Posts tagged ‘CSEd Week’

Lessons learned from ECEP: How do we change a state? (plus Resources for Teachers) #CSEdWeek

I wrote up a report on our Summit on Computing Education in South Carolina for Blog@CACM (and here’s the link back to my original post on the summit). It went well, in that we got the kind of attendees we wanted and had the kinds of discussions we wanted. I was particularly pleased with the energy up through the final session.

Barbara Ericson did a nice job of collecting a bunch of URL’s to resources for new Computer Science teachers, and then created a PowerPoint tour of them. I’ve posted these on a new Resources for New CS Teachers page here on the blog.

I learned a lot at the Summit. The issues in South Carolina are different from the ones in Georgia, and they’re different again in Massachusetts and California. That’s what’s making this ECEP Alliance work interesting and complicated.

What’s interesting is that we’re starting to see some common themes. I wouldn’t call these experimental results, since you can’t easily do experiments comparing states. Instead, these are some observations from our first four case studies.

Having a statewide organization is an enormous advantage: We work in California through Debra Richardson who heads up an organization called ACCESS with an Executive Director focused just on CS Ed in the state, Julie Flapan. ACCESS is about making computing education policy reform happen in California. That’s a huge advantage — a single point of contact to other efforts, a coordinating point for the state.

We started work in South Carolina because of IT-oLogy, a public-private partnership for advancing IT. As we started planning for the summit, we realized that we need more connections, so we formed a Steering Committee with representatives from across the state, from the Department of Education, to high schools, from Universities to private industry. That Steering Committee was very helpful in getting the word out about the summit and helping us to understand the issues when assembling the program.

Statewide meetings and summits help to make things happen: We launched the higher education part of Georgia Computes in 2007 at a meeting for CS department representatives from across the University System of Georgia. The summit in South Carolina has really got discussion going there (here’s a nice piece in the Columbia The Free Times after the summit). Massachusetts just held a statewide meeting of everyone offering CS professional development across the state. These meetings aren’t a waste of time — they get people focused on the issues, at high-bandwidth, and attract attention to the issues.  We’ve already been contacted by people in other states who want to organize similar summits.

A full-time statewide organizer is key: We couldn’t have done what we’ve done in Georgia without Barbara Ericson. Having full-time staff has similarly been key in Massachusetts, California, and South Carolina. Maybe you could you get a state to reform its computing education without a full-time person, with volunteers contributing their time. We’ve just seen how valuable it is to have a professional being the point of contact and focusing on making change happen.

December 13, 2013 at 1:59 am 1 comment

STEM Role Models for Girls: The Story of Robot Designer Cynthia Breazeal #CSEdWeek

As part of my Cyber Monday advertising email onslaught, I got this interesting ad from the National Academic Press (not a phrase one often writes).  They have a whole series of books on STEM role models for girls, including this one on Cynthia Breazeal, roboticist.  Have any of you read these?  Do you recommend them?

Cynthia Breazeal is a creature creator. Armed with electronic gadgets, software programs, and her endless imagination, she creates lifelike machines that can respond to the world around them. Cynthia Breazeal is a roboticist, a scientist who designs, builds, and experiments with robots. As a child, she relied on movies to see robots in action. Now robots are part of her daily life at the MIT Media Lab. There, she and her students use their computer science and engineering skills to work on marvels like Leonardo, a robot that interacts with people in ways that seem almost human. Cynthia s other world-famous projects include Kismet, an emotionally intelligent robot that smiles, frowns, and babbles like a baby. Why create robots like these? Cynthia can picture a future where sociable robots exist to benefit people. She works hard every day to turn that dream into a reality. Firsthand accounts from Cynthia and from those who know her best combine to tell the inspiring story of a curious, sports-loving girl who went on to become a worldclass roboticist. Robo World is also a Captivating story of high-tech invention where the stuff of science fiction becomes real in today’s labs.

via Robo World: The Story of Robot Designer Cynthia Breazeal.

