Posts tagged ‘STEM’
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.
I’m glad to hear that Marvel wants to get involved in drawing more women into STEM. The involvement of Natalie Portman is interesting, but also challenging. There are these interesting studies showing that role models of women in STEM can trigger a kind of stereotype threat: “That can never be me, so I’d better not even try.” They’ll have to be careful in how they frame her involvement in science. Since I’ve been thinking about live coding, I’ve been wondering more about the importance of seeing embodiments of STEM workers that are otherwise invisible. Perhaps Marvel can provide that through this effort.
Marvel has announced the Ultimate Mentor Adventure, part mentor program, part contest, that gives American girls in grades 9-12 the resources to find and interview professional women in science, technology, engineering, and math, and then rewards them for doing it.
Natalie Portman has always been a consistent voice for greater screentime and opportunities behind the scenes for female characters and real women in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so it doesn’t surprise me at all to learn that she’s the first face you see on the Ultimate Mentor Adventure’s explanatory video. Portman talks about her character Jane Foster, an astrophysicist, amid finished and behind the scenes clips of Jane in Thor: The Dark World, and, while the bombastic music of the trailers plays, she says, “the truth is, I really do love science. And the role gave me an amazing opportunity to explore science in all its possibilities.”
Betsy DiSalvo and I were guest editors for the September 2013 special issue of IEEE Computer on Computing Education. (The cover, copied above, is really nice!) The five articles in the issue did a great job of pushing computing education beyond our traditional image of CS education. Below I’m pasting our original introduction to the special issue — before copy-editing, but free for me to share, and it’s a reasonable overview of the issue.
Introduction to the Special Issue
Computing education is in the news regularly these days. England has just adopted a new computer science curriculum. Thousands of people are taking on-line courses in computer science. Code.org’s viral video had millions of people thinking about learning to code.
A common thread in all of this new computer science education is that it’s not how we normally think about computing education. Traditional computing education brings to mind undergraduates working late night in labs drinking highly-caffeinated beverages. “CS Class” brings to mind images of students gaining valuable vocational skills in classrooms. The new movement towards computing education is about computing education for everyone, from children to working adults. It’s about people learning about computing in places you wouldn’t expect, from your local elementary school to afterschool clubs. It’s about people making their own computing on things that only a few years ago were not computable at all, like your personal cellphone and even your clothing.
Computing has changed. In the 1950′s and 1960′s, computing moved from the laboratory into the business office. In the PC revolution, it moved into our homes. Now in the early 21st Century, it is ubiquitous. We use dozens of computers in our everyday life, often without even recognizing that the processors are there. Knowing about computing today is necessary for understanding the world we live in. Computer science is as valuable as biology, physics, or chemistry to our students. Consider a computer science concept: that all digitized information is represented in a computer, and the same information could be a picture or text or a virus. That is more relevant to a student today than the difference between meiosis and mitosis, or how to balance an equilibrium equation.
Computing also gives us the most powerful tool for creative expression humans have ever invented. The desktop user interface we use today was created at Xerox PARC in order to make the computer a creative device. Today, we can use computing to communicate, to inform, to delight, and to amaze. That is a powerful set of reasons for learning to control the computer with programming.
The papers in this special issue highlight how computing education has moved beyond the classroom. They highlight computing as porous education that crosses the boundaries of the classroom, and even boundaries of disciplines. These papers help us to understand the implications and the new needs of computing education today.
Maria Knobelsdorf and Jan Vahrenhold write on “Addressing the Full Range of Students: Challenges in K-12 Computer Science Education”. The issues change as computer science education moves down from higher education into primary and secondary education. What curricula should we use in schools? How do prepare enough teachers? Maria and Jan lay out the challenges, and use examples from Germany on how these challenges might be addressed.
“STEAM-Powered Computing Education using E-Textiles: Impacting Learning and Broadening Participation” by Kylie Peppler talks about integrating art into traditional STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) classrooms through use of new kinds of media. Kylie has students sewing computers into fabrics. Her students combine roles of engineers, designers, scientists and artists as they explore issues of fashion and design with electronic circuits and computer programming.
In “The Porous Classroom: Professional practices in the computing curriculum”, Sally Fincher and Daniel Knox consider how computer science students learn beyond the classroom. Learning in the classroom is typically scripted with careful attention to students activities that lead to learning outcomes. The wild and unconstrained world outside the classroom offers many more opportunities to learn, and Sally and Daniel look at how the opportunities outside the school walls influence students as they move between the classroom and the world beyond.
Karen Brennan’s paper “Learning Computing through Creating and Connecting” starts from the programming language, Scratch, which was created to introduce computing into afterschool computer clubhouses. Students using Scratch learned through creating wonderful digital stories and animations, then sharing them with others, and further learning by mixing and re-mixing what was shared. Karen then considers the porous education from the opposite direction — what does it take to take an informal learning tool, such as Scratch, into the traditional classroom?
