Posts tagged ‘high school CS’
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.
One reason we have so much engineering and so little computer science taught at US high schools. | ACM Inroads
Joe Kmoch wrote an interesting follow-on to my blog post about why we have so little CS ed in the US. Why is that engineering is succeeding so much more than CS in high schools in the US? He suggests that (in part) it’s because engineering is getting the PD right.
I think the reason is that groups like Project Lead the Way (PLTW) offer an “off the shelf” high quality program, vetted by engineers. The attractiveness of this is that the school and students get access to a number of well-written up-to-date courses and they also get access to intensive professional development for teachers who want to teach a particular PLTW course. Teachers must not only take but also pass the two-week intensive summer course before being allowed to teach a particular course. There is regular monitoring of schools in terms of offering a minimal 3-course sequence of engineering courses and evaluating how well these courses are being taught.
In computer science we have really never had such a program available. The AP is not such a program. If a school wants to teach a computer science course, they have to find a teacher who is willing to put together a course syllabus, and then teach that course. (For AP, the course must be audited for fidelity). There really isn’t any professional development required to teach any kind of computer science course in most states.
The #include Fellowship to high school students from she++: Inspiring Women to Empower Computer Science
Sign up by Dec 11! (Remind students that Stanford is a fabulous place to visit.)
The #include Fellowship provides resources and content to ambitious high school students who wish to cultivate their own technical skills and facilitate conversations within their communities about computer science & the importance of diversity in technology.
Each High School student will work with a College mentor to bring technology into their communities. High School students may apply to present their work over the course of the year at the #include Summit (April 3-5) at Stanford University.
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.
The UChicago OS4CS study is now finished, and they have now summarized across all the components. The main five challenges are:
1. There is no shared understanding of what Computer Science is.
2. More comprehensive, quality, instructional resources are needed.
3. Computer science is not prioritized in schools. (An issue that I considered when explaining the lack of CS Ed in the US.)
4. There is a need for more CS teachers.
5. CS teachers are isolated.
THE “BUILDING AN OPERATING SYSTEM FOR COMPUTER SCIENCE” (OS4CS) STUDY
was designed as a collaborative research and communication effort to establish a more comprehensive understanding of our nation’s current high school computer science (CS) teaching population, the support they have, and contexts in which they teach. The OS4CS study has five major components: (1) the Professional Development (PD) Landscape Study; (2) the Teacher Capacity Study; (3) Stories from the Field; (4) the CS in Schools Study; and (5) the Design Studio. While each component of the study can be examined independently, when considered together they complement each other, providing a broad view of the issues affecting CS education as viewed through the lenses of different stakeholders. The study includes perspectives from teachers, PD providers, school administrators, community leaders, and others.
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?
It’s great to hold this woman up as a role model, but isn’t it a shame that she is so unusual. Only girl in AP CS? One of only five women in CS at Iowa State?
Cassidy Williams was the only girl in her AP computer science class at Downers Grove South High School.
Now, she is one of only five women majoring in computer science, along with 57 men, in the 2014 graduating class at Iowa State University.
It’s a trend the 21-year-old Downers Grove native hopes to help change for future girls studying computer science.
“If we don’t have women in computer science, we’re only seeing half the picture,” Cassidy said. “We need to have women in the computing workforce to bring their diverse perspectives to a development team, thus creating the best products.”
I have a theory that predicts when (if?) we will see more computing education research students in the US. I think that it might also help understand when computer science education (e.g., an AP course in CS) might reach the majority of US high schools.
Why are there so few CS Ed research students in the US?
Recently, I hosted a visit from Dr. Nick Falkner (Associate Dean (IT), Faculty of Engineering, Mathematical and Computer Sciences) and Dr. Katrina Falkner (Deputy Head and Director of Teaching, School of Computer Science) from the University of Adelaide. We got to talking about the lack of CS education research (CER) graduate students in the United States. There are lots of PhD students studying CER in Australasia, Europe, and Israel. To offer a comparison point, when we visited Melbourne in 2011, they had just held a doctoral consortium in CS Ed with 20 students attending, all from just the Melbourne area. The ICER doctoral consortium at UCSD in August had 14 students, and not all 14 were from the US. The Australasian Computing Education will have its own DC, and they’re capping enrollment at 10, but there are far more CER PhD students than that in the region. I get invitations regularly to serve on review committees for dissertations from Australia and Europe, but rarely from the US.
Why is CER so much more popular among graduate students outside of the US? I’ve wondered if it’s an issue of funding for research, or how graduate students are recruited. Then it occurred to us.
