The first Critical Research Review at ICER 2014

My report on ICER 2014 is at Blog@CACM here. I also participated in the post-ICER Critical Research Review or Work-in-Progress Workshop (both titles have appeared at different times). Colleen Lewis organized it, based on the “functions” peer review that Education graduate students do at Berkeley. It was great, far better than I might have guessed.

I wanted to participate, in order to support and be part of this new kind of activity at ICER. I was expecting maybe a dozen people in a room, where one at a time a person would present for 15-20 minutes and then get feedback for a few minutes. Y’know — a “workshop.” Boy, was I wrong.

Instead, Colleen broke us up into two groups of five. (The small size was critical.) All of us presented some brief paper (couple pages preferred) that everyone read beforehand. Colleen gave each of us a writeup on the desired culture and tone for the event. “Don’t be mean” and “Don’t be defensive” and “Be nice” were some of the common themes in those directions. At the CRR, each of the five went off to a different room/space.

Over the course of five hours (two the first day, three the next), each participant had her or his turn to share their work. Sometimes we saw data (a video, or a bit of interview transcript), that the group was meant to help interpret. Sometimes we saw a student problem or a design problem, and we brainstormed theoretical perspectives that could help to gain leverage on understand the student’s issues or to improve the design.

It wasn’t a presentation, and it wasn’t an audience. It was (to use Colleen’s phrase) “borrowing four smart people’s brains to work on your problem for an hour.” I got a lot out of the feedback on my problem (related to the Constructionism for Adults post from awhile back). It was enormous fun digging into the others’ problems. Ben Shapiro of Tufts, Craig Miller from Depaul, Sara Esper of UCSD, and Kate Sanders from Rhode Island College were my teammates — it really felt more like a team, working together toward joint success than a presentation.

At the end, we evaluated the activity to figure out what worked and what didn’t. It really worked to have an easel for a note-taker (not the presenter/leader) to use to track all the discussion. The notes helped the group figure out where they were at, and were a wonderful artifact for the presenter afterward.

Overall, it was a huge success. I expect that we’ll see many future ICER (and other CER venue) papers coming out of the work we shared in Glasgow. I encourage others to participate in the CRR in future years.

August 27, 2014 at 8:25 am Leave a comment

Georgia Governor shows Support for CS in Schools

governor-cs-klaus

It’s not too often that a policy announcement about education happens on the Georgia Tech campus.  In the picture above, tech entrepreneur Chris Klaus is introducing Georgia Governor Nathan Deal (who is second from the right — the guy on the far right is our Provost Rafael Bras), in the Klaus Advanced Computing Building (same Klaus — he funded the building).  Chris has been spearheading an effort to get more “coding” into Georgia schools.

The Governor said that he’s asking the State Board of Education for computer science to count as core science, mathematics, and foreign languages.

The gossip before the talk was that he was going to announce that CS would count for (i.e., replace) foreign languages (which is not a good idea).  This announcement was a bit better than that, but it’s still not clear what it means.  AP CS already counts as a science towards high school graduation.  Does it mean that more CS courses will count?  That AP CS will count as any of math, science, or foreign languages?  And will the State Board of Education go along with this?  Who knows?

The guy on the far left of that picture is Representative Mike Dudgeon.  He’s taken on the task of changing the “highly-qualified” list in Georgia so that business teachers OR math teachers OR science teachers can teach CS in Georgia.  Currently, CS is a “Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education” subject, meaning that only teachers with a business certificate can teach CS.  Barbara Ericson has fought hard so that mathematics teachers can also teach AP CS — but this all leaves us in the weird position that AP CS counts as a science, but science teachers can’t teach it.  Only math and business teachers can teach AP CS in Georgia. That would be great if Dudgeon is successful.  It’s easier to teach CS to math and science teachers than business teachers.

I was a meeting recently with Chris Klaus where he said that he wants to make Georgia the first state in the USA to require CS for high school graduation.  When I balked at that (citing the issues in my Blog@CACM post), he had an interesting counter-proposal.  We give schools and districts who aren’t ready to teach CS a waiver, but to get a waiver, you have to have a plan in place to be able to teach CS within three years.  Might work.

My proposal in the group that Chris has founded to have more “coding education in Georgia” isn’t getting much traction.  I proposed we do what Calculus did. How did Calculus get taught in every high school? First, schools in the 1800’s started teaching calculus to undergrads. By the 1900’s, every STEM undergrad had to take Calculus, and the top high schools were preparing their kids for Calculus. By the late 1900’s, all high schools were offering calculus.  My proposal is that that the Board of Regents make CS part of the general education requirement of all undergraduates in the University System of Georgia. Every student in every college in Georgia would be required to take a course in CS. Unlike elementary and high schools, USG institutions have CS teachers — they might have to hire more faculty to handle the load, but they know how to do it. It’s much less expensive to teach CS at the undergraduate level than at the high or elementary school level. But this creates the curriculum (you have to teach a different CS to everyone from what you teach to CS majors) that the high-end schools will immediately start to emulate, and that will get copied into other high schools.  Biggest advantage is that every new teacher (business, math, or science) will take a CS class! That should accelerate the rate of getting teachers who know CS into schools, and give them a new tool for teaching STEM classes.

Anyway, it’s probably a good thing that there is all of this interest in computing education from Georgia political leaders.

 

August 26, 2014 at 8:14 am 4 comments

Help us figure out how to design ebooks to be usable

Like the post I made last week, we’ve been working on a bunch of experiment setups during the summer, and are now looking for participants.  This one is open to most readers of this blog. 