December 12, 2013 at 1:36 pm Leave a comment

SXSWedu Panel Discussion: Engaging Students with CS Education #CSEdWeek

Nice to hear that computing education will be at SXSW.

I’m pleased to announce that my SXSWedu proposal “Engaging Students with Computer Science Education” has been accepted as a panel discussion! Here is a brief abstract describing the purpose of the session:

“Current trends show a loss of student interest in computer science careers and degrees across the U.S., especially among women and minorities, even though the need for qualified candidates in this field has never been greater. Across the country, computer science experts, computer science educators, researchers, and even policymakers are developing initiatives that address these problems.

In this panel, the leaders of three such initiatives will share their perspectives on computer science education, gender and diversity in the field, and high-quality instructional design for computer science students and teachers alike. Their respective programs, Project Engage (University of Texas, Austin), Exploring Computer Science: Los Angeles (UCLA), and New Mexico Computer Science for All (University of New Mexico) represent the latest large-scale efforts in computer science education. Educators, practitioners, and researchers can all learn from their collective expertise.”

via SXSWedu Panel Discussion – Engaging Students with Computer Science Education | ain’t what it used to be.

December 12, 2013 at 1:58 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

The Economic Value of (Computing) Education: For The Entrepreneur and Inventor, too #CSEdWeek

The linked article below provides results I’ve seen before — that the average income of college-educated is much higher than the non-college-educated.  I had not yet seen the below claim: Most inventors and entrepreneurs, the individuals who impact economic growth, are also predominantly college educated.  The model of the college-dropout entrepreneur is the exception, not the rule.  This is important for computing, too, where our model of the dropout CEO of the startup is legendary — but really rare.  If you want to create a computing company, you’re best off getting computing education.

Those who most directly impact economic growth—inventors and entrepreneurs—also tend to be highly educated. A Georgia Tech survey of patent inventors found that 92 percent had a bachelor’s degree, almost exclusively in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects. Likewise, almost all of the founders (92 percent) of the high-tech companies that have powered GDP in recent decades are college educated, especially in STEM fields. Thus, it is no surprise that macroeconomic research finds very large gains from education on economic growth at both the international and regional levels, as the research of Harvard’s Ed Glaeser and many others has shown.

via The Economic Value of Education | Brookings Institution.

December 11, 2013 at 1:57 am 6 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

Try an Hour of Code in an Ebook for #CSEdWeek

It’s CSEd Week this week. and Computing in the Core have effectively merged now, and that’s the organization that owns and promotes CSEd Week. The big focus this year is the Hour of Code — getting all students to do some kind of coding activity for one hour. There are a lot of tutorials now available at the CSEdWeek site.

As readers of this blog now, one of my research activities is to create an electronic book to support high school teachers learning computer science. (Here’s our project webpage.) We’ve been exploring ideas like how best to create videos about computer science (hint: use subgoal labels!) and how to reduce cognitive load (hint: Parson’s problems). We’re also working on multi-modal explanations (evidence suggests that audio narration for code is more effective than text descriptions) and worked examples.

Barb Ericson put together an Hour of Code activity using some of our ideas for learning Python with turtles here, as an Hour of Code activity: Please do try it and let us know what you think!

If you have an Hour of Code activity that isn’t making it to the main site, please feel free to link to it here in the comments!

December 9, 2013 at 1:01 pm 2 comments

CSTA Blog: Critical Questions for CS Ed Research #CSEdWeek

An interesting set of research questions!

This weekend CSTA Chair Deborah Seehorn and I were attending the ACM Education Council meetings and, as part of the meeting, we participated in a group discussion about critical questions in computer science education research led by CSTA Past Chair Steve Cooper.

Our discussion group consisted of Deborah Seehorn from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Steve Cooper from Stanford University, Dan Garcia from Berkeley, and myself. Because we all have deep roots in K-12 computer science education, the list of questions we came up with covered a breadth of issues and reflect the deep need for research-grounded solutions to the issues we now face.

via Computer Science Teachers Association: Critical Questions for CS Education Research.

