Posts tagged ‘high school CS’
This is stunning: New York City Schools are going to teach computer science and software engineering in grades 6-12 in 20 schools starting this Fall. By 2016, they plan to more than triple the number of children enrolled in the “Software Engineering Pilot program.” I’m really curious about how they’re going to ramp up professional development to this scale. It’s a great test for the future CS10K plans by NSF. It’s not clear to me the goal — that these children will be ready to enter the IT workforce with their high school diplomas, or that these children will have the skills to succeed in later certificate and degree programs?
“We know it’s vital to prepare our children to succeed in an increasingly technology-centered economy and the Software Engineering Pilot will help us do just that,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “This groundbreaking program will ensure that more students receive computer science and software engineering instruction so that they can compete for the tech jobs that are increasingly becoming a part of our city’s economy. We’re creating the home-grown workforce our city needs and teaching our students skills that will open up new doors for them and their future.”
The UK has achieved something that the US has not yet accomplished (but is trying through the Computing in the Core effort). Computer science is now included as part of a national UK curriculum. Computer science is not yet part of most US state curricula. Neil Brown does a great job (in the blog post linked below) considering the strengths and weaknesses of the new curriculum. In particular, he considers seriously what every student needs to have — certainly some CS (like in the CS:Principles effort), and trying out programming, but with ICT and digital literacy as probably the most critical for everyone.
At the core of computing is the science and engineering discipline of computer science, in which pupils are taught how digital systems work, how they are designed and programmed, and the fundamental principles of information and computation. Building on this core, computing equips pupils to apply information technology to create products and solutions. A computing education also ensures that pupils become digitally literate – able to use, and express themselves through, information and communication technology – at a level suitable for the future workplace and as active participants in a digital world.
I hear all the time about the decline of interest in computing among high school students in the US. Not surprising, but still disappointing, to see that the problem is also in the UK.
Between now and 2020, according to an October report from the Royal Academy of Engineering, the U.K. will need 10,000 more new graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) each year just to fill current employment needs.
It’s difficult to see where they’re going to come from, especially in tech, judging from January data from the U.K Department for Education. Only 3,420 British students, or 0.4%, took a computer science A-level (similar to a U.S. high school diploma) in 2011-12, compared to a high of 12,529 in 1998.
The gender gap is another concern here, as a mere 7% — 255 total — of computing A-level students were female in the 2011-12 school year.
One of the challenges of being a social science researcher today is anonymizing your data. In our project at Georgia Tech, we are asking the Human Subjects Review Board about sharing a data set that we created in an anonymized form. There’s some question as to whether it was sufficiently anonymized. ”African-American, female, 15 years old, Hall County” feels pretty anonymous, but when you add “in a computer class” or “taking a Girl Scout animation workshop,” we’re now talking about a very small number of people. It might be possible for someone to identify the student. The Board is trying to decide if that’s anonymous enough. The dataset becomes much more anonymous if we leave out the school district or county, but if we do, we lose our connection to socioeconomic status, school district performance on tests and high school completion rates, and other factors that do matter to our analyses. If we provide those other variables and not the district, it becomes possible to triangulate the county.
I recently received this message from CSTA:
Code.org is a recently launched public 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to the vision that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn to code. (see recent features on TechCrunch and in the NY Times)
We’re building a database of every classroom that teaches computer programming – whether in elementary school, college, full-time, or afterschool/summer. However, we’re only looking to list classrooms that teach programming (as opposed to computer usage/literacy)
You can search the existing database and if your class/course/university isn’t listed, PLEASE submit it at http://www.code.org.
(your private contact info won’t be shared, spammed, or sold. But the other info is listed publicly to help students and teachers find the class)
I checked with our external evaluators, and they’re worried. With even “female, 15 years old, Hall County,In a CS class,” you can go look up in Code.org where all the CS classes are in Hall County. This wouldn’t be a big deal if there were hundreds of classes, but there aren’t. The number of programming classes for most counties and school districts will be countable on your fingers. (You probably won’t need your toes). This is a huge deal for researchers. We won’t be able to share our data and collaborate on analyses anywhere near the same way, not without breaking federal guidelines about anonymizing participants data.
