Posts tagged ‘CE21’
Farnam Jahanian visited Georgia Tech last month. Farnam is the Assistant Director at the US National Science Foundation, in charge of all computing related funding (CISE Division). He spoke to issues about computing education funding, and I got to ask some of my questions, too.
He said that the Office of Management and Budget has really been driving the effort to consolidate STEM education funding programs. OMB was unhappy that Biology, Engineering, and CISE all had their own STEM education programs. However, CISE got to keep their education research program (as the new STEM-C program) because it was already a collaboration with the education division in NSF (EHR). All the rest (including TUES) is being collapsed into the new EHR programs.
In his talk, he made an explicit argument which I’ve heard Jan Cuny make, but hadn’t heard an NSF AD make previously:
- We have a dramatic underproduction of computing degrees, around 40K per year.
- We have a dramatic under-representation of certain demographic groups (e.g., women, African-Americans, Hispanics), and we can’t solve #1 without solving that under-representation. He says that the basic arithmetic won’t work. We can’t get enough graduates unless we broaden participation in computing.
- We have a lack of presence in primary and secondary school in the United States (K-12). He claims that we can’t solve #2 without fixing #3. We have to have a presence so that women and under-represented minority groups will discover computing and pursue degrees (and careers) in it.
On May 17, I am going to be attending a summit for computing education in Maryland at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). Rick Adrion and I are going to talk about the efforts in Massachusetts and Georgia, and elsewhere through ECEP. I’m looking forward to it (but observant readers will note that I’m traveling to Maryland the day after returning from Denmark!).
On Friday, May 17, 2013, CE21-Maryland will host a Summit for Computing Education at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) campus in Catonsville, Maryland. We invite teachers, administrators, legislators, industry leaders, and others who have an interest in expanding computer science in high school or middle school to attend. Space is limited to 150 people.
At this summit, the attendees will:
Learn more about computer science high school education across the state of Maryland.
Network with others with an interest in computer science education.
Exchange strategies with other education professionals.
Plan with others to help expand student interest and to increase the number and diversity of students studying computer science in Maryland.
I’ll be traveling to Denmark with Barbara Ericson on May 10 to attend a conference at Aarhus University on their new computer science curriculum. Michael Caspersen invited us out. Simon Peyton-Jones of the Computing At Schools effort in the United Kingdom will be speaking as well. I’m copy-pasting the program (translated from Danish) to give you a sense of what it’s all about. It’s an exciting opportunity, and I’m looking forward to learning more about the efforts to move computing into primary and secondary education in Denmark and the UK.
The purpose of the conference is to establish support for our efforts by raising political awareness at all levels of decision making in our society related to teaching computing in school (parliament, regional and city councils, high school principals, high school teachers, deans, chairs and professors in computing departments, IT organizations, journalists, etc.).
09.30 Registration and coffee
- exhibition of student projects opens
- Peter Hesseldahl (moderator)
10.15 Digital literacy: creative and critical innovation — three perspectives
- Michael: Insight and vision through computing
- Jacob (high school teacher): Computing — a creative, critical and constructive subject
- Susanne: Why does society need digital literacy?
11.45 Digital literacy in an international perspective
- Mark: Why everyone will need digital literacy in their life
- Simon: Digital literady: Why every child should learn computing from primary school onwards
13.15 Panel: On the importance of digital literacy for high school students
- Christine Antorini, Minister of Children and Education
- Morten Østergaard, Minister of Science, Innovation and Higher Education
- Morten Bangsgaard, CEO, The Danish IT Industry Association (ITB)
- Anne Frausing, Principal and representative for the High School Principal’s Association
- Gitte Møldrup, Managing Director, IT-VEST — Networking Universities
15.00 Simon: Computing at School: How the UK is radically reshaping its curriculum for the 21st century
15.25 Mark: CS10K: Providing access to computing education across the US
16.00 End of plenary session
16.30 Exhibition of student projects ends
The report on the requested NSF budget for 2014 has a pretty dramatic list of programs that have been cancelled as part of the administration’s desire to reorganize and “consolidate” federal STEM education programs.
