Congratulations to Owen Astrachan and Amy Briggs for achieving the goal of CS:Principles being declared “AP.” This is going to be important for attracting teachers to take CS:Principles professional development.
To help ensure that more high school students are prepared to pursue postsecondary education in computer science, the National Science Foundation (NSF) is making a four-year, $5.2 million grant to the College Board’s Advanced Placement Program® (AP®) to fund the creation of AP Computer Science Principles (AP CSP).
Andy Kessler of the Wall Street Journal (linked below) misunderstands why we have a computing labor shortage. MOOCs definitely make “computing education” (in general) accessible to more people. But that doesn’t mean that we’ll shrink the computing labor shortage, as described by Code.org. Undergraduate computing education is “accessible” to everyone on campus, but rarely draws more than 15% women. We have to go from “accessible” to “engaging.” Unless we draw in women and under-represented minorities, we can’t close the jobs-graduates gap. We have to change how we teach to draw more women and under-represented minorities, and MOOCs don’t teach that way.
Anyone who cares about Americas shortage of computer-science experts should cheer the recent news out of Georgia Tech. The Atlanta university is making major waves in business and higher education with its May 14 announcement that the college will offer the first online masters degree in computer science—and that the degree can be had for a quarter of the cost of a typical on-campus degree. Many other universities are experimenting with open online courses, or MOOCs, but Georgia Techs move raises the bar significantly by offering full credit in a graduate program.It comes just in time. A shortfall of computer-science graduates is a constant refrain in Silicon Valley, and by 2020 some one million high-tech job openings will remain unfilled, according to the Commerce Department.
The latest Freakonomics podcast is on tipping and whether it should be banned, i.e., made illegal. One of the arguments for banning tipping is that it’s discriminatory. White servers get more than Black servers, for example. Professor Michael Lynn cited a Supreme Court case that I found described below. If a neutral practice disproportionately affects minorities or women in an adverse manner, then the practice is illegal.
I’ve raised the question here before, whether CS departments could be forced to change their teaching practices in order to comply with Title IX provisions so that more women might participate. One of the arguments I got in response was that no one adopted any practices to explicitly exclude women. This ruling says that the motivation for the practice doesn’t matter — even if it’s a “neutral” practice, if the effect is discriminatory, it has to go. We certainly have evidence that implicit bias exists in computing classrooms and that CS teachers allow their classrooms to develop a defensive climate. Further, we know a lot about how to improve women’s participation in computing. If we have a legal requirement to make computing education available to women, my guess is that we could be required to make change. For example, could we be forced to give up MOOCs as a discriminatory practice, since MOOCs have a measurable discriminatory effect?
In Griggs v. Duke Power Co., the Supreme Court decides that where an employer uses a neutral policy or rule, or utilizes a neutral test, and this policy or test disproportionately affects minorities or women in an adverse manner, then the employer must justify the neutral rule or test by proving it is justified by business necessity. The Court reasons that Congress directed the thrust of Title VII to the consequences of employment practices, not simply the motivation. This decision paves the way for EEOC and charging parties to challenge employment practices that shut out groups if the employer cannot show the policy is justified by business necessity.
I thought that Julian Assange’s point in this piece in the NYTimes were fascinating, but I was particularly struck by his description of “the white geek’s burden.” My colleague, Beki Grinter, has pointed to a similar rhetoric going on with MOOCs — that the United States is offering MOOCs for “the developing world” such as “Africa.” As she points out in her blog post, even that phrasing ignores the complexity of languages and cultures in the enormous continent of “Africa.” Are MOOCs another example of the US gadget consumerism that Assange critiques in his essay?
In the book the authors happily take up the white geek’s burden. A liberal sprinkling of convenient, hypothetical dark-skinned worthies appear: Congolese fisherwomen, graphic designers in Botswana, anticorruption activists in San Salvador and illiterate Masai cattle herders in the Serengeti are all obediently summoned to demonstrate the progressive properties of Google phones jacked into the informational supply chain of the Western empire.
