Archive for March 7, 2011

Contextualized computing ed works — it’s just not there

CS Ed folk are mailing each other about the Washington Post article on CS Education (just in time for SIGCSE this week!).  Eli’s class at Virginia Tech sounds great, and the project is an excellent example of how context can help to highlight the relevance of computing education — what we’ve been saying with Media Computation and IPRE for years.  Jan Cuny’s comment is highlighting the more significant bit.  Sarita Yardi highlighted in her email to Georgia Tech’s CSEd mailing list that the reporters missed Jan’s bigger issue, and I think Sarita is right.

We do know how to engage kids now.  We have NCWIT Best and Promising Practices, and we have contextualized computing education.  The real problem is that, when it comes to high school CS, we’re just not there.  If you choose a high school at random, you are ten times more likely to find one that offers no CS than to find one offering AP CS.  That’s a big reason why the AP numbers are so bad.  It’s not that the current AP CS is such an awful class.  It can be taught well. It’s just not available to everyone!  The AP CS teachers we’re working with are turning kids away because their classes are full. Most kids just don’t have access.

“The sky is falling in a sense that we’re not engaging kids that we could be engaging,” said Jan Cuny of the National Science Foundation, who is helping to formulate a new AP course. While the current program focuses mostly on Java programming, a new class being piloted at several colleges would focus on problem-solving and creating technology instead of just using it.

“We’ll have no problem interesting kids in doing these things,” Cuny said. “The tough part is getting into the schools.”

via Computer science programs use mobile apps to make coursework relevant.

March 7, 2011 at 6:14 pm 5 comments

Heading off to SIGCSE 2011!

I leave Tuesday for Dallas and the 2011 SIGCSE Symposium! I don’t have the cycles this year to do a bunch of posts about the events I’m attending at SIGCSE. Instead, I’ll offer a quick overview of the program from my perspective.

Wednesday: I’ve got the SIGCSE Board meeting all day. In the evening, Tiffany Barnes, Sally Fincher, and I are hosting a mini-workshop for future ICER (International Computing Education Research workshop) and Doctoral Consortium leaders: On how to handle paper reviewing, how budgets work for SIGCSE conferences, what paperwork ACM expects, and what are the big issues to pay attention to.

Last chance for change stories!Sally will be gathering more change stories during the conference, and she’ll leave the website open until the end of the conference. Please tell her your change stories before Saturday!. It really only takes 15 minutes, and she wants ANY TEACHER’S stories — high school or undergraduate.

Thursday. The conference opens with Matthias Felleisen receiving his award for Outstanding Contributions to CS Education and presenting his keynote address. I’m looking forward to it! There is a special session on computer music in CS Ed, a theme we’ve raised here. At the First Timer’s Lunch (which the Board attends as old-timers to welcome the first-timers), Gordon Davies will present as the winner of the Lifetime Service Award. Gordon is past-chair of the CS Department of the Open University UK, so he has great insights into CS education at a distance.

Thursday afternoon, Allison Elliott Tew presents her dissertation in 6 pages and 25 minutes. This will be the first presentation of her instrument, the first language-independent, validated test of CS1 knowledge — should lead to a wild discussion. Later in the afternoon, I’m on a panel about the new CS2013 CS Curriculum volume.

Thursday evening, I’m hosting two BOF’s: One on matching up SIGCSE members to CSTA Leadership Cohort, and another on Media Computation, with five speakers so-far. From 7-10 pm, Barb and I are hosting a workshop on Media Computation data structures: “Listening to Linked Lists”.

Friday morning’s keynote speech is by Susan Landau about her experiences in public policy in DC. Donald Knuth is speaking at lunch, but I have a meeting then. In the afternoon, I’m on a panel on Role and Value of Quantitative Instruments in CS Education — I plan to talk about the from science-to-engineering themes that I talked about in a post from last year. There’s an NCWIT Academic Alliance reception in the evening before the main conference reception, opposite the SIGCSE Business Meeting which I need at attend as a Board member — I’m hoping to swing by the reception after the business meeting.

Saturday, Ria Galanos and I are giving Lijun Ni’s paper (Lijun is expecting in April) on teacher identity. Later that morning, Davide Fossati will give his paper about his study of how CS teachers decide to change their practice. Luis von Ahn is the closing speaker at the luncheon. Barb was supposed to have a workshop on Alice and Media Computation (with Steve Cooper and Wanda Dann) on Saturday afternoon, but it got cancelled. We’d already made our flights back, so we’ll leave Sunday morning to come home.

I’ll blog catch-as-catch-can this week.

March 7, 2011 at 9:00 am 4 comments

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