The paper by Allison Elliott Tew and Brian Dorn, “The Case for Validated Tools in Computing Education Research”, describes how to measure the impacts of computing education, in terms of learning and attitudes. This work ties these themes together and back to the traditional classroom. Wherever the learning is occurring, we want to know that there is learning happening. We need good measurement tools to help us know what’s working and what’s not, and how to compare different kinds of contexts for different students. Allison and Brian tell us that “initial research and development investment can pay dividends for the community because validated instruments enable and enhance a host of activities in terms of both teaching and research that would not otherwise be feasible.” Tools such as these validated instruments may allow us to measure the impact of informal, maker-based, or practice-based approaches. Work in basic tools for measurement help us to ground and connect the work that goes on beyond our single classroom through the porous boundary to other disciplines and other contexts.
The story that this special issue tells is about computer science moving from subject to literacy. Students sometimes learn computer science because they are interested in computers. More often today, students learn computer science because of what they can do with computers. Computing is a form of expression and a tool for thinking. It is becoming a basic literacy, like reading, writing, and arithmetic. We use reading and writing in all subject areas. We see that students are increasingly using programming in the same way. The papers in this special issue offer a view into that new era of computing education.
An interesting study suggesting that role models and how they’re described (in terms of their achievements, or in terms of their struggles) has an interaction with students’ stereotypes about scientists and other professionals in STEM fields. So there are not just cognitive benefits to learning from failure, but there are affective dimensions to focusing on the struggle (including failures) and not just the success.
But when the researchers exposed middle-school girls to women who were feminine and successful in STEM fields, the experience actually diminished the girls’ interest in math, depressed their plans to study math, and reduced their expectations of future success. The women’s “combination of femininity and success seemed particularly unattainable to STEM-disidentified girls,” the authors conclude, adding that “gender-neutral STEM role models,” as well as feminine women who were successful in non-STEM fields, did not have this effect.
Does this mean that we have to give up our most illustrious role models? There is a way to gain inspiration from truly exceptional individuals: attend to their failures as well as their successes. This was demonstrated in a study by Huang-Yao Hong of National Chengchi University in Taiwan and Xiaodong Lin-Siegler of Columbia University.
The researchers gave a group of physics students information about the theories of Galileo Galilei, Issac Newton and Albert Einstein. A second group received readings praising the achievements of these scientists. And a third group was given a text that described the thinkers’ struggles. The students who learned about scientists’ struggles developed less-stereotyped images of scientists, became more interested in science, remembered the material better, and did better at complex open-ended problem-solving tasks related to the lesson—while the students who read the achievement-based text actually developed more stereotypical images of scientists.
I’m going to Michigan State University on Wednesday July 10 through Friday August 12. On the 10th, I’m visiting with colleagues whom I knew in Education at the University of Michigan (Bob Geier and Joe Krajcik) and giving a brownbag talk. I’m really looking forward to hanging out with Education folks for the day. I’ve just learned that Danny Caballero has moved to MSU, so I’m hoping to meet up with him, too. On Thursday and Friday, I’m attending a workshop on integrated engineering education. Since I used to do work like that, and haven’t done much in Engineering Education in years, I thought it would be fun and interesting — something I might want to get involved in again. Plus, it was a great chance to get back ‘home’ to Michigan.
The day after I get back, we are heading off to Boston and the CSTA Conference in Quincy, Massachusetts. We are holding an ECEP Day on Sunday July 14, to connect with CSTA Chapter Leaders and Leadership Cohort in the states where we’re working. On Monday, July 15, I’m just hanging out at the CSTA Conference, so if you’re there, I hope you will stop by the ECEP table and visit!
The National Council on Teacher Quality and US News and World Report have released a state-by-state report on teacher preparation — and it’s pretty dismal. I’ve copied some of the top “take-aways” below.
In countries where students outperform the U.S., teacher prep schools recruit candidates from the top third of the college-going population. The Review found only one in four U.S. programs restricts admissions to even the top half of the college-going population.
A large majority of programs (71 percent) are not providing elementary teacher candidates with practical, research-based training in reading instruction methods that could reduce the current rate of reading failure (30 percent) to less than 10 percent of the student population.
Only 11 percent of elementary programs and 47 percent of secondary programs are providing adequate content preparation for teachers in the subjects they will teach.
There is some significant critique of the NCTQ study, particularly on its methodology. This is from Diane Ravitch’s blog:
NCTQ is not a professional association. It did not make site visits. It made its harsh judgments by reviewing course syllabi and catalogs. The criteria that it rated as most important was the institution’s fidelity to the Common Core standards.
