Posts tagged ‘public policy’
We’ve heard about this problem before: Online courses don’t reach the low-income students who most need them, because they don’t have access to the technology on-ramp. This was an issue in the San Jose State experiment.
That’s because the technology required for online courses isn’t always easily accessible or affordable for these students. Although the course may be cheaper than classroom-based courses, the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education argues in a report released Wednesday low-income students might still have a harder time accessing it.
“We have to wrap our heads around the fact that we can’t make assumptions that this will be so simple because everyone will just fire up their computers and do the work,” says Lillian Taiz, a professor at California State University, Los Angeles, and president of the California Faculty Association.
Many students, Taiz says, don’t have computers at home, high-speed Internet access, smart phones, or other technologies necessary to access course content.
The US News article suggests Google Chromebooks as an answer — cheap and effective. The Indian government is trying an even cheaper tablet solution. Could you use one of these to access MOOCs?
The Indian government realized a few years ago that the technology industry had no motivation to cater to the needs of the poor. With low cost devices, the volume of shipments would surely increase, but margins would erode to the point that it wasn’t worthwhile for the big players. So, India decided to design its own low-cost computer. In July 2010, the government unveiled the prototype of a $35 handheld touch-screen tablet and offered to buy 100,000 units from any vendor that would manufacture them at this price. It promised to have these to market within a year and then purchase millions more for students.
Computing is included as one of the priorities in England’s offer of special funding to attract more teachers. Scholarships up to 25K pounds are pretty impressive. Texas is offering loan forgiveness. I don’t know if there’s anyone else in the US trying this approach.
Schools Minister David Laws said more scholarships and bursaries would be available to help recruit the most talented graduates with the potential to be brilliant teachers in key subjects. This would help raise standards in schools and ensure all children were given a good education.
Scholarships, awarded by respected subject organisations, will be available to the most talented maths, physics, chemistry and computing trainees. Bursaries will be available to top graduates in maths, physics, chemistry, computing, and languages, in primary and in priority subjects at secondary school (English, history, biology, geography, music, and design and technology).
I’m honored and pleased to be in this set! Worth checking out, every one.
Further to my most-read blog post from May 2012: A set of top Computer Science blogs, 80,000 hits and counting, here’s a follow-up: blogs on computer science education.As before, instead of a list, it more closely resembles a set: the order is irrelevant and there are no duplicate elements; membership of this set of blogs satisfies all of the following conditions:they focus on computer science education research, policy and practice;they are of consistently high quality;I regularly read them.
Lisa Kaczmarczyk wrote a blog post about a bunch of the private, for-profit groups teaching CS who visited the ACM Education Council meeting on Nov. 2. I quoted below the section where the Ed Council asked tough questions about evaluation. I wonder if the private efforts to educate mean the same things about evaluation as the academic and research folks mean by “evaluation.” There are different goals and different value systems between each. Learning for all in public education is very different from a privatized MOOC where it’s perfectly okay for 1-10% to complete.
Of course there was controversy; members of the Ed Council asked all of the panelists some tough questions. One recurrent theme had to do with how they know what they are doing works. Evaluation how? what kind? what makes sense? what is practical? is an ongoing challenge in any pedagogical setting and when you are talking about a startup as 3 out of the 4 companies on the panel were in the fast paced world of high tech – its tricky. Some panelists addressed this question better than others. Needless to say I spent quite a bit of time on this – it was one of the longer topics of discussion over dinner at my table.
Neil Fraser from Googles Blockly project said some things that were unquestionably controversial. The one that really got me was when he said several times, and with followup detail that one of the things they had learned was to ignore user feedback. I can’t remember his exact words after that but the idea seemed to be that users didnt know what was best for them. Coming on the heels of earlier comments that were less than tactful about computing degree programs and their graduates … I have to give Neil credit for having the guts to share his views.
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?
Duncan Buell and Lonnie Emard have an op-ed piece in today’s The State about the summit we’re co-hosting this weekend as part of our ECEP Alliance efforts in South Carolina. ECEP is bringing in Cameron Wilson from Code.org, Dale Reed from University of Illinois-Chicago who is a leader in the Exploring CS effort there, and Marie desJardins to talk about her efforts in Maryland (as well as Rick Adrion and me, to talk about efforts in Massachusetts and Georgia). There is still space available, if readers in South Carolina would like to join us — see the invitation here.
This Friday and Saturday, IT-oLogy, together with the University of South Carolina, will host the Computing Education in South Carolina Summit. This event, funded in part with an Expanding Computing Education Pathways grant from the National Science Foundation, will provide outreach to policymakers in government and education about the importance of teaching “real computer science” in South Carolina and the fact that the state is not so far behind national leaders that it could not itself become a national leader.
