Posts tagged ‘computing for everyone’
I don’t believe the main propositions of the article below. Not all STEM education will lead to more women discovering an interest in IT. Putting computing as a mandatory subject in all schools will not necessarily improve motivation and engagement in CS, and it’s a long stretch to say that that will lead to more people in IT jobs.
I addressed the quote below, by Ashley Gavin, in my Blog@CACM post for this month: The Danger of Requiring CS in US K-12 Schools.
“You make it an option, the girl is not going to take it. You have to make it mandatory and start it at a young age,” says Ashley Gavin, curriculum director at Girls Who Code, a nonprofit working to expose more girls to computer science at a young age that has drawn support from leading tech firms such as Google, Microsoft and Intel.
“It’s important to start early because, most of the fields that people go into, they have exposure before they get to college. We all study English before we get to college, we all study history and … social studies before we get to college,” Gavin says. “No one has any idea what computer science is. By the time you get to college, you develop fear of things you don’t know. Therefore early exposure is really important.”
The California state legislature is attempting to affect change to computer science education in California, and for all the right reasons. They’re getting the message that computer science is what drives innovation and economic growth in California, and that the demand for computer science graduates in California far exceeds supply. There are simply not enough students prepared or preparing to join this high tech workforce. They’re also starting to understand that computer science needs to count for something other than an elective course for more schools to offer it and for more students to take it – especially girls and underrepresented students of color. What they may not quite understand yet is that there aren’t enough teachers prepared to teach computer science in K-12, although one assemblyman spoke of the need for a single subject teaching credential in computer science, so maybe someday we’ll get there … baby steps!
So, it was exciting in Sacramento last week as the Assembly and Senate Education Committees passed a handful of CS-related bills with flying colors and broad bi-partisan support! ACCESS (the Alliance for California Computing Education in Students and Schools) was on hand to help provide analysis and information. Many thanks to Josh Paley, a computer science teacher at Gunn High School in Palo Alto and a CSTA advocacy and leadership team member, who provided substantive testimony on two priority bills*. Josh provided compelling stories of students who had graduated and gone on to solve important problems using their CS skills. Amy Hirotaka, State Policy and Advocacy Manager, of Code.org, Andrea Deveau, Executive Director of TechNet, and Barry Brokaw, lobbyist for Microsoft also testified on these bills. It was also exciting to see a wide range of organizations supporting this important discipline.
All of the following CS-related bills passed out of committee, all but one with unanimous approval:
1) AB 1764* (Olsen and Buchanan) would allow school districts to award students credit for one mathematics course if they successfully complete one course in computer science approved by the University of California as a “category c” (math) requirement for admissions. Such credit would only be offered in districts where the school district requires more than two courses in mathematics for graduation, therefore, it does not replace core math requirements.
2) AB 1539* (Hagman) would create computer science standards that provide guidance for teaching computer science in grades 7-12.
3) AB 1540 (Hagman) establishes greater access to concurrent enrollment in community college computer science courses by high school students.
4) AB 1940 (Holden) establishes a pilot grant program to support establishing or expanding AP curriculum in STEM (including computer science) in high schools with such need (passed with two noes).
5) AB 2110 (Ting) requires computer science curriculum content to be incorporated into curriculum frameworks when next revised.
6) SB1200 (Padilla) would require CSU and request UC to establish a uniform set of academic standards for high school computer science courses, to satisfy the “a-g” subject requirements, as defined, for the area of mathematics (“c”) for purposes of recognition for undergraduate admission at their respective institutions.
7) ACR 108 (Wagner) would designate the week of December 8, 2014, as Computer Science Education Week (passed on consent).
AB 1530 (Chau), to be heard by the Assembly Education Committee on April 23, would encourage the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop or, as needed, revise a model curriculum on computer science, and to submit the model curriculum to the State Board of Education for adoption (specifically focuses on grades 1-6).
Anyone really interested in hearing the bill presentation, testimony and supporters can see it here:
Senate Education Committee: http://calchannel.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=7&clip_id=2012
Assembly Education Committee: http://calchannel.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=7&clip_id=2019
I’ll plan another update once these bills move further.
