Archive for November, 2010 is up!

The new website for CSedWeek is now up and running, with over 700 pledges already.  Please do post there everything that you and your colleagues are doing for CSEdweek.  We want to show Congress widespread interest and activity.

From December 5 to 11, 2010, Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek) seeks to raise public awareness of the critical role computer science education has in preparing students for 21st Century careers and the transformative role computing plays in today’s society.


November 30, 2010 at 9:52 am Leave a comment

An essay is enough to narrow gender-based achievement gap

I love the reasoning behind this study.  We know that gender gaps in achievement (and enrollment?) are entirely cultural.  So the solution is cultural, and has nothing to do with the topic.  Here, an essay in Physics class narrowed the gender gap.  Could something like this work in CS, too?  (Thanks to Fred Martin for sending this to me!)

A study in last week’s Science describes a program at the University of Colorado, focused on helping to narrow the achievement gap in an introduction to physics class targeted to science majors. In past years, research had found that a strong background and preparation could account for over half the gender difference in test scores, but that still leaves other, substantial factors to explain the discrepancies.

The authors suspected that stereotypes might account for the remaining differences. “The fear of being devalued based on a group identity, such as becoming aware that one could be seen in light of a negative stereotype about one’s group, has been shown to undermine performance on difficult tests,” they explain. “For example, women’s performance on difficult math and science tests can suffer insofar as they worry that their poor performance could be seen to confirm a negative gender stereotype.”

Since the problem wasn’t physics-based, the solution wasn’t either.

via Self-affirming essay boosts coeds’ physics skills.

November 29, 2010 at 1:49 pm 5 comments

There is no “First” in CS1

Andy diSessa has a great video that he sometimes shows in his talks, where he is interviewing a Physics Senior at Berkeley.  He’s asking her what happens to ball being tossed from one hand to the other.  She tells him a story about potential and kinetic energy.  He points out that the ball traces a parabola — what happens to cause that shape?  She tells him a story about horizontal and vertical velocity, and about acceleration due to gravity impacting the vertical velocity, but not the horizontal.  He presses her further — what really happens at the very top of the arc?  What causes the ball to change direction?  Finally, she blurts out, “The air pressure! The air pressure pushes down on the ball forcing it to fall!”

Which is wrong.  It’s a common alternative conception for falling objects.  The student was certainly not taught that explanation at Berkeley.  She developed it as a novice, as an observer of the world around her.  She chose to major in physics — she must have had an interest in the physical world before coming to Berkeley.  She observed the physical world, and developed theories about how it worked.  Andy’s video shows that, despite her developing new understanding, the old belief system is still there.

Cognitive science shows that no student enters our class a blank slate.  They enter undergraduate study with nearly two decades of experience, and theories that they have developed in those decades about how the world works. Those theories have allowed them to function on a daily basis.  If they enter our computer science classroom voluntarily, then they have probably been an astute observer of computing mechanisms, and they have certainly developed theories about how the computing world works.

I have heard proponents of a wide variety of beliefs about the power of CS1:

  • “If we teach them recursion first, then iteration becomes simple.”
  • “If we teach them strong typing (or test-driven development, or functional programming), then they will have good practices of mind that will stick with them for the rest of their years.”
  • “If we teach them objects first, then objects will be natural to them.  We all can’t understand it the same way, because we learned imperative programming first.”
  • “It is practically impossible to teach good programming to students that have had a prior exposure to BASIC: as potential programmers they are mentally mutilated beyond hope of regeneration.” (You probably recognize this one.)

I don’t know if any of them were once true, but I’m quite confident that none of them are true today.  There is no first. There is no objects-first, functions-first, hardware-first, or non-Basic-first.  No, I’m not suggesting that there already is computer science in high school  — there are way too few teachers and classes for that to be true, on average.  Rather, in a world where students live with Facebook and WiFi and email and “To The Cloud,” they most certainly have theories about how computing works.  There’s no way to get them before they make up their theories.  By the time they decide to study computing, they have them.

