Archive for July 13, 2010

What are we? Chopped liver? CS left out of National Academy STEM standards

A committee from the National Academies has released a new draft set of science education standards, the first in over 10 years.  While there is discussion in the draft about the use of computers for modeling and simulation, and the definition of “science” is broad enough to include “Engineering design,” the phrase “computer science” doesn’t appear anywhere in the standards.  Science students don’t really need to know anything about computation.

Comments are sought.  I think we should ask them how they can include “technology” but leave out all of computer science, an entire discipline of science and technology.

A panel of the U.S. National Academies today released its initial description of what U.S. elementary and high school students should learn in science. The goal of the conceptual framework for science education standards (pdf of draft) is to “identify and articulate the core ideas in science in the disciplines of life sciences, physical sciences, earth and space sciences, and engineering and technology, cross cutting ideas and scientific practices.”

via Comments Sought on How to Teach Science in U.S. Schools – ScienceInsider.

July 13, 2010 at 4:36 pm 26 comments

What AI can do for you

I gave the opening, invited talk at the first Educational Applications of Artificial Intelligence conference this morning.  I was a bit nervous, since I am not an AI researcher or teacher.  Rather than pretend to be and be exposed as an imposter, I instead focused on challenges in CS Education that I thought AI could help with.

Here were the three I identified (slides in PPT and PDF at

  • Matching context to student. The evidence of the value of context at engaging students and improving success rates is pretty strong.  But there is also evidence that the same context doesn’t work for everyone.  If there were a bunch of contextualized courses available (robotics, media computation, video games, Engineering problem-solving), how would you match students to the context that would work best for them?  I don’t know what variables are most important to use there.  Interest? Future career choices?  Previous computing background? Previous mathematics background?
  • Helping students find the help that they need with understanding programs. Brian Dorn has just completed his study of end-user programmers using his case library to solve programming tasks.  One of his stories was about how these programmers sought out information on the Web without background knowledge about computing.  They did searches on the programs that they were trying to understand — on things like variable names and function (not API) names.  Is it surprising that searching for “javascript foo” didn’t get them much help?  Given a program, there are things that we could do to help these end-user programmers find the right kinds of information at a higher level than just the variable name.  We could note “This program seems to be using the Java-2D API — I’d look for that” or “This program is using exception-handling — that would be a good phrase to search for.”
  • Teach computing concepts without requiring programming. The new APCS course has some challenging objectives, like having students understand issues of data and knowledge representation in terms of abstraction and about what makes for a usable user interface.  A goal in this course is to minimize learning programming, at least, traditional programming languages.  Some of these learning objectives (like knowledge representation) belong to AI.  Others could use AI help, like maybe creating a simple agent that could “test the usability” of user interfaces that the students might design.  We’re going to need a lot of content generated to help teach these objectives, with minimal programming, and without resorting to boring, rote memorization.  (“Here, go memorize the Apple Human Interface Guidelines…”)

Thanks to Mehran Sahami and the rest of the EAAI organizing committee for inviting me!

July 13, 2010 at 4:26 pm Leave a comment

Media Computation Teachers’ Wiki

At SIGCSE 2010 this year, we had a preconference Media Computation Workshop where some of the “old-timers” (veterans? MIPs — Media Informed Professionals?) started a Wiki with materials for teachers: Assignments, exam problems, etc.  This is located at

If you want to peruse (or better yet, contribute material!), please drop me a note and I’ll give you the keyword to get into the repository.  It’s (somewhat) protected so that we can share materials that we don’t want students to stumble upon.

July 13, 2010 at 4:03 pm Leave a comment

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