Posts tagged ‘NSF’

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

NSF funding for junior faculty in first two years

Computing education (CE21) researchers are explicitly encouraged in this solicitation.  It’s a nice idea to try to deal with the low success rates of NSF proposals these days.

With the goal of encouraging research independence immediately upon obtaining one’s first academic position after receipt of the PhD, the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) will award grants to initiate the course of one’s independent research. Understanding the critical role of establishing that independence early in one’s career, it is expected that funds will be used to support untenured faculty or research scientists (or equivalent) in their first two years in an academic position after the PhD. One may not yet have received any other grants in the Principal Investigator (PI) role from any institution or agency, including from the CAREER program or any other award post-PhD. Serving as co-PI, Senior Personnel, Post-doctoral Fellow, or other Fellow does not count against this eligibility rule. It is expected that these funds will allow the new CISE Research Initiation Initiative PI to support one or more graduate students for up to two years.

via Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Research Initiation Initiative (CRII) (nsf14562).

May 17, 2014 at 9:04 am 6 comments

The personal cost of applying for research grants

For academics, this study falls in the category of “Duh! Who didn’t know that?!?”  But it might not be obvious to non-academics.  NSF hit-rates are below 10% in most fields.  Proposals take tons of time to put together (way more than a conference paper, on par with a journal paper), and you have to keep producing them until you get hits in a research-intensive university.  When hit rates were around 30%, you’d do four proposals and could expect one to hit.  Nowadays, you’re doing over 10, and then you’re still not sure you’ll get funded.  It’s a huge cost.

The pressure to win high-status funding means that researchers go to extraordinary lengths to prepare their proposals, often sacrificing family time and personal relationships. During our research into the stressful process of applying for research grants, one researcher, typical of many, said, “My family hates my profession. Not just my partner and children, but my parents and siblings. The insecurity despite the crushing hours is a soul-destroying combination that is not sustainable.”

via The personal cost of applying for research grants | Higher Education Network | Guardian Professional.

May 11, 2014 at 9:32 am 17 comments

NSF CAREER awards include a CS Ed Research track

For the first time ever, CS Education research is a field eligible for NSF CAREER. Applicants will be able to select STEM-CP: CE21 as the program for the July deadline. Please help getting the word out to potential applicants. We’d like to see some good proposals in this first year inviting CE21 CAREER proposals.

Colleagues,

The National Science Foundation’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate (CISE) invites proposals this year to the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program for faculty engaging in Computing Education research. That is, if you apply for the CAREER program, you’ll be able to select “STEM-CP: CE21″ as your Unit of Consideration. The intent of the CAREER program (http://www.nsf.gov/career) is to provide stable support at a sufficient level and duration to enable awardees to develop careers as outstanding researchers and educators who effectively integrate teaching, learning and discovery.

CISE is organizing a one-day proposal writing workshop (registration and details at: http://cs.gmu.edu/events/nsfcisecareer2014/) for CAREER-eligible faculty on March 31, 2014 in Arlington, VA. The registration deadline is February 28th. Unlike past years, this will be the only CISE CAREER workshop during this calendar year. Please circulate this information among interested faculty. The next deadline for CISE CAREER proposals is July 21, 2014.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Best,

Jeff

Jeffrey R.N. Forbes
Program Director
CISE/CNS Education and Workforce Cluster
National Science Foundation
jforbes@nsf.gov, +1 (919) 292-4291

February 20, 2014 at 3:41 pm Leave a comment

Papers and Presentations from Future Computing Education Research Agenda Summit

In early January, right after the NSF CE21 PI’s meeting, there was a summit on setting a Future Computing Education Research agenda.  The materials from that event are now being made available.

The conference web page has been updated so all presentations given during the meeting are linked to the agenda. http://stanford.edu/~kmenchac/FDS2014/schedule.html#agenda

The Stanford Digital Library is housing the white papers from our conference. We do not plan to have them published, although some or all may be referred to in the final report (which will be shared with you). http://purl.stanford.edu/mn485tg1952

 

February 6, 2014 at 1:44 am Leave a comment

Thoughts from Toronto on teaching code to librarians

The blog post linked below felt close to home, though I measure it differently than lines of code.  The base point is that we tend to start introductory programming courses assuming way more knowledge than is already there.  My experience this semester is that we tend to expect students to gain more knowledge more quickly than they do (and maybe, than they can).

I’m teaching Python Media Computation this semester, on campus (for the first time in 7 years).  As readers know, I’ve become fascinated with worked examples as a way of learning programming, so I’m using a lot of those in this class.  In Ray Lister terms, I’m teaching program reading more than program writing.  In Bloom’s taxonomy terms, I’m teaching comprehension before synthesis.

