Archive for April 19, 2010

Pushback on the NYTimes piece: “Stop talking, start coding”

Really interesting blog pushing back on yesterday’s NYTimes piece.  Be sure to read the comments, too.

We don’t need affirmative action for women in tech. We need to create experiences that nurture women and men so that more people are inspired to can create beautiful, technical things together…

I had a similar reaction to the article. That said, the article fails to consider the possibility that women are making a highly rational decision to avoid computer science.

Phil Greenspun’s article, while very glib, does phrase it well: ” Why then, does anyone think that science is a sufficiently good career that people should debate who is privileged enough to work at it?” Granted, Greenspun is talking about science researchers in general, not undergraduate CS majors (or startup founders), but I still think that the risk to reward ratio favors the professions (law, medicine, MBA programs) over grad degrees in CS, even when you factor in industry demand or startups.

via Stop talking, start coding.

Another interesting blog post pushing back on the NYTimes article, this time from the perspective of an African-American man. Two more on NYTimes article are this blog post on genderized assumptions and this call for fewer women-in-computing initiatives.

April 19, 2010 at 7:36 pm 2 comments

Getting it right: Collaboration vs. cheating

I am proud of the Georgia Tech College of Computing administration of the undergraduate program this morning.  In the new PCWorld article on cheating in computer science classes, Cedric Stallworth, Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Enrollment sets the right tone.

The article isn’t great — it starts out with a false claim that CS undergraduates are at an all time high (they’re up, but not at 2000/2001 levels).  Then the article has quotes from several instructors at top CS departments:

… says the introductory computer science courses require students to code their own programs, while higher-level courses allow for more teamwork. “We want them to learn the mechanics first, and then open up the world of collaboration,” he adds.

via Why Computer Science Students Cheat – PCWorld.

That’s exactly backwards, according to the cognitive science. You start out with motivating circumstances and low cognitive load practice, and then move on to more complex activities. Pair programming is one of the most successful techniques for improving learning and engagement in CS1!

The article goes on to point out that industry wants more collaboration, and Georgia Tech is trying to encourage more collaboration and more learning:

“In the real world, people write code in teams where they are given pieces of a project to work on,” Foote says. “The academic world should be mapping onto the real world…They shouldn’t be handing out assignments where people are coding on their own.”

To encourage collaboration, Georgia Tech changed its approach to cheating in its introductory computer science courses in 2007….”Students sign a collaboration agreement,” explains Cedric Stallworth, assistant dean for Undergraduate Enrollment at Georgia Tech’s College of Computing. “We realize that computing is one of the subjects that is best learned in a group. If students are using somebody else’s code and are learning from it, that’s all right.”

To ensure that the students are mastering the material, Georgia Tech requires them to give an oral demonstration of how their software works for one of their teaching assistants. “We worry less about catching cheaters. We worry more about properly assessing the student’s skill set,” Stallworth says.

Exactly right!


April 19, 2010 at 10:29 am 11 comments

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