Posts tagged ‘computing education’
I got a chance to learn more about Bootstrap when Kathi Fisler visited us here at Georgia Tech recently. This article doesn’t do a good job of selling the program. Bootstrap is important for showing how programming can be used to teach something else that we agree is important.
“When you hear, ‘This is so amazing! These apps teach kids to program!’ That’s snake oil. Every minute your students spend on empty engagement while they’re failing algebra, you’re assuring that they’re not going to college. Studies show that the grade kids get in Algebra I is the most significant grade to predict future income.”
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.
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.
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).
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.
One reason we have so much engineering and so little computer science taught at US high schools. | ACM Inroads
Joe Kmoch wrote an interesting follow-on to my blog post about why we have so little CS ed in the US. Why is that engineering is succeeding so much more than CS in high schools in the US? He suggests that (in part) it’s because engineering is getting the PD right.
I think the reason is that groups like Project Lead the Way (PLTW) offer an “off the shelf” high quality program, vetted by engineers. The attractiveness of this is that the school and students get access to a number of well-written up-to-date courses and they also get access to intensive professional development for teachers who want to teach a particular PLTW course. Teachers must not only take but also pass the two-week intensive summer course before being allowed to teach a particular course. There is regular monitoring of schools in terms of offering a minimal 3-course sequence of engineering courses and evaluating how well these courses are being taught.
In computer science we have really never had such a program available. The AP is not such a program. If a school wants to teach a computer science course, they have to find a teacher who is willing to put together a course syllabus, and then teach that course. (For AP, the course must be audited for fidelity). There really isn’t any professional development required to teach any kind of computer science course in most states.
Excellent post and interesting discussion at Neil Brown’s blog, on the question of the role of types for professional software developers and for students. I agree with his points — I see why professional software developers find types valuable, but I see little value for novice programmers nor for end-user programmers. I have yet to use a typing system that I found useful, that wasn’t just making me specify details (int vs Integer vs Double vs Float) that were far lower level than I cared about nor wanted to care about.
Duncan Buell and Lonnie Emard have an op-ed piece in today’s The State about the summit we’re co-hosting this weekend as part of our ECEP Alliance efforts in South Carolina. ECEP is bringing in Cameron Wilson from Code.org, Dale Reed from University of Illinois-Chicago who is a leader in the Exploring CS effort there, and Marie desJardins to talk about her efforts in Maryland (as well as Rick Adrion and me, to talk about efforts in Massachusetts and Georgia). There is still space available, if readers in South Carolina would like to join us — see the invitation here.
This Friday and Saturday, IT-oLogy, together with the University of South Carolina, will host the Computing Education in South Carolina Summit. This event, funded in part with an Expanding Computing Education Pathways grant from the National Science Foundation, will provide outreach to policymakers in government and education about the importance of teaching “real computer science” in South Carolina and the fact that the state is not so far behind national leaders that it could not itself become a national leader.
The prediction is that three out of five job openings in the computer/information sciences, life/physical sciences, engineering and mathematics fields are asking for university degrees in computer science, and starting salaries nationally for computer science graduates are better than $60,000 a year. In spite of these inducements, enrollments in computer science are low, and the nation is producing only one-third of the university graduates in computer science as there are jobs available.
In one week, I found two articles about all female programming academy (first quote and link below) and engineering high school class (second link and quote below). Both of them talk about issues of sexism and intimidation that they hope an all-female cohort will help to avoid.
Why just for women? Because some hiring managers, in response to these statistics, are particularly interested in hiring women, Worthy says. “The need is very top-of-mind,” she says. In addition, there are other training options for men, though they aren’t free like the Ada Developers Academy is, she admits. Moreover, some women and girls have encountered sexism in school and training programs themselves; an all-female class may forestall that problem.
The Ada Developers Academy isn’t the only such effort to challenge this trend. A number of other parallel training opportunities for women are also springing up, some for students and some for working women, to help fill jobs and address the growing gender gap in programming.
Seventeen female students are enrolled in Wisconsin’s first high school class aimed at women in engineering.
