Posts tagged ‘computing education’
First the good news: STEM enrollment is up. Then the surprising news: Humanities are not losing students to STEM. Rather, it’s the professional fields like education that are losing enrollment. That makes CS Ed (and other STEM discipline-based education research (DBER) fields) the odd winner-losers. Yay, there are more students, but there will be fewer STEM teachers in the future to teach them.
Policy makers regularly talk about the need to encourage more undergraduates to pursue science and technology fields. New data suggest that undergraduates at four-year institutions in fact have become much more likely to study those fields, especially engineering and biology.
And while much of the public discussion of STEM enrollments has suggested a STEM vs. liberal arts dichotomy (even though some STEM fields are in fact liberal arts disciplines), the new study suggests that this is not the dynamic truly at play. Rather, STEM enrollments are growing while professional field enrollments (especially business and education) are shrinking.
The ComputerWorldK agrees. They claim that the smart students were going into business, then Wall Street collapsed, and now they’re going into CS and that’s why we’re having sky-rocketing enrollments.
The number of computer science graduates will continue to increase. Computer science enrollments rose by nearly 30% in the 2011-12 academic year, and they increased 23% the year before that.
The trend of enrollment increases since 2010 bodes well for a “future increase in undergraduate computing production,” according to the report.
The recession that hit in 2008 sent IT unemployment soaring, but it may have done more damage to the finance sector, especially in terms of reputation. That prompted some educators at the time to predict that the recession might send math-inclined students from the world of hedge funds to computer science.
Last year’s IUSE solicitation was wonderfully vague and welcomed all new ideas. The program now has a full solicitation, which is a bit more limiting, but is still an importance source for computing education funding.
The Improving Undergraduate STEM Education IUSE program invites proposals that address immediate challenges and opportunities that are facing undergraduate STEM education, as well as those that anticipate new structures e.g. organizational changes, new methods for certification or credentialing, course re-conception, cyberlearning, etc. and new functions of the undergraduate learning and teaching enterprise. The IUSE program recognizes and respects the variety of discipline-specific challenges and opportunities facing STEM faculty as they strive to incorporate results from educational research into classroom practice and work with education research colleagues and social science learning scholars to advance our understanding of effective teaching and learning.Toward these ends the program features two tracks: 1 Engaged Student Learning and 2 Institutional and Community Transformation. Two tiers of projects exist within each track: i Exploration and ii Design and Development. These tracks will entertain research studies in all areas. In addition, IUSE also offers support for a variety of focused innovative projects that seek to identify future opportunities and challenges facing the undergraduate STEM education enterprise.
According to the article linked below, there is a large effort to fill STEM worker jobs in Northern Virginia by getting kids interested in STEM (including computing) from 3rd grade on. The evidence for this need is that there will be 50K new jobs in the region between 2013 and 2018.
The third graders are 8 years old. If they can be effective STEM workers right out of high school, there’s another 10 years to wait before they can enter the workforce — 2024. If they need undergrad, 2028. If they need advanced degrees, early 2030’s. Is it even possible to predict workforce needs out over a decade?
Now, let’s consider the cost of keeping that pipeline going, just in terms of CS. Even in Northern Virginia, only about 12% of high schools offer CS today. So, we need a fourfold increase in CS teachers — but that’s just high school. The article says that we want these kids supported in CS from 3rd grade on. Most middle schools have no CS teachers. Few elementary schools do. We’re going to have to hire and train a LOT of teachers to fulfill that promise.
Making a jobs argument for teaching 3rd graders CS doesn’t make sense.
The demand is only projected to grow greater. The Washington area is poised to add 50,000 net new STEM jobs between 2013 and 2018, according to projections by Stephen S. Fuller, the director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University. And Fuller said that STEM jobs are crucial in that they typically pay about twice as much as the average job in the Washington area and they generate significantly more economic value.
It is against this backdrop that SySTEMic Solutions is working to build a pipeline of STEM workers for the state of Virginia, starting with elementary school children and working to keep them consistently interested in the subject matter until they finish school and enter the workforce.