I thought of this looking at Carsten Schulte’s ITICSE 2010 paper, on studying student perceptions of difficulty in an objects-first vs. an objects-later class.  This is a follow-up to his earlier ICER paper where he reported no learning differences between an objects-first and an objects-later class.  While I’ve heard complaints about Schulte’s analysis methods, I found his experimental set-up to be as careful as one could possibly be.  The only difference between his two classes were the order of topics.  Objects-first vs. objects-later doesn’t matter, but neither does any other -first.  His results are really not surprising.  We already know that the sequence of topics in a curriculum doesn’t really seem to make much difference in the learning — that’s how problem-based learning works.

It’s an important open research question: How do students understand the computing around them?  What theories do they have?

  • How do students explain how a router box works, that my daughters get Wikipedia when they ask for it and I get WordPress when I ask for it, though there’s only one DSL connection and one router box in the house?
  • How do the Chinese characters appear on my screen when I get an email from China — were the characters in the email, or in my computer?
  • How is it that I can run Windows on my MacBook?
  • What is on that CD that I put into my Wii, and how is it different from what’s on a DVD or a CD that works on my Mac or PC?

We know something about how novices develop naive theories of computing.  John Pane’s research shows us that novices tend to develop declarative explanations of software that is driven by events, and don’t seem to develop notions of objects at all. The “Commonsense Computing” group has shown us that novices can create algorithms for a variety of problems, though that doesn’t really tell us how they think software and software development works in the world around them.

One problem that we have as educators is that this is a constantly open research question.  Every new technological doohickey that students meet will lead to new theories about how technology works, sometimes requiring changes to old theories.  Our students will have different theories depending on their computing experiences.  That’s how all learning works — we meet a new situation, that we either assimilate into our understanding, or that we accommodate with a new theory.  Over 50 years of cognitive science tells us that this is happening with every student who is paying attention to computing. If they enter into our CS classes, they are paying attention, they are making sense of the world around them, and they already have theories about how their computing technology works, how software works, and how software is developed.

We are in the same position as physics (or biology, or chemistry, or other science) educators.  Students have theories about how Wii controllers, voicemail menu systems driven by spoken voice commands, touch screens, and Google/Bing search work.  If these novice theories “mutilate” their minds, then it’s done, it’s happened to everyone, and we’d best just get on dealing with it.  There is no chance to place a theory in their minds before they learn anything else.  We have to start from where the students are, and help them develop better theories which are more consistent and more correct theories.  There is no first, but we can influence next.


November 27, 2010 at 5:10 pm 30 comments

Constructivism is to memorization, as RSS is to TIFF

I’ve been wandering around Jon Udell’s blog recently (after a recommendation from Greg Wilson) and found this story from Jon.  He’s complaining that his local high school doesn’t realize that a scanned page, while “soft” copy that can be sent by email, is completely different than an easily parsed form of the same information.  He uses a quote about school reform to make his point, which is actually about constructivist learning, thus suggesting (implicitly) that school administrators who don’t see the difference between a scanned page and an RSS feed, may not also see a difference between constructivist learning and memorization.

It irks me the school publishes this data without acknowledging that it is data, or providing it in a way that’s appropriate for the kind of data it is. In 2010, one of the “tools to succeed in a diverse and interdependent world” has to be a basic working knowledge of information chemistry. The quotation about learning that appears at the top of that image speaks to the underlying principle:

“Treat it as an active process of constructing ideas, rather than a passive process of absorbing information.” – Daniel J. Boorstin

via The laws of information chemistry – O’Reilly Radar.

November 26, 2010 at 6:56 pm Leave a comment

CSTA resources for CSed Week

CSTA just shared this with its members, some great resources for CSed Week:

CSEdWeek 2010 is a call to action to raise awareness of computer science education and computing careers among students, educators, and the public. CSEdWeek (December 5-11, 2010) has been endorsed by Congress in recognition of Admiral Grace Murray Hopper’s birthday, December 9, 1906, and her extraordinary contributions to the field of Computer Science.

