Hadi Partovi will be delivering the keynote today at SIGCSE 2014. The interview they just had with him last month on ACM’s website has some nice bits:
As a tech industry veteran and visionary, what would you say to young people who may not realize that two-thirds of the jobs in software engineering are outside the technology sector?
I would say that the reason to study software isn’t because you want to get a job in technology. School teaches you how to dissect a frog, or how electricity works, even if you want to become a journalist or a lawyer. In the 21st century, it’s equally important, or more important even, to know how to “dissect an app” or learn how the Internet works, even if you want to become a doctor, a chemist, or the President of the United States. Maybe you’ll fall in love with it and decide to get a job in software, and if you do, you’ll be in one of the most creative, highest-paying careers in the world. Most students who study computer science in high school will go on to careers outside of computing — but they will still benefit from it. This is a fundamental, foundational science for the 21st century.
The article below describes a political furor over appointing someone to lead an effort to support computing education — who doesn’t herself understand much about computing.
But this is a general problem, and is probably a problem for engineering education, too. Most US politicians in Washington DC don’t have STEM backgrounds. Few know anything about engineering. Fewer still know anything about computer science. Even if they really want to support STEM, engineering, and computing education, not knowing what it is themselves makes it more challenging for them to make good choices.
The row over Tory cronies in taxpayer-backed positions look set to intensify after it emerges the boss of the government’s coding education initiative cannot code — or even give a decent explanation of what is involved. Figures behind the scheme include Michael Gove, who is at the centre of the furore over Conservative placemen in Whitehall and the ‘quangocracy’.
Conservative activist Lottie Dexter was ridiculed by IT experts and educationalists for her clueless performance on Newsnight — in which she claimed that teachers could be trained how to educate students in computer programming “in a day”
ACM has just released a report arguing for the need for computer science in K-12 schools. They are very strongly making the jobs argument. The appendix to the report details state-by-state what jobs are available in computing, the salaries being paid for those jobs, and how many computing graduates (including how many AP CS exams vs other AP exams were taken in 2013) in that state.
The report Rebooting the Pathway to Success: Preparing Students for Computing Workforce Needs in the United States calls on education and business leaders and public policy officials in every state to take immediate action aimed at filling the pipeline of qualified students pursuing computing and related degrees, and to prepare them for the 21st century workforce. The report provides recommendations to help these leaders join together to create a comprehensive plan that addresses K-12 computer science education and that aligns state policy, programs, and resources to implement these efforts.
SIGCSE Preview: Project Rise Up 4 CS: Increasing the Number of Black Students who Pass AP CS A — by paying them
I’m guessing that Barbara’s paper on Friday 1:45-3 (in Hanover FG – whole program here) is going to be controversial. She’s working on a problem we’ve had in GaComputes for years. Besides Betsy DiSalvo’s work on Glitch, we’ve made little progress in increasing numbers of Black students taking AP CS A and even less progress in getting more of them to pass the test.
She’s had significant progress this last year using an approach that NMSI used successfully in Texas and elsewhere. She’s offering $100 to Black students who attend extra sessions to help them pass the exam and who do pass the exam. She’s expanding the program now with a Google RISE grant. Her approach is informed by Betsy’s work – it’s about going beyond interests to values and giving students help in navigating past their motivations to not-learn. She does have aspects of the project in place to counteract the disincentives of cash payments for academic achievement. In the final interviews, students didn’t talk about the money. It may be that the money wasn’t an incentive as much as a face-saving strategy. (Barb’s preview talk was also recorded as part of a GVU Brown Bag.)