It’s almost a race to the bottom — which do people care less about, learning programming or learning a modern language?
The teaching of computer coding should be prioritised over modern languages, according to a survey of British adults.
Twice as many thought teaching computer coding in school should be a priority than the number who saw Mandarin Chinese as more important. Coding was the top choice for 52%, against 38% who favoured French lessons, 32% Spanish, 25% German and 24% Mandarin.
The poll was published by code.org, a campaign to introduce children and parents to coding. It has created Hour of Code, a series of free tutorials designed to show students the basics of programming in an hour.
Nice post from Ran Libeskind-Hadas, Chair of Computer Science at Harvey Mudd College, on the importance of computer science for everyone on campus.
College students across all fields are quickly recognizing two important facts: Every well educated citizen should understand something about the computationally-pervasive world in which we live. Second, computing skills are likely to be useful across virtually all disciplines including the arts, humanities, and social sciences.
Many of these students discover computing late in their college lives and/or have other constraints that prevent them from taking more than one or two computing courses. Those students, I believe, are not ideally served by traditional CS 1 and 2 courses which are often designed as the stepping stones of a computer science major. While implementing a queue as a doubly-linked list is probably important for a CS major (although one could reasonably argue that it still doesn’t have to be presented in CS 1), it’s almost certainly not the highest priority for a social scientist or a biologist.
I got to see a build of ScratchJr at the NSF CE21 PI’s meeting in January — it’s really fun. Attractive, responsive, and well thought through, as one would expect with this team.
Coding (or computer programming) is a new type of literacy. Just as writing helps you organize your thinking and express your ideas, the same is true for coding. In the past, coding was seen as too difficult for most people. But we think coding should be for everyone, just like writing.
As young children code with ScratchJr, they learn how to create and express themselves with the computer, not just interact with it. In the process, children develop design and problem-solving skills that are foundational for later academic success, and they use math and language in a meaningful and motivating context, supporting the development of early-childhood numeracy and literacy.
With ScratchJr, children aren’t just learning to code, they are coding to learn.
Wall Street Journal just ran an article (linked below) about people “flocking to coding classes.” The lead for the story (quoted below) is a common story, but concerning. If coding is all extra-curricular, with the (presumably expensive) once-a-week tutor, then how do the average kids get access? How do the middle and lower kids get access? Hadi Partovi and Jane Margolis talked about this on PRI’s Science Friday – CS education can’t be an afterschool activity, or we’ll keep making CS a privileged activity for white boys.
Like many 10-year-olds, Nick Wald takes private lessons. His once-a-week tutor isn’t helping him with piano scales or Spanish conjugations, but teaching him how to code.
“I always liked to get apps from the app store, and I always wanted to figure out how they worked and how I could develop it like that,” Nick says.
As the ability to code, or use programming languages to build sites and apps, becomes more in demand, technical skills are no longer just for IT professionals. Children as young as 7 can take online classes in Scratch programming, while 20-somethings are filling up coding boot camps that promise to make them marketable in the tech sector. Businesses such as American Express Co. AXP -0.57% send senior executives to programs about data and computational design not so they can build websites, but so they can better manage the employees who do.
Hadi Partovi will be delivering the keynote today at SIGCSE 2014. The interview they just had with him last month on ACM’s website has some nice bits:
As a tech industry veteran and visionary, what would you say to young people who may not realize that two-thirds of the jobs in software engineering are outside the technology sector?
I would say that the reason to study software isn’t because you want to get a job in technology. School teaches you how to dissect a frog, or how electricity works, even if you want to become a journalist or a lawyer. In the 21st century, it’s equally important, or more important even, to know how to “dissect an app” or learn how the Internet works, even if you want to become a doctor, a chemist, or the President of the United States. Maybe you’ll fall in love with it and decide to get a job in software, and if you do, you’ll be in one of the most creative, highest-paying careers in the world. Most students who study computer science in high school will go on to careers outside of computing — but they will still benefit from it. This is a fundamental, foundational science for the 21st century.
The article below describes a political furor over appointing someone to lead an effort to support computing education — who doesn’t herself understand much about computing.
