Posts tagged ‘computing for everyone’

Ideation is the new manufacturing: Then programming is advanced manufacturing

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.”

via Ideation is the new manufacturing | Al Jazeera America.

February 20, 2014 at 1:18 am 5 comments

Hello Ruby by Linda Liukas: A hardcover book to introduce CS to kids

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.

via Hello Ruby by Linda Liukas — Kickstarter.

February 18, 2014 at 1:49 am Leave a comment

Should Everybody Learn to Code? Coverage in Communications of the ACM

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.”

via Should Everybody Learn to Code? | February 2014 | Communications of the ACM.

February 5, 2014 at 1:28 am 16 comments

Is Coding the Language of the Digital Age? PRI Science Friday with Hadi and Jane

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.

via Is Coding the Language of the Digital Age?.

February 1, 2014 at 1:14 am 8 comments

Why aren’t more girls interested in CS? Barbara on


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.

via Why aren’t more girls interested in computer science? |

January 26, 2014 at 1:03 pm 1 comment

NBA Superstar Chris Bosh: Here’s Why You Should Learn to Code — Impact?

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.

via NBA Superstar Chris Bosh: Here’s Why You Should Learn to Code | Wired Opinion |

January 8, 2014 at 1:27 am Leave a comment

A BBC Broadcast on Computing: The Joy of Logic #CSEdWeek

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…?

via BBC Four – The Joy of Logic.

December 11, 2013 at 1:36 pm 2 comments

Why are English (and lots of other) majors studying computer science? #CSEdWeek

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.

via Why are English majors studying computer science? « The Berkeley Blog.

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.

I totally buy that.  That’s what Eric Roberts saw from his informal survey when the boom in enrollment first started.

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.

December 10, 2013 at 1:20 pm 3 comments

Teach Real Algebra with Code: The Interdisciplinary Program Bootstrap #CSEdWeek

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.”

via GoLocalProv | News | Julia Steiny: Teach Real Algebra Instead of Wasting Time with Apps.

December 10, 2013 at 1:56 am 23 comments

President Obama calls on every American to learn to code #CSedWeek

Pretty amazing that they got this!

December 9, 2013 at 1:49 pm 3 comments

Why Arts and Social Science Needs Code: Testimonials

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.

via The Female Perspective of Computer Science: Why Arts and Social Science Needs Code: Testimonials.

November 29, 2013 at 1:07 am Leave a comment

Too little and too much self-efficacy is bad for interest

What an interesting paper! (Pun slightly intended.)  In this paper from Paul Silvia, he found experimentally that self-efficacy and interest are related on a bell-shaped curve.  Too little self-efficacy makes a task seem too daunting and uninteresting.  Too much makes the task boring.  This is important because we know that self-efficacy is among the most significant factors influencing non-majors success in learning to program.  It’s clear that there’s a sweet spot that we’re aiming for.


November 28, 2013 at 1:25 am 11 comments

Sew Electric: New book on LilyPad from Leah Buechly

A new book on LilyPad based projects:

If you’re interested in interactive toys, smart accessories, or light-up fashions, this book is for you! Sew Electric is a set of hands-on LilyPad Arduino tutorials that bring together craft, electronics, and programming. The book walks you through the process of designing and making a series of quirky customizable projects including a sparkling bracelet, a glow in the dark bookmark, a fabric piano, and a monster that sings when you hold its hands. Play with cutting-edge technologies and learn sewing, programming, and circuit design along the way. It’s a book for all ages. Explore the projects with your friends, your parents, your kids, or your students!


November 26, 2013 at 1:53 am Leave a comment

Common Core and CS-for-all: What’s our goal

I’m not convinced that the purpose of Common Core is to prepare students for four year universities.  Shouldn’t the common core be the minimum standard?  This issue is coming up for us at ECEP as we work in South Carolina.  In fact, we’re addressing it today in our Computing Education in South Carolina summit.  Should everyone be required to take serious CS in high school?  Or is it that everyone should have access to serious CS (e.g., preparation for undergrad CS courses), and everyone should know more about CS, but the college-going students are the ones who need the serious CS?

One of the three drafters of the Common Core math standards has publicly admitted that Common Core – which moves Algebra I from 8th to 9th grade and includes little trigonometry, no pre-calculus, and no calculus – is designed to prepare students for non-selective community colleges, not four-year universities. In fact, President Bud Peterson of Georgia Tech has stated that a student cannot go to Tech without having had Algebra I in 8th grade and calculus by senior year.  In other words, Common Core won’t get kids into Georgia Tech. This is the “quality” that has so impressed the Fordham lobbyists?

via Common Core: Substandard educational scheme. Georgia can do… | Get Schooled |

November 8, 2013 at 1:33 am 5 comments

Doctoral Fellowships available in Computational Craft Lab

What a cool idea! A computational craft lab!


4-year Doctoral Fellowship in Digital Fabrication & Learning

Utah State University

Instructional Technology & Learning Sciences

Utah State University’s Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences (ITLS) department is pleased to announce the availability of a prestigious four-year doctoral fellowship for a new doctoral student interested in digital fabrication, the maker movement, and education. This involves bringing technologies as diverse as 3-D printers, sewable circuitry, low cost microcontrollers, and robotics to education.

The fellowship provides full tuition and a stipend for four years, beginning Fall of 2014. The fellow will work with two leading researchers in the ITLS department, Drs. Victor Lee and Deborah Fields,who have produced innovative work in the areas of creative learning technologies, craft and computation, informal and formal learning environments, online social networking sites, and STEM education. The fellow will have numerous professional development and networking opportunities as well as access to the newly created “Computational Craft Lab” with brand new equipment and materials for digital fabrication. Drs. Lee and Fields have a strong reputation for providing mentorship and time to doctoral students, involving them in all aspects of research and implementation.

This competitive fellowship is available for one student beginning doctoral studies in August 2014. Interested students should contact Victor Lee or Deborah Fields as soon as possible. Please include a resume and letter describing your research background, interests, and how they align with this fellowship.



November 7, 2013 at 1:44 am 2 comments

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