Check out the Falkners’ titles: Associate Dean, Deputy Head (Katrina will be Head of School next year), Director. I remarked on that, and Nick and Katrina started naming other CS education research faculty who were Chairs, full Professors, and Deans and Directors in Australia. We went on naming other CS education researchers in high positions in New Zealand (e.g., Tim Bell, Professor and Deputy Head of Department), England (e.g., the great Computing Education Group at Kent), Denmark (e.g., Michael Caspersen as Director of the Center for Science Education), Sweden (e.g., CS Education Research at Uppsala), Finland, Germany, and Israel.
Then I was challenged to name:
- US CS Education researchers who are full Professors at research intensive universities;
- US CS Education researchers who are Chairs of their departments or schools;
- US CS Education researchers who are Deans or Center Directors.
I’m sure that there would be some quibbling if I tried to name US researchers in these categories. I don’t think anyone would disagree that none of these categories requires more than one hand to count — and I don’t think anyone needs more than a couple fingers for that last category.
We have great computing education researchers in the United States. Few are in these kinds of positions of visible prestige and authority. Many in the ICER community are at teaching institutions. Many who are at research intensive universities are in teaching track positions.
Computing Education Research is not as respected in US universities as it is in other countries. In these other countries, a graduate student could pursue computing education research, and might still be able to achieve tenure, promotion, and even an administrative position in prestigious institutions. That’s really rare in the United States.
There are many reasons why there isn’t more CER in research-intensive universities. Maybe there’s not enough funding in CER (which is an outcome of lack of respect/value). Most people don’t buy into computing for all in the US. Unless there’s more CER in schools, maybe we don’t need much CER in Universities. I’m actually not addressing why CER gets less respect in the US than in other countries — I’m hypothesizing a relationship between two variables because of that lack of respect.
The status of CER is definitely on the mind of students when they are considering CER as a research area. I’ve lost students to other areas of research when they realize that CER is a difficult academic path in the US. My first CS advisor at U-Michigan (before Elliot Soloway moved there) was strongly against my plans for a joint degree with education. “No CS department will hire you, and if they do, they won’t tenure you.” I succeeded into that first category (there was luck and great mentors involved). It’s hard for me to say if my personal path could ever reach categories 2 or 3, and if barriers I meet are due more to my research area than my personal strengths and weaknesses. All I can really say for sure is that, if you look around, there aren’t many CER people in those categories, which means that there is no obvious evidence to a graduate student that they can reach those kinds of success.
So, here’s my hypothesis:
Hypothesis: We will see more computing education research graduate students in the US when CER is a reasonable path to tenure, promotion, and advancement in research-intensive US universities.
Why is there so little computing education in US high schools?
Other countries have a lot more computing education in their high schools than we do in the United States. Israel, New Zealand, Denmark, and England all have national curricula that include significant computer science. In Israel, you can even pursue a software engineering track in high school. They all have an advantage over the US, since we have no national curricula at all. However, Germany, which has a similarly distributed education model, still has much more advanced computing education curricula (the state of Bavaria has a computing curriculum for grades 6-12) and CS teacher professional development. What’s different?
I suspect that there are similar factors at work in schools as in Universities. Computing education is not highly valued in US society. That gets reflected in decisions at both the University and school systems. I don’t know much about influence relationships between the University and the K-12 system. I have suggested that we will not have a stable high school CS education program in the United States without getting the Schools of Education engaged in teacher pre-service education. I don’t know how changes in one influence the other.
However, I see a strong correlation, caused by an external social factor — maybe some of those I mentioned earlier (not enough funding for CER, don’t need more CER, etc.). Professors and University administrators are not separate from their societies and cultures. The same values and influences are present in the University as in the society at large. What the society values has an influence on what the University values. If a change occurs in the values in the society, then the University values will likely change. I don’t know if it works in the other way.
So here’s where I go further out on a limb:
Second Hypothesis: We will see the majority of US high schools offering computer science education (e.g., AP CS) when CER is a reasonable path to tenure, promotion, and advancement in research-intensive US universities.
Here are two examples to support the hypothesis:
- Consider Physics. No one doubts the value of physics. Within society, we’re willing to spend billions to find a Higgs Boson, because we value physics. Similarly, we strive to offer physics education to every high school student. Similarly, physics faculty can aspire to become Deans and even University Presidents. Physics is valued by society and the University.