A nice piece arguing motivating computing across the curriculum and computing for everyone. Next step: thinking about how to teach computing across the curriculum.
As British technologist, Conrad Wolfram said in a TED talk on teaching math with computers: “In the real world math isn’t necessarily done by mathematicians. It’s done by geologists, engineers, biologists, all sorts of different people.”
The same applies for computer science. Just ask Alex Tran, fellowship program manager at Code for America, a nonprofit “civic startup accelerator” that sees coding as a new form of public service. Each year, he works with more than 20 startups and fellows who build a variety of apps and online programs to improve how citizens engage and interact with their communities. So far, they’ve built tools for services like community disaster management, food stamps, virtual townhalls, student data interoperability, and even snazzy icons.
I highly recommend Shuchi Grover’s piece in EdSurge news (linked below). She makes a great point — that the goal of learning computing goes beyond learning to code. It’s not enough to learn to code. She talks about the challenge of learning to code:
There are similar themes in Roy Pea’s 1983 paper with Midian Kurland, “On the cognitive prerequisites of learning computing programming.”
Even among the 25% of the children who were extremely interested in learning programming, the programs they wrote reached but a moderate level of sophistication after a year’s work and approximately 30 hours of on-line programming experience. We found that children’s grasp of fundamental programming concepts such as variables, tests, and recursion, and of specific Logo primitive commands such as REPEAT, was highly context-specific and rote in character. To take one example: A child who had written a procedure using REPEAT which repeatedly printed her name on the screen was unable to recognize the efficiency of using the REPEAT command to draw a square. Instead, the child redundantly wrote the same line-drawing procedure four times in succession.
Coding is hard. Coding has always been hard. We want students to know more than just code about computing.
I’m not sure that Shuchi is right. Maybe learning to code is enough — if it happens. When I studied foreign languages in secondary and post-secondary school (Latin and French for me), there was a great emphasis on learning the culture of a language. There was an explicit belief that learning about the culture of a language facilitated learning the language. Does it go further? Can one learn the language without knowing anything about the culture? If one does learn the language well, did you necessarily learn the culture too? Maybe it works the same for programming languages.
Our human-centered computing PhD students who focus on learning sciences and technologies (LS&T) are required to read two chapters of Noss and Hoyles 1996 book Windows on Mathematical Meanings: Learning Cultures and Computers. They make the argument that you can’t learn Logo well apart from an effective classroom culture. As Pea and Kurland noted in 1983, and Grover has noted thirty years later in 2013, students aren’t really learning programming well.
What if they did? What if students did learn programming? Would they necessarily also learn computing? And isn’t it possible that a culture that taught programming well would also teach things beyond coding? Maybe even problem-solving skills? David Palumbo’s excellent review of the literature on programming and problem-solving pointed out that there was very little link from programming to problem-solving skills — but for the most part, students weren’t learning programming. I don’t really think that that would work, that learning to code would immediately lead to learning problem-solving skills. I do wonder if learning to code might also lead to learning the other things that we think are important about computing.
There is a positive evidence for the value of classroom culture. Consider the work by Leo Porter and Beth Simon, where they found that combining pair programming, peer instruction, and Media Computation led to positive retention and learning (as measured by success in later classes). Porter and Simon have also noted how students learning programming also develop new insight into the applications that they use. Maybe it’s the case that if you change the culture in the classroom and what students do, and maybe students learn programming and computing.
The AP CS readers I know (and I’m married to one) say that we had about 32,000 test takers, a huge increase over the 24,782 from last year. The website linked below (thanks to Gas station without pumps for the link) shows a significant increase in passing grades, too. I’m sure that Barb will do a detailed analysis when the state-by-state and demographic data come out.
Scoring is complete for AP Computer Science. Bravo to these teachers & students: a large increase in 4s/5s over last year.
AP Comp Sci students’ multiple-choice results: on average, students performed best on the logic/software eng/recursion questions, on average, students performed least well on questions about data structures.