December 9, 2013 at 1:04 am 5 comments

Please sign petition to make computer science count as a core subject in California

Debra Richardson, our ECEP Partner in California, sent this to me yesterday.  Please do support this initiative!

Please sign ACCESS’ petition to
George C. Johnson, Chair of University of California Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools;
William Jacob, Chair of UC Academic Senate;
Diana Wright Guerin, Chair of CSU Academic Senate:
Computer science drives job growth and innovation in California.  Help us make computer science count as a core subject requirement—mathematics or science—for admission to UC and CSU campuses.

Please sign the petition and join this campaign:

Full Petition Text:
California is known as a world leader in driving the digital age through computing and the information technology sector. Yet, few K-12 students have access to high-quality computer science education in the state. A key obstacle is that rigorous, college-preparatory computer science courses do not satisfy a core mathematics or science admission requirement for either the University of California (UC) or California State University (CSU) system. We are seeking that computer science satisfy a core requirement for college admissions.
Computer science is driving job growth and innovation throughout California’s economy and society.  By 2018, California will need to fill 517,890 computing-related jobs – about half of a total of 1.1 million STEM jobs.  These occupations dominate “help wanted” ads, and computer science is one of the most lucrative and hottest degrees for new college graduates.  Rigorous computer science courses develop students’ computational and critical thinking skills and teach them how to create—not just use—new technologies. This fundamental knowledge is needed to prepare students for the 21st century, regardless of their ultimate field of study or occupation.
The limited access to K-12 computer science education in California creates serious gender and equity issues for underserved minorities. Of all California AP Computer Science test takers in 2010-11, only 21% were female, less than 1% were African-American and only 8% were Latino (despite the fact that Latinos make up the majority of California’s public school students). A study by the Computer Science Teachers Association found that the most important factor in whether young women and students of color choose to take computer science is if it counts towards a high school graduation requirement.
Computer science courses do not currently count towards core high school graduation requirements in California—they are treated as electives. Moreover, neither the University of California (UC) nor the California State University (CSU) campuses count computer science as satisfying a mathematics or science requirement towards admission; at best computer science counts as a college-prep elective. Given other academic demands, most college-bound students don’t afford themselves the time to take computer science, nor do students on a vocational pathway.
We are seeking to count computer science as a core subject requirement—mathematics “C” or science “D”—for admission to UC and CSU, rather than as an elective—“G” credit. This change would not require schools to offer computer science or require all students to study it – that is, high school graduation requirements would not change – but would simply allow computer science courses to satisfy existing core college admissions requirements. This change would, on the other hand, encourage students to take computer science and thereby become prepared with 21st century skills for our knowledge-based economy.
To learn more about making computer science count nationally, visit
For specific information about why it’s important to make computer science count in California, visit – the Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools.

Debra Richardson
Professor of Informatics
Founding Dean, Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences
Chair, Alliance for California Computing Education for Students and Schools (ACCESS)
PI, Expanding Computing Education Pathways – California (ECEP-CA)
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697-3440

November 18, 2013 at 5:24 am 2 comments

Try out the Hour of Code tutorials for CSEd Week 2013

Try out the tutorials for the Hour of Code for CSEd Week 2013.

Choose a tutorial for your students

Check out the tutorials and pick one for your class. Note: we have not yet received the Hour of Code submissions from Scratch or KhanAcademy, so check back for those. Also, more international/multilingual support is on its way.

Go through the tutorial yourself so you can help students during the Hour of Code.

Test tutorials on student computers or devices. Make sure they work properly (with sound and video).

Preview the congrats page to see what students will see when they finish.

If the tutorial you choose works best with sound, provide headphones for your class, or ask students to bring their own.

via Learn | The Hour of Code 2013.

