Special Issue of ACM Transactions on Computing Education: International K12 CS with “Georgia Computes!”
The special issue of ACM Transactions on Computing Education on primary and secondary schools’ computing has just come out (see table of contents). There are articles on the UK’s Computing at School effort, Tim Bell’s effort in New Zealand, and efforts in Israel, Germany, Italy, Russia, and several others.
This is a particularly big deal for Barb and me, because in this issue, we publish the capstone journal paper on “Georgia Computes!” and describe what resulted from our six years worth of effort. We present both the positives (e.g., big increase in Hispanic participation in CS, teacher professional development touching 37% of all high schools in the state, great summer camp programs spread across the state) and the negatives (e.g., little impact on African American participation, little uptake by University faculty).
Georgia Computes! (GaComputes) was a six-year (2006–2012) project to improve computing education across the state of Georgia in the United States, funded by the National Science Foundation. The goal of GaComputes was to broaden participation in computing and especially to engage more members of underrepresented groups which includes women, African Americans, and Hispanics. GaComputes’ interventions were multi-faceted and broad: summer camps and after-school/weekend programs for 4th–12th grade students, professional development for secondary teachers, and professional development for post-secondary instructors faculty. All of the efforts were carefully evaluated by an external team (led by the third and fourth authors), which provides us with an unusually detailed view into a computing education intervention across a region (about 59K square miles, about 9.9 million residents). Our dataset includes evaluations from over 2,000 students who attended after-school or weekend workshops, over 500 secondary school teachers who attended professional development, 120 post-secondary teachers who attended professional development, and over 2,000 students who attended a summer day (non-residential) camp. GaComputes evaluations provide insight into details of interventions and into influences on student motivation and learning. In this article, we describe the results of these evaluations and describe how GaComputes broadened participation in computing in Georgia through both direct interventions and indirect support of other projects.
Barb will probably do her demographic analysis in the Fall. Gas Station Without Pumps analysis on raw scores is out now and is quite interesting.
The Computer Science A exam saw an increase of 33% in test takers, with about a 61% pass rate 3, 4, or 5. The exams scores were heavily bimodal, with peaks at scores of 4 and at 1. I wonder whether the new AP CS courses that Google funded contributed more to the 4s or to the 1s. I also wonder whether the scores clustered by schools, with some schools doing a decent job of teaching Java syntax most of what the AP CS exam covers, so far as I can tell and some doing a terrible job, or whether the bimodal distribution is happening within classes also. I suspect clustering by school is more prevalent. The bimodal distribution of scores was there in 2011, 2012, and 2013 also, so is not a new phenomenon. Calculus BC sees a similar bimodal distribution in past years—the 2014 distribution is not available yet.
Great interview with Sebastian Thrun. I particularly found fascinating his candid response to this important question.
That doesn’t sound like democratizing education, if only the affluent can afford the version that works.
I would be careful to say this is not democratizing it. Any alternative path is actually much more expensive. We managed to lower the cost by a factor of ten. Going to the extreme and saying it has to be absolutely free might be a bit premature. I care about making education work. Everything else being equal, I would love to do this at the lowest possible price point. Where we’ve converged is right. You don’t need a college degree anymore. I would be careful with the conclusion that this is the end of democratization. We still have the free model for students. It just doesn’t work as well — it’s just a fact.
Alfred Thompson raises an important question here. I agree with him — we haven’t reached consensus. We also will never have a national CS curriculum in the United States, because we have a distributed education model. It’s a state decision. I do fear that there may be a de facto standard now.
But the bigger concern is at a higher level of abstraction: How should we make curricular decisions in CS (or anywhere else)? I hope that we make our decisions based on empirical evidence. I don’t see that we have the empirical evidence that any of the below classes ought to be the dominant model.
Oh boy are things up in the air in the HS CS curriculum these days. While we have some great advice from the CSTA (CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards) the implementation of those standards are still left up to individual schools/districts/states. Still it is easy to come to the conclusion from watching social media and some conferences that there is a consensus on a high school Computer Science curriculum. Today I got the following from a friend.
Is it an incorrect read or has a national consensus for CS in HS’s been achieved with a sequence of :
–ECS (Exploring Computer Science) Curriculum
–CS Principles/BJC Curriculum (Beauty and Joy of Computing)
–AP CS (JAVA [for now])
The website https://www.madewithcode.com/ is really nice, with high-quality videos. I like the direction. It’s not clear to me how all the different Google initiatives in CS education integrate. Does MadeWithCode, CS First, their new CS teaching repository, and the CS Fellows program all fit together in a strategic direction?
Made with Code’s mission is anchored by a website where girls can use basic coding technique to make bracelets and other items; Google also will dole out grants to host girl-coding parties at Girl Scouts and Boys and Girls Clubs around the country, as well as fund a range of marketing and other awareness campaigns.The idea is to de-couple coding with dry tech chores, and instead show how the skill is vital to everything from movie-making to helping cure malaria.
Roger Schank (one of the founders of both cognitive science and learning science) declares MOOCs dead (including Georgia Tech’s OMS degree, explicitly), while recommending a shift to Mentored Simulation Experiences. I find his description of MSE’s interesting — I think our ebook work is close to what he’s describing, since we focus on worked examples (as a kind of “mentoring”) and low cognitive-load practice (with lots of feedback).
So, while I am declaring online education dead, because every university is doing it and the market will soon be flooded with crap, I am not declaring the idea of a learning by doing mentored experience dead.
So, I propose a new name, Mentored Simulated Experiences.
The title is right, but the article (linked below) doesn’t really explain what “encouragement” means. We do have an answer to that from our “Georgia Computes!” work. We found that a sense of “belonging” was key to retention in the Computing major, especially for women and under-represented minorities.
More encouragement will be needed to attract girls into the IT profession, according to a BCS survey.
BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, found that 79% of BCS members believed that the IT profession would benefit from having more women working in it.
Currently, women account for just 15-18% of IT professionals, a figure that has fallen significantly in recent years, said the BCS.