Archive for January 14, 2010

The Future of SIGCSE

As SIGCSE members know from the recent ballot email, I’m running for the ACM SIGCSE Board in a member-at-large position.  I was asked to submit a <200 word statement, and I decided to write about Computing Education, SIGCSE, and where I’d like to see SIGCSE lead.  Not wanting to waste some generated text, I’ll use it as a blog post:

Computing education is entering a golden era.  Over the next few years, we will emerge from our image/enrollment crisis into widespread recognition of computing’s importance across the curriculum for all learners.  There are signs that teachers and administrators at multiple levels are starting to see Computing as a critical field of study for students on a wide range of career paths. SIGCSE can be the organization that informs and supports educators at all these levels, and in so doing, helps to define computing education for the 21st century.  I am in favor of SIGCSE broadening its scope, to welcome and engage more actively high school teachers, teachers of non-Computing majors, graduate school faculty, and teachers of adult learners.  I am in favor of SIGCSE engaging more educators from outside the United States. SIGCSE should be the leading international organization for computing education, sponsoring conferences, publications, and other resources that support all kinds of computing teachers all over the world.

January 14, 2010 at 3:55 pm 3 comments

Finding the two-humps and practice in APCS

Ben Chun gave the same final exam to his 2008 and 2009 AP CS classes, and in so doing, found the two-hump observation in his result:

But the bell curve turned into a bathtub! Why? There are so many variables that it’s really hard to know. It’s worth noting that I’ve run the class through the material much faster this year, which probably exacerbates any spread between high and low performers.

via Practice and Performance « And Yet It Moves.

What’s also interesting is his correlation with practice and performance.

But here’s something else I noticed: All of the top scoring students have also completed a significant number of optional practice problems using Nick Parlante’s excellent JavaBat. I introduce this tool at the start of the year and offer them extra credit for doing the problems. (To be clear: the extra credit is not part of the exam scores, so that’s not the proximate reason their scores are higher.) I found a strong positive correlation of r=0.71 between the number of practice problems completed and exam score.

Is there a geek gene explanation here?  Is it that the top students became top students through the practice, or were the top students more inclined to practice — thus the practice wasn’t actually causation for the better performance?  Not clear how to test to distinguish these conditions.

January 14, 2010 at 10:49 am 5 comments

Flagship Universities Straying from their Mission

Pretty scary report. Some of the state universities identified as having student populations growing richer and whiter are in those states that are now majority non-white and poor.  As a faculty member at a state university, I can attest that we are feeling the budget cuts as support from the state dwindles.  But if state universities are not serving their role in supporting the population of the state, I can see how the state could feel that it’s getting a raw deal.

While the representation of minority students edged up slightly at the 50 institutions from 2004 to 2007, as measured by Education Trust, students from low-income students were slightly less well represented on the campuses than they were three years earlier.

“These institutions continue to enroll students who are significantly richer and significantly whiter than the state populations they are supposed to be serving,” Haycock, who co-wrote the report with two Education Trust staff members, said in a telephone news briefing Wednesday.

“In a spending pattern that is literally beyond belief, these institutions are spending almost exactly the same amount of money to provide grant aid to students in the top two quintiles of family income as they are spending on students in the bottom two quintiles,” the report says.

via News: Flogging the Flagships – Inside Higher Ed.

January 14, 2010 at 10:42 am 1 comment


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