Last month, I wrote about the new NSF program Improving Undergraduate Stem Education (see NSF page on IUSE here). I talked to Jane Prey about this program a couple weeks ago, and she was concerned. She said that lots of people are expressing doubt about applying for a program that only has a single page description–not the standard multi-page solicitation.
That’s exactly why this is the time to apply! IUSE doesn’t have a solicitation this year, but most likely will in future years. That means that anything goes this year! If you have any idea that you want to get funded, THIS is the year to apply.
The program description is wonderfully broad:
- Want to work on broadening participation in computing? It’s there: “broadening participation of individuals and institutions in STEM fields.”
- Want to work on after school programs, service learning, new ways of structuring your department, formal education research, new ways of measuring learning? It’s all there: “experiential learning, assessment/metrics of learning and practice, scholarships, foundational education research, professional development/institutional change, formal and informal learning environments.”
Want to work on teacher professional development, or even adult learners? It’s there: “educating a STEM-literate populace, improving K-12 STEM education, encouraging life-long learning, and building capacity in higher education.”
In short, the lack of a formal solicitation means that there are few barriers. You should go for it.
From here on, this is my advice based on talking with NSF program managers and having written (rejected mostly, but a bunch accepted) proposals. This is not coming from NSF:
- You need to demonstrate that your proposal has intellectual merit and broader impacts. That’s part of any NSF proposal.
- No, there’s nothing there that says you must have evaluation, but if you read phrases like “empirically validated teaching practices,” you have to believe that funded proposals will have good evaluation. You can probably be competitive without an external evaluator if you come up with a good evaluation plan in the proposal body itself. If you don’t know how to do this, bring in an external evaluator.
- The really tough part of applying to a program without a solicitation is deciding how much to budget. Here’s me just gazing into a crystal ball: Smaller but realistic budgets have the greatest chance of getting funded. If you can do your project in $100-200K/year for two to three years, you increase your odds of getting funded. I think there’s a psychological barrier for review committees at a $1M proposal, so stay below that or make your really proposal great.
The big message is: Apply on February 4, 2014. Take this rare opportunity to get your wildest and most exciting ideas on the table at NSF.
An interesting paper I found reading Annie Murphy Paul’s blog. An Expressed Interest is an answer to a question like “What career do you plan to pursue after College?” A Measured Vocational Interest is measuring an interest in mathematics, and suggesting that the student go into accounting. The former are far more predictive of future careers than the latter. Why are we so bad at predicting what field someone should go into based on their base interests? I’ll bet that it has to do with more things than just interests, like Eccles model of academic achievement (how do people think about this career? can you see yourself in this career?) and values (which are different than interests).
We’ve heard about this problem before: Online courses don’t reach the low-income students who most need them, because they don’t have access to the technology on-ramp. This was an issue in the San Jose State experiment.
That’s because the technology required for online courses isn’t always easily accessible or affordable for these students. Although the course may be cheaper than classroom-based courses, the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education argues in a report released Wednesday low-income students might still have a harder time accessing it.
“We have to wrap our heads around the fact that we can’t make assumptions that this will be so simple because everyone will just fire up their computers and do the work,” says Lillian Taiz, a professor at California State University, Los Angeles, and president of the California Faculty Association.
Many students, Taiz says, don’t have computers at home, high-speed Internet access, smart phones, or other technologies necessary to access course content.
The US News article suggests Google Chromebooks as an answer — cheap and effective. The Indian government is trying an even cheaper tablet solution. Could you use one of these to access MOOCs?
The Indian government realized a few years ago that the technology industry had no motivation to cater to the needs of the poor. With low cost devices, the volume of shipments would surely increase, but margins would erode to the point that it wasn’t worthwhile for the big players. So, India decided to design its own low-cost computer. In July 2010, the government unveiled the prototype of a $35 handheld touch-screen tablet and offered to buy 100,000 units from any vendor that would manufacture them at this price. It promised to have these to market within a year and then purchase millions more for students.
Quoting from the latest CRA Newsletter (below). Note carefully: The Education Committee of the Computing Research Association is focused on Computing Education, not Computing Education Research. Computing Education Research is outside of CRA’s purview:
The Education Committee of the Computing Research Association (CRA-E) has launched its website: www.cra.org/crae. CRA-E’s mission is to address society’s need for a continuous supply of talented and well-educated computing researchers by providing resources to inform, assist, and guide the computing community.
Resources on the site include:
· White papers on trends, best practices, and recommendations for leaders in academic, research, and funding agencies.
· Resources for students and faculty to encourage and enhance undergraduate research and to increase participation of underrepresented groups.
· Materials and meetings that allow computing faculty, practitioners, and students to contribute to a strong research pipeline.
The CRA-E is a committee of the Computing Research Association (CRA). CRA-E’s mission is to address society’s need for a continuous supply of talented and well-educated computing researchers. In particular, the committee works toward the objective of maintaining a healthy pipeline of domestic students who continue on to graduate school and enter careers in research.