The prediction is that three out of five job openings in the computer/information sciences, life/physical sciences, engineering and mathematics fields are asking for university degrees in computer science, and starting salaries nationally for computer science graduates are better than $60,000 a year. In spite of these inducements, enrollments in computer science are low, and the nation is producing only one-third of the university graduates in computer science as there are jobs available.
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.)
The first ACM study of non-doctoral computing (NDC) departments has just released its report (to contrast with the Taulbee Survey which is focused on doctoral-granting department). Below is the coverage in the Huffington Post.
The study shows that enrollment in undergraduate computer science (CS) programs within these departments increased 11 percent between 2011-12 and 2012-13. Computer science bachelor’s degree production in these departments is expected to increase nearly 14 percent during this period. Other areas of computing, such as software engineering and information technology, also are experiencing growth according to the report. Only in the information systems area is there no real evidence of growth. Master’s degree production in the NDC departments also generally is increasing, adding to the skilled employment base in these key technology areas.
The announcement is good news:
Congratulations Tennessee! This year, for the first time, the State of Tennessee Board of Education allows high school computer science courses to count towards graduation requirements. Now, Advanced Placement Computer Science A satisfies a math requirement for all high Tennessee high school students.
Then there’s a claim later on the same page, “In these states, enrollment in computer science is higher (particularly among women and students of color), compared to the other states.” That claim is intriguing. Where’d they get this data? I’d love to get CS enrollment data by state! So I followed the link to this PDF.
Where I found this graph:
I don’t know where one can get AP CS class size data. I’ve not seen that from the College Board. As far as I can tell from the AP Report to the Nation, the College Board doesn’t have enrollment data. What could they be counting to get these results, using variables from the College Board?
The numbers looked close to something that I’d seen in Barb’s data. So, I tried an analysis with Barb’s spreadsheet of AP CS data. I created a “CountsCS” variable (1=on the Code.org list, 0=everyone else), and looked at the number of AP CS test takers in a state divided by the number of schools passing AP CS audit in the state. I think of this as the “yield” — the number of actual test-takers by teacher (assuming one teacher per school, which is pretty much the rule for AP CS). Below are the yield distributions for 2012 (with average and +/- standard deviation). These numbers look pretty close to the above, so I’m guessing that this is what they’re counting (for some year previous to 2012). It is true that the average yield (not enrollment) for CountCS states is higher than for non-CountCS states. There isn’t a statistically significant difference, though (using t-test with a 95% confidence interval).
It could be that these distributions will become more distinct over time. Some states (like Tennessee) have just made CS count. It will take years to see an impact.
Digging deeper, I looked at the number of test-takers by state in terms of whether the state counts CS. Below is the distribution. There is on average more test-takers in states that count CS, but the distribution is broad. There isn’t a statistically significant difference.
Given that the test-takers are not significantly different based on whether a state counts CS or not, I didn’t think that the minority or female numbers would either. It is true that there are on average more women test-takers from states that count CS, but the distribution is large. The difference is not statistically significant. The CountCS states include Vermont (which had 1 female AP CS test-taker in 2012), but does not include North and South Dakota, each of which had 2 female AP CS test-takers in 2012. (Alaska, Mississippi, Montana, and Wyoming all had zero female AP CS test-takers, and none of them count CS.) I didn’t see significant differences based on under-represented minority groups.
If we really want to show that counting CS matters, we’d really want to do it a different way entirely. We should compare the same state pre/post making the decision to count CS. Even then, we’d want to give it a few years to filter through the system (e.g., Juniors and Seniors in high school are unlikely to change their plans for graduation to take CS as soon as it counts). I do believe that counting CS towards high school graduation will increase the number of students taking CS, but measuring that impact is challenging.
Thanks to Elizabeth Patitsas for this piece. Fascinating experiment — people solve the exact same math problem differently if the context is “whether a skin cream works” or “whether gun control laws work,” depending on their politics. The statement below is an interesting interpretation of the results and relates to my questions about whether computing education research actually leads to any change.
For study author Kahan, these results are a fairly strong refutation of what is called the “deficit model” in the field of science and technology studies—the idea that if people just had more knowledge, or more reasoning ability, then they would be better able to come to consensus with scientists and experts on issues like climate change, evolution, the safety of vaccines, and pretty much anything else involving science or data (for instance, whether concealed weapons bans work). Kahan’s data suggest the opposite—that political biases skew our reasoning abilities, and this problem seems to be worse for people with advanced capacities like scientific literacy and numeracy. “If the people who have the greatest capacities are the ones most prone to this, that’s reason to believe that the problem isn’t some kind of deficit in comprehension,” Kahan explained in an interview.