CSTA is delighted to announce its new CS Ed Week resource, now available on the CSTA website at:

As part of their commitment to support CS Ed Week (Dec. 5-11th) activities, the Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences at the University of California, Irvine and CSTA have created a series of announcements that schools and teachers can use for morning announcements or in the classroom. These audio and video files are intended to inform and engage students and to help them understand the many opportunities computer science provides.

Audio Announcement: Listen live or download and play for morning announcements!
This 45-second audio announcement by a high school senior points to a broad spectrum of career opportunities and encourages students to celebrate Computer Science Education Week.

Videos: Watch live or download and play for announcements or in the classroom!
This series of five two-minute videos celebrates the contributions that computer science makes in four fields and encourages students to pursue computer science as an educational pathway and a career. They cover entertainment, the environment, communications, medicine, and empowerment.

November 25, 2010 at 1:43 pm Leave a comment

Computing Education Research vs Real Education Research

Occasionally, I have been told that I made a mistake in my career, by focusing on computing education research rather than “real” computer science research.  My first CS advisor at Michigan (before Elliot Soloway got there) told me that I shouldn’t do a joint CS-Education degree, because no CS department would hire me.  (Maybe he was right — I was hired into the College of Computing.)  Yesterday was the first time I was hit from the other side.

An Education school professor asked me why I was bothering with this computer science education stuff rather than doing “real” education research.  The things I’m working on have already been done in education research. His point was well-taken.  My contextualized computing education is a variation of situated learning, which is well-known among education researchers.  Much of the work we’re doing (e.g., in developing assessments, in investigating teacher identity or student misperceptions) is work that has already happened in other fields, so doing this work doesn’t advance our understanding of education.  Frankly, he thought I was wasting my time.

I had two answers for him.  First, pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) differs from domain-to-domain, by definition.  PCK is the knowledge that a teacher has on how to teach for a given domain.  It’s more than knowing the domain — it’s knowing what problems students encounter and what approaches have worked best to explain concepts and skills in that domain.  Developing PCK is a domain-by-domain activity, and it’s necessary for creating methods courses to teach new teachers.  Second, I suggested that I had a practical lever in computer science.  I am a computer science teacher, and I know how to talk to computer science teachers.  I don’t have any particular insight into how to express education ideas to humanities or social studies teachers, for example. So, I have greater opportunity to create change in computer science education.

As always happens, I thought of my best answer after we parted ways.  Somebody has to interpret general findings for a given domain.  I don’t read medical journals to figure out how best to feed my family.  I don’t read satellite imagery to figure out what tomorrow’s weather is going to be.  Some computer scientist had to read the general education literature to explain (and explore — since it’s not always obvious) how a particular insight or finding applies to CS teaching, and then try it so that others could be convinced.  That’s part of what I do.  I’m not inventing as much as I’m interpreting and applying.  That, too, is scholarship.

I should point out that I don’t completely agree with his point.  Yes, most of what I do is neither education research (in general) or computer science research (in general), but it does happen from time-to-time.  Our paper on developing an educational Wiki in the 2000 CSCW is (I believe) the first report on the Wikis in the ACM digital library.  Sometimes work at the edge of disciplines can advance or influence the work within the discipline.

Work in domain-specific educational research is typically disliked by many practitioners’ of the domain.  That’s been true in physics, chemistry, biology, and engineering.  It’s also the case that domain-specific educational research is sometimes rejected by those in education.  This was just my first time experiencing it.


November 23, 2010 at 8:16 am 17 comments

In Toronto, Talking About CS Ed and CS4All

I’m writing this from a hotel room in Toronto, Ontario.  (This year, it seems like I can’t stay in the US for too long.)  I’m visiting the University of Toronto for the next couple of days.

Tomorrow, I’m giving an informal talk on my view of the State of CS Education Research.  I’m excited about this talk.  It’s not a well-practiced, well-groomed talk, e.g., it has the most slides with just bulleted text of any talk I’ve given in years.  They scheduled a couple hour block for me to tell stories of my recent students’ work, and about the work that I want to do next, which is not something I do in my standard DLS/keynote talk.  For you who read this blog, you already know what I’m going to say — it’s about my students’ work, about worked examples and phonics, and about why textbooks are bad for CS Ed, and why distance education is important for CS10K.

