Posts tagged ‘computing for everyone’
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.
It is cool to have a professional basketball player promoting learning to program in Wired. This connects to an idea that I’ve been exploring with Betsy diSalvo. What is the impact of this kind of image? I don’t think it’s negligible. It’s not sufficient to get a kid into computing, but I wonder if it’s the hook to get them to consider computing.
Being a kid of the 1990s and living in a house run by tech-savvy parents, I began to notice that the world around me was spinning on an axis powered by varying patterns of 1s and 0s. We’d be fools to ignore the power of mastering the designing and coding of those patterns. If brute physical strength ran one era, and automation the next, this is the only way we can keep up. Most jobs of the future will be awarded to the ones who know how to code.
We use code every time we’re on the phone, on the web, out shopping — it’s become how our world is run. So I take comfort in having a basic understanding of how something as big as this works.
Not sure how (if?) we can see this in the US, but it sounds really good.
A sharp, witty, mind-expanding and exuberant foray into the world of logic with computer scientist Professor Dave Cliff. Following in the footsteps of the award-winning ‘The Joy of Stats’ and its sequel, ‘Tails You Win – The Science of Chance’, this film takes viewers on a new rollercoaster ride through philosophy, maths, science and technology- all of which, under the bonnet, run on logic.
Wielding the same wit and wisdom, animation and gleeful nerdery as its predecessors, this film journeys from Aristotle to Alice in Wonderland, sci-fi to supercomputers to tell the fascinating story of the quest for certainty and the fundamentals of sound reasoning itself.
Dave Cliff, professor of computer science and engineering at Bristol University, is no abstract theoretician. 15 years ago he combined logic and a bit of maths to write one of the first computer programs to outperform humans at trading stocks and shares. Giving away the software for free, he says, was not his most logical move…
With the help of 25 seven-year-olds, Professor Cliff creates, for the first time ever, a computer made entirely of children, running on nothing but logic. We also meet the world’s brainiest whizz-kids, competing at the International Olympiad of Informatics in Brisbane, Australia.
‘The Joy of Logic’ also hails logic’s all-time heroes: George Boole who moved logic beyond philosophy to mathematics; Bertrand Russell, who took 360+ pages but heroically proved that 1 + 1 = 2; Kurt Godel, who brought logic to its knees by demonstrating that some truths are unprovable; and Alan Turing, who, with what Cliff calls an ‘almost exquisite paradox’, was inspired by this huge setback to logic to conceive the computer.
Ultimately, the film asks, can humans really stay ahead? Could today\’s generation of logical computing machines be smarter than us? What does that tell us about our own brains, and just how ‘logical’ we really are…?
Ten years ago, professors in computer science departments everywhere wondered how undergraduates from a broad range of fields could be attracted to computer science (CS). We were convinced that this material would be vital for their careers, but we were up against negative stereotypes of programmers, and the prediction that most software jobs were about to be outsourced to the third world.
The tide has turned! The graph below shows annual enrollments over the past decade for the introductory computer science courses at UC Berkeley, Stanford, and the University of Washington. At each of these schools, and at colleges and universities across the nation, the introductory computer science course is now among the most popular courses on campus, and demands for advanced computer science courses are at record-breaking highs. At Stanford, where more than 90% of undergrads take computer science, English majors now take the same rigorous introductory CS course as Computer Science majors.
Dave Patterson and Ed Lazowska have written the above-linked blog post explaining why there has been such a rapid rise in enrollments in Computer Science at Berkeley, Stanford, and U. Washington. We’re seeing the same enormous rise in CS enrollments at Georgia Tech.
Beyond the intro course, we’re seeing a dramatic increase in CS minors. At places where everyone is required to take CS (e.g., Georgia Tech, Rose Hulman, Harvey Mudd), students have the option of going beyond that first course, and because the first course is tailored for them, they’re more likely to succeed at it. At Georgia Tech, we’re seeing students take more than just the required course and pursing a credential in CS, within their major. English majors (and lots of others) are seeing that computing is valuable.
Patterson and Lazowska offer two explanations (the numbering is mine):
1. So what happened? First, today’s students recognize that “computational thinking” — problem analysis and decomposition, algorithmic thinking, algorithmic expression, abstraction, modeling, stepwise fault isolation — is central to an increasingly broad array of fields.
That may be true, but I doubt it. It would be interesting and useful to survey these students, discover what majors they’re going into, and ask why they’re taking CS. (Kind of what we did across the state of Georgia in 2010.) I don’t believe that most people are aware of “computational thinking,” and even less, new students in higher-education. As evidence of this growing awareness, the authors cite a recent quote from Richard Dawkins (in 2013), “Biology nowadays is a branch of computer science.” That’s not a new position for Dawkins. In 2007 (at the depths of declining enrollment), he told Terry Gross on NPR, “Since Watson and Crick in 1953, biology has become a sort of branch of computer science.” This isn’t a sign of a recent awareness of the importance of “computational thinking.”
2. In addition to enhancing prospects within a chosen field, surely some of the reason for interest in computer science as a major or as a minor is to enhance employment opportunities after graduation.
But my gut is a bad judge of these things. We really ought to test these claims, rather than make claims without evidence. Who is taking CS now? And why? And how does it differ between these institutions?
The authors end their piece arguing for more faculty teaching more CS classes:
In higher education, the response has been sluggish at best. Computer Science is usually found in colleges of engineering — as is the case at Berkeley, MIT, Stanford, and Washington — so one indicator of accommodation is the fraction of engineering faculty in the field. Less than a fifth of the engineering faculty at these schools teach computer science courses, a fraction nearly unchanged in the last decade.
I strongly agree with the argument. The critical issue here isn’t about growing Engineering or if CS belongs in Egnineering. The critical issue is that computing is a form of literacy, not just a specialty skill, and we have to think about how to ramp up our offering of computing education so that it’s universally accessible.
I talked about this implication of our successful CS1′s for everyone in the May 2009 Communications of the ACM:
Finally, building successful, high-demand courses for non-computing majors gives us a different perspective on the current enrollment crisis. Students want these courses. Other schools on campus want to collaborate with us to build even more contextualized classes. While we still want more majors, we have an immediate need for more faculty time to develop and teach these courses that bring real computing to all students on campus.
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.”
Pretty amazing that they got this!
Interesting set of testimonials from people in arts and social science on why they have found it useful to learn to code (thanks to Alfred Thompson for the link). Gas Stations Without Pumps has an interesting post based on one of the testimonials.
Being able to code to express yourself is one of the most powerful tools available to artists today. Artists should look at programming languages as they do any other medium- watercolor, acrylic, clay- they are all tools to allow you to develop and communicate your vision with your audience.