Posts tagged ‘NSF’

Computing ed researcher fired from NSF over questions about her role as 1980s activist

I’ve known Valerie Barr for years and believe that she was honest with the agents. I don’t believe that she lied about her involvement with a domestic terrorist organization that had “ties” (whatever that means) to two political activist organizations she belonged to.

I’m most shocked about the process. Valerie was dismissed on the basis of a report by a possibly biased agent — there are no transcripts or notes from the interview.  The OPM is prosecutor, judge, and jury — there is no defense. Doesn’t sound like due process to me.  It’s a loss to our community that a well-regarded researcher is forced out of NSF.

It’s a greater loss in that it will make it less likely that another “typical liberal college professor” (a quote from the below article) might offer to serve.

After again being asked if she had been a member of any organization that espoused violence, Barr was grilled for 4.5 hours about her knowledge of all three organizations and several individuals with ties to them, including the persons who tried to rob the Brink’s truck. Four people were found guilty of murder in that attack and sentenced to lengthy prison terms, including Kathy Boudin, who was released in 2003 and is now an adjunct assistant professor of social work at Columbia University. “I found out about the Brink’s robbery by hearing it on the news, and just like everybody else I was shocked,” she recalls.

But OPM apparently thought otherwise, again citing her “deliberate misrepresentation” in its report. Relying heavily on that investigation, NSF handed Barr a letter on 25 July saying that it planned to terminate her IPA at the end of the first year because the OPM review had found her to be unfit for the job…Barr was given a chance to appeal NSF’s decision, and on 11 August she submitted a letter stating that OPM’s summary report of its investigation “contains many errors or mischaracterizations of my statements.” As is standard practice, agencies receive only a summary of the OPM investigation, not a full report, and lawyers familiar with the process say that an agent’s interview notes are typically destroyed after the report is written.

via Researcher loses job at NSF after government questions her role as 1980s activist | Science/AAAS | News.

September 11, 2014 at 8:38 am 2 comments

New Video on Exploring CS at UCLA

Nice job — I like the interviews with the students the best (though Jane rocks, of course).

In case the embedded video doesn’t work, click here: http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/science_nation/intotheloop.jsp

Education research team successfully launches innovative computer science curriculum

“Exploring Computer Science” boosts female student participation in L.A. school district to double the national average

Jane Margolis is an educator and researcher at UCLA, who has dedicated her career to democratizing computer science education and addressing under-representation in the field. Her work inspires students from diverse backgrounds to study computer science and to use their knowledge to help society. With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Margolis and her team investigated why so few girls and under-represented minorities are learning computer science. They developed “Exploring Computer Science,” or ECS, to reverse the trend.

September 10, 2014 at 8:37 am Leave a comment

CS Leadership Session on CS Education in K-12 at the National Scale

The Snowbird conference is the every-other-year meeting of deans and department chairs in computing, to talk about how to support computing research and education.  There was a panel this last summer on the state of CS education in K-12.

This panel discusses the role that U.S. research departments must play in sustaining CS in K-12. The panelists will address issues of educational reform, while highlighting the role that academia has played in other disciplines; illustrate the breadth of existing efforts from the perspective of a university-led project; and consider how departments could contribute to building the needed research base for CS education.Chair: Jan Cuny NSF. Speaker: Jeanne Century CEMSE, University of Chicago, Dan Garcia University of California at Berkeley, Susanne Hambrusch Purdue University

via Snowbird Conference 2014 – Computing Research Association.

The slides are available here. I particularly liked Susanne Hambrusch’s slides on the role of computing education research in the University.  The slide below (copied from her deck) addresses a particularly critical point — computing education research has to be seen as a real research area, not just what some education-focused faculty do.

cer-slide-susanne

This tension between computing education research being research versus supporting the education mission of the University comes up often for me.  I was recently asked, “How does your work with high school teachers improve the education of CS undergraduates at our school?”  I replied, “It probably doesn’t.  This is my research.  I’ll bet that researchers in your medical school study cancers that your undergraduates don’t have.” Susanne is pointing out that we have to get past this confusion.  Yes, Universities teach.  But Universities also study and explore questions of interest.  If those questions of interest involve education, it should not be immediately confounded with the teaching that Universities do.

 

September 8, 2014 at 8:19 am Leave a comment

NSF I-Corps Offers Funds to Scale and Sustain Learning Inventions

Quite cool that this is available for education projects, too:

NSF’s Innovation Corps Teams Program (I-Corps Teams: NSF 12-602) has created a new opportunity, called I-Corps for Learning Teams (I-Corps L). I-Corps L supports taking discoveries and promising practices from education research and development and promoting opportunities for widespread adoption, adaptation, and utilization.

I-Corps L teams will receive support – in the form of mentoring and funding – to accelerate innovation in learning that can be successfully scaled, in a sustainable manner. There are a number of analogous elements between trying to bring product discoveries to market and getting learning innovations into broad practice. Getting the best evidence-based practices out to potential adopters, where those practices can benefit large numbers of students or learners, rather than just in a few classrooms or informal learning organizations, requires an entrepreneurial approach. I-Corps L can benefit education researchers by helping them to identify approaches that are effective in STEM teaching and learning.