As is common in our large courses at Georgia Tech (I’m teaching in a lecture of 155 students, and there’s another parallel section of just over 100), the course is run by a group of undergraduate TA’s.  Our head TA took the course, and has been TA-ing it for six semesters.  The TA’s create all homeworks and quizzes.  I get to critique (which I do), and they do respond reasonably.  I realize that all the TA’s expect that the first thing to measure in programming is writing code.  All the homeworks are programming from a blank sheet of paper.  Even the first quiz is “Write a function to…”.  The TA’s aren’t trying to be difficult.  They’re doing as they were taught.

One of the big focal research areas in the new NSF STEM-C solicitation is “learning progressions.”  Where can we reasonably expect students to start in learning computer science?  How fast can we reasonably expect them to learn?  What is a reasonable order of topics and events?  We clearly need to learn a lot more about these to construct effective CS education.

I’m not going to articulate the next few orders of magnitude, both because they are not relevant to beginner or intermediate programmers, and because I’m climbing the 1K → 10K transition myself, so I’m not able to articulate it well. But they have to do with elegance, abstraction, performance, scalability, collaboration, best practices, code as craft.

The 3am realization is that many, many “introduction” to programming materials start at the 1 → 10 transition. But learners start at the 0 → 1 transition — and a 10-line program has the approachability of Everest at that point.

via thoughts from Toronto on teaching code to librarians.

January 29, 2014 at 1:49 am 26 comments

NSF STEM-C Partnerships Program Solicitation Released: New form of CE21

Just posted by Jeff Forbes to the SIGCSE-Members list.

NSF has released a new solicitation relevant to CS education.

STEM-C Partnerships: Computing Education for the 21st Century (14-523)
http://nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=503582

The STEM-C Partnerships combines and advances the efforts of both the former Math and Science Partnership (MSP) and Computing Education for the 21st Century (CE21) programs. STEM-CP: CE21 modifies the earlier CE21 program by:

- Merging the previous Broadening Participation (BP) and Computing Education Research (CER) tracks into a single Broadening Participation and Education in Computing (BPEC) track focused on building an evidence base for student learning of computing fundamentals applicable to the elementary, middle, or high school levels;
– Requiring a Broadening Participation component for all proposals on the CS 10K track; and
– Adding a third track, STEM-C Partnerships Computer Science Education Expansion, that aims to expand the work of previously funded NSF MSP Partnerships to increase the number of qualified computer science teachers and the number of high schools with rigorous computer science courses.

Please review the solicitation for the requirements and goals of the three tracks.

The next deadline for proposals is March 18, 2014.

December 19, 2013 at 10:08 pm 5 comments

NOW is the time to apply for NSF Computing Education funding

Last month, I wrote about the new NSF program Improving Undergraduate Stem Education (see NSF page on IUSE here). I talked to Jane Prey about this program a couple weeks ago, and she was concerned. She said that lots of people are expressing doubt about applying for a program that only has a single page description–not the standard multi-page solicitation.

That’s exactly why this is the time to apply! IUSE doesn’t have a solicitation this year, but most likely will in future years. That means that anything goes this year! If you have any idea that you want to get funded, THIS is the year to apply.

The program description is wonderfully broad:

  • Want to work on broadening participation in computing? It’s there: “broadening participation of individuals and institutions in STEM fields.”
  • Want to work on after school programs, service learning, new ways of structuring your department, formal education research, new ways of measuring learning? It’s all there: “experiential learning, assessment/metrics of learning and practice, scholarships, foundational education research, professional development/institutional change, formal and informal learning environments.”
  • Want to work on teacher professional development, or even adult learners? It’s there: “educating a STEM-literate populace, improving K-12 STEM education, encouraging life-long learning, and building capacity in higher education.”

In short, the lack of a formal solicitation means that there are few barriers. You should go for it.

From here on, this is my advice based on talking with NSF program managers and having written (rejected mostly, but a bunch accepted) proposals. This is not coming from NSF:

  • You need to demonstrate that your proposal has intellectual merit and broader impacts. That’s part of any NSF proposal.
  • No, there’s nothing there that says you must have evaluation, but if you read phrases like “empirically validated teaching practices,” you have to believe that funded proposals will have good evaluation. You can probably be competitive without an external evaluator if you come up with a good evaluation plan in the proposal body itself. If you don’t know how to do this, bring in an external evaluator.
  • The really tough part of applying to a program without a solicitation is deciding how much to budget. Here’s me just gazing into a crystal ball: Smaller but realistic budgets have the greatest chance of getting funded. If you can do your project in $100-200K/year for two to three years, you increase your odds of getting funded. I think there’s a psychological barrier for review committees at a $1M proposal, so stay below that or make your really proposal great.