The committee currently has two main threads of activities: the Pipeline group (“PIPE”) and the Preparing Undergraduates for REsearch (“PURE”) group. PIPE seeks to understand and improve the pipeline of domestic students to doctoral programs. It’s activities include collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data and disseminating its findings to the computing research community. The PURE group is engaged in identifying best practices in undergraduate research and developing resources for undergraduates interested in research and graduate school and for faculty interested in mentoring undergraduate researchers.
CS researchers have long been interested in what predicts success in introductory computing, e.g., the “camel has two humps” paper, and the Bennedsen and Caspersen review of the literature. Would knowing who might succeed or fail allow us to boost retention? A new system at Purdue was claimed to do exactly that, but turns out, isn’t.
Michael Caulfield, director of blended and networked learning at Washington State University at Vancouver, decided to take a closer look at Signals after Purdue in a September press release claimed taking two Signals-enabled courses increased students’ six-year graduation rate by 21.48 percent. Caulfield described Purdue research scientist Matt Pistilli’s statement that “two courses is the magic number” as “maddening.”
Comparing the retention rates of the 2007 and 2009 cohorts, Caulfield suggested much of what Purdue described as data analysis just measured how many courses students took. As Signals in 2008 left its pilot and more students across campus enrolled in at least one such course, Caulfield found the retention effect “disappeared completely.”
Put another way, “students are taking more … Signals courses because they persist, rather than persisting because they are taking more Signals courses,” Caulfield wrote.
Interesting set of testimonials from people in arts and social science on why they have found it useful to learn to code (thanks to Alfred Thompson for the link). Gas Stations Without Pumps has an interesting post based on one of the testimonials.
Being able to code to express yourself is one of the most powerful tools available to artists today. Artists should look at programming languages as they do any other medium- watercolor, acrylic, clay- they are all tools to allow you to develop and communicate your vision with your audience.
What an interesting paper! (Pun slightly intended.) In this paper from Paul Silvia, he found experimentally that self-efficacy and interest are related on a bell-shaped curve. Too little self-efficacy makes a task seem too daunting and uninteresting. Too much makes the task boring. This is important because we know that self-efficacy is among the most significant factors influencing non-majors success in learning to program. It’s clear that there’s a sweet spot that we’re aiming for.
I know faculty at both KSU and SPSU. My PhD student, Briana Morrison, is faculty at SPSU. No one that I spoke to had any idea this was happening. These aren’t small schools. SPSU is one of the few universities in Georgia with a publicly-funded engineering program. KSU+SPSU is considerably larger than Georgia Tech. Is this part of the consolidation of higher education foretold by the MOOCopalyptic visions?
Kennesaw State University and Southern Polytechnic State University will consolidate to form a new institution to be named Kennesaw State University. The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia will be asked by Chancellor Hank Huckaby to approve the consolidation plan during its upcoming November meeting.
“We must continue to carefully examine our structure and programs to ensure we have the right model that best serves our students and the state,” Huckaby said. “This proposal offers us some exciting possibilities to enlarge our academic outreach through the existing talent and resources at both these institutions.”
The decision to consolidate the two institutions, whose combined enrollment this fall is 31,178 students and combined annual economic impact on the region is $1.15 billion
A new book on LilyPad based projects:
If you’re interested in interactive toys, smart accessories, or light-up fashions, this book is for you! Sew Electric is a set of hands-on LilyPad Arduino tutorials that bring together craft, electronics, and programming. The book walks you through the process of designing and making a series of quirky customizable projects including a sparkling bracelet, a glow in the dark bookmark, a fabric piano, and a monster that sings when you hold its hands. Play with cutting-edge technologies and learn sewing, programming, and circuit design along the way. It’s a book for all ages. Explore the projects with your friends, your parents, your kids, or your students!
The NYTimes just had a piece about the lack of women in computing.
There is, of course, no pop-culture corollary for computer science. A study financed by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media found that recent family films, children’s shows and prime-time programs featured extraordinarily few characters with computer science or engineering occupations, and even fewer who were female. The ratio of men to women in those jobs is 14.25 to 1 in family films and 5.4 to 1 in prime time. Whenever high-ranking people in the tech industry meet, whether at the White House or a Clinton Global Initiative conference, one executive says, “we almost always walk away from the discussion having come to the conclusion we need a television show.” Nearly every tech or nonprofit executive I spoke with mentioned their hope that “The Social Network” has improved the public’s perception of programmers. They also mentioned how bummed they were that the hit film didn’t include more prominent female characters. Meanwhile, the National Academy of Sciences now offers a program called the Sciences and Entertainment Exchange that gives writers and producers free consultation with all kinds of scientists. Natalie Portman’s character in the superhero movie “Thor,” for instance, started out as a nurse. After a consultation with scientists introduced through the exchange, she became an astrophysicist.
It’s a big and complicated issue why there are so few women in computing in the US. The author of the NYTimes article thinks that it’s about exposure.
Part of the issue, it seems, is exposure. Most people don’t come into contact with computer scientists or engineers in their daily lives, and don’t really understand what they do. American schools don’t do a great job of teaching computer science skills either.