This paper describes Project Rise Up 4 CS, an attempt to increase the number of Black students in Georgia that pass the Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science (CS) A exam. In 2012 Black students had the lowest pass rates on the AP CS A exam both in Georgia and nationally. Project Rise Up 4 CS provided Black students with role models, hands-on learning, competitions, a financial incentive, and webinars on AP CS A content. The first cohort started in January of 2013 and finished in May 2013. Of the 27 students who enrolled in the first cohort, 14 met all of the completion requirements, and 9 (69%) of the 13 who took the exam passed. For comparison, in 2012 only 22 (16%) of 137 Black students passed the exam in Georgia. In 2013, 28 (22%) of 129 Black students passed the exam in Georgia. This was the highest number of Black students to pass the AP CS A exam ever in Georgia and a 27% increase from 2012. In addition, students who met the completion requirements for Project Rise Up 4 CS exhibited statistically significant changes in attitudes towards computing and also demonstrated significant learning gains. This paper discusses the motivation for the project, provides project details, presents the evaluation results, and future plans.
2nd Annual ACM NDC Study
Of Non-Doctoral Granting Departments in Computing
Please contact ACM Education Manager Yan Timanovsky (email@example.com) ASAP! Deadline is March 16 (extensions possible upon request).
• As an annual survey, NDC produces timely data on enrollment, degree production, student body composition, and faculty salaries/demographics that can benchmark your institution/program(s) and invite useful conversations with your faculty and administration.
• Those who qualify for and complete NDC in its entirety will be entered in a drawing to receive one of (3) unrestricted grants of $2,500 toward your department’s discretionary fund.
SIGCSE Preview: Measuring Demographics and Performance in Computer Science Education at a Nationwide Scale Using AP CS Data
Barbara and I are speaking Thursday 3:45-5 (with Neil Brown on his Blackbox work) in Hanover DE on our AP CS analysis paper (also previewed at a GVU Brown Bag). The full paper is available here: http://bit.ly/SIGCSE14-APCS This is a different story than the AP CS 2013 analysis that Barbara has been getting such press for. This is a bit deeper analysis on the 2006-2012 results.
Here are a couple of the figures that I think are interesting. What’s fitting into these histograms are states, and it’s the same number of bins in each histogram, so that one can compare across.
Fitting this story into the six page SIGCSE format was really tough. I wanted to make the figures bigger, and I wanted to tell more stories about the regressions we explored. I focused on the path from state wealth to exam-takers because I hadn’t seen that story in CS Ed previously (though everyone would predict that it was there), but there’s a lot more to tell about these data.
Figure 1: Histograms describing (a) the number of schools passing the audit over the population (measured in 10K), (b) number of exam-takers over the population, and (c) percentage of exam-takers who passed.
Measuring Demographics and Performance in Computer Science Education at a Nationwide Scale Using AP CS Data
Abstract: Before we can reform or improve computing education, we need to know the current state. Data on computing education are difficult to come by, since it’s not tracked in US public education systems. Most of our data are survey-based or interview-based, or are limited to a region. By using a large and nationwide quantitative data source, we can gain new insights into who is participating in computing education, where the greatest need is, and what factors explain variance between states. We used data from the Advanced Placement Computer Science A (AP CS A) exam to get a detailed view of demographics of who is taking the exam across the United States and in each state, and how they are performing on the exam. We use economic and census data to develop a more detailed view of one slice (at the end of secondary school and before university) of computer science education nationwide. We find that minority group involvement is low in AP CS A, but the variance between states in terms of exam-takers is driven by minority group involvement. We find that wealth in a state has a significant impact on exam-taking.
Please do consider coming to the Birds of a Feather session (#20) this Thursday (see SIGCSE 2014 Program) from 6:10-7:00 where Rick Adrion (my ECEP friend and co-PI) will be hosting a discussion on state-level change to education policy in support of computing education. Here’s what we have in mind:
6:10-6:40 Choose Group that is most important to your state (or you). Complete short questionnaire and hand to Group Leader.