As Rutgers’ Bruce Baker pointed out in his response, NCTQ boasts of its regard for teachers but its review of the nation’s teacher-training institutions says nothing about faculty. They don’t matter. They are irrelevant. All that matters is what is in the course catalog.
I’d rather see the NCTQ study as pointing out problems for computing education programs to avoid. Given the results coming in from the UChicago Landscape study, I doubt if we’re doing much better now in computer science. From a positive perspective, the best practices identified in the NCTQ report can inform what we do in computing education teacher professional development. As Jeanne Century said at SIGCSE this last year, one advantage we have is that we’re starting from a pretty much clean slate — there’s not much out there. We can try to build it right from the start.
One year, I gave an assignment in my Objects and Design class (in Squeak!) to construct a personal newspaper by reading bits of news (based on user interest) from local news sites. The night before the assignment was due, so many students tested their buggy fetch-and-scrape code on one poor site that they killed the site — a pedagogical denial-of-service attack.
Should I or my students have been arrested and taken away in handcuffs? It seems like the direct computing world analogy from the story quoted below.
Fortunately, the student has now been cleared of charges. It’s still a scary story.
It’s a sad commentary on our alarmist society that a similar deed would probably land a modern day budding Oliver Sacks in jail. That is exactly what it has done to a young aspiring scientist named Kiera Wilmot from Bartow High School in Florida, and in the process it has almost certainly deprived this country of exactly the kind of scientist whose shortage its politicians and educators are so fond of lamenting. The student conducted a common experiment mixing Drano and aluminum foil on the grounds of a school. The exact details are unknown but the incident led to a minor explosion, hurt nobody and damaged no property. This relatively harmless bit of curiosity led to Ms. Wilmot being handcuffed, arrested and expelled from the school. Irrational State Overreach: 1, The Much Touted American Edge in Science: 0. Whatever else the school was trying to achieve, it definitely succeeded in squelching independent scientific curiosity in its students.
This is interesting to me both as an example of connecting Native American students with STEM education and as something cool that my alma mater is doing.
While attracting and retaining Native Americans has remained elusive due to a perceived lack of cultural relevance and/or support for STEM, Ferreira believes there is a way to break down this barrier.
“Native youth are taught to respect elders, and many elders are ‘keepers of traditional knowledge’ which interfaces with science,” said Ferreira. “Linking elders to postsecondary STEM education for Natives will improve perceptions of STEM as culturally relevant and culturally supportive of Natives, and impact Native student interest, pursuit and endurance in STEM careers.”
I find the result dubious, because they took only starting salaries as the comparison point. Do the following years leave those with shallower education “stuck in the shallow end”? But the point quoted below is clearly right — we need to know more about the downstream salaries. I’m not sure that we don’t have the data to answer the question. Aren’t there salary surveys in the Tech industry all the time? Doesn’t the BLS know about salaries?
The College Measures study makes the case for looking at the short-term gain. It found that, one year after graduation, those with two-year technical degrees earned, on average, more than $50,000, about $11,000 more than graduates with bachelor’s degrees. And compared with graduates of two-year colleges who had focused on academic subjects, those with technical degrees were making about $30,000 more.
Those who went on to receive master’s degrees earned, on average, $63,340, or $24,000 more than the median first-year earnings of those who stopped with a bachelor’s degree.
Mark Schneider, president of College Measures and a vice president of the American Institutes for Research, acknowledged in an interview on Thursday that the salary someone makes one year after graduation doesn’t necessarily reflect a person’s lifetime earnings potential. Many educators point out that, with rapidly changing work-force needs, students who complete narrowly focused technical degrees or certificates might land lucrative jobs right away but struggle to move on if those jobs dry up.
“We’ve all heard about the philosophy majors who start out as baristas at Starbucks and go on to become barristers, and the person with a technical degree who’s going to be replaced by robots,” Mr. Schneider said. But when it comes to tracking salaries 10 years down the road, “the truth is, we don’t know.”
Interesting — HP is offering a MOOC for “STEMx” teachers (below), and Google is offering CS teacher fellowships. Nice to see the companies stepping up. I’m not convinced that MOOCs are the best way to reach teachers, but a bigger question is how many teachers will identify with the term “STEMx.” We have seen that teacher identity drives teacher’s pursuit of professional development. Will they see themselves in this term?
Coined by the HP Catalyst Initiative, STEMx covers not only science, technology, engineering and math, but also other high-technology disciplines such as computer science, nanoscience and biotech. The modified acronym also refers to the skills of collaboration, creativity, communication, problem solving, inquiry, computational thinking and “global fluency.”