Gas station without pump’s post on Garth’s complaint “Teaching programming is not getting easier” intrigued me. Garth does a good job of pulling together a lot of the themes of what makes teaching CS hard today. I think that we can improve the situation. I’m particularly interested in learning how to scaffold the development of programming knowledge, and we have to find ways to create professional communities of CS teachers. There are techniques to share (worked examples, peer instruction, pair programming, Parson’s problems, audio tours), and we’re clearly not doing a good job of it yet.
In programming there are 4 homework problems over the period of a week, none of which are “easy”, and all require some problem solving and thinking. There is somewhat of an incremental progression to the problems but that step from written problem to code is always a big one. It is somewhat similar to solving word problems in math, every student’s favorite task. For programming there are no colleagues available that have as much or more experience to pull teaching ideas from, if there are any other programming teachers at all. There are no pedagogical resources anywhere online for teaching strategies. After watching a number (3) of programming teachers teach it seems the teaching strategy is pretty consistent; show and tell and hope.
My May 2014 Blog@CACM post, “What it takes to be a successful high school computer science teacher” sneaks up on a radical suggestion, that I’ll make explicitly here. High school computer science teachers need to be able to read and trace code. They don’t necessarily need to know much about writing code, and they certainly don’t need to know how to be software developers.
As we are developing our CSLearning4u ebook, we’re reviewing a lot of our prior research on the practices of successful CS teachers. What do we need to be teaching teachers so that they are successful? We don’t hear successful CS teachers talking much about writing code. However, the successful ones read code a lot, while the less-successful ones do not. Raymond Lister has been giving us evidence for years that there’s a developmental path from reading and tracing code that precedes writing code.
Yes, I’m talking about taking a short-cut here. I’m suggesting that our worldwide professional development efforts for high school teachers should emphasize reading and tracing code, not writing code. Our computer science classes do the reverse of that. We get students writing code as soon as possible. I’m suggesting that that is not useful or necessary for high school teachers. It is easier for them to read and trace code first (Lister’s studies) and it’s what they will need to do most often (our studies). We can reduce costs (in time and effort) of this huge teacher development effort by shuffling our priorities and focusing on reading.
(We do know from studies of real software engineers that they read and debug more than they write code. Maybe it would be better for everyone to read before writing, but I’m focusing on the high school teachers right now.)
Computing education (CE21) researchers are explicitly encouraged in this solicitation. It’s a nice idea to try to deal with the low success rates of NSF proposals these days.
With the goal of encouraging research independence immediately upon obtaining one’s first academic position after receipt of the PhD, the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) will award grants to initiate the course of one’s independent research. Understanding the critical role of establishing that independence early in one’s career, it is expected that funds will be used to support untenured faculty or research scientists (or equivalent) in their first two years in an academic position after the PhD. One may not yet have received any other grants in the Principal Investigator (PI) role from any institution or agency, including from the CAREER program or any other award post-PhD. Serving as co-PI, Senior Personnel, Post-doctoral Fellow, or other Fellow does not count against this eligibility rule. It is expected that these funds will allow the new CISE Research Initiation Initiative PI to support one or more graduate students for up to two years.
Elliot gets it right in his NYtimes quote from this last weekend. Young kids who code are probably not learning much computer science that might lead to future jobs. Rather, they’re “programming” as if it’s a video game. That’s not at all bad, but it makes less believable the argument that we need coding in skills to improve the future labor force.
The spread of coding instruction, while still nascent, is “unprecedented — there’s never been a move this fast in education,” said Elliot Soloway, a professor of education and computer science at the University of Michigan. He sees it as very positive, potentially inspiring students to develop a new passion, perhaps the way that teaching frog dissection may inspire future surgeons and biologists.
But the momentum for early coding comes with caveats, too. It is not clear that teaching basic computer science in grade school will beget future jobs or foster broader creativity and logical thinking, as some champions of the movement are projecting. And particularly for younger children, Dr. Soloway said, the activity is more like a video game — better than simulated gunplay, but not likely to impart actual programming skills.