CAUSE is an NSF-wide investment that incorporates funding from established programs in the EHR directorate and other NSF directorates funded though the Research and Related Activities (R&RA) account. It is created by consolidating three Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE) programs: STEM Talent Expansion Program (STEP), Widening Implementation and Demonstration of Evidence- based Reforms (WIDER), and Transforming Undergraduate Education in STEM (TUES); several R&RA programs: BIO’s Transforming Undergraduate Biology Education (TUBE); ENG’s Research in Engineering Education and Nanotechnology Undergraduate Education (NUE); GEO’s Geosciences Education and Opportunities for Enhancing Diversity in the Geosciences (OEDG); and the cross-NSF program, Climate Change Education (CCE).
TUES used to be the Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI) program. TUES and CCLI have funded most of the federally-funded efforts presented at SIGCSE. Earlier, CE21 was cancelled, and its replacement isn’t announced.
An article in the latest Science magazine describes the new programs (and how surprised everyone in the STEM education community has been). K-12 belongs in the Department of Education (what does this mean for CS10K?), undergrad and grad in NSF, and informal ed in the Smithsonian (the Smithsonian?!?).
As far as I can tell, the NSF budget document is the only reference to the new NSF CAUSE (Catalyzing Advances in Undergraduate STEM Education). There is no solicitation, and no date for submitting proposals. Bottomline: the programs that have funded most of CS curriculum support are now gone, and the replacements do not yet exist. I hope that this all works out well, but it’s a little scary right now.
From Farnham Jahanian’s email to the CISE-Announce list on the new NSF budget request from the President:
CISE continues its focus on STEM-C Partnerships (formerly, the Computing Education for the 21st Century (CE21) program) in order to increase the pool of students and teachers who develop and practice computational and data competencies in a variety of contexts and to prepare more students to pursue degrees in computing, computation, and data-intensive fields of study.
It might be that STEM-C will fund everything that CE21 funded (can’t find an announcement yet to see), but the departure of a program explicitly named “Computing Education” is a loss for those of us who are trying to grow the field of Computing Education Research. If it’s not named, it’s easier to ignore.
Our technical report on evaluation of Luther College students’ use of the first generation Runestone Interactive Python ebook is finally available: http://hdl.handle.net/1853/45044. This was a paper that we wrote for ICER 2012 but was rejected. The reviewers’ general argument is that we’re just describing one class using an ebook: No comparisons to other uses of books or ebooks, no particular hypothesis being tested. That is a fair criticism, but the problem is that we don’t know of a comparable study. We don’t know of anyone who has studied how CS students use their normal textbooks and IDE’s, for example, so that we can contrast it with the ebook use.
Here’s an example of one of our findings, which we found surprising. You might recall that the Runestone Interactive ebook has three special kinds of features: Embedded videos, “ActiveCode” segments (where students can actually program in Python from within the pages of the book), and “CodeLens” interactive visualizations of code, which can be run forward or backward. Below is a histogram of the number of ActiveCode events on each day of the first five weeks of class. The red bar is the day of the midterm. Blue bars are days when students had class (and most use on that day was in class), and gray bars are use out-of-class.
So here’s the first surprise: Use in-class swamps use out-of-class. The Luther college students are using the book in-class, and are working on programming activities (directed by the teacher) in-class. Those of us at Georgia Tech expected students to be programming far more out-of-class, maybe two or three times as much as in-class. Not so here. Is that unusual behavior only found at Luther? We don’t know yet.
Here’s the second surprise: Notice that the use on the day before the midterm is not one of the larger spikes. If you had an ebook to help you learn CS, with lots of examples that you could poke with, wouldn’t you study by using those? We are not seeing much of that, and students reported studying by “reading” it — few of them mentioned exploring code.
We at Georgia Tech built quizzes for each of the first five chapters of the book, completely separate from Brad Miller and David Ranum, the teachers at Luther. We also got the students’ midterm scores. So of those three features, which one most closely correlated with better performance outcomes on the quiz and midterms? The visualization tool. Here’s a scatterplot of the midterm score and use of the CodeLens by student.