It’s not at all clear if the data that Code.org is assembling about schools is at all useful. Sure, there’s a high school in your school district offering programming. You may be able to send your kid there rather than local school district, but it depends on the policies of your school district. Let’s say that you learn that there’s an elementary school the next county over that’s offering programming. You definitely can’t enroll your kids there without moving. I don’t see how getting schools to make public where they are offering computer science helps us promote computer science. (I’m also wondering who vets and maintains this database — a spotcheck shows several errors already.)
I exchanged email about this blog with Hadi Partovi, the founder of Code.org. His argument is that if there are computer courses in every school, his database is not a problem, and that’s where he wants to get to. I agree with the goal, but the database creates a short-term stumbling block. It prevents the researchers from studying and improving computing education while it’s growing.
I love the idea of making sure that people can find learning opportunities. I believe that this national database of programming courses creates more privacy and research ethics problems than it solves.
From his February 14, 2013 Google+ Hangout, President Obama discusses the importance of computer science in preparing the nation’s future workforce.
Ann Sobel has an article in IEEE Computer asking “Should everyone go to College?” as part of a special issue on education. Her answer is, “No.” She might be right, but I disagree with her argument. For example, below she suggests that students should avoid college if they “have already reached their intellectual peak.” Modern cognitive science suggests that fluid intelligence “peaks” in students’ 20′s, but other forms of intelligence develop and grow throughout one’s life.
I’m particularly concerned about this article appearing in IEEE Computer. Thinking that high school is enough for a computing job is (a) wrong and (b) counter-productive at the high school level, since it encourages the instruction to be more vocational and less about developing computing concepts that could be used in post-secondary instruction. I’m particularly worried about what an emphasis on high school computing education means for under-represented minorities. A high-school only IT job will earn, on average, far less than a college degree IT job. Emphasizing high school IT jobs may mean trapping more under-represented minorities “in the shallow end.”
Ann identifies several important issues that prevent students from succeeding in college, like lack of adequate preparation and cost. I see those as challenges to be addressed, not roadblocks. If the context of the piece is taken seriously (i.e., high school degrees as preparation for jobs like those of IEEE Computer readers), then we have to consider the far more considerable issues of inadequate numbers and preparation for teachers. We are challenged to produce enough high school teachers to cover Exploring CS or CS:Principles, both of which de-emphasize programming compared to a traditional CS1. If we wanted students to be ready to get an IT job right out of high school, they better learn some serious vocational computing skills, from network management, to database administration, to low-level coding. How are we going to develop enough high school teachers to teach all of that?!?
Here’s my bottom-line: “Should everyone go to college?” If you want a job in computing, yes.
Students can attend a community college to help improve these test scores, but this route doesn’t always work, particularly when students have already reached their intellectual peak. While students have the potential for intellectual growth, if they can’t grow sufficiently, they should be supported in considering myriad rewarding career paths that don’t require a college degree.
The ACM journal Transactions on Computing Education is going to have a special issue devoted to Computer Science Education in K-12 Schools. Well worth exploring.
Recent activities in several countries, for example in the USA, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and South Korea, show a growing awareness of the importance of rigorous computer science education (CSE) for a successful, self-responsive and self-deciding life in the modern world. Consequently, serious efforts are made to introduce or to improve CSE in schools that will be followed by other countries, as we hope. Yet, for any country that wants to improve CSE in schools, it would be advisable to learn from the experiences that were made somewhere else. Nevertheless, those experiences were gathered under preconditions and circumstances that usually differ strongly from country to country. Unfortunately, the short format of conventional scientific papers prevents most reports about such experiences from covering all relevant aspects of the respective context. To produce relief, this Special Issue of TOCE aims to collect extensive, detailed case studies that discuss as many relevant aspects as possible, for example regarding the category system that was proposed in 2011 by the ITiCSE Working Group about Informatics in Secondary Education .
The first part of what Berners-Lee says below makes sense to me. Students don’t really see computing until there’s breakdown. Interfaces carefully hide away the computing underneath. But it does not really make sense for children to check log files and re-write scripts when something breaks with Twitter or Facebook. I think he may be confounding two reasons for knowing about computing education: (a) to understand your world (“I think I have a clue why this broke, or even why it was working in the first place”) versus (b) to be able to construct in that world — to be a producer, as well as a consumer. Both are good reasons for learning about computing, but it’s not always the case that you can construct around every bug that comes up, especially with large social networks.