On Tuesday, I’ll give my talk on “Meeting Everyone’s Need for Computing” where I’ll argue that teaching everyone on campus about computer science is an old but good idea.  I’ll update a version of the talk that I gave in Jinan — various versions of the talk are at if you’re interested.

When I get back (somewhere in the boundary of very late Tuesday and very early Wednesday), I’ll be recovering, and then it’ll be the American Thanksgiving holiday.  (I understand Toronto had its “Santa Claus Parade” this morning, so it’s officially already the Christmas season here.)  I expect to spend less time blogging this week than usual.  Happy Thanksgiving!


November 21, 2010 at 10:01 pm Leave a comment

Computer Science as a Path to Computer Application Efficacy

One of our challenges in getting education decision makers to take computer science seriously is that all they really care about is having students be good at using computers. They want students to be “workforce ready” and able to use Office. They don’t care about having students understand the computer. But what if learning computer science was actually a really good way of achieving the goal that they care about? Three stories that point that way.

Story #1: Beth Simon sent me a note last week about her AP CS trial. She and one of her TA’s, Leo Porter, were talking about what good it was for these non-majors to learn to program. So on one of their regular quizzes, she put it to the students:

Learning computing concepts may have opened many doors for you in your future work. Although you may not ever use Alice again, some of the concepts you have learned may become useful to you.

…examples here

Aside from the examples given, or enhancing the examples given, please describe a situation in which you think the computing concepts you have learned will help you in the future. (2pts)

She got some great responses:

  • Figuring out how Alice works has made it easier to figure out other websites. I sometimes call myself “technologically challenged” because technology seems to always shut down or malfunction when I use it. However, as I continue to use and decipher code in Alice it has become easier to do the same with other on-line programs.
  • I feel like taking this class has greatly improved my logic and my grasp of how programs work. Learning Alice in such great detail has explained to me the behind the scene mechanisms that make programs work. In the future I believe I will have a huge advantage over others when learning new programs because I now have a firm grasp of computing mechanisms.
  • Understanding what the software is capable will allow which way to do something is actually less effort and thus use less energy. Also by knowing what can be done with the software completely, you can find out if a mistake is on your fault or the system’s fault.

Story #2: Now, let’s compare these answers to the ones we got, when we surveyed the Media Computation students a year after the first cohort. We asked them, “How has this class changed how you interact with computers?”

  • “Definitely makes me think of what is going on behind the scenes of such programs like Photoshop and Illustrator.”
  • ‘I understand technological concepts more easily now; I am more willing and able to experience new things with computers now’
  • ‘I have learned more about the big picture behind computer science and programming. This has helped me to figure out how to use programs that I’ve never used before.’

Story #3: In total synchronicity, Barb had a workshop last week with Atlanta-area AP CS teachers, and they started telling her stories from their students who took AP CS, but are now in College but not in CS. Barb is now collecting these stories, e.g., the management major who is the most comfortable in Excel and databases, because she took AP CS.

What’s going on in all of these stories? One possibility is that students are transferring their understanding of computer science and using it to understand how the application software works. That’s possible, but I find it unlikely. I find “unprompted, untaught transfer-of-knowledge” to be rare enough to rank it right alongside Bigfoot and unicorns. Yeah, maybe it happens, but it’s unlikely unless the teachers explicitly helped to make the connection, e.g., “Here’s how arrays are like spreadsheets.”

Here’s another hypothetical mechanism to explain the students’ experience. Learning to program in Java is hard, even harder than learning Microsoft Office. However, a lot of the basic computer use activities are the same: cut/copy/paste, navigating through directories, recognizing that there is internal computer state. Most importantly, programming requires you to be comfortable with the computer yelling, “Error!” Instead, students learning to program treat errors as a symptom (rather than a reason to give up) which initiates a problem-solving process. Maybe learning computer science is a “trial-by-fire” for learning to use a computer. Literally, then, learning to program a computer is about learning how to learn other applications, because of the change in habits in response to the computer acting in ways unexpected or undesired.