Now, what did the students think was most valuable for their learning? Lectures, by quite a bit. We asked them to rank the various learning affordances in the class, and to score each in value from 1 to 5 (lower scores are better).
There are surprises here, too. Videos are not a big win here. Students do value being able to run code in the ebook (and told us about how much they liked that in our surveys), but don’t value it as much for their learning as lecture. Students don’t rank CodeLens very highly at all, but it was the feature that had the greatest measurable effect.
We have a whole bunch more data now: From several classes, and from a group of high school teachers that we can compare to the undergraduates. Christine Alvarado has ended her sabbatical at Georgia Tech, but is still working with us on this analysis. Brad Miller is still graciously allowing us to pester him with questions, and is giving us log data in identity-scrubbed form so that we can dig into it without compromising student identities. I hope that we can produce another paper for a peer-review forum, this time, with comparisons across multiple data sets so that we can start to figure out what is normal or typical use of a CS ebook.
Baker Franke writes about their CE21-funded effort to put Exploring Computer Science into the Chicago public schools through Career and Technical Education, as a way of reaching “computer science for all.”
What we saw were teachers in rooms with students and computers in a required course that wasn’t really doing that much for the students or the teachers. Through our advocacy work we were able to convince the director of the CTE program in Chicago to change this required course (common to all the CTE programs) into a “real” computer science course. And that’s how it started. We chose to teach the Exploring Computer Science curriculum because of it’s fantastic professional development model and I would describe the early results as transformative. Most of the teachers love teaching the class and now feel like they’re making a difference in their students’ lives rather than treading water in a classic “applications” course.
Are they “real” computer science teachers? Yes. But they’re different than the computer science teachers that we in the CS community are used to and that’s something we have to get used to but also what’s so great. These teachers are going to be able to reach students of all races, genders, creeds, and socio-economic status for the precise reason that they’re nothing like, well, me. I’m seeing it happen before my eyes and it’s amazing. The potential impact of this project is huge. In a few years time, we will have hundreds of computer science teachers teaching a required CS course in Chicago Public Schools.
A YouTube video of my talk (with Alan’s introduction) at C5 is now available.
At the CE21 meeting earlier this month, I got asked a similar question more than once. ”I have got this great class on X for high school teachers. I want to ‘evaluate it’. Um…how many teachers do I need?” I’m pretty sure I really heard the quote marks around “evaluate it,” because I’m pretty sure that the question-asker really had little idea what that meant.
I used this story as an example in my educational technology class last week. It’s worth exploring why that’s not answerable as-is. ”How many teachers do I need?” depends on the research question that you’re trying to answer. There are lots of questions one might ask about a “great class for high school teachers.” Which one are you trying to explore?
- Maybe you think you’ve solved a particular problem that high school teachers face in learning computer science, like struggling with data structures or fitting the course material into their daily lives. I’m particularly interested in that latter problem. To answer that question, you need to talk to the teachers, to get an understanding of whether the teachers faced the problem and if your class helped them get past it. You’re not going to interview 20 people and do something useful with your data (interview transcripts). At least 3-5 people, probably no more than 10-12 participants would let you answer your question.
- Maybe you think that your class in X is better than other classes in X. Then, you need to do a comparison study. My rudimentary knowledge of statistics suggests that you need 40-50 teachers with about half taking each course so that you can compare them on some learning or performance measure.
- Maybe you think that your class can scale dramatically well, that you really have a solution to the CS10K challenge — your class can educate thousands of teachers in the next four years. That’s great, but to be convincing, you’re going to show that you can run your class at scale (maybe 100 teachers at once would be convincing) and that you still achieve learning outcomes (against some reasonable measure of learning, like Allison’s test or the outcome measures being developed for CS:Principles). You don’t need to do a comparison to something else if you’re trying to demonstrate scale, and you certainly aren’t going to interview all those participants.