- Consider Engineering Education Research. Twenty years ago, engineering education research was uncommon, and it had little presence in K-12 schools. Today, there are several Engineering Education academic units in the US — at Purdue, Clemson, and Virginia Tech. (There’s quite a list here.) Engineering education researchers can get tenured, promoted, and even become head of an engineering education research academic unit. And, Engineering is now taught in K-12 schools. Recently, I’ve been involved in an effort to directly interview kids in schools that offer AP CS. We can hardly find any! Several of the schools in the Atlanta area that used to offer AP CS now offer Engineering classes instead. (Maybe the belief is that engineers will take care of our CS/IT needs in the US?) Engineering has a significant presence in K-12 education today.
I don’t think that this hypothesis works as a prescriptive model. I’m not saying, “If we just create some computing education research units, we’ll get CS into high schools!” I don’t know that there is much more CS Ed in schools in Australia, Sweden, or Finland than in the US, where CER is a path to advancement. I hypothesize a correlation. If we see changes at the Universities, we’ll be seeing changes in schools. I expect that the reverse will also be true — if we ever see the majority of US high schools with CS, the Universities will support the effort. But I thnk that the major influencer on both of these is the perception of CER in the larger society. I’m hypothesizing that both will change if the major influence changes.
(Thanks to Briana Morrison, Barbara Ericson, Amy Bruckman, and Betsy DiSalvo on an earlier draft of this post.)
This is from Jennie Kay, who was one of the organizers of the SIGCSE Robot Rodeo a few years ago, and is a leader in the use of robotics in CS education in the SIGCSE community.
Educational Robots for Absolute Beginners:
A Free On-Line Course that teaches the basics of LEGO NXT Robot Programming
Got a LEGO NXT robot kit but don’t know where to begin? Come learn the basics of LEGO NXT Robot Programming and discover a new way to bring math, science, and computer science content to your students both in and out of the classroom. By the end of this class, you (YES YOU!) will have built your own robot and programmed it to dance around the room.
This course, developed by the Rowan University Laboratory for Educational Robotics and supported by a generous grant from Google CS4HS, is specifically designed for K-12 teachers, but is free and open to anyone who is interested in learning about LEGO NXT robotics. The course will be starting at the end of October. Preregister now and we’ll send you an email when we open up the course. To preregister, as well as to see our video “trailer” and get the answers to frequently asked questions please visit: http://cs4hsrobots.appspot.com/
This is related to the report that CSTA blogged on recently. There will be a webinar for those interested in asking questions about it.
Join us for a special one-hour webinar presentation about high school computer science education!
Expanding computer science education is of vital importance to our nation’s future. If we are going to address the grand challenge of growing computer science education across the country, we need to develop a greater understanding of how to prepare, develop and support computer science teachers of all levels and advocate for expansion and improvement.
Over the last 18 months, The University of Chicago’s Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education (CEMSE) and Urban Education Institute (UEI) has carried out national study of the computer science education community—including professional development providers, teachers, administrators and other stakeholders—to inform the growth and spread of high school computer science education in the United States.
Join us for a special conversation to learn about the results of that study, ask questions, and share your thoughts about the future of computer science education on Wednesday, September 25th at 3:00 pm (Central Time).
Copied from the press release sent to me by Stacey Finkel, CSTA’s media person. I’ve just started reading the report, and it’s really interesting.
A new report released today by the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) finds that Computer Science teacher certification/licensure in the United States is deeply flawed. While companies look to fill lucrative positions in the computing field, there is a critical shortage of qualified teachers to teach the next generation of computer scientists.
Bugs in the System: Computer Science Teacher Certification in the U.S., developed with support from Google, is a comprehensive study of all 50 states and the District of Columbia revealing that each state (and in some states each school district) has its own process, its own definition of Computer Science, and its own idea of where Computer Science fits in the academic program and who is qualified to teach it.
Bugs in the System reveals that only two states (Arizona and Wisconsin) require teachers to be certified/licensed in Computer Science and in many states there are no requirements for teaching Computer Science at all, meaning teachers with little or even no Computer Science knowledge can teach it and teacher preparation institutions are unlikely to offer programs for new Computer Science teachers.
The report also reveals confusion at all levels about what Computer Science is and the knowledge required to teach it. As a result, teachers who want to teach Computer Science can be faced with, sometimes insurmountable challenges. For example, in Florida becoming a certified Computer Science teacher requires taking a course called K-6 Computer Science Methods, however the course is not offered in any teacher preparation program in the state.