- Making CS Count
- Getting Computing into K12: curricula, standards, promoting
- K12 Teacher Certification/Licensure
- Teacher Professional Development
- Creating/Expanding State-Based Alliances for CS Ed Reform
Groups will identify 3-4 Action Items and/or Best Practices (30 minutes)
6:40-6:55 Report Out (5 minutes each)
State-Level Advocacy for Computing Education Reform
While it is exciting to see an increasing number of national efforts to reform computing education, such as those led by CSTA, Computing in the Core, ACM, NCWIT, code.org and many others, real change at the state, district and school level requires the active participation of individuals and local organizations to engage policy makers, superintendents and communities. The U.S. education system is highly distributed, with critical decisions pushed more to the community level and less at the national (or even state) level – with large differences between neighboring states. The system is organized along pathways of elementary schools, middle and high schools, community colleges, four-year colleges, and universities. A reform process for improving computing education pathways will take place at multiple levels and state by state. This birds-of-a-feather session will bring together emerging leaders at the state level with representatives from national initiatives to share best practices for implementing change.
Briana Morrison and Betsy DiSalvo use theory about gaming and media to analyze how Khan Academy “gamifies” the study of computer science. What do they get right? What are they missing? Thursday from 10:45-12 in Room Regency VI.
Gamification is the buzzword for adding gaming elements such as points or badges to learning experiences to make them more engaging and to increase motivation. In this paper we explore how Khan Academy has incorporated gaming elements into its CS learning platform. By mapping the literature on motivational processes to popular games we critically analyze how successful Khan Academy is at gamifying their site.
SIGCSE2014 Preview: Engaging Underrepresented Groups in High School Introductory Computing through Computational Remixing with EarSketch
EarSketch is an interesting environment that I got to demo for Jason Freeman and Brian Magerko at the Dagstuhl Livecoding conference. It’s Python programming that creates complex, layered music. The current version of EarSketch isn’t really livecoding (e.g., there’s a “compilation” step from program into digital audio workstation), but I got to see a demo of their new Web-based version which might be usable for live coding .
I got to see the preview talk and was blown away. The paper is about use in a 10 week programming unit in a high school course, with significant under-represented minority and female involvement. The evaluation results are stunning. The authenticity angle here is particularly interesting. In the preview talk, Jason talked about “authentic STEAM.” They have audio loops from real musicians, and involve hip-hop artists in the classroom. Students talk about how they value making music that sounds professional, with tools that professional musicians use.
In this paper, we describe a pilot study of EarSketch, a computational remixing approach to introductory computer science, in a formal academic computing course at the high school level. EarSketch, an integrated curriculum, Python API, digital audio workstation (DAW), audio loop library, and social sharing site, seeks to broaden participation in computing, particularly by traditionally underrepresented groups, through a thickly authentic learning environment that has personal and industry relevance in both computational and artistic domains. The pilot results show statistically significant gains in computing attitudes across multiple constructs, with particularly strong results for female and minority participants.
I’ve been excited to see this paper get published since Betsy first told me about the work. The paper described below (by Betsy DiSalvo, Cecili Reid, and Parisa Khanipour Roshan) looks at the terms that families commonly use to find on-line resources to help their children learn about computer science. They didn’t find Alice or Scratch or Blockly — none of the things that would be our first choices for CS education opportunities on-line. Betsy and her students show how we accidentally hide our resources from the uneducated and under-privileged, by presuming that the searchers are well-educated and privileged. They point out that this is one way that open education resources actually actually increase the socioeconomic gap, by not being easily discoverable by those without privilege. I got to see a preview of this talk, and the results are surprising — a video of the preview talk will be available here. Friday March 7, 3:45-5, in Room Hanover DE.