There are other possible research questions, with other appropriate evaluation mechanisms. Do you think that your intervention is going to result in systemic change? Then you need a longitudinal study. Do you think that you have a class that will draw more teachers into CS teaching? Then your real target audience is outside your classroom, and you need to do an evaluation that extends outside your classroom.
The greatest challenge facing the CE21 community is that the community is filled with computer scientists. Computer science too rarely asks questions involving human beings, so we have too little practice defining the right kinds of methods. The CE21 meeting had a few education researchers, who they seemed not too comfortable with computer science — and there was way too little collaboration between the two groups. If we want to do education research that means something, we need to learn how to to ask research questions that involve humans and to figure out the right methods.
At the NSF CE21 meeting last week, I got a chance to catch up with Aman Yadav, who teaches Purdue’s computer science methods course — a course on how to teach computer science specifically (as opposed to general teaching methods that one would use with reading, history, science, or mathematics). He teaches what is, best as I can tell, the only regularly offered CS methods course in the country. These are necessary courses to be able to establish teacher certification programs. I met him at last year’s meeting, at which time I learned that he had all of one student. This year? One more student.
Columbus State University hosts the only high school CS teacher certification program in Georgia, for an “endorsement” in CS. An endorsement is a credential on top of an existing certification — nobody can be certified as a CS teacher in Georgia, but you can get an “endorsement” on top of a business or science or math certificate. Columbus had to have a CS methods course to meet the requirements of an endorsement in Georgia. So last summer, Wayne Summers co-taught the course with a methods instructor from their Education school. Total enrollment? One student.
CS10K: If we built it, would they come?
I know that there’s an argument that we can’t ramp up teacher production fast enough, so we should give up and develop technology to replace the teacher. However, the reality is that we don’t know how yet. We don’t know how to teach CS well enough at the high school level via technology. It’s an open, important, and interesting research question. So is how to teach high school teachers about computer science at scale, including making the learning engaging and drawing teachers in. Yes, we know a lot about adult education, but it’s in no way an answered question. We can do it better, and that’s the research question in which I’m more interested.
The National Research Council just released a new report on Computational Thinking last week. Marcia Linn of Berkeley came to present the report to the NSF CE21 meeting last week. It’s on how to teach Computational Thinking. I saw Marcia Thursday night before she spoke, and she asked me how I defined CT. I declined to answer her (because last time I came up with one, the response was mostly how wrong I was), and asked her for her definition. She gave a nice one that involved relating computing to the problem domain context, but admitted that that was her definition. The committee couldn’t come to a consensus on a definition. I asked her if she thought computer scientists would agree with her definition. She said that she was able to convince the ones she found most difficult (because her definition included programming, and that was key to the computer scientists she worked with), and that was good enough for her.
There is lots of pressure to teach and assess computational thinking — for which we have too many definitions and too little consensus. Really hard to make progress on a goal if we don’t know what the goal is.
In 2008, the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate of the National Science Foundation asked the National Research Council (NRC) to conduct two workshops to explore the nature of computational thinking and its cognitive and educational implications. The first workshop focused on the scope and nature of computational thinking and on articulating what “computational thinking for everyone” might mean. A report of that workshop was released in January 2010.Drawing in part on the proceedings of that workshop, Report of a Workshop of Pedagogical Aspects of Computational Thinking, summarizes the second workshop, which was held February 4-5, 2010, in Washington, D.C., and focuses on pedagogical considerations for computational thinking. This workshop was structured to gather pedagogical inputs and insights from educators who have addressed computational thinking in their work with K-12 teachers and students. It illuminates different approaches to computational thinking and explores lessons learned and best practices. Individuals with a broad range of perspectives contributed to this report. Since the workshop was not intended to result in a consensus regarding the scope and nature of computational thinking, Report of a Workshop of Pedagogical Aspects of Computational Thinking does not contain findings or recommendations.
There is a new CE21 solicitation from NSF, and it’s pretty exciting. Types of proposals are no longer determined by amount of money or objectives. Now, the three tracks are about different focus areas for the research:
CE21 thus supports efforts in three tracks:
Computing Education Research (CER) proposals will aim to develop a research base for computing education. Projects may conduct basic research on the teaching and learning of computational competencies; they may design, develop, test, validate, and refine materials, measurement tools, and methods for teaching in specific contexts; and/or they may implement promising small-scale interventions in order to study their efficacy with particular groups. Efforts can focus on computational thinking as taught in computing courses or infused across the curriculum, they can target students or their teachers in informal or formal educational settings, or they can address any level within the K-16 pipeline, from elementary school through high school and college.
CS 10K proposals will aim to develop the knowledge base and partnerships needed to catalyze the CS 10K Project. The CS 10K Project aims to have rigorous, academic curricula incorporated into computing courses in 10,000 high schools, taught by 10,000 well-trained teachers. CS 10K proposals can address a wide range of needed activities, including the development of course materials, pedagogy, and methods courses, as well as professional development and ongoing support for teachers, approaches to scaling, best practices for increasing the participation of students from underrepresented groups, and strategies for building K-12, university, and community partnerships.
Broadening Participation (BP) proposals will aim to develop and assess novel interventions that contribute to our knowledge base on the effective teaching and learning of computing for students from the underrepresented groups: women, persons with disabilities, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and indigenous peoples. Proposed interventions should be designed to engage and retain students from these groups and, at the same time, to increase their knowledge of computational thinking concepts and skills. Proposers are encouraged to leverage the resources provided by the existing BPC-A Alliances and to develop interventions that, if proven successful, could be implemented within a BPC-A Alliance. For additional information on the Alliances, see http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=503593&org=NSF.
In aggregate, CE21 projects will contribute to our understanding of how diverse student populations are engaged and retained in computing, learn its fundamental concepts, and develop computational competencies that position them to contribute to an increasingly computationally empowered workforce.
We get the chance to beat the book for CS learning! Our NSF CE21 (Computing Education in the 21st Century) proposal was funded for about $990K from October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2013. The goal of this project is to create new media for learning computer science at a distance by high school teachers. We are pursuing the correspondence school model of distance learning, rather than a remote classroom model, in Sir John Daniel’s terms. We want to create a medium that can be studied, within the time constraints of high school teachers (or others, like people re-entering the IT workforce.) A key idea is that we can design instruction, following principles of educational psychology, to help people learn computing better. It simply can’t be true that the only way to learn computer science (even programming) is by wrestling the interpreter or compiler. Yes, it’s possible to learn to swim by being thrown into the deep end of the pool, but we can do better — less struggle, more efficiency, less wasted time, and fewer people giving up.
I’ve created a minimal project page at http://home.cc.gatech.edu/csl/CSLearning4U. I’ve included the proposal and the reviews to help inform future CE21 proposal writers. You can see what we proposed (as an example of something that got funded), and what the review panel liked and disliked.
Here’s the explanation of the project title we chose:
- Computer Science Learning FOR YOU, as in you, as long as you want to learn some computer science. This isn’t CS learning just for software developers, or just for Information Technology, Information Systems, Computer Science, Computer Engineering, or Software Engineering specialists. It’s about making Computer Science Learning accessible to anyone with an interest in learning.
- Computer Science Learning FOR UBIQUITOUS ACCESS. You need a computer to learn computer science, but those are everywhere today, from your cellphone to your settop box. We want CS learning to be accessible anywhere.
We also received a GVU Seed Grant which is funding a psychology PhD student, Lauren Margulieux, to work with Richard Catrambone and me. We’re hoping to develop some instructional treatments in the current semester that we can test next semester, to identify and try some particular educational psychology principles that can help us in addressing CS learning challenges.
One of our graduating seniors shared the below blog post with me, and I shared it with all the faculty who teach the lower division courses in Georgia Tech’s College of Computing. Andrew makes the strong statement in his blog post: “Students shouldn’t be able to graduate with a Computer Science degree from Georgia Tech without being able to read and write production quality code.”