To be eligible to pursue funding through I-Corps L, applicants must have been associated with a prior award from NSF (in a STEM education field relevant to the proposed innovation) that is currently active or that has been active within five years from the date of the proposal submission. The lineage of the prior award extends to the PI, Co-PIs, Senior Personnel, Post-doctoral Researchers, Professional Staff or others who were supported under the award.

To be considered for NSF’s I-Corps L Teams program, Executive Summaries (see below) must be submitted by September 30, 2014 to be considered for participation in the January 2015 cohort. Funding for each I-Corps L Team is $50,000 per award, for up to six months.

August 31, 2014 at 11:13 am Leave a comment

New NSF Solicitation to Revolutionize Whole Departments

The below note was posted by Jeff Forbes to the SIGCSE Members list.  What an interesting idea — funding to change a whole department!

NSF has posted a new solicitation for proposals, IUSE/Professional Formation of Engineers: Revolutionizing Engineering Departments (RED).

RED focuses on efforts to effect significant, systemic departmental change that impacts undergraduate student success in their formation as computer scientists or engineers. This program is particularly interested in efforts that address the middle two years of the four year undergraduate experience, during which students receive the bulk of their formal technical preparation. RED proposals need to engage the entire department, and the effort must be led by the chair/head of the department.

See http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=505105 for more information.

Note: “Engineering departments” in the solicitation refers to both engineering and computer science departments, regardless of whether those departments are in a school of Engineering.

Letters of Intent are due October 28, 2014.

August 19, 2014 at 8:18 am Leave a comment

New NSF Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) Solicitation

Last year’s IUSE solicitation was wonderfully vague and welcomed all new ideas.  The program now has a full solicitation, which is a bit more limiting, but is still an importance source for computing education funding.

The Improving Undergraduate STEM Education IUSE program invites proposals that address immediate challenges and opportunities that are facing undergraduate STEM education, as well as those that anticipate new structures e.g. organizational changes, new methods for certification or credentialing, course re-conception, cyberlearning, etc. and new functions of the undergraduate learning and teaching enterprise. The IUSE program recognizes and respects the variety of discipline-specific challenges and opportunities facing STEM faculty as they strive to incorporate results from educational research into classroom practice and work with education research colleagues and social science learning scholars to advance our understanding of effective teaching and learning.Toward these ends the program features two tracks: 1 Engaged Student Learning and 2 Institutional and Community Transformation. Two tiers of projects exist within each track: i Exploration and ii Design and Development. These tracks will entertain research studies in all areas. In addition, IUSE also offers support for a variety of focused innovative projects that seek to identify future opportunities and challenges facing the undergraduate STEM education enterprise.

via Improving Undergraduate STEM Education IUSE: EHR nsf14588.

August 9, 2014 at 8:34 am Leave a comment

Hands up who likes PHP? The role of popular programming languages in Computing Education

I was at the NSF CS10K Evaluators meeting earlier this summer, and we got to talk about important research questions. Someone suggested the issue of learning progressions. How do students move from Scratch or Alice or Blockly to Java or C++? One of the evaluators, whose background is entirely in education and evaluation, asked, “Professional programmers don’t use Scratch and Alice?” We explained what professional programmers really do. “Then why are we teaching Scratch and Alice, especially if we don’t know how the transfer works?!?”

The tension between what languages are “useful” (read: “we use them today in industry”) and what languages are helpful for learning has always existed in CS Ed. I’ve recommended the blog below to several people this summer, including reading  the comments from the developers who push back — “Yeah, stop with Alice and teach real languages!”  I agree with the post’s author, but I see that, even in the CS10K project, the notion that we should teach what’s vocationally useful is strong.

At the NSF CS10K Evaluators meeting, I got to wondering about a different question. Most of our evaluators come from science and math education projects, where you teach the way the world is.  If you have trouble teaching students that F=ma, you better just find a new way to teach it. I told the evaluators that I hope their results inform the design of future programming languages. Computer science is a science of the artificial, I explained. If you find that mutable variables are hard to understand, we can provide programming languages without them. If the syntax of curly braces on blocks is too subtle for novices to parse (as I predict from past research findings), we can fix that, too. I got confused looks. The idea that the content and the medium could be changed is not something familiar to this audience. We have to figure out how to close that loop from the evaluators to the designers, because it’s too important an opportunity to base our language design for novices on empirical results.

It is a school’s job to churn out students who will be able to walk into a job in industry on day one and work in whatever language/paradigm is flavour du jour.
WRONG! We’re here to teach children the core concepts of Computer Science. Working on that basis to produce someone with employable skills is your job. Do you expect Chemistry students to walk out of school ready to begin work in a lab? Should we stop using Scratch as a teaching language because nobody programs with it in industry? Of course not, so please stop recommending that we should be teaching using Scala/JSON/whatever is currently flavour of the month.

via Hands up who likes PHP? | Code? Boom..

June 8, 2014 at 7:30 am 20 comments

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