Exactly how much standardized testing are school districts subjecting students to these days? A nearly staggering amount, according to a new analysis.
“Testing More, Teaching Less: What America’s Obsession with Student Testing Costs in Money and Lost Instructional Time,” released by the American Federation of Teachers, looks closely at two unnamed medium-sized school districts — one in the Midwest and one in the East — through the prism of their standardized testing calendars.
This article is worth blogging on for two reasons:
First, my colleagues in the UK were stunned when I told them that most tests that students take in US schools are locally invented. ”Doesn’t that lead to alot of wasted effort?” Perhaps so — this report seems to support my claim.
Second, I don’t find that much testing either staggering nor undesirable. Consider the results on the Testing Effect — students learn from testing. 20 hours in an academic year is not too much, if we think about testing as driving learning. We don’t know if these are good or useful tests, or if they are being used in a way that might motivate more learning, so 20 hours isn’t obviously a good thing. But it’s also not obviously a bad thing.
Consider the results of the paper presented by Michael Lee at ICER 2013 this year (and which won the “John Henry Award,” the people’s choice best paper award). They took a video game that required programming (Gidget) and added to it explicit assessments — quizzes that popped up at the end of each level, to ask you questions about what you did. They found that such assessments actually increased engagement and time-on-task. Their participants (both control and experimental) were recruited from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, so they were paid to complete more levels. Adding assessments led to more levels completed and less time per level — that’s pretty remarkable.
Maybe what we need is not fewer tests, but better and more engaging tests.
The Washington Post series on “The Tuition is Too Damn High” has been fascinating, filled with interesting data, useful insights, and economic theory that I hadn’t met previously. The article linked below is about “Baumol’s cost disease” which suggests an explanation for why wages might increase when productivity does not. It’s an explanation that some have used to explain the rise in tuition, which Post blogger Dylan Matthews rejects based on the data (in short: faculty salaries aren’t really rising — the increase in tuition is due to other factors).
But I actually had a concern about an earlier stage in his argument. It’s absolutely true that our labor intensive methods do not lead to an increase in productivity in terms of number of students, while MOOCs and similar other methods can. However, we can gain productivity in terms of quality of learning and retention. We absolutely have teaching methods, well-supported with research, that lead to better learning and more retention — we can get students to complete more classes with better understanding. In the end, isn’t THAT what we should be measuring as productivity of an educational enterprise, not “millions of customers served” (even if they don’t complete and don’t learn)?
Performing a string quartet will always require two violinists, a violist and a cellist. You can’t magically produce the same piece with just two people. Higher education, for at least the past few millennia, has seemed to fall in this category as well. “What just happened in my classroom is not very different from what happened in Plato’s academy,” quips Archibald. We’ve gotten better at auditorium-building, perhaps, but lecturers generally haven’t gotten more productive.
I’ve mentioned before how much we need schools of education to guarantee the future stability of computing education. The new CSTA report on certification makes the point better than I do.
I just wrote a Blog@CACM post explaining why we in CS need collaboration with schools of education. We don’t want to be in the business of certifying teachers. We certainly do not have the background to prepare teachers for a lifelong career in education. That’s what pre-service education faculty do.
How we get from here to there is an interesting question. Michelle Friend suggests that we start by finding (or getting hired) faculty in science and mathematics education who are interested in starting computing programs. Few schools would be willing to take the risk of establishing computing education programs or departments today. They might exist one day, but they’ll probably grow out of math or science ed — just as many CS departments grew out of math or science or engineering roots.
Given that (in the US) we lose close to 50% of our STEM teachers within the first five years of teaching, we have to establish reliable production of CS teachers, if we don’t want CS10K to be only CS5K five years later. To establish that reliable production, we need schools of education.
I recommend reading over the list linked below. What’s fascinating to me is how the experts are making their arguments.
Consider this comment: “Probably the Berkeley class is getting most traction.” That sounds like the recommendation is to try the Berkeley class because it’s polling well. The words “evaluation” and “data” don’t appear anywhere in the recommendations.
The experts are probably giving the superintendent good advice, in that they are arguing in terms that the superintendent (and presumably, his stakeholders and constituents). The issue about “getting traction” reminds me of the old saying, “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.” Buying the popular and well-respected thing is a reasonable thing to do when you don’t understand all the issues. These aren’t the arguments that education researcher would use in making the same recommendations, but that’s why you don’t have researchers running big city schools — what we do informs the decisions, but the actual decisions involve bigger and more complex decisions.
A big city superintendent called last week and asked for recommendations for K-12 resources for teaching coding and computer science so we reached out to some folks in the know. Here’s a summary of what we learned: