Ben Chun asks, “What is the CS Education ask?”
Ben Chun posts an interesting article critiquing the NSF CS10K project, which is worth reading. (Thanks to “Gas stations without pumps” through which I first heard about Ben’s post.) i don’t agree with all of it — I’m not sure that it’s such a significant concern that the papers describing the CS10K project are “behind a paywall.” — most of the information is readily available at the CS:Principles site (and I believe that the articles from the recent InRoads will be made available soon).
But his main point is a valid one: This is a huge project, and it’s not obvious that it’s even possible, let alone whether it’ll be successful. He asks what specific policy changes are necessary. I don’t think anybody knows, because it’s not knowable in a general sense. Policy changes that impact high schools have to be made on a state-by-state basis. I know what we have done and would like to do in Georgia, and I know what’s going in Massachusetts, South Carolina, and California, but all four of those are completely different. Ben calls the desired policy changes “a unicorn,” but I think it’s closer to “that animal I can hear in the other room, thumping around, but can’t tell what it is yet.” I also agree that we need to figure out how to engage the whole community. I believe that that is happening, through CSTA Chapters and efforts like the AP attestation. I don’t know how to make it happen faster or more broadly, but I do believe that NSF is bringing together a team of people who do.
I say that because if you’re actually putting together a “large-scale, collaborative project bringing together stakeholders from wide-ranging constituencies”, you don’t bury all the information about it behind a paywall. I happen to be teaching at UC Berkeley this summer, but otherwise I wouldn’t even have access to the paper that describes the CS10K project. And I think I’m the kind of person that might be able to help. I actually teach high school computer science! I want more colleagues! I believe CS education is vitally important for young people! The fact that the first result for “cs10k” in Google takes you nowhere is a problem. The lack of open, public discussion of the issues and plans is a problem. The lack of savvy about engaging the whole community — including high school teachers and administrators — is a problem.
But dire as it is, that’s not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is that we don’t agree on what we’re asking for. It’s not that we disagree. We just have no idea. But at least the goal has been made clear, even if not effectively publicized: A new AP course in 10,000 high schools by 2015. (Or maybe 2016 or 2017, I now hear.) In 2011, there were only 2,667 high schools in the world with students taking the AP Computer Science A exam. Today, I think there are about 2,100 high schools authorized to offer the course in the US (not that all of them actually do). There are about 40k total public and private high schools in the US.
P.S. I’m in Oxford now, and start my classes this afternoon (early this morning for East-coasters, VERY early for West).