In any case, we are collecting some interesting data (not anecdotes — Beth’s data and mine are data collected through an IRB-approved survey process, and we already published our data in a peer-reviewed conference) showing that CS students feel that they have a sense of computer application efficacy that they didn’t previously. That is something that even school administrators who don’t appreciate CS DO value. Maybe we can argue for computer science in a different way, that it’s a terrific way of achieving the (to our my minds, not very important) goal that administrators do value.

November 21, 2010 at 9:44 pm 2 comments

Computers In Schools Are A Failure, “Tools of Distraction”

An interesting interview with Alan, with the claim “Computers have become tools of distraction” that points to a really important issue.  What we know about learning is that it’s about directed conscious attention to sense-making. Computers today are about multi-tasking and avoiding boredom. Boredom isn’t nearly as dangerous as ignorance.

Kay says the education system has squandered 30 years of technology in classrooms. He likens the modern factory educatory system to a monkey with a microscope. The monkey looks at its reflection in the microscope’s barrel but doesn’t look through the eyepiece — it utterly misses the point.

Computers have become tools of distraction, Kay said, instead of education. He singles out Guitar Hero as the best example of this — players get the fantasy of virtuoso guitar playing without learning a single note.

via Computers In Schools Are A Failure, Says Computer Pioneer Alan Kay [Apple in Education] | Cult of Mac.

November 19, 2010 at 9:51 am 16 comments

Barbara Ericson on the Rise in AP CS

The AP CS data for 2010 is now out, and Barb sent out updates to the Georgia high school CS teachers on her mailing list and to the AP list.  I’m combining those messages below, with her permission.

Dear Teachers,
Thanks to your hard work we had 692 students take the CS AP A exam in Georgia in 2010.  This is compared to 583 in 2009.  That is a very nice increase and the largest number of students who have ever taken the CS AP A exam.  The mean score in 2010 was 2.83 while it was 2.65 in 2009, so we see an improvement there.
We had 118 females take the exam in 2010 versus 110 in 2009, so a slight increase in the total numbers.  The female mean score was 2.46 versus 2.9 for the males (a drop from 2.47 in 2009 for the females).  The number of Blacks who took the exam in 2010 was 68 versus 69 in 2009.  The mean scores for Blacks improved from 1.39 to 1.66.  The number of Hispanics who took the exam in 2010 was 30 versus 27 in 2009.
To see the detail on the 2010 data see

Since the number of schools offering AP CS A has been dropping since 2007-2008 I am glad to see that the number of students taking the exam has increased and that there has been some improvement in performance.  But, we still have a long way to go to catch up to Calculus.  In 2010, 7256 students took the Calculus AB exam and 2164 took the BC exam.  I am also very concerned that the current number of schools offering AP CS A has dropped substantially from last year (71 to 59).  It is even more important for schools to recruit students for AP CS A and especially more females and under-represented minorities.
I have put a spreadsheet that has the number of AP CS A exams taken in each state from 1998-2010 at  This is based on data from the College Board at It shows that most states had an increase in the number of exams in 2010, but not all.
Maryland continues to steadily increase (they never had a decrease) and has the highest number of students taking the exam by percentage of the population.  Texas has the largest number of exam takers at 3,392 followed by California at 2,793.  But, 28 states still have less students taking the exam than they had at some point in the previous years. And, 25 states had less than 100 people take the exam in 2010 and of those 11 states had less than 25 people take the exam.
Access to AP CS A is certainly not universal in our country.  We also clearly still have a problem with gender and race.  I challenge each AP CS A teacher to specifically recruit females and under-represented minorities.  The PSAT data should be available in Dec or Jan.  Find out how to get access to the data at your school and create letters for the parents of female and under-represented minorities that are identified to have AP potential.  I have some sample letters at  Feel free to modify these and use them.  You should also hand deliver a letter to each female student and minority that you are trying to recruit.  There are also good materials for women about computing at and at