But this is a general problem, and is probably a problem for engineering education, too. Most US politicians in Washington DC don’t have STEM backgrounds. Few know anything about engineering. Fewer still know anything about computer science. Even if they really want to support STEM, engineering, and computing education, not knowing what it is themselves makes it more challenging for them to make good choices.
The row over Tory cronies in taxpayer-backed positions look set to intensify after it emerges the boss of the government’s coding education initiative cannot code — or even give a decent explanation of what is involved. Figures behind the scheme include Michael Gove, who is at the centre of the furore over Conservative placemen in Whitehall and the ‘quangocracy’.
Conservative activist Lottie Dexter was ridiculed by IT experts and educationalists for her clueless performance on Newsnight — in which she claimed that teachers could be trained how to educate students in computer programming “in a day”
SIGCSE Preview: Measuring Demographics and Performance in Computer Science Education at a Nationwide Scale Using AP CS Data
Barbara and I are speaking Thursday 3:45-5 (with Neil Brown on his Blackbox work) in Hanover DE on our AP CS analysis paper (also previewed at a GVU Brown Bag). The full paper is available here: http://bit.ly/SIGCSE14-APCS This is a different story than the AP CS 2013 analysis that Barbara has been getting such press for. This is a bit deeper analysis on the 2006-2012 results.
Here are a couple of the figures that I think are interesting. What’s fitting into these histograms are states, and it’s the same number of bins in each histogram, so that one can compare across.
Fitting this story into the six page SIGCSE format was really tough. I wanted to make the figures bigger, and I wanted to tell more stories about the regressions we explored. I focused on the path from state wealth to exam-takers because I hadn’t seen that story in CS Ed previously (though everyone would predict that it was there), but there’s a lot more to tell about these data.
Figure 1: Histograms describing (a) the number of schools passing the audit over the population (measured in 10K), (b) number of exam-takers over the population, and (c) percentage of exam-takers who passed.
Measuring Demographics and Performance in Computer Science Education at a Nationwide Scale Using AP CS Data
Abstract: Before we can reform or improve computing education, we need to know the current state. Data on computing education are difficult to come by, since it’s not tracked in US public education systems. Most of our data are survey-based or interview-based, or are limited to a region. By using a large and nationwide quantitative data source, we can gain new insights into who is participating in computing education, where the greatest need is, and what factors explain variance between states. We used data from the Advanced Placement Computer Science A (AP CS A) exam to get a detailed view of demographics of who is taking the exam across the United States and in each state, and how they are performing on the exam. We use economic and census data to develop a more detailed view of one slice (at the end of secondary school and before university) of computer science education nationwide. We find that minority group involvement is low in AP CS A, but the variance between states in terms of exam-takers is driven by minority group involvement. We find that wealth in a state has a significant impact on exam-taking.
I’ve been excited to see this paper get published since Betsy first told me about the work. The paper described below (by Betsy DiSalvo, Cecili Reid, and Parisa Khanipour Roshan) looks at the terms that families commonly use to find on-line resources to help their children learn about computer science. They didn’t find Alice or Scratch or Blockly — none of the things that would be our first choices for CS education opportunities on-line. Betsy and her students show how we accidentally hide our resources from the uneducated and under-privileged, by presuming that the searchers are well-educated and privileged. They point out that this is one way that open education resources actually actually increase the socioeconomic gap, by not being easily discoverable by those without privilege. I got to see a preview of this talk, and the results are surprising — a video of the preview talk will be available here. Friday March 7, 3:45-5, in Room Hanover DE.
They Can’t Find Us: The Search for Informal CS Education
In this study we found that search terms that would likely be used by parents to find out-of-school computer science (CS) learning opportunities for their children yielded remarkably unproductive results. This is important to the field of CS education because, to date, there is no empirical evidence that demonstrates how a lack of CS vocabulary is a barrier to accessing informal CS learning opportunities. This study focuses on the experience of parents who do not have the privilege of education and technical experience when searching for learning opportunities for their children. The findings presented will demonstrate that issues of access to CS education go beyond technical means, and include ability to conduct suitable searches and identify appropriate computational learning tools. Out-of-school learning is an important factor in who is motivated and prepared to study computer science in college. It is likely that without early access to informal CS learning, fewer students are motivated to explore CS in formal classrooms.