Trying to remedy this are numerous nonprofit and educational organizations, among them Code.org, which lobbies to get more computer science classes in schools. Others try to provide computer science lessons outside of a traditional school setting. Girls Who Code, for example, has eight-week boot camps that teach middle and high school girls programming skills – in languages like Java, PHP, and Python – as well as algorithms, Web design, robotics, and mobile app development.
Which seems to say that it’s mass media (like Hollywood) that deters women from computer science — the argument suggested below. I disagree. Yes, students are getting uninformed ideas about computer science from mass media, but that’s because they don’t see the real thing anywhere. People don’t leave Disneyworld thinking that six-foot rats can talk — because they have some other experience of rodents. Our real challenge is giving students the opportunity to see a real programmer, real programming, real program code.
There’s a well-researched, much-fretted-over dearth of women in the tech sector, more specifically in the field of computer science. According to the Times’ Catherine Rampell, the dismal numbers of women majoring in computer science, or becoming computer programmers don’t seem to be improving, either: just 0.4 percent of all female college freshmen say they plan on majoring in computer science, despite the fact that, as far as professional fields go, computer science and engineering offer college grads some of the most promising employment opportunities. We need computer programs and bridges, college, not another pack of aimless fedora-wearers chain-smoking Parliaments outside of the liberal arts building.
Brand new data, same old story.
As you can see, a majority of bachelor’s degrees in some STEM fields — psychology, biosciences, social sciences — were actually given to women in recent years. And women’s participation in these fields has also risen, on net, since 1991, even if there has been some erosion in biosciences in recent years. Women receive less than half of physical sciences degrees, but they earn a much higher share than they did two decades ago.
Now take a look at the trends in computer science and engineering. Engineering is slightly more female-heavy than it was in 1991, but not much: 15.5 percent then versus 18.4 percent in 2010, the most recent year in the report. Computer science actually is more male-dominated today than it was two decades ago: Women received 29.6 percent of computer science B.A.’s in 1991, compared with 18.2 percent in 2010.
This is wonderful for several reasons. So great to see a new version of Logo available that runs in a browser. So really great to see something new from Brian Silverman, one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. Brian has taught me a lot about education and computing, and he does wonderful work. Thanks to Gary Stager for pointing me to this.
I’ve been teaching a lot of Logo lately, particularly a relatively new version called Turtle Art. Turtle Art is a real throwback to the days of one turtle focused on turtle geometry, but the interface has been simplified to allow block-based programming and the images resulting from mathematical ideas can be quite beautiful works of art. you can see some examples in the image gallery at Turtleart.org. Turtle Art was created by Brian Silverman, Artemis Papert (Seymour’s daughter), and their friend Paula Bonta. Turtle Art itself is a work of art that allows learners of all ages to begin programming, creating, solving problems, and engaging in hard fun within seconds of seeing it for the first time. Since an MIT undergraduate in the late 1970s, Brian Silverman has made Papert’s ideas live in products that often exceeded Papert’s expectations.
Computing is included as one of the priorities in England’s offer of special funding to attract more teachers. Scholarships up to 25K pounds are pretty impressive. Texas is offering loan forgiveness. I don’t know if there’s anyone else in the US trying this approach.
Schools Minister David Laws said more scholarships and bursaries would be available to help recruit the most talented graduates with the potential to be brilliant teachers in key subjects. This would help raise standards in schools and ensure all children were given a good education.
Scholarships, awarded by respected subject organisations, will be available to the most talented maths, physics, chemistry and computing trainees. Bursaries will be available to top graduates in maths, physics, chemistry, computing, and languages, in primary and in priority subjects at secondary school (English, history, biology, geography, music, and design and technology).
Really interesting blog post, dissecting the mistakes made in a very popular TED talk.
Sir Ken’s ideas aren’t just impractical; they are undesirable. Here’s the trouble with his arguments:
1. Talent, creativity and intelligence are not innate, but come through practice.
2. Learning styles and multiple intelligences don’t exist.
3. Literacy and numeracy are the basis for creativity.
4. Misbehaviour is a bigger problem in our schools than conformity.
5. Academic achievement is vital but unequal, partly because…
6. Rich kids get rich cultural knowledge, poor kids don’t.
I don’t completely agree with all of Pragmatic Education’s arguments.
- Intelligence may not be malleable. You can learn more knowledge, and that can come from practice. It’s not clear that fluid intelligence is improved with practice.
- Learning styles don’t seem to exist. Multiple intelligences? I don’t think that the answer is as clear there.
- Creativity comes from knowing things. Literacy and numeracy are great ways of coming to know things. It’s a bit strong to say that creativity comes from literacy and numeracy.
- There are lots of reasons why rich kids are unequal to poor kids (see the issue about poverty and cognitive function.) Cultural knowledge is just part of it.
But 90% — I think he gets what’s wrong with Sir Ken’s arguments.
I’m honored and pleased to be in this set! Worth checking out, every one.
Further to my most-read blog post from May 2012: A set of top Computer Science blogs, 80,000 hits and counting, here’s a follow-up: blogs on computer science education.As before, instead of a list, it more closely resembles a set: the order is irrelevant and there are no duplicate elements; membership of this set of blogs satisfies all of the following conditions:they focus on computer science education research, policy and practice;they are of consistently high quality;I regularly read them.