We get the chance to beat the book: NSF CE21 funded CSLearning4U

September 23, 2011 at 10:39 am 27 comments

We get the chance to beat the book for CS learning!  Our NSF CE21 (Computing Education in the 21st Century) proposal was funded for about $990K from October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2013.  The goal of this project is to create new media for learning computer science at a distance by high school teachers.  We are pursuing the correspondence school model of distance learning, rather than a remote classroom model, in Sir John Daniel’s terms. We want to create a medium that can be studied, within the time constraints of high school teachers (or others, like people re-entering the IT workforce.)  A key idea is that we can design instruction, following principles of educational psychology, to help people learn computing better.  It simply can’t be true that the only way to learn computer science (even programming) is by wrestling the interpreter or compiler.  Yes, it’s possible to learn to swim by being thrown into the deep end of the pool, but we can do better — less struggle, more efficiency, less wasted time, and fewer people giving up.

I’ve created a minimal project page at http://home.cc.gatech.edu/csl/CSLearning4U. I’ve included the proposal and the reviews to help inform future CE21 proposal writers.  You can see what we proposed (as an example of something that got funded), and what the review panel liked and disliked.

Here’s the explanation of the project title we chose:

CSLearning4U means:

  • Computer Science Learning FOR YOU, as in you, as long as you want to learn some computer science. This isn’t CS learning just for software developers, or just for Information Technology, Information Systems, Computer Science, Computer Engineering, or Software Engineering specialists. It’s about making Computer Science Learning accessible to anyone with an interest in learning.
  • Computer Science Learning FOR UBIQUITOUS ACCESS. You need a computer to learn computer science, but those are everywhere today, from your cellphone to your settop box. We want CS learning to be accessible anywhere.

We also received a GVU Seed Grant which is funding a psychology PhD student, Lauren Margulieux, to work with Richard Catrambone and me.  We’re hoping to develop some instructional treatments in the current semester that we can test next semester, to identify and try some particular educational psychology principles that can help us in addressing CS learning challenges.


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