Women comprise more than 20% of engineering school graduates but only 11% of practicing engineers, according to the National Science Foundation. Only about 30% of the 14 million Americans who work in manufacturing are women, a study from the National Women’s Law Center noted.
“If we are going to have any hope of replacing all of the retiring baby boomers, we have to get women involved,” Moerchen said.
“It’s a pretty wide gender gap,” Moerchen said, adding that only about three of 35 students in computer-aided machining courses are female.
“The data show that female students are easily intimidated by technology and engineering classes that are traditionally dominated by male students,” Moerchen said.
After researching programs in other states, the Kewaskum teachers said they believed they could create an engineering class specifically for girls that would prepare the students for advanced courses.
Post-docs are becoming more common in computer science. A new effort is aiming to help the community learn how to support these post-docs.
Developing new talent to carry out high impact research is of paramount importance to the Computer Science & Engineering research enterprise. An appointment as a postdoctoral researcher is an increasingly common starting point for a research career. The National Science Foundation (NSF) Computer & Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Directorate and the CCC recognize the critical importance in having an excellent postdoc training experience to help junior researchers advance their careers.
With NSF’s backing, the CCC is announcing a program to develop, implement and institutionalize the implementation of best practices for supporting postdocs. This program will award grants to institutions or consortia of institutions to implement best practices for strengthening the postdoc experience in computer science and computing-related fields. These supporting programs will enable PhD graduates to transition effectively to research roles in a variety of sectors.
Betsy DiSalvo and I were guest editors for the September 2013 special issue of IEEE Computer on Computing Education. (The cover, copied above, is really nice!) The five articles in the issue did a great job of pushing computing education beyond our traditional image of CS education. Below I’m pasting our original introduction to the special issue — before copy-editing, but free for me to share, and it’s a reasonable overview of the issue.
Introduction to the Special Issue
Computing education is in the news regularly these days. England has just adopted a new computer science curriculum. Thousands of people are taking on-line courses in computer science. Code.org’s viral video had millions of people thinking about learning to code.
A common thread in all of this new computer science education is that it’s not how we normally think about computing education. Traditional computing education brings to mind undergraduates working late night in labs drinking highly-caffeinated beverages. “CS Class” brings to mind images of students gaining valuable vocational skills in classrooms. The new movement towards computing education is about computing education for everyone, from children to working adults. It’s about people learning about computing in places you wouldn’t expect, from your local elementary school to afterschool clubs. It’s about people making their own computing on things that only a few years ago were not computable at all, like your personal cellphone and even your clothing.
Computing has changed. In the 1950′s and 1960′s, computing moved from the laboratory into the business office. In the PC revolution, it moved into our homes. Now in the early 21st Century, it is ubiquitous. We use dozens of computers in our everyday life, often without even recognizing that the processors are there. Knowing about computing today is necessary for understanding the world we live in. Computer science is as valuable as biology, physics, or chemistry to our students. Consider a computer science concept: that all digitized information is represented in a computer, and the same information could be a picture or text or a virus. That is more relevant to a student today than the difference between meiosis and mitosis, or how to balance an equilibrium equation.
Computing also gives us the most powerful tool for creative expression humans have ever invented. The desktop user interface we use today was created at Xerox PARC in order to make the computer a creative device. Today, we can use computing to communicate, to inform, to delight, and to amaze. That is a powerful set of reasons for learning to control the computer with programming.
The papers in this special issue highlight how computing education has moved beyond the classroom. They highlight computing as porous education that crosses the boundaries of the classroom, and even boundaries of disciplines. These papers help us to understand the implications and the new needs of computing education today.
Maria Knobelsdorf and Jan Vahrenhold write on “Addressing the Full Range of Students: Challenges in K-12 Computer Science Education”. The issues change as computer science education moves down from higher education into primary and secondary education. What curricula should we use in schools? How do prepare enough teachers? Maria and Jan lay out the challenges, and use examples from Germany on how these challenges might be addressed.