AP Comp Sci free-response: similar scores across all 4 questions, slightly higher scores on Q1, slightly lower on Q3: ow.ly/lVKJp
16% more students took AP Computer Science this year, which makes the expanded ratio of 4s and 5s all the more impressive. What teachers!
Of course, I love a blog post on computing students with so much data and graphs that it could be a conference paper! Nice piece from Monica McGill on where gaming students are coming from, and what the implications are for future game designs.
Even in 2005, the IGDA report on its diversity survey found that the typical game development professional is “white, male, heterosexual, not disabled, […] and agrees that workforce diversity is important to the future success of the game industry” (pp. 9-10). The report goes on to state that “… it is reasonable to believe that diversity does have an impact on the game industry and the products we create – either via broader markets and/or a means to attract future talent” (p. 22).
Ah, attracting future talent. That phrase certainly begs the question: what future talent are we attracting? And does the prospective talent pool differ in its composition than current game industry employees? Or are we attracting more of the same, trapped in a cycle like the one Anna Anthropy describes as “straight white developers [who] make games that straight white reviewers market to straight white players, who may eventually be recruited to become the new straight white developers and reviewers” (Anthropy 2012)?
My colleagues at CAITE sent me a PDF of the whole article, since you can only get the lead paragraph at the Boston Globe site. It’s good news!
Executives from Google Inc., Microsoft Corp., and other leading firms want to require all Massachusetts public schools to teach computer science, so local tech companies don’t have to rely on foreign workers to fill future programming and engineering jobs.
My former student, Jeff Rick, has posted a reflection on MOOCs (on Facebook, so I can’t easily link to it from here), with an important point:
There’s an additional element that strikes me as critically missing from MOOCs: feedback to the instructor. Teaching is not about throwing good information out into the world; if so, Wikipedia (or public libraries a la Goodwill Hunting) would make formal education unnecessary. It is about making sure that the students get something out of it. For me, that requires a feedback cycle: realizing what problems students have, changing your teaching to meet their needs / interests, realizing and correcting your mistakes, etc.
Peter Norvig has said that he did the first AI MOOC with Sebastian Thrun explicitly to get more feedback. He was working on a revision for his AI textbook, and he didn’t want to just build it again and throw it into the world. By offering the book/course as a MOOC, he was able to get fine-grained data from many students on how they were using his book.
Teachers offering courses via Coursera or Udacity today get quite little data. The data is all captured behind corporate walls. I talked to Tucker Balch about the data he was gathering from his Coursera course “Computational Investing.” He said that he had the right to survey his students, but Coursera didn’t share any data that they had on the students. He got data on numbers of unique registrants, percent that took the first homework, percent that completed, etc. But nothing about how students did on particular problems, or how long they spent reviewing any particular video. No data that would help you figure out, “Hmm, I don’t think that’s working for the students.”
Isn’t that surprising, that in era of “Big Data,” MOOCs would be about “little data” getting back to the teacher who can most easily improve the course?
Barbara Ericson just found out that several teachers have dropped out from a professional development workshop that we’re offering next week. This means that we have some (limited) funding for travel available, and hotel rooms already booked, so we’re trying to get the word out broadly to fill those (very last minute) slots. Below is the message that she sent to teachers in Georgia. We’ll take teachers from other states as well.
The workshop is on CS Principles Big Ideas from June 17-21st at Georgia Tech. Rebecca Dovi is leading this workshop. She is one of the CS:Principles pilot teachers. She has created many interesting activities for teaching CS Principles and will be sharing those activities. See http://supercomputerscience.blogspot.com for her blog.
We still have hotel rooms available for attendees. We pay for parking and lunch for all attendees. We have limited funds to reimburse for travel as well. You can register at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CSP2013-BigIdeas
For more information on the workshop, see http://coweb.cc.gatech.edu/ice-gt/2175
Roger Schank’s comments are always insightful, often witty, and usually biting. His take on “computer education” (linked below) is typical.