November 18, 2010 at 9:29 pm 10 comments

Panel Calls for Turning Teacher Education ‘Upside Down,’ Centering Curricula around Classroom-Ready Training

I’m trying to figure out from the press-release and the report what’s being removed or what’s currently on-top that’s going to be at-bottom in the new proposed model for teacher education.  I get that clinical practice is going to be put at the forefront.  What do they think is currently at the forefront, and where is that going to go?  I worry that the emphasis on practice will mean a de-emphasis on content.  Much of the discussion on this blog has centered on the need for teachers of CS-STEM to know CS-STEM.

A national expert panel composed of education experts and critics today called for teacher education to be “turned upside down” by revamping programs to place clinical practice at the center of teacher preparation. This new vision of preparation also will require the development of partnerships with school districts in which teacher education becomes a shared responsibility between P-12 schools and higher education.

Those and other sweeping recommendations are part of a report by the Blue Ribbon Panel on Clinical Preparation and Partnerships for Improved Student Learning, convened by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) to improve student learning.

The new approaches will involve significant policy and procedural changes in both the state higher education and P-12 education systems and entail revamping longstanding policies and practices that are no longer suited to today’s needs. The changes called for will require state higher education officials, governors, and state P-12 commissioner leadership working together to remove policy barriers and create policy supports for the new vision of teacher education.

NCATE president James G. Cibulka talked about why NCATE convened the panel: “There are more students with greater learning needs than ever before; rigorous new standards for students with higher expectations for student achievement; and the need to turn around low-performing schools, to name just a few of the unsolved challenges present today. These unmet needs press education stakeholders at large to make bold, simultaneous systemic changes.”

via NCATE News & Press Releases – Panel Calls for Turning Teacher Education ‘Upside Down,’ Centering Curricula around Classroom-Ready Training and Increasing Oversight and Expectations.

November 17, 2010 at 4:28 pm 3 comments

Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell on the future of software (Q&A)

Always useful for computing educators to keep an eye on the world of software in which our students will work. Nolan Bushnell has an interesting perspective.

What led you to focus on the 10 specific areas of software?
Bushnell: The 10 was an arbitrary number. My original list was 16 but there were some that could be folded. Some things that I am passionate about will take more time and are as much a chemistry and manufacturing problem as software. But the biggest thing for the near future is auto-cars, which will change everything.

Tell me about that. Why do you think they’ll change everything, and how so?
Bushnell: It’ll be within five years, somewhere. The costs are there right now. The Google car actually was cost-effective. Think of no traffic congestion, highways that can hold 30 times as much traffic. Half the energy costs. It just goes on and on.

After auto-cars, what do you think is the second-most likely area of your 10 to change society?

Bushnell: The next three will happen at the same time. One is the elimination of credentials. People are not their credit cards or passports and those are subject to fraud that is costing us billions of dollars. The physical metrics are better and cheaper and will be deployed. You will walk into a restaurant and pay by looking into a camera or by using your thumbprint. No identity thief will be able to do that. You can access all your accounts and board a plane naked.

Another will be the cloud containing all our medical information with layers of security. This will help solve the genome problem by sharing your DNA and medical condition but with identity stripped off.

Another is personal robotics. It’s a passion of mine and is now doable. All the obstacles I faced in the 1980s have been solved. It will be huge.

Lastly, government downsizing will be a big software opportunity. As more states hit the wall, their only hope will be to build in new efficiencies. California, for instance, is on the far side of the tax elasticity curve. Higher taxes lead to more jobs leaving the state, and less revenue. About half the states are going to decrease workers and still provide services.

via Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell on the future of software (Q&A) | Geek Gestalt – CNET News.