The MOOC was announced by HP’s education partners, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and the New Media Consortium (NMC), during the 2013 HP Catalyst Summit in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The meeting attracted more than 120 educators and policy leaders.
This is actually pretty scary. The goal of these reviews is to “ensure efficiency and eliminate duplication,” especially between federal, private, and philanthropic programs. Does that mean that FIRST Robotics makes all other research and outreach for robotics in CS education “duplication”?
Subcommittee Chairman Larry Bucshon (R-IN) highlighted that the COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 requires the National Science and Technology Council Committee on STEM to develop and implement a 5-year strategic plan. This plan would specify and prioritize objectives and define the role of each of the government agencies which fund STEM programs and activities. In this process of strategic planning, Bucshon stated that he wanted to recognize the importance of private sector and non-profit collaborations in STEM education. He also noted that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) suggested that the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) should work with agencies to produce strategies that ensure efficiency and eliminate duplication and ineffective programs. The GAO also concluded in a 2012 report that there is a need for strategic planning in order to better manage the overlap of federal STEM education programs.
I’ve heard about the STEAM movement (STEM + Art) and thought it was a good idea. Thinking of the “Art” piece as also including Design makes it a great idea.
According to the website, the movement aims to include art and design in STEM policy decisions; encourage the integration of art and design in K-20 education; and influence employers to hire artists and designers to drive innovation.
“Design is increasingly becoming a key differentiator for technology startups and products,” the website states, and art and design “provide real solutions for our everyday lives, distinguish American products in a global marketplace, and create opportunity for economic growth.”
Georgia’s Department of Education is revising their curricula for computer science. You can see the existing pathway definition for “Computing” (here), and the definition of the existing first course “Computing in the Modern World” (CiMW). CiMW is based on the CSTA Standards, and includes computing topics like data representation, Moore’s Law, algorithmic thinking, and problem solving.
The proposed new first course is linked here, as part of the now-called “Information Technology” Pathway. It’s called “Introduction to Digital Technology.” It does include computational thinking, but removes most of the computer science pieces.
Why are they doing this? We are not sure — Universities have not been involved in the revision, only high school teachers and industry folks. One theory is that the Department of Education wants to better align high school courses with jobs, so that high school students can graduate and go into the IT industry (perhaps same goal in NYC?).
I suspect that another reason for the change is the challenge of teaching teachers about CiMW topics. Teachers can’t teach everything in CiMW because (I suspect) many of them teaching the course don’t all know the content yet. Some of the high school teachers involved in the redesign told us that they were asked to use fewer computing buzzwords, because the teachers don’t know all those terms. The teachers in this pathway are Business teachers, often with little STEM background. Professional development budgets in Georgia have been slashed since 2007 when the Computing Pathways was launched. It’s disappointing (if I’m right) that the decision is to reduce the scope of the curriculum, instead of helping the teachers to learn.
The new course is open for public comment (here). If you are interested, please consider leaving your comments on the changes in the questionnaire.
Overall, this feels like the last time that Georgia un-decided to let AP CS count towards high school graduation. Two steps forward, one step back. “Constant vigilance!”
Interesting model. To be effective, I’d suggest hiring the STEM faculty with an eye toward STEM education. Hire faculty who want to make improving the quality and retention of STEM graduates, not just more STEM researchers. Make it count.
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy announced Thursday a plan to dedicate $1.5 billion to growing the science, technology, engineering, and math programs at the University of Connecticut. The money will be used to hire more faculty members, enroll more students, build new STEM facilities and dorms, and create new doctoral fellowships and a STEM honors program.
The proposal, called Next Generation Connecticut, spans UConn’s three campuses. If the program passes the state legislature, it would increase the number of engineering undergraduates enrolled by 70 percent and the number of STEM graduates by 47 percent. UConn currently enrolls 7,701 undergraduates and 1,973 graduate students in STEM fields. It would also fund the hiring of 259 new faculty members, 200 of whom would be in the STEM fields.
“It’s transformational,” said UConn President Susan Herbst. “It’s really every president’s hope that they get this kind of investment from their state or from their donors.”
A realistic description of the barriers into STEM for students who are not from the schools that are expected to succeed. I can believe that these kinds of problems exist. Figuring out a way around them is the hard part.
This type of pre-judging of students happens all too often. Students from poor and poorly performing school districts, students who wear sagging pants or speak slang or with accents, students that may not make good grades, students from single-parent/multi-generation homes – these kids are denied an opportunity to participate at the gate. I cannot count the number of students I have encountered who have promise but absolutely no idea where to start or how to get started.
I have seen in at the high school and college level - professors that turn away students with GEDs or those who struggle academically, but who show up anyway. So many students who have been dismissed or passed over by teachers, guidance counselors, and professors because s/he may not be polished enough for top-level science. (Whatever that means.)