Posts tagged ‘computing education’

Why one school district decided giving laptops to students is a terrible idea

A really fascinating piece about all the problems that Hoboken had with their one-laptop-per-child program.  The quote listed below describes the problems with breakage and pornography.  The article goes on to describe problems with too little memory, bad educational software, wireless network overload, anti-virus expense, and teacher professional learning costs.  I firmly believe in the vision of one-laptop-per-student.  I also firmly believe that it’s crazy-expensive and hard to make work right, especially in large school districts.

We had “half a dozen kids in a day, on a regular basis, bringing laptops down, going ‘my books fell on top of it, somebody sat on it, I dropped it,’ ” said Crocamo. Screens cracked. Batteries died. Keys popped off. Viruses attacked. Crocamo found that teenagers with laptops are still… teenagers. “We bought laptops that had reinforced hard-shell cases so that we could try to offset some of the damage these kids were going to do,” said Crocamo. “I was pretty impressed with some of the damage they did anyway. Some of the laptops would come back to us completely destroyed.”

Crocamo’s time was also eaten up with theft. Despite the anti-theft tracking software he installed, some laptops were never found. Crocamo had to file police reports and even testify in court.

Hoboken school officials were also worried they couldn’t control which websites students would visit. Crocamo installed software called Net Nanny to block pornography, gaming sites and Facebook. He disabled the built-in web cameras. He even installed software to block students from undoing these controls. But Crocamo says students found forums on the Internet that showed them how to access everything.“There is no more determined hacker, so to speak, than a 12-year-old who has a computer,” said Crocamo.

via Why a New Jersey school district decided giving laptops to students is a terrible idea | The Hechinger Report.

September 28, 2014 at 7:58 am 10 comments

Pushback in California on Computing in Schools

I’ve been thrilled to see the legislative progress in California around CS education issues.  The governor has now signed Senate Bill 1200 which starts the process of CS counting for UC/CSU admissions.  Dan Lewis’s article in The Mercury News tempered that enthusiasm (linked below).  I wasn’t aware that UC was pushing back, nor how the number of CS classes and teachers is dropping in California.  Lots more work to do there.

The Legislature just passed two bills to address these issues. Senate Bill 1200 allows but does not require the University of California to count computer science toward the math requirements for admission. However, there’s been a lot of push back from UC on this, so for now, all we really have is an expression of intent from the Legislature. Thankfully, AB 1764 allows high schools to count computer science toward graduation requirements. Of course, that may not mean much for students applying to UC.

For these reasons, computer science isn’t a priority for students. Nor is it a priority for schools when determining course offerings based on limited budgets: While California high school enrollment has risen 15 percent since 2000, the number of classes on computer science or programming fell 34 percent, and the number of teachers assigned to those courses fell 51 percent.

via Computer science: It’s where the jobs are, but schools don’t teach it – San Jose Mercury News.

A new policy brief was just released from the California STEM Learning Network on the state of CS education in California (see here).  California actually lags behind the rest of the US on some important indicators like number of CS degrees conferred.  That’s pretty scary for Silicon Valley.

September 24, 2014 at 8:53 am 9 comments

Guest Post by Joanna Goode: On CS for Each

I wrote a blog post recently about Joanna Goode promoting the goal of “CS for Each.”  Several commenters asked for more details.  I asked Joanna, and she wrote me this lovely, detailed explanation.  I share it here with her permission — thanks, Joanna!

To answer, we as CS educators want to purposefully design learning activities that build off of students’ local knowledge to teach particular computer science concepts or practices. Allowing for students to integrate their own cultural knowledge and social interests into their academic computational artifacts deepens learning and allows for students to develop personal relationships  with computing. More specifically, computer science courses lend themselves well for project-based learning, a more open-ended performance assessment that encourages student discretion in the design and implementation of a specified culminating project. Allowing students to use a graphical programming environment to create a Public Service Announcement of a topic of their choice, for example, is more engaging for most youth than a one-size-fits-all generic programming assignment with one “correct” answer.

Along with my colleagues Jane Margolis and Jean Ryoo, we recently wrote a piece for Educational Leadership (to be published later this year) that uses ExploringCS (ECS) to show how learning activities can be designed to draw on students’ local knowledge, cultural identity, and social interests. Here is an excerpt:

The ECS curriculum is rooted in research on science learning that shows that for traditionally underrepresented students, engagement and learning is deepened when the practices of the field are recreated in locally meaningful ways that blend youth social worlds with the world of science[.1]   Consider these ECS activities that draw on students’ local and cultural knowledge:

  • In the first unit on Human-Computer Interaction, as students learn about internet searching, they conduct “scavenger hunts” for data about the demographics, income level, cultural assets, people, and educational opportunities in their communities.
  • In the Problem-Solving unit, students work with Culturally-Situated Design Tools [2], a software program that “help students learn [math and computing] principles as they simulate the original artifacts, and develop their own creations.” In one of the designs on cornrow braids students learn about the history of this braiding tradition from Africa through the Middle Passage, the Civil Rights movement to contemporary popular culture, and how the making of the cornrows is based on transformational geometry.
  • In the Web Design unit, students learn how to use html and css so they can create websites about any topic of their choosing, such as an ethical dilemma, their family tree, future career, or worldwide/community problems.
  • In the Introduction to Programming unit, students design a computer program to create a game or an animated story about an issue of concern.
  • In the Data Analysis and Computing unit, students collect and combine data about their own snacking behavior and learn how to analyze the data and compare it to large data sources.
  • In the Robotics unit, students creatively program their robots to work through mazes or dance to students’ favorite songs.

Each ECS unit concludes with a culminating project that connects students’ social worlds to computer science concepts. For example, in unit two they connect their knowledge of problem solving, data collection and minimal spanning trees to create the shortest and least expensive route for showing tourists their favorite places in their neighborhoods.

[1] Barton, A.C. and Tan, E. 2010.  We be burnin’!  Agency, identity, and science learning.   The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 19, 2, 187-229.

[2] Eglash, Ron.  Culturally Situated Design Tools.  See: See:

September 14, 2014 at 8:57 am 6 comments

Digital Literacy vs. Learning to Code: A False Dichotomy

The below linked article makes some strong assumptions about “learning to code” that lead to the author’s confusion about the difference between learning to code and digital literacy.  NOBODY is arguing that all students “need to learn how to build the next Dropbox.”  EVERYONE is in agreement about the importance of digital literacy — but what does that mean, and how do you get there?

As I’ve pointed out several times, a great many professionals code, even those who don’t work in traditional “computing” jobs — for every professional software developer, there are four to nine (depending on how you define “code”) end-user programmers.  They code not to build Dropbox, but to solve problems that are more unique and require more creative solutions than canned applications software provides.  We’re not talking thousands of lines of code.  We’re talking 10-20, at most 100 lines of code for a solution (as my computational engineer colleagues tell me).  For many people, coding WILL be part of the digital literacy that they need.

Learning some basic coding is an effective way of developing the valued understanding of how the cloud works and how other digital technology in their world works.  Applications purposefully hide the underlying technology. Coding is a way of reaching a level lower, the level at which we want students to understand. In biology, we use microscopes and do dissections to get (literally) below the surface level. That’s the point of coding. No student who dissects a fetal pig is then ready for heart surgery, and no student who learns how to download a CSV data file and do some computation over the numbers in it is then ready to build Dropbox. But both groups of hypothetical students would then have a better understanding of how their world works and how they can be effective within it.

Offering programming electives for students who want to learn Python or scripting won’t solve the underlying problem of digital illiteracy. So even if your goal is to teach all students to code, schools will first need to introduce computer-science concepts that help students learn how to stack the building blocks themselves.

They don’t need to learn how to build the next Dropbox, but they should understand how the cloud works.

“If you want to be able to use the machine to do anything, whether it’s use an existing application or actually write your own code, you have to understand what the machines can do for you, and what they can’t, even if you’re never going to write code,” Ari Gesher, engineering ambassador at Palantir Technologies, said at the event.

via Kids Need To Learn Digital Literacy—Not How To Code – ReadWrite.