This is computer education in the New York City Schools? We could teach kids to program you know. Or we could teach them to build apps. Or to create art. Or to build robots. Or to create a web site. Or to create music. The list could go on and on.
But, you know what Milo learned yesterday? How to create a hashtag.
Twitter is now part of the curriculum.
I enjoy Richard Hake’s posts. He has done excellent empirical educational research, so he knows what he’s talking about. His posts are filled with links to all kinds of great research and other sources.
This post does a nice job of making an argument similar to mine — MOOCs don’t utilize what we know works best in teaching. Hake goes on to point out, “And they’re not measuring learning, either!”
1. “The online and blended education world, really the higher ed world where most of us spend our days, fails to make any appearance.”
2. “If in fact the real story is the rise of blended and online learning, then [that story] will go completely untold if MOOCs are the sole focus.”
In my opinion, two other problems are that “Laptop U”:
3. Fails to emphasize the fact that MOOCs, like most Higher Ed institutions, concentrate on DELIVERY OF INSTRUCTION rather than STUDENT LEARNING to the detriment of their effectiveness – - see ”From Teaching to Learning: A New Paradigm for Undergraduate Education” [Barr and Tagg (1995)] at <http://bit.ly/8XGJPc>.
4. Ignores the failure of MOOC providers to gauge the effectiveness of their courses by pre-to-postcourse measurement of student learning gains utilizing “Concept Inventories” <http://bit.ly/dARkDY>. As I pointed out “Is Higher Education Running AMOOC?” [Hake (2013) at <http://yhoo.it/12nPMZB>, such assessment would probably demonstrate that MOOCs are actually MOORFAPs (Massive Open Online Repetitions of FAiled Pedagogy). There would then be some incentive to transform MOOCs into MOOLOs (Massive Open Online Learning Opportunities).
This is big news — Code.org has hired Cameron Wilson for a year. Take Code.org’s reach and combine it with Cameron’s understanding of how public policy works. Cool!
Cameron Wilson, long-time Director of Public Policy for ACM, has been given a special assignment for 12 months to work at Code.org as Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Government Relations.
Code.org was founded by Seattle tech entrepreneur Hadi Partovi to create, launch, and lead a new initiative for scaling K-12 computer science education. A phenomenal video produced as part of the launch attracted widespread attention. Today, 9 out of 10 schools nationwide don’t offer computer science; in 40 states, computer science does not count towards math or science graduation requirements; the NCAA doesn’t consider computer science as an academic credit for aspiring student-athletes; the recent National Research Council “Framework for K-12 Science Education” ignores computer science, as does the “Next Generation Science Standards” document derived from this framework.
We need to change this. Computer science teaches you to think – it needs to be viewed as an essential component of STEM.
One year, I gave an assignment in my Objects and Design class (in Squeak!) to construct a personal newspaper by reading bits of news (based on user interest) from local news sites. The night before the assignment was due, so many students tested their buggy fetch-and-scrape code on one poor site that they killed the site — a pedagogical denial-of-service attack.
Should I or my students have been arrested and taken away in handcuffs? It seems like the direct computing world analogy from the story quoted below.
Fortunately, the student has now been cleared of charges. It’s still a scary story.
It’s a sad commentary on our alarmist society that a similar deed would probably land a modern day budding Oliver Sacks in jail. That is exactly what it has done to a young aspiring scientist named Kiera Wilmot from Bartow High School in Florida, and in the process it has almost certainly deprived this country of exactly the kind of scientist whose shortage its politicians and educators are so fond of lamenting. The student conducted a common experiment mixing Drano and aluminum foil on the grounds of a school. The exact details are unknown but the incident led to a minor explosion, hurt nobody and damaged no property. This relatively harmless bit of curiosity led to Ms. Wilmot being handcuffed, arrested and expelled from the school. Irrational State Overreach: 1, The Much Touted American Edge in Science: 0. Whatever else the school was trying to achieve, it definitely succeeded in squelching independent scientific curiosity in its students.