The big message is: Apply on February 4, 2014. Take this rare opportunity to get your wildest and most exciting ideas on the table at NSF.

December 6, 2013 at 1:24 am Leave a comment

NSF Funding (NEW!): Improving Undergraduate STEM Education

DUE funding is back!  I wrote about TUES being closed down.  This is the next iteration of a program in the NSF Division of Undergraduate Education to support STEM learning.

A well-prepared, innovative science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce is crucial to the Nation’s health and economy. Indeed, recent policy actions and reports have drawn attention to the opportunities and challenges inherent in increasing the number of highly qualified STEM graduates, including STEM teachers. Priorities include educating students to be leaders and innovators in emerging and rapidly changing STEM fields as well as educating a scientifically literate populace; both of these priorities depend on the nature and quality of the undergraduate education experience. In addressing these STEM challenges and priorities, the National Science Foundation invests in research-based and research-generating approaches to understanding STEM learning; to designing, testing, and studying curricular change; to wide dissemination and implementation of best practices; and to broadening participation of individuals and institutions in STEM fields. The goals of these investments include: increasing student retention in STEM, to prepare students well to participate in science for tomorrow, and to improve students’ STEM learning outcomes.

via nsf.gov – EHR – Funding – Improving Undergraduate STEM Education – US National Science Foundation (NSF).

November 9, 2013 at 1:21 am 1 comment

Congressional Panels Dump on STEM Reshuffling Plan

Will TUES exist again?  Will STEM-C get created?  Looks like it’s all up in the air now.

A bill approved yesterday by the House of Representatives science committee to reauthorize NASA programs, for example, rejects the two key elements of what the administration has proposed—stripping the agency of most of its STEM education agencies and putting the rest under one roof. “The administration may not implement any proposed STEM education and outreach-related changes proposed [for NASA] in the president’s 2014 budget request,” the bill flatly declares. “Funds devoted to education and public outreach should be maintained in the [science, aeronautics, exploration, and mission] directorates, and the consolidation of those activities within the Education Directorate is prohibited.”

Likewise, the House version of the CJS spending bill would restore money for STEM education activities at NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and put the kibosh on a realignment of undergraduate STEM education programs at NSF. “The committee supports the concept of improving efficiency and effectiveness, through streamlining and better coordination, but does not believe that this particular restructuring proposal achieves that goal,” the legislators explain in a report this week accompanying the spending bill. The report also notes that “the ideas presented in the budget request lack any substantive implementation plan and have little support within the STEM education community.”

via Congressional Panels Dump on STEM Reshuffling Plan – ScienceInsider.

More from the Senate report on the STEM Consolidation:

“While the Committee maintains its support of greater efficiencies and consolidation – as evident by adopting some of the STEM consolidation recommendations made by the administration’s budget request – the Committee has concerns that the proposal as a whole has not been thoroughly vetted with the education community or congressional authorizing committees, and lacks thorough guidance and input from Federal agencies affected by this proposal, from both those that stand to lose education and outreach programs and from those that stand to gain them. The administration has yet to provide a viable plan ensuring that the new lead STEM institutions – the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education, and the Smithsonian Institution – can support the unique fellowship, training, and outreach programs now managed by other agencies. Conversely, what is proposed as a consolidation of existing STEM programs from NOAA, NASA, and NIST into the new lead STEM agencies is really the elimination of many proven and successful programs with no evaluation on why they were deemed duplicative or ineffective.

via FY 2014 Senate Appropriations: STEM Consolidation and Public Access.

The STEM-C program was recommended by one committee, but not CAUSE (the program created instead of TUES). Said the House report, “Consistent with the Committee’s position on the proposed STEM education restructuring, the recommendation does not support the establishment of the new CAUSE program or the transition of the GRF program into the interagency National GRF.”

July 26, 2013 at 1:57 am Leave a comment

CS:Principles is officially going to be AP

Congratulations to Owen Astrachan and Amy Briggs for achieving the goal of CS:Principles being declared “AP.”  This is going to be important for attracting teachers to take CS:Principles professional development.

To help ensure that more high school students are prepared to pursue postsecondary education in computer science, the National Science Foundation (NSF) is making a four-year, $5.2 million grant to the College Board’s Advanced Placement Program® (AP®) to fund the creation of AP Computer Science Principles (AP CSP).

via The National Science Foundation Provides $5.2 Million Grant to Create New Advanced Placement® Computer Science Course and Exam.

June 18, 2013 at 1:19 am 1 comment

Last Minute Openings in CS:Principles Teacher Workshop! Time Sensitive!