“A quarter of the planet uses the web,” he cautioned, “then within this quarter of people who may tweet and use social networks and so on, there’s a fairly small set of people who code. But when you look at those people, they have the ability to make a computer do whatever they can imagine.
“I think a lot of folks growing up today, when they open a computer, it’s like opening a refrigerator. It’s an appliance, it’s white goods, there’s some stuff in it, if it needs more in it you stock it, you put more music in it, you play it. And If it breaks it’s: ‘Mom, can I have a new one’.”
“It’s not actually ‘what went wrong there? Let me go in there, lets look at the log files, what crashed, why didn’t it have the right permissions, lets see if we can re-write that script so that it works in the new version of the operating system.’”
I mentioned a while back that the Vint Cerf had expressed support for CS becoming part of the English Baccalaureate degree. It’s been announced that CS does now count, but as a science. Pretty much the same decision we made here in Georgia.
The decision by Education Secretary Michael Gove will mean that computing will count as a science in the English Baccalaureate for secondary school league tables from January 2014 – alongside physics, chemistry, biology and pupils taking double science.
The Department for Education says the change is intended to reflect the “importance of computer science to both education and the economy”.
I got this from Bill Jordan of the Florida Virtual High School and was intrigued. It’s a programming contest to make models — and not about speed of programming, not quality of games. As I’ve mentioned before, we’ve had some good luck with competitions in terms of teacher professional development. Getting teachers to learn about modeling is even more exciting!
STEM Modeling Challenge (Register by Jan. 31)
Are you interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, or Math? How often have you asked yourself, “When will I ever use this?” Find the answers by participating in the STEM Modeling Challenge©. FREE registration is now open but the deadline is January 31, 2013. Don’t miss this opportunity to use your problem-solving skills to win cash prizes! For details and contest rules, visit http://smc2013.weebly.com/.
I’m participating in this — come join the CSEdWeek “tweet-up” on Tuesday at 6 pm EST.
On Tuesday, December 11, 2012 at 6PM ET CSEdWeek is hosting a 45-minute national conversation on the critical issue of K-12 Computer Science education via Twitter.A national panel of thought leaders in the field will be tweeting with the hashtag #CSEdWeek, driving conversation around important issues and answering questions. We’d like to invite you and your organization to participate in this Twitter discussion, using your official organizational and personal Twitter handles, highlighting your specific knowledge on the nuances within this space and responding to any questions that might arise within your area of expertise.Participants will include technical professionals, industry thought leaders, faculty, K12 educators, students and more! Computer science fuels the future—help us fuel the conversation.
Many Americans I’ve met don’t realize that the United States doesn’t have a national curriculum, and that the Federal government is prohibited (in the bill establishing the Department of Education) from ever creating one. States control curricula. The new “Common Core” standards are interesting because they’re being established by the state Governors — the states can work together to develop a common set of standards and curricula, but the Federal government cannot create such a set. Computing in the Core is an effort to get the Governors to consider computer science in those core standards.
There’s a parallel kind of effort going on in the UK. Their new secondary school standards are called the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), and the English Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has indicated a willingness to include computer science in the new EBacc. As covered by the BBC:
Mr Gove indicated that computer science could be added to the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) list of key academic subjects that teenagers are encouraged to study at GCSE. He said: “Computer science is not just a rigorous, fascinating and intellectually challenging subject. It is also vital to our success in the global race.”
A working group from the British Computer Society (BCS) has now completed a report making the argument for CS in the EBacc. It’s an exciting effort, supported by a coalition of corporate and higher education interests. I don’t know how to estimate which effort (Computing in the Core vs. CS in the EBacc) is more likely to succeed or how quickly. My sense is that CS in the EBacc has the advantage in that it only has to convince a single Department for Education, as opposed to the Computing in the Core effort which has to convince a coalition of state governments.
UK CS degrees rising while secondary school CS testing drops: Result is too little computing literacy
Fascinating blog post and analysis from Neil Brown. The UK secondary school top test in CS (consider it like the US Advanced Placement Exam) is the A-level. Fewer people are taking the CS A-levels in the UK, but more people are applying for degrees in CS and more people are entering the CS degree program. That means that fewer people are seeing CS in high school, while there’s still rising interest in the degree. What’s the cost of fewer people studying CS at the secondary school level? Less breadth, fewer people who know CS but don’t go into CS, fewer people who are computing literate for their careers and daily lives. That’s not a good thing.