“STEAM-Powered Computing Education using E-Textiles: Impacting Learning and Broadening Participation” by Kylie Peppler talks about integrating art into traditional STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) classrooms through use of new kinds of media. Kylie has students sewing computers into fabrics. Her students combine roles of engineers, designers, scientists and artists as they explore issues of fashion and design with electronic circuits and computer programming.
In “The Porous Classroom: Professional practices in the computing curriculum”, Sally Fincher and Daniel Knox consider how computer science students learn beyond the classroom. Learning in the classroom is typically scripted with careful attention to students activities that lead to learning outcomes. The wild and unconstrained world outside the classroom offers many more opportunities to learn, and Sally and Daniel look at how the opportunities outside the school walls influence students as they move between the classroom and the world beyond.
Karen Brennan’s paper “Learning Computing through Creating and Connecting” starts from the programming language, Scratch, which was created to introduce computing into afterschool computer clubhouses. Students using Scratch learned through creating wonderful digital stories and animations, then sharing them with others, and further learning by mixing and re-mixing what was shared. Karen then considers the porous education from the opposite direction — what does it take to take an informal learning tool, such as Scratch, into the traditional classroom?
The paper by Allison Elliott Tew and Brian Dorn, “The Case for Validated Tools in Computing Education Research”, describes how to measure the impacts of computing education, in terms of learning and attitudes. This work ties these themes together and back to the traditional classroom. Wherever the learning is occurring, we want to know that there is learning happening. We need good measurement tools to help us know what’s working and what’s not, and how to compare different kinds of contexts for different students. Allison and Brian tell us that “initial research and development investment can pay dividends for the community because validated instruments enable and enhance a host of activities in terms of both teaching and research that would not otherwise be feasible.” Tools such as these validated instruments may allow us to measure the impact of informal, maker-based, or practice-based approaches. Work in basic tools for measurement help us to ground and connect the work that goes on beyond our single classroom through the porous boundary to other disciplines and other contexts.
The story that this special issue tells is about computer science moving from subject to literacy. Students sometimes learn computer science because they are interested in computers. More often today, students learn computer science because of what they can do with computers. Computing is a form of expression and a tool for thinking. It is becoming a basic literacy, like reading, writing, and arithmetic. We use reading and writing in all subject areas. We see that students are increasingly using programming in the same way. The papers in this special issue offer a view into that new era of computing education.
I appreciate “Gas station without pumps” recent blog post on how to design service courses. I strongly agree with the emphasis on giving students skills to do useful things now. The greatest need for computing education is in the courses for non-CS majors.
It is never enough, even in a course for majors, to design the course around “they’ll need this later”. It is far better to make them want to know it now, for things that they can do now. For the Applied Circuits course, I concentrated ton the students doing design and construction in the labs, with just enough theory to do the design. This is a big contrast to the traditional circuits course, which is all theory and math which EE students will use “later”—totally useless if the students then never take another EE course.
The Washington Post series on “The Tuition is Too Damn High” has been fascinating, filled with interesting data, useful insights, and economic theory that I hadn’t met previously. The article linked below is about “Baumol’s cost disease” which suggests an explanation for why wages might increase when productivity does not. It’s an explanation that some have used to explain the rise in tuition, which Post blogger Dylan Matthews rejects based on the data (in short: faculty salaries aren’t really rising — the increase in tuition is due to other factors).
But I actually had a concern about an earlier stage in his argument. It’s absolutely true that our labor intensive methods do not lead to an increase in productivity in terms of number of students, while MOOCs and similar other methods can. However, we can gain productivity in terms of quality of learning and retention. We absolutely have teaching methods, well-supported with research, that lead to better learning and more retention — we can get students to complete more classes with better understanding. In the end, isn’t THAT what we should be measuring as productivity of an educational enterprise, not “millions of customers served” (even if they don’t complete and don’t learn)?
Performing a string quartet will always require two violinists, a violist and a cellist. You can’t magically produce the same piece with just two people. Higher education, for at least the past few millennia, has seemed to fall in this category as well. “What just happened in my classroom is not very different from what happened in Plato’s academy,” quips Archibald. We’ve gotten better at auditorium-building, perhaps, but lecturers generally haven’t gotten more productive.