Barbara Ericson just found out that several teachers have dropped out from a professional development workshop that we’re offering next week.  This means that we have some (limited) funding for travel available, and hotel rooms already booked, so we’re trying to get the word out broadly to fill those (very last minute) slots. Below is the message that she sent to teachers in Georgia. We’ll take teachers from other states as well.

The workshop is on CS Principles Big Ideas  from June 17-21st at Georgia Tech. Rebecca Dovi is leading this workshop. She is one of the CS:Principles pilot teachers. She has created many interesting activities for teaching CS Principles and will be sharing those activities. See http://supercomputerscience.blogspot.com for her blog.

We still have hotel rooms available for attendees. We pay for parking and lunch for all attendees. We have limited funds to reimburse for travel as well. You can register at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CSP2013-BigIdeas

For more information on the workshop, see http://coweb.cc.gatech.edu/ice-gt/2175

June 10, 2013 at 10:03 pm Leave a comment

Congress Exploring New Criteria for Choosing NSF Grants

Having Congress trying to invent new criteria for judging NSF grants is concerning, but most especially because US Congressional representatives rarely have science or engineering backgrounds.  Isn’t having Congress rethinking NSF reviewing criteria like having dancers reviewing farmer’s seeding practices, or having scientists working on water polo rules?

This idea was particularly well said in this letter from Eddie Bernice Johnson (thanks to Brian Dorn for pointing it out to me): “Interventions in grant awards by political figures with agenda, biases, and no expertise is the antithesis of the peer review process.”

In effect, the proposed bill would force NSF to adopt three criteria in judging every grant. Specifically, the draft would require the NSF director to post on NSF’s Web site, prior to any award, a declaration that certifies the research is:

1) “… in the interests of the United States to advance the national health, prosperity, or welfare, and to secure the national defense by promoting the progress of science;

2) “… the finest quality, is groundbreaking, and answers questions or solves problems that are of utmost importance to society at large; and

3) “… not duplicative of other research projects being funded by the Foundation or other Federal science agencies.”

via U.S. Lawmaker Proposes New Criteria for Choosing NSF Grants – ScienceInsider.

June 5, 2013 at 1:00 am 8 comments

Announcing the Institute for African-American Mentoring in Computing Sciences

Congratulations to Juan Gilbert and his colleagues (see list) who have just launched a new NSF Broadening Participation in Computing Alliance, Institute for African-American Mentoring in Computing Sciences.  This new alliance extends the work of multiple NSF BPC Alliances (A4RC, ARTSI, EL Alliance) and Demonstration Projects (AARCS) that utilized different strategies toward broadening the participation of African-Americans in computing sciences.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Clemson University a $5 million grant to launch the Institute for African-American Mentoring in Computing Sciences.

The institute will serve as a national resource and emphasize mentoring as the primary strategy for increasing African-American participation in computing under the direction of Juan Gilbert, Presidential Endowed Professor and chairman of the Human-Centered Computing Division at Clemson, and Shaundra Daily, assistant professor in the School of Computing.

“African-Americans represent about 1 percent of the computer science faculty and researchers in the U.S.,” Gilbert said. “We formed this institute to increase the number of underrepresented groups earning computing science doctoral degrees and researchers in the academy, government and private sector.”

via Clemson receives $5M for alliance to increase African-Americans in computer sciences | Clemson University, South Carolina.

May 24, 2013 at 1:52 am 2 comments

Visit from Farnam Jahanian, AD for CISE at NSF

Farnam Jahanian visited Georgia Tech last month.  Farnam is the Assistant Director at the US National Science Foundation, in charge of all computing related funding (CISE Division).  He spoke to issues about computing education funding, and I got to ask some of my questions, too.

He said that the Office of Management and Budget has really been driving the effort to consolidate STEM education funding programs.  OMB was unhappy that Biology, Engineering, and CISE all had their own STEM education programs.  However, CISE got to keep their education research program (as the new STEM-C program) because it was already a collaboration with the education division in NSF (EHR).  All the rest (including TUES) is being collapsed into the new EHR programs.

In his talk, he made an explicit argument which I’ve heard Jan Cuny make, but hadn’t heard an NSF AD make previously:

  1. We have a dramatic underproduction of computing degrees, around 40K per year.
  2. We have a dramatic under-representation of certain demographic groups (e.g., women, African-Americans, Hispanics), and we can’t solve #1 without solving that under-representation.  He says that the basic arithmetic won’t work.  We can’t get enough graduates unless we broaden participation in computing.
  3. We have a lack of presence in primary and secondary school in the United States (K-12).  He claims that we can’t solve #2 without fixing #3.  We have to have a presence so that women and under-represented minority groups will discover computing and pursue degrees (and careers) in it.

May 22, 2013 at 1:05 am 3 comments

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