A-Level Computing looks like it’s on the verge of dying out. This is not good news for the discipline as a whole — even though our degree numbers seem to be doing fine in spite of the A-Level decline, ultimately it would be good to see computing strong at all stages of the educational system. As it stands we face a sort of polarisation: those with computing degrees know computing, but almost no-one without a computing degree will have done any computing. (Compare to maths, where lots of students have maths A-Level, despite not doing a maths degree.)
While the schedule for the International Computing Education Research (ICER) 2012 conference is now up, the papers aren’t linked to it. I’m guessing that it’s because of the snafu that ACM had with their publishing contractor. I was waiting for the papers to be linkable before I started talking about our other two papers. Instead, I’ll just link to versions of our submitted papers (but not the final ones).
I’ve already talked about Lauren’s paper on using subgoal analysis to improve instruction about App Inventor, which I’ve made available here. Here I’ll tell you a bit about Briana Morrison’s paper on adapting the Disciplinary Commons model for high school CS teachers.
The Disciplinary Commons is a model for professional development that Sally Fincher and Josh Tenenberg developed. We received NSF CPATH funding during the last three years to create the Disciplinary Commons for Computing Education (DCCE), which included both high school and university faculty. The university part wasn’t all that successful, and wasn’t the most interesting part of the work. The really interesting part was how Briana, Ria Galanos, and Lijun Ni adapted the DC model to make it work for high school teachers.
There are really two big needs that high school CS teachers have that are different than university CS teachers:
- Recruiting strategies: There are no majors in high school (in general) in the United States. High school CS teachers have no guaranteed flow of students into their classes. High school computer science is an elective in the US. If you want to teach CS, you recruit students into your class, or else you’ll end up teaching something else (or you lose your job).
- A Community: While I’m sure they exist, I’ve not yet met a higher education CS faculty member who is his or her own department. Most high school CS teachers are the only CS teachers in their school. They rarely know any other high school CS teachers. Providing them with a community makes a big difference in terms of their happiness, teaching quality, and retention.
Briana does a great job in her paper of explaining what happened in the DCCE over the three years that we ran it, and providing the evidence that good things happened. The evidence that the recruiting strategies worked is astounding:
According to these self reported numbers, the high school teacher participants increased the number of AP CS students in the year following their participation in the DCCE by 302%. One teacher in Year 3 had a 700% increase in students in her AP CS class and attributed it to the recruiting help received from the DCCE.
The evidence that the community-building helped is actually even stronger. We had The Findings Group as our external evaluators on DCCE, and they used social network analysis (SNA). The diagram is compelling, and the stats on the network show that the teachers dramatically increased their awareness and use of the network of high school CS teachers.
Briana is continuing to work with DCCE, to help other high school disciplinary commons start up around the country. NSF CPATH is allowing us to spend out the remaining money to fund her travel to help out other groups. Briana is now a PhD student working with me, and she’s figuring out what her dissertation is going to look like, and if it’ll build on the success of DCCE.
(NSF CPATH funded DCCE. All the claims and opinions here are mine, not necessarily those of any of the funders.)
I mentioned that a UK survey of CS graduates found that fewer of them went into teaching than did other kinds of graduates. The below blog piece tries to explain why that’s a case, and generally suggests that it’s not because of money. In other countries, CS graduates do teach, e.g., Israeli CS teachers get a CS degree, first. The problem is likely cultural to the region, not inherent to the discipline. It is a real concern that computer scientists are not getting involved much in creating more high school teachers — computer scientists are not going to be happy with the result if we don’t participate and influence the preparation of the teachers and the definition of the curriculum.
I found that the Computer Science graduates from my course fitted into one of two categories. They either chose CS because they thought it could make them a lot of money, or because they were a bit of a geek and they were into that kind of thing. The first group are lost already – you don’t earn anywhere near as much in teaching as you potentially could do in industry. The other group by their very nature are usually not particularly comfortable with social situations, and may find it their idea of hell to stand up in front of lots of people, let alone do it every day as a job. I’m not saying everyone shuffled around staring at the floor wearing 2 week old clothes and grunting for social interaction, but putting oneself on show in such a manner as teaching demands is not usually within a geek’s comfort zone – unless of course the room is filled with other geeks, which at school it definitely isn’t.