We have found that there is a lot of literature on how to design text to be readable on the screen.  But for interactive ebooks with embedded elements like coding areas, visualizations, and Parson’s problems, we know less about usability.  Steven Moore is an undergraduate researcher working with us, and he’s put together a collection of three different ebooks and a survey on preferences for each.  We’d love to get participants to try out his ebook samples and survey, please.

Hello,

We are a research group at Georgia Tech developing new approaches to teaching computer science at a distance.  In collaboration with researchers at Luther College, we have created a new kind of electronic book for learning Python. The book is entirely web-based and cross-platform, with special features, including programming within the book, program visualizations, videos, multiple-choice questions, and Parson’s problems (a special kind of programming problem).

We are currently seeking individuals with 6 months or more experience with programming in a textual language.  If you are willing to volunteer, you will need to complete a survey regarding the design and usability of three different interactive computer science e-books and specific components within those e-books.  Links to the e-books will be provided within the survey and the whole study can be completed via most web browsers.  The survey should take roughly forty-five minutes to complete.  We would like you to complete it by September 30th, 2014.

The risks involved are no greater than those involved in daily activities.  You will receive a $15.00 gift card for completing the survey.  Study records will be kept confidential and your participation in this study is greatly valued.

If you are interested in participating, please contact Steven Moore at smoore46@gatech.edu.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me, Mark Guzdial at guzdial@cc.gatech.edu.

August 25, 2014 at 8:53 am 2 comments

Computing Education Bills go to Governor in California

Julie Flapan gave me permission to share this email to the members of ACCESS (Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools) in California — thanks, Julie!

Dear Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools:

We are thrilled to share the good news about two important computer science-related bills: AB 1764 (Buchanan/Olsen) and SB 1200 (Padilla) passed out of the legislature yesterday with unanimous approval and are awaiting the Governor’s signature.  These bills are a step in the right direction, having the potential to expand opportunities and increase participation in computer science education.  But our work is just beginning!

 These bills have the potential to make computer science count for California’s high school students: with AB 1764, an advanced computer science course may count as a math credit toward graduation, and with SB 1200, computer science may count as a credit toward UC/CSU college admissions.  Research has shown that making computer science count incentivizes students – especially those underrepresented in computing including girls and students of color – to enroll in computer science courses in high school.  ACCESS has been working with Code.org, the College Board and UCOP to try to get math credit approval for AP CS-A.  We hope this legislation will help support these efforts.

While these two bills represent a significant victory for computer science education, much work needs to be done to help establish robust guidelines for computer science coursework, promote high quality and engaging computer science curriculum, help prepare teachers to teach it, provide ongoing professional development, and most importantly, ensure that we are recruiting and retaining underrepresented students in meaningful computer science coursework that will help prepare students for college and careers.

If you have any further ideas or suggestions on how to fully realize the potential of these two bills, please don’t hesitate to contact either of us.

Julie Flapan and Debra Richardson

_____________________________

Julie Flapan

Executive Director, ACCESS and ECEP-CA
Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools (ACCESS)
Expanding Computing Education Pathways - California (ECEP-CA)

Debra Richardson

Professor and Chair, ACCESS

August 23, 2014 at 9:32 am Leave a comment

Udacity, AT&T Team Up in Online Ed Degrees, without any universities

An interesting development in the MOOC degree space.  Udacity and AT&T, the partners with Georgia Tech on our OMS degree, are now teaming up around a new “NanoDegree” program — without any higher education institution involved.

AT&T is the only company that has committed to hire graduates of its NanoDegree program, and only 100 at that. No higher education accrediting body has recognized the new coursework. But Udacity founder Sebastian Thrum, who appeared last week at the New York Times Next New World Conference, says the company has more planned.“The intent is that this becomes an industry-wide platform,” said Thrun in an email, pointing out that while AT&T is the only company that Udacity has asked to commit jobs, others that include Cloudera, Autodesk and Salesforce.com have endorsed the degree.

via Udacity, AT&T Team Up in Online Ed – Digits – WSJ.

August 22, 2014 at 8:28 am 1 comment

Seeking Participants for Modality Study: Please forward

This is part of Briana Morrison’s dissertation work.  She’s asking the question about the role of explaining programs in different modalities (e.g., visual vs. oral text) have on understanding.  If you know potential applicants (e.g., maybe advertise it to your whole class?), please forward this to them. We’d appreciate it!

Do you like to watch videos on the internet?

Want to help with a research study?

 

We need volunteers, age 18 and older, with no computer programming experience to help us determine the best way to explain code using videos.

 

No more than 2 hours of your time!

Completing a portion of the study allows you to enter a raffle for one of four

$50 Amazon Gift Cards

Completion of entire study allows you to enter a raffle for one

$100 Amazon Gift Card

 

Interested? Go to the following website:

 

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CLModality

 

August 21, 2014 at 8:31 am 1 comment

Where do K-12 policy decisions get made in US states?

As I talked about in my NCWIT Summit Flash talk, the second step in changing a state’s K-12 computing education policy is figuring out where you are and how you move K-12 in your state.

Rick Adrion found a terrific set of resources that help to get a handle on what’s going on in each state.

Resources like these make it more clear why efforts like NGSS and Common Core are in trouble.  In quite a few states, most decisions are pushed down to the district level.  If states aren’t willing to make decisions for their whole state, how could they even consider requiring national standards?

August 20, 2014 at 8:18 am 4 comments

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