The NCAA has now revised their eligibility criteria, in favor of computer science: http://fs.ncaa.org/Docs/eligibility_center/CoreCourseInfo/Common_Core_Course_Questions/engage.html. The NCAA does an audit of an athlete’s high school classes, to decide if they really did complete a high school degree (e.g., rather than four years of gym all day every day). Computer science did not used to count. Under the new criteria, computer science can count if the state recognizes it as counting. This is a win, and as I understand it, this is due to the efforts of Hadi Partovi and Code.org.
I wrote a blog post recently, where I suggested that we in computing need to be careful that TEALS doesn’t end up diminishing demand for high school CS teachers. Kevin Wang, who runs TEALS, contacted me after that post and we had a useful phone conversation.
Kevin sees TEALS as primarily a professional development activity. TEALS provides IT professionals to teach computer science courses and to be a teacher-asssistant in these courses. TEALS goes into a school only if the school signs a contract with TEALS that (a) there is a teacher assigned to teaching computer science in that school, who will undertake professional development during the time that the course is being taught and (b) that teacher will take over the course after the engagement with TEALS ends. The professional development is really just the student sitting in on the class with the students — no pedagogical development, no teaching methods, no community with other teachers. For most schools, it’s a many-volunteer to one-school ratio — a couple of teachers, and some teaching assistants. TEALS is now experimenting with volunteers who provide the teaching via video at distance.
They don’t have a lot of data yet. TEALS doesn’t know yet how well the teachers learn, sitting in on the class alongside the students. They don’t know how yet how well the teachers like doing professional development like this — I wonder if teachers find it demeaning to their professionalism, to sit taking the class alongside the students, rather than in groups of their peers. TEALS doesn’t know yet much about how well the schools succeed teaching computer science after the professionals leave. They don’t know if students are learning overall (they have great results in some classes), or about how the students are doing with IT professionals who have little preparation for teaching, or if the TEALS classes are better or worse than others at engaging women and under-represented minorities.
The quote below is from a blog post that I highly recommend reading. It’s by one of the TEALS volunteers and his experience in teaching AP CS. The author, Dan Kasun, was a teaching assistant to an existing AP CS teacher. I don’t know how common that model is.
TEALS sounds like it’s trying to make computer science succeed for the long haul. Computing education reform can’t be about the students — or rather, it can’t be about the students here and now. It has to be about the long term. Yes, by providing a set of IT professionals to a school, one can help a class of 35 students to do remarkably well in AP CS. But if you develop a full-time CS teacher to be in multiple classes, and to improve over years, and to stay in that school for a decade or more (or even the five years that only half of STEM teachers last), you get to far more than 30 kids.
I want computer science to be in schools, long after TEALS runs out of volunteers. I believe that Kevin Wang wants that, too. I don’t know if TEALS is helping yet, but am interested to see what we learn from it.
I had the opportunity to support one of the local Loudoun County High Schools this year by volunteering to assist in AP Computer Science as part of the TEALS program (www.tealsk12.org). TEALS provides volunteers who can teach an entire computer science class for schools that do not have access to trained educators, and also provides teacher assistants (TAs) for schools that already have teachers, but would like additional support in their programs. Loudoun already had teachers, so I volunteered as a TA (which was fortunate, as my schedule wouldn’t have supported the responsibility of the full class).
This is pretty high visibility. (Here’s the link if the embed below doesn’t work: http://www.today.com/id/26184891/vp/52630136#52630136.)
Barbara Ericson has generated her 2012 Advanced Placement Computer Science report. http://home.cc.gatech.edu/ice-gt/321 has all of her reports. http://home.cc.gatech.edu/ice-gt/548 has her more detailed analysis just of 2012. Since one of our concerns with GaComputes and ECEP is on pass rates, not just test-takers, she dug deeper into pass rates. For a point of comparison, she looked up AP Calculus pass rates. What she found is somewhat surprising — below is quoted from her page.
Comparison of AP CS A to AP Calculus AB in 2012
The number of students that take the exam per teacher is much higher for AP Calculus AB at 21 students per teacher versus 11 for Computer Science A
The number of schools that teach Calculus is 11,694 versus 2,103
AP CS A had a higher pass rate than Calculus – 63% versus 59%
AP CS A had a higher female pass rate than Calculus – 56% versus 55%
AP CS A had a higher Hispanic pass rate than Calculus – 39.8% versus 38.4%
AP Calculus had a higher black pass rate than CS – 28.7% versus 27.3%
Calculus had a much higher percentage of women take the exam than CS – 48.3% versus 18.7%
Calculus had a higher percentage of black students take the exam than CS – 5.4% versus 4.0%
Calculus had a higher percentage of Hispanic/Latino students take the exam than CS – 11.5% versus 7.7%