They Can’t Find Us: The Search for Informal CS Education
In this study we found that search terms that would likely be used by parents to find out-of-school computer science (CS) learning opportunities for their children yielded remarkably unproductive results. This is important to the field of CS education because, to date, there is no empirical evidence that demonstrates how a lack of CS vocabulary is a barrier to accessing informal CS learning opportunities. This study focuses on the experience of parents who do not have the privilege of education and technical experience when searching for learning opportunities for their children. The findings presented will demonstrate that issues of access to CS education go beyond technical means, and include ability to conduct suitable searches and identify appropriate computational learning tools. Out-of-school learning is an important factor in who is motivated and prepared to study computer science in college. It is likely that without early access to informal CS learning, fewer students are motivated to explore CS in formal classrooms.
It is widely acknowledged that for New York City to prosper in the 21st century, its middle and high schools must teach computer science. What is not so well known is that there are no computer science teachers in New York—at least not on paper.
The state does not recognize computer science as an official subject, which means that teachers do not get trained in it while they are becoming certified as instructors.
That’s one reason public-school students have little exposure to the skills needed to snag computer software programming jobs, which are expected to grow faster than any other profession during the next decade.
Out of 75,000 teachers in New York City public schools, fewer than 100 teach computer science. While state officials are trying to modernize the education syllabus, industry leaders have been filling in the gap with a handful of innovative efforts that illustrate the ad hoc nature of the solution to the shortfall of qualified teachers. But it will be years before all 800 of New York’s middle schools and high schools can offer even a single computer science class.
Check out the headline “Can early computer science education boost number of women in tech?” Then read the part (quoted below) where they show what works at Harvey Mudd. I don’t read anything there about early CS education. I do believe that we need CS in high schools to improve diversity in computing, but I’m not sure that much earlier than high school helps much. I worry about higher education giving up on issues of diversity, by changing the discussion to K12.
I wish that Mercury News would have really said what they found: University Computing Programs, you have the power to improve your diversity! You can change your classes and your culture! Don’t just pass the buck to K12 schools!
“The difference is, females in general are much more interested in what you can do with the technology, than with just the technology itself,” says Harvey Mudd President Maria Klawe, a computer scientist herself.
So administrators created an introductory course specifically for students without programming experience. They emphasized coding’s connection to other disciplines. They paid for freshman women to attend the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, a chance to meet programming role models in diverse fields. And they provided early research opportunities for women students to inspire them to stick with the field.
The result? The percentage of female computer science majors at Harvey Mudd increased from about 10 percent before the initiatives to 43 percent today.
An interesting blog post by an important CS researcher in programming languages and software engineering, but with a deep misperception about teaching. Teaching is not presentation. Making “production” better doesn’t make the teaching more effective. Student engagement pedagogies are likely to make teaching more effective, but it’s still an open question how to make those happen in a MOOC.
But the presenter of a MOOC is not likely to be a passive player in the same sense. Video is a dynamic medium, that used well can establish a significant emotional connection between the speaker and the audience. This is already clear in some MOOCs, and as production gets better and better this emotional quality of the courses will only improve.
What’s more, MOOC instructors are always at their best. They never have an off day. They never have a pressing grant deadline. All those bad takes got edited out. The students will also always hear them clearly, and when they don’t, the MOOC instructor will patiently repeat what they said. As many times as the student wants.
Thanks to Ben Shapiro for the pointer. My ECEP colleague, Rick Adrion, is part of MassCAN. Massachusetts has just decided to develop K-12 standards that will include computer science.
These discussions have led to a vision of expanded computing education opportunities for all students. To realize this vision, the Department will be collaborating with MassCAN on the development of voluntary Computer Science Standards for Massachusetts schools. The current Technology Literacy standards will be analyzed and updated and a decision will be made whether to fold Technology Literacy standards into a single document with computer science (Digital Literacy and Computer Science Standards), or to produce two separate documents.
The standards development committee plans to present draft standards to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education about a year from now, in winter 2014-15. Given the significant education initiatives already underway, I would recommend putting the standards out for public comment no earlier than fall 2015, and would ask the Board to vote on adopting the standards no earlier than spring 2016.
I got a chance to review and write a foreword for:
I’m really pleased to see that it’s finally out! Recommended.