predecessors, this film journeys from Aristotle to Alice in Wonderland, sci-fi to supercomputers to tell the fascinating story of the quest for certainty and the fundamentals of sound reasoning itself.
Dave Cliff, professor of computer science and engineering at Bristol University, is no abstract theoretician. 15 years ago he combined logic and a bit of maths to write one of the first computer programs to outperform humans at trading stocks and shares. Giving away the software for free, he says, was not his most logical move…
With the help of 25 seven-year-olds, Professor Cliff creates, for the first time ever, a computer made entirely of children, running on nothing but logic. We also meet the world’s brainiest whizz-kids, competing at the International Olympiad of Informatics in Brisbane, Australia.
‘The Joy of Logic’ also hails logic’s all-time heroes: George Boole who moved logic beyond philosophy to mathematics; Bertrand Russell, who took 360+ pages but heroically proved that 1 + 1 = 2; Kurt Godel, who brought logic to its knees by demonstrating that some truths are unprovable; and Alan Turing, who, with what Cliff calls an ‘almost exquisite paradox’, was inspired by this huge setback to logic to conceive the computer.
Ultimately, the film asks, can humans really stay ahead? Could today\’s generation of logical computing machines be smarter than us? What does that tell us about our own brains, and just how ‘logical’ we really are…?
The linked article below provides results I’ve seen before — that the average income of college-educated is much higher than the non-college-educated. I had not yet seen the below claim: Most inventors and entrepreneurs, the individuals who impact economic growth, are also predominantly college educated. The model of the college-dropout entrepreneur is the exception, not the rule. This is important for computing, too, where our model of the dropout CEO of the startup is legendary — but really rare. If you want to create a computing company, you’re best off getting computing education.
Those who most directly impact economic growth—inventors and entrepreneurs—also tend to be highly educated. A Georgia Tech survey of patent inventors found that 92 percent had a bachelor’s degree, almost exclusively in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects. Likewise, almost all of the founders (92 percent) of the high-tech companies that have powered GDP in recent decades are college educated, especially in STEM fields. Thus, it is no surprise that macroeconomic research finds very large gains from education on economic growth at both the international and regional levels, as the research of Harvard’s Ed Glaeser and many others has shown.
Ten years ago, professors in computer science departments everywhere wondered how undergraduates from a broad range of fields could be attracted to computer science (CS). We were convinced that this material would be vital for their careers, but we were up against negative stereotypes of programmers, and the prediction that most software jobs were about to be outsourced to the third world.
The tide has turned! The graph below shows annual enrollments over the past decade for the introductory computer science courses at UC Berkeley, Stanford, and the University of Washington. At each of these schools, and at colleges and universities across the nation, the introductory computer science course is now among the most popular courses on campus, and demands for advanced computer science courses are at record-breaking highs. At Stanford, where more than 90% of undergrads take computer science, English majors now take the same rigorous introductory CS course as Computer Science majors.
Dave Patterson and Ed Lazowska have written the above-linked blog post explaining why there has been such a rapid rise in enrollments in Computer Science at Berkeley, Stanford, and U. Washington. We’re seeing the same enormous rise in CS enrollments at Georgia Tech.
Beyond the intro course, we’re seeing a dramatic increase in CS minors. At places where everyone is required to take CS (e.g., Georgia Tech, Rose Hulman, Harvey Mudd), students have the option of going beyond that first course, and because the first course is tailored for them, they’re more likely to succeed at it. At Georgia Tech, we’re seeing students take more than just the required course and pursing a credential in CS, within their major. English majors (and lots of others) are seeing that computing is valuable.
Patterson and Lazowska offer two explanations (the numbering is mine):
1. So what happened? First, today’s students recognize that “computational thinking” — problem analysis and decomposition, algorithmic thinking, algorithmic expression, abstraction, modeling, stepwise fault isolation — is central to an increasingly broad array of fields.
That may be true, but I doubt it. It would be interesting and useful to survey these students, discover what majors they’re going into, and ask why they’re taking CS. (Kind of what we did across the state of Georgia in 2010.) I don’t believe that most people are aware of “computational thinking,” and even less, new students in higher-education. As evidence of this growing awareness, the authors cite a recent quote from Richard Dawkins (in 2013), “Biology nowadays is a branch of computer science.” That’s not a new position for Dawkins. In 2007 (at the depths of declining enrollment), he told Terry Gross on NPR, “Since Watson and Crick in 1953, biology has become a sort of branch of computer science.” This isn’t a sign of a recent awareness of the importance of “computational thinking.”
2. In addition to enhancing prospects within a chosen field, surely some of the reason for interest in computer science as a major or as a minor is to enhance employment opportunities after graduation.
But my gut is a bad judge of these things. We really ought to test these claims, rather than make claims without evidence. Who is taking CS now? And why? And how does it differ between these institutions?
The authors end their piece arguing for more faculty teaching more CS classes:
In higher education, the response has been sluggish at best. Computer Science is usually found in colleges of engineering — as is the case at Berkeley, MIT, Stanford, and Washington — so one indicator of accommodation is the fraction of engineering faculty in the field. Less than a fifth of the engineering faculty at these schools teach computer science courses, a fraction nearly unchanged in the last decade.
I strongly agree with the argument. The critical issue here isn’t about growing Engineering or if CS belongs in Egnineering. The critical issue is that computing is a form of literacy, not just a specialty skill, and we have to think about how to ramp up our offering of computing education so that it’s universally accessible.
I talked about this implication of our successful CS1′s for everyone in the May 2009 Communications of the ACM:
Finally, building successful, high-demand courses for non-computing majors gives us a different perspective on the current enrollment crisis. Students want these courses. Other schools on campus want to collaborate with us to build even more contextualized classes. While we still want more majors, we have an immediate need for more faculty time to develop and teach these courses that bring real computing to all students on campus.
I got a chance to learn more about Bootstrap when Kathi Fisler visited us here at Georgia Tech recently. This article doesn’t do a good job of selling the program. Bootstrap is important for showing how programming can be used to teach something else that we agree is important.
“When you hear, ‘This is so amazing! These apps teach kids to program!’ That’s snake oil. Every minute your students spend on empty engagement while they’re failing algebra, you’re assuring that they’re not going to college. Studies show that the grade kids get in Algebra I is the most significant grade to predict future income.”
Pretty amazing that they got this!
It’s CSEd Week this week. Code.org and Computing in the Core have effectively merged now, and that’s the organization that owns and promotes CSEd Week. The big focus this year is the Hour of Code — getting all students to do some kind of coding activity for one hour. There are a lot of tutorials now available at the CSEdWeek site.
As readers of this blog now, one of my research activities is to create an electronic book to support high school teachers learning computer science. (Here’s our project webpage.) We’ve been exploring ideas like how best to create videos about computer science (hint: use subgoal labels!) and how to reduce cognitive load (hint: Parson’s problems). We’re also working on multi-modal explanations (evidence suggests that audio narration for code is more effective than text descriptions) and worked examples.
Barb Ericson put together an Hour of Code activity using some of our ideas for learning Python with turtles here, as an Hour of Code activity: http://interactivepython.org/runestone/static/IntroPythonTurtles/index.html. Please do try it and let us know what you think!
If you have an Hour of Code activity that isn’t making it to the main CSedWeek.org site, please feel free to link to it here in the comments!