September 12, 2014 at 8:22 am 1 comment

SPLASH-E: Educators Symposium Call for Participation

SPLASH-E Call for Participation
 Tuesday, Oct 21 2014, Portland OR
     In conjunction with the SPLASH conference
SPLASH-E is a forum for software and languages researchers with
activities and interests around computing education.  This year’s
SPLASH-E will feature sessions around three themes:
  * Creating (and Assessing) Projects and Courses to Engage Students
  * Design Issues around Drag-and-Drop languages
  * Designing Software Engineering Courses
as well as time dedicated to impromptu discussion around these and
other topics that arise.  Formal presentations will be short (15-20 minutes),
designed to raise questions for discussion rather than to simply present
The PC is framing discussion questions within each theme, but also
welcomes questions on these topics from the broader SPLASH community.
If you have a research question or idea related to these themes and
plan to attend, drop me a line so we can include your question in the
discussion period.
Come experience an interactive day of discussion on educational
aspects of software systems.  Hope to see you in Portland!
Kathi Fisler
SPLASH-E chair

September 1, 2014 at 8:52 am Leave a comment

NSF I-Corps Offers Funds to Scale and Sustain Learning Inventions

Quite cool that this is available for education projects, too:

NSF’s Innovation Corps Teams Program (I-Corps Teams: NSF 12-602) has created a new opportunity, called I-Corps for Learning Teams (I-Corps L). I-Corps L supports taking discoveries and promising practices from education research and development and promoting opportunities for widespread adoption, adaptation, and utilization.

I-Corps L teams will receive support – in the form of mentoring and funding – to accelerate innovation in learning that can be successfully scaled, in a sustainable manner. There are a number of analogous elements between trying to bring product discoveries to market and getting learning innovations into broad practice. Getting the best evidence-based practices out to potential adopters, where those practices can benefit large numbers of students or learners, rather than just in a few classrooms or informal learning organizations, requires an entrepreneurial approach. I-Corps L can benefit education researchers by helping them to identify approaches that are effective in STEM teaching and learning.

To be eligible to pursue funding through I-Corps L, applicants must have been associated with a prior award from NSF (in a STEM education field relevant to the proposed innovation) that is currently active or that has been active within five years from the date of the proposal submission. The lineage of the prior award extends to the PI, Co-PIs, Senior Personnel, Post-doctoral Researchers, Professional Staff or others who were supported under the award.

To be considered for NSF’s I-Corps L Teams program, Executive Summaries (see below) must be submitted by September 30, 2014 to be considered for participation in the January 2015 cohort. Funding for each I-Corps L Team is $50,000 per award, for up to six months.

August 31, 2014 at 11:13 am Leave a comment

Computing Education Bills go to Governor in California

Julie Flapan gave me permission to share this email to the members of ACCESS (Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools) in California — thanks, Julie!

Dear Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools:

We are thrilled to share the good news about two important computer science-related bills: AB 1764 (Buchanan/Olsen) and SB 1200 (Padilla) passed out of the legislature yesterday with unanimous approval and are awaiting the Governor’s signature.  These bills are a step in the right direction, having the potential to expand opportunities and increase participation in computer science education.  But our work is just beginning!

 These bills have the potential to make computer science count for California’s high school students: with AB 1764, an advanced computer science course may count as a math credit toward graduation, and with SB 1200, computer science may count as a credit toward UC/CSU college admissions.  Research has shown that making computer science count incentivizes students – especially those underrepresented in computing including girls and students of color – to enroll in computer science courses in high school.  ACCESS has been working with, the College Board and UCOP to try to get math credit approval for AP CS-A.  We hope this legislation will help support these efforts.

While these two bills represent a significant victory for computer science education, much work needs to be done to help establish robust guidelines for computer science coursework, promote high quality and engaging computer science curriculum, help prepare teachers to teach it, provide ongoing professional development, and most importantly, ensure that we are recruiting and retaining underrepresented students in meaningful computer science coursework that will help prepare students for college and careers.

If you have any further ideas or suggestions on how to fully realize the potential of these two bills, please don’t hesitate to contact either of us.

Julie Flapan and Debra Richardson


Julie Flapan

Executive Director, ACCESS and ECEP-CA
Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools (ACCESS)
Expanding Computing Education Pathways - California (ECEP-CA)

Debra Richardson

Professor and Chair, ACCESS

August 23, 2014 at 9:32 am 2 comments

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