My sense is that most of the faculty who have responded agree with Andrew. Our students should know how to read significant code (e.g., walking through the whole Linux kernel in OS course). One of our professors talked about the value of watching his own code be rewritten by a professional, expert programmer — it was stunning how much better the code got. We could teach more about reading production code at the University, but I’m not sure that we could teach enough about writing production code at the University. As Bjarne Stroustrup pointed out, faculty don’t build much these days. Programming well has much in common with craft and art, and it’s not something that the University does well.
If the University could not teach reading and writing production code well, where should students learn it? One answer is, “On the job.” Craft is often taught as an apprenticeship. I worry that the computing industry has given up on its professional development responsibilities. We talk about people being lifelong learners. Is that entirely an individual responsibility? When I was at Bell Labs and Bellcore, there were dozens of classes that I could (and did!) take. Where has that gone? Is everyone a contractor these days, or does industry have a responsibility to develop its human resources?
My research interest is more in the computing that everyone needs, and in that sense, I agree with Andrew, but without the word “production.” I fear that we focus too much on having students write code, and not enough time reading code examples. Worked examples are a powerful approach to learning that we simply make too little use of in computer science. We emphasize so much that computer science is about “problem-solving” that we only make students solve problems, as opposed to reading solutions and learning to learn from reading. I’m preparing my CE21 proposal now, and spending a lot of time learning what educational psychologists know about how to write examples that students learn transferable knowledge from – research that we pretty much ignore in computing education.
Literacy is about being able to write and read.
As I come closer and closer to graduation, I’m looking back at the Georgia Tech Computer Science program, the things it did well and not so well.
One piece I feel is missing in the curriculum is having students read good, high quality code. We’re asked to code alone and code in groups, code in labs and code in dorms, code on paper and code in IDEs.
It seems like the administration and professors think this skill just magically appears with practice. I disagree, and I think we can do better.
At the CE21 Community Meeting, I heard people talking about the great things that they’re doing in their classroom, and how they are looking for education researchers with whom they could collaborate for a CE21 proposal. That’s a great idea, and making that happen was the point of holding the community meeting. But I offer a piece of advice: Go beyond your classroom. Work in multiple classrooms. Don’t collect data for your study in the classroom where you’re teaching.
My colleague Amy Bruckman told me that, at MIT, the Human Subjects Review Board will not allow a researcher to gather data on his or her own classroom. There is an inherent conflict-of-interest, if you are studying your class and teaching your class. As a teacher, you want to do everything you can to support your students’ success. As a researcher, you have to do certain things and not do certain things, so that you can conduct your study.
The SIGCSE Symposium is mostly faculty studying their own classroom. That works fine if the goals are to develop better teaching practices, to do a fair assessment of what you are doing, and to share it with others. That’s called action research and has a lot of benefits for teaching practice. But that’s not what I read NSF as wanting from CE21.
CE21 is supposed to be rigorous education research, in a computing education context. It’s serious research with serious funding. If you’re a serious researcher, then one of your first questions is where you should best do the research you want to do. Your classroom is a great place to get ideas. It’s never a great place to test your ideas. You should test your ideas so as to convince others — testing in your class is akin to saying, “See! It worked for me!” That’s not convincing.
If you have a great idea that you want to develop and test with a CE21 grant, then find some collaborators. Convince a colleague to work with you, to test your ideas in someone else’s classroom. If you can’t convince someone else to work with you, you’ll never convince a review panel to give you money to develop and test your ideas.
When I’ve made statements like this in the past, I sometimes get push back: “I’m at a small place. I can’t go off to do research in somebody else’s classroom! Sometimes, there isn’t another classroom!” If that’s the case, in my opinion, the NSF CE21 program is not for you. (I’m not an NSF program officer, but I do get funding from and review for the Education side of NSF, so I have some insights into what NSF considers serious education research.) CE21 is trying to bring significant resources to do high-quality, critiquable research to advance the state of our understanding about computing education. In particular, CE21 is about trying to advance the CS10K agenda, which means your best bet is to be working with high school teachers and students. Whatever you propose, go beyond your own classroom.