Archive for December, 2011
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 170,000 times in 2011. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 7 days for that many people to see it.
Here’s a meta-post as the last post of ComputingEd 2011. Below is 3 of the top 10 CSTA Blog posts of 2011 with a link to the rest of the list, and Alfred Thompson has also posted his most-read blog posts of 2011. Alfred has also created a nice roll of CS Ed blogs. Here’s to a great 2012!
10. January 12, 2011- A Joint Call for Research Why Computer Science Education is Important for K-12. This post is well worth a second look to provide a good reminder that we make many statements about the necessity of CS for all, but we need to get more research behind that!
9. February 21, 2011- Election Data And Socially Relevant Computing. Something to think about with our upcoming National election in 2012.
8. March 9, 2011- Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Attend SIGCSE. Yes, a gratuitous self-re-posting of another Top 10 List. But let it serve as a reminder to think about attending SIGCSE in North Carolina this year!
NBC News’ Education Week asked me to write a guest blog post two weeks ago on my argument for why we should teach more CS classes. It got posted yesterday. I am grateful to Amy Bruckman, Christine Alvarado, Barbara Ericson, and Brendan Streich for their great comments and even text that they provided for this. We worked hard on those few hundred words!
Most people who write computer programs aren’t professional programmers. Scientists and engineers write programs on a daily basis. But even non-technical professionals rely on deep knowledge of computing. Graphic designers work with many images with multiple layers, and they write programs to automate operations. An estimate out of Carnegie Mellon University says that for every professional software developer in 2012, there will be four people who write programs but aren’t professional software developers.
Here’s the problem with this picture: Few of those non-professional programmers had any computer science (CS) classes. Either the CS classes weren’t there, or they avoided them. Research at Georgia Tech has found that pre-teen Girl Scouts already think computer science is “geeky.” Brian Dorn, an assistant professor at University of Hartford, found that even adult graphic designers think computer science is “boring,” and they avoid classes in computer science.
I’m not sure that I follow the whole argument (e.g., can we extrapolate from offensive behavior at conferences to the macro-level movement of women away from IT?), but I find the detail and analysis here quite interesting. The problem of mid-career drop-out is real, and we need to figure out ways of coming back into the workforce.
Though not the only reason, the numbers show that in software development specifically, sexist and overtly offensive behavior (both online and off) is one of two key factors as to why women are leaving technical fields as reported by ABC News. This article quotes Laura Sherbin, director at the Center for Work-Life Policy, who published a study in the Harvard Business Review titled “Reversing the Brain Drain in Science, Engineering, and Technology”. Laura goes on to explain the primary reasons women leave STEM fields…
“The top two reasons why women leave are the hostile macho cultures — the hard hat culture of engineering, the geek culture of technology or the lab culture of science … and extreme work pressures”
Sherbin also highlights just how critical and surprising the numbers are, even to researchers.
“The dropping out was a surprise to us. We knew anecdotally that women were leaving these careers. We didn’t expect to see the number 52 percent.”
Interesting response to President Obama’s call for creating many more engineers, which has started from the claim that we’re not being competitive with China’s production of engineers. This article from the Washington Post suggests that there isn’t a shortage of engineers at all in the US. It feels like the problem of determining whether or not we have enough CS enrollment — what’s “enough”?
What’s more, China’s tally of 350,000 was suspect because China’s definition of “engineering” was not consistent with that of U.S. educators. Some “engineers” were auto mechanics or technicians, for example. We didn’t dispute that China was and is dramatically increasing its output of what it calls engineers. This year, China will graduate more than 1 million (and India, close to 500,000). But the skills of these engineers are so poor that comparisons don’t make sense. We predicted that Chinese engineers would face unemployment. Indeed, media reports have confirmed that the majority of Chinese engineers don’t take engineering jobs but become bureaucrats or factory workers.
Then there is the question of whether there is a shortage of engineers in the United States. Salaries are the best indicator of shortages. In most engineering professions, salaries have not increased more than inflation over the past two decades. But in some specialized fields of software engineering in Silicon Valley and in professions such as petroleum engineering, there have been huge spikes. The short answer is that there are shortages in specific fields and in specific regions, but not overall. Graduating more of the wrong types of engineers is likely to increase unemployment rather than create jobs.
Here’s an interesting view to contrast with the student-as-consumer view that sometimes drives master teachers out of their jobs (since master teachers make students work). Nobody will ever say that Steve Jobs ignored the consumer — Apple didn’t get to be the huge consumer electronics company today without trying to please the consumer. But he never asked them what they wanted. They did get a vote: To buy, or not buy. Are there lessons for us in education? Are course evaluations the education equivalent of market research?
In the Preface to Inventing the Medium, I write about the limitations of asking users what they want since people “often cannot think past the familiar conventions of existing devices and applications.” A similar theme emerged from the many admiring reminiscences that followed Steve Jobs’ death this month. From the New York Times obituary : When asked what market research went into the iPad, Mr. Jobs replied: “None. It’s not the consumers’ job to know what they want.”
Interesting piece that takes a regional perspective on undergraduate CS enrollment. The suggestion is that New York is seeing a big growth in computer science because the focus there is across disciplines, not just technology for technology sake (as in Silicon Valley). It’s based on a notion that computing is “a basic skill in the 21st century.”
The number of declared undergraduate computer science majors at the Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science jumped 12% this year over last year; at New York University, the number rose 10%. Queens College and Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., also reported jumps in the number of computer science majors. At the same time, the number of students enrolled in computer science classes has surged between 30% and 50%, professors said.