November 17, 2010 at 3:03 pm 3 comments

Out-Processing Processing with Field

Marc Downie is coming to Georgia Tech to give a talk, and his abstract included a reference to the Field programming language, designed for creation of computing-as-art.  “Always in collaboration, always in real-time their practice has spawned a parallel series of investigations into the tools and representations used to make digital art. This thought has become embodied in a new open source platform for programming art called Field. What kinds of tools do we need to survive the complex forms that we can create? what kinds of interactions can we have with the code that we write? and what kinds of collaborations and communities of artists might arise around these platforms?”  That was intriguing enough that I looked up Field. Wow!  Explicitly, they aim to be better at processing than Processing. They interact with a wide variety of code bases, from pure-Python to Java to Max/MSP. The IDE includes a bunch of unusual ideas, like embedding GUIs into the source code.

Since it’s such an important source of interesting libraries, the Processing tradition has received special attention — the ProcessingPlugin bridges Field’s execution model to the world of Processing. Field replaces the Processing Development Environment and its programming language while allowing you to use all of your favorite Processing libraries and renderers from within Field’s integrated Processing “Applet”. Field has no start or stop button — there’s no compile cycle. You can execute, script, sequence and manipulate code as the “Applet” runs — all while building personal practice-oriented interfaces in the canvas. We think that, for many uses, Field is a better Processing than Processing. We note that most if not all of the items on Processing’s proposed “future features” list are already available in Field, or are not needed in Field because it is a live environment, or can be readily made inside Field today.

via OverviewBanners2 (Field).

November 17, 2010 at 2:24 pm 6 comments

Take the CSed Week Pledge

CSed Week will be December 5-11 this year — to encompass Grace Hopper’s birthday, and as defined by an act of Congress.  The new website will be rolling out on November 29, and will encourage students, teachers, industry, and university folks to pledge to engage in some activity to promote computer science education.  I’m on the Steering Committee for the effort, representing ACM and SIGCSE.

When the new website opens, we’d love for their to be a long list of people already pledging to do useful and interesting things during CSed Week.  Please do visit the pledge pages and sign up to do something, from simply blogging on CSed Week, to speaking to a group of high school students about CS Ed, to working with groups of undergraduates to visit a bunch of elementary schools and give demos of Alice and Kodu.  Invite others to pledge, as well, to show that the CS education community is active and cares about promoting computing education.


November 16, 2010 at 2:02 pm 1 comment

The Shadow Scholar: Essay from a Cheat Author

And this is someone who provides prose for cheating.  It’s even easier to cheat with code, since there are fewer degrees of freedom.  My guess is that cheating as he describes is even more prevalent in computer science.

This part is particularly scary, for those of us interested in K-12 teaching: “I, who have no name, no opinions, and no style, have written so many papers at this point, including legal briefs, military-strategy assessments, poems, lab reports, and, yes, even papers on academic integrity, that it’s hard to determine which course of study is most infested with cheating. But I’d say education is the worst. ”

In the past year, I’ve written roughly 5,000 pages of scholarly literature, most on very tight deadlines. But you won’t find my name on a single paper.

I’ve written toward a master’s degree in cognitive psychology, a Ph.D. in sociology, and a handful of postgraduate credits in international diplomacy. I’ve worked on bachelor’s degrees in hospitality, business administration, and accounting. I’ve written for courses in history, cinema, labor relations, pharmacology, theology, sports management, maritime security, airline services, sustainability, municipal budgeting, marketing, philosophy, ethics, Eastern religion, postmodern architecture, anthropology, literature, and public administration. I’ve attended three dozen online universities. I’ve completed 12 graduate theses of 50 pages or more. All for someone else.

You’ve never heard of me, but there’s a good chance that you’ve read some of my work. I’m a hired gun, a doctor of everything, an academic mercenary. My customers are your students. I promise you that. Somebody in your classroom uses a service that you can’t detect, that you can’t defend against, that you may not even know exists.

I work at an online company that generates tens of thousands of dollars a month by creating original essays based on specific instructions provided by cheating students. I’ve worked there full time since 2004. On any day of the academic year, I am working on upward of 20 assignments.

via The Shadow Scholar – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

November 15, 2010 at 8:30 pm 21 comments

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