Interesting economic argument being made in the below piece — that we don’t have large numbers of manufacturing jobs, but we have large numbers of jobs that involve creating using digital technologies.
In the start of our Media Computation book, we make the argument that comes after this. Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, and Audacity are wonderful tools that can do a lot — if you know how to use them. Knowing programming gives you the ability to make with digital media, even if you don’t know how to get the tools to do. Knowing programming lets you say things with digital media, even if the tools don’t support it.
“We have moved from the industrial age to the knowledge economy,” said Facebook’s CIO Tim Campos at the HP Discover conference in Barcelona last month. An economy, that is, in which a company’s “core asset” lies not in material infrastructure but rather “the thoughts and ideas that come from our workforce.”
Interesting Kickstarter campaign to fund a storybook to introduce young children to programming. (Thanks to Monica McGill for the pointer!)
Ruby is a small girl with a huge imagination. She stomps and stumbles around her own little world while her dad is traveling. On her adventures, Ruby makes friends with the lonely Snow Leopard, visits castles made of windows, and solves problems with the wise penguins. She bakes gingerbreads with the green robots and throws a garden party with… well, if you like to hear the rest of the story, I need your help.
Ruby’s world is an extension of the way I’ve learned to see technology. It goes far beyond the bits and bytes inside the computer. This is the story of what happens between the ones and zeros, before the arrays and the if/else statements. The book and workbook are aimed for four to seven year olds.
I believe stories are the most formative force of our childhood. Everyone has a book that made the world seem beautiful and full of possibility. My book is about little Ruby.
I spoke to the author, Esther Shein, a few months ago, but didn’t know that this was coming out until now. She makes a good effort to address both sides of the issues, with Brian Dorn, Jeannette Wing, and me on the pro side, and Chase Felker and Jeff Atwood on the con side. As you might expect, I disagree with Felker and Atwood. “That assumes code is the goal.” No–computational literacy and expression, the ability to use the computer as a tool to think with, and empowerment are the goals. Code is the medium.
Still, I’m excited about the article.
Just as students are taught reading, writing, and the fundamentals of math and the sciences, computer science may one day become a standard part of a K–12 school curriculum. If that happens, there will be significant benefits, observers say. As the kinds of problems we will face in the future will continue to increase in complexity, the systems being built to deal with that complexity will require increasingly sophisticated computational thinking skills, such as abstraction, decomposition, and composition, says Wing.
“If I had a magic wand, we would have some programming in every science, mathematics, and arts class, maybe even in English classes, too,” says Guzdial. “I definitely do not want to see computer science on the side … I would have computer science in every high school available to students as one of their required science or mathematics classes.”
It’s kind of a strange program. The interviewer didn’t seem to know who his guests (Hadi Partovi and Jane Margolis) were. If you have Jane Margolis on your program, you ask her about why it’s important for everyone to have access to computing, not whether programming is more fun today than it was in the 1960′s. Hadi and Jane did a good job of conveying their messages and responding reasonably, but you can almost hear them thinking, “What was that question?!?” I particularly liked the end part where Hadi and Jane together point out that after-school clubs are not a replacement for computer science in the curriculum.
With smartphones, tablets, and apps, coding is becoming the language of the digital age, but is the U.S. lagging behind? A panel of experts discusses how we can improve our coding literacy and close the programming gap among women and minorities.
Part of the continuing media response to her AP CS 2013 analysis, Barb was on HLN Weekend Express yesterday talking about the gender gap in AP CS. The video is linked below. My favorite part was where she told the national audience that Georgia Tech considers CS fundamental and requires it for everyone.
Barbara Ericson, director of computing outreach at Georgia Tech, has made a startling claim. She said not one female student in three states – Mississippi, Montana and Wyoming — took the Advanced Placement exam in computer science last year.
Ericson appeared on Weekend Express to discuss the gender gap and explains why more women aren’t interested in computer science.