November 16, 2013 at 1:04 am 1 comment

Computer Science Education Week is Dec 8–14, 2013

The dates for CSEdWeek are good to know, but the “Hour of Code” from is an interesting new initiative.

What is Computer Science Education Week?

Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek) is the annual awareness program for computer science education. It is organized each year by the Computing in the Core coalition and It is a call to action to raise awareness (particularly in the K-12 environment) about the importance of computer science education and its connection to careers in computing and other fields. CSEdWeek is held in recognition of the birthday of computing pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (December 9, 1906).

What is an Hour of Code?

It’s a 1 hour intro to computer science and programming, to give beginners a taste and to demystify “code”. For existing CS teachers, it can be anything you want – get creative. For everybody else, we’ll provide self-guided tutorials anybody can do, with just a web-browser or smartphone, or even unplugged, no experience needed. Note:  HTML does not count as an Hour of Code.

via Computer Science Education Week is Dec 8–14, 2013 | CSEd Week 2013.

September 17, 2013 at 1:56 am 5 comments

Stanford’s Most Popular Major Is Now Computer Science (#CSedWeek Fact)

The last paragraph of this is interesting.  Yes, Engineering and Computer Science (in particular) are booming, but not everywhere, and it’s not evident to everyone.  I was just at Tufts on Monday, where some Engineering students were asking me if Computer Science was growing in enrollment anywhere.  Well, there’s Stanford…

Now? According to three stats buried in a press release from the university’s engineering school, Computer Science is the most popular major at Stanford. More students are enrolled in it than ever before (even more than at the dot-com boom’s height in 2000-2001). And more than 90 % of Stanford undergrads take a computer science course before they graduate.

Stanford is Stanford, and its stats aren’t necessarily indicative of academia at large: Countrywide, the most popular major is business. But the school’s computer-heavy numbers reflect its existence, both as a member of what candid college administrators call the Big Four (the other three are Princeton, Harvard and Yale), and as a school nestled close to Silicon Valley’s elite.

In a lengthy feature from earlier this year, the New Yorker’s Ken Auletta revealed that, even beyond Stanford’s CS department, “A quarter of all undergraduates and more than 50% of graduate students [at Stanford] are engineering majors. At Harvard, the figures are 4 and 10%; at Yale, they’re 5 and 8%.”

via Stanford’s Most Popular Major Is Now Computer Science.

December 13, 2012 at 9:12 am Leave a comment

Barbara’s Annual AP CS Analysis for #CSEdWeek: 2012 was A Great Year!

Barbara Ericson has completed her annual analysis of AP CS Level A exam results. It was a banner year: The greatest number of test-takers ever, and well over the 20K “break-even” point (when the College Board stops losing money on giving an AP exam). Barbara broke it down by state (for states we’re particularly focusing on in ECEP), and by population of each state. Maryland does the best, in terms of test-takers per million people. Georgia ties with California for “test-taking density.”

Nationally 24,782 people took the AP CS A exam in 2012. This was a 14.7% increase from the previous year. The number of teachers who passed the audit was 2,103. The number of female exam takers was 4,635 which was up from 4,000 the year before. The number of Blacks was 1,014 up from 893 the previous year. The number of Hispanics was 1,919 up from 1,752 the previous year.

The percentage female was 18.7% which was lower than the previous year (18.9%) . The overall pass rate was 63.2%. The female pass rate was 56.4%. The white pass rate was 66.4%. The Asian pass rate was 69.9%. The Hispanic pass rate was 39.8%. The Hispanic male pass rate 43.6%. The Hispanic female pass rate was 26.6%. The Black pass rate was 27.3%. The Black male pass rate was 30.3%. The Black female pass rate was 18.25%.

In 2012 California passed Texas after years (since 2005) of Texas being the state with the most AP CS A exam takers. California had 3,920 and Texas had only 3,614.

via AP Data for the United States.

December 11, 2012 at 8:23 pm 1 comment

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