Archive for January, 2012

Do badges get in the way of learning to code?

Badges are the hot idea in open learning these days.  The goal is to provide some kind of certification, different than a degree.  MITx is providing an actual certificate.  The critique of the Codecademy in the below piece is that interest in programming should be intrinsic, and learning should not be motivated by an extrinsic reward like a badge.  At my most idealistic, I agree — intrinsic motivation clearly leads to the best learning.  However, almost every student in higher education today is there for a future job, or for a degree, or for some other kind of extrinsic reward.  I don’t see badges as being more or less extrinsic than a job or degree.

The pursuit of knowledge about programming shouldn’t be conflated with the pursuit of badges. That’s the beauty of this sort of DIY learning tool too — the people who want to learn to code want to learn to code and the reward should be that knowledge, not some virtual item.

via Codecademy and the Future of (Not) Learning to Code.

January 20, 2012 at 10:10 am 5 comments

A conference on primary and secondary computing education research

Interesting — a computing education research conference in Germany, explicitly focused on pre-college computing education.

CFP: The 7th Workshop in Primary and Secondary Computing Education
WiPSCE 2012
November 8-9, 2012, Hamburg, Germany

We invite you to submit a paper for the 7th Workshop in Primary and
Secondary Computing Education (WiPSCE) and join us in Hamburg, Germany,
in November 2012.
Research in primary and secondary computing education is a young field
with strong ties to national educational systems. Nevertheless, its
theories, methods, and results are internationally applicable and of
interest to both researchers and practitioners in this field. WiPSCE has
its roots in a long-running workshop of the German computing education
community and now – based on this ten year tradition – aims at improving
the exchange of research and practice relevant to teaching and learning
in primary and secondary computing education, teacher training, and
related research.
The 2012 workshop will be located in the exciting city of Hamburg –
Germany’s so-called “Gateway to the World”. It is organized by the
University of Hamburg in collaboration with the University of Potsdam.

WiPSCE is the workshop of the special interest group in Secondary
Computing Education of the German Association of Informatics (GI) and
originates from the German “Workshop der GI-Fachgruppe Didaktik der
Informatik”. WiPSCE aims to publish high quality research that is
theoretically and empirically anchored and involves innovative teaching
and learning approaches in primary and secondary computing education.
WiPSCE is a single track workshop with research, practice, and systems
presentations as well as keynote speeches. The workshop language is
English. The workshop is known for its moderate size and lively
discussions, consequently a limited number of submissions will be accepted.

Original submissions in all areas related to primary and secondary
computing education are invited. Topics of interest include, but are not
limited to:
* Learning: attitudes, beliefs, motivation, misconceptions, learning
difficulties, student engagement with educational technology (e.g.
visualization), conceptualization of computing
* Teaching: teaching approaches, teaching methods, teaching with
educational technology
* Content: curricular aspects, learning standards, tools, didactical
approaches, context relevant teaching, assessment
* Institutional aspects: establishing and enhancing computing education,
professional development

“Grand Challenges in Primary and Secondary Computing Education”

What are the grand challenges in primary and secondary education within
the next decade? Which issues will unfold, persist or dominate in the
near future? Which research questions need to be addressed? Which
obstacles need to be overcome?
Well explained analyses, theories, and opinions are highly welcome for
this special session at WiPSCE 2012.

Submissions are invited for the following categories:
Full Paper (6-12 pages)
Full papers are expected to meet one of the two categories:
* Empirical Research Paper: Unpublished, original, theoretically
anchored research relevant to the topics of the workshop. Empirical
research papers are expected to be of high quality and present novel
arguments, syntheses, results, methods or tools.
* Theoretical and Philosophical Research Paper: Unpublished, original,
theoretically anchored research which includes dissemination and
discussion of new ideas, theoretical analyses, or the proposition of an
original theory relevant to the topics of the workshop.

Short Paper (3-4 pages)
Short papers are expected to present unpublished, original work in
progress related to empirical or theoretical research relevant to the
topics of the workshop.

Practical or Working Group Report (6-12 pages)
Reports are expected to present unpublished, original on-going work
undertaken by larger groups as part of long-term, cooperative research

Demo/Poster Abstract (2 pages)
Demo/Poster abstracts should present emerging ideas for future research,
teaching practice, or tools.
Submissions are required to follow the standard ACM two-column format
with a 9-point font. The review process will be double-blind, so authors
are requested not to include their names and affiliations when
submitting and to cite their prior work appropriately. Detailed
submission information is available at

To ensure selection of high quality contributions, submissions for Full
Papers are reviewed by at least three members of the international
Program Committee. Short Paper submissions and Demo/Poster Abstracts are
reviewed by at least two members of the Program Committee. The WiPSCE
Program Committee takes pride in considering submissions thoroughly and
providing constructive feedback.
All accepted contributions will be available as electronic
pre-proceedings prior to the workshop. The papers from the workshop will
be indexed and are planned to be available through the ACM Digital
Library (approval pending). A printed volume of the proceedings can be
ordered after the workshop.
At least one author must register and present accepted papers in order
for the paper to be included in the workshop proceedings.

Submission deadline: June 11, 2012
Re-submission deadline (*): June 24, 2012
Notification of acceptance: August 30, 2012

Submission of revised manuscripts: October 1, 2012
Early Registration deadline: October 15, 2012

Registration and Welcome reception:
Evening of November 7, 2012
Workshop: November 8-9, 2012

(*) We offer a re-submission slack. This means that title and abstract
of papers must be submitted by the June 11 deadline, but it will be
possible to upload the full versions of papers until June 24. Paper
abstracts that are not submitted by the June 11 deadline will not be

Maria Knobelsdorf (University of Potsdam, Germany)
Ralf Romeike (University of Potsdam, Germany)

Michal Armoni (Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel)
Tim Bell (University of Canterbury, New Zealand)
Roger Boyle (University of Leeds, UK)
Torsten Brinda (University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany)
Michael E. Caspersen (University of Aarhus, Denmark)
Paul Curzon (Queen Mary University of London, UK)
Ira Diethelm (University of Oldenburg, Germany)
Judith Gal-Ezer (The Open University of Israel, Israel)
Mark Guzdial (Georgia Institute of Technology, USA)
Peter Hubwieser (University of Technology, Munich, Germany)
Michael Kölling (University of Kent, UK)
Yifat Ben-David Kolikant (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel)
Johannes Magenheim (University of Paderborn, Germany)
Ulrik Schroeder (RWTH Aachen University, Germany)
Carsten Schulte (Freie Universität Berlin, Germany)
Peer Stechert (RBZ Technik Kiel, Germany)
Chris Stephenson (CSTA, USA)
Jan Vahrenhold (Technical University Dortmund, Germany)

Detlef Rick (University of Hamburg, Germany)
Axel Schmolitzky (University of Hamburg, Germany)

For more information please visit the WiPSCE website
or contact
Maria Knobelsdorf (,
Ralf Romeike (, or
Detlef Rick (

January 19, 2012 at 8:56 am 1 comment

Thoughts on Code Year, Codecademy, and Learning to Code (with C5 Side Note)

The blog piece below is the most biting criticism I’ve read of Codecademy.  (And of course, I’m always glad to read someone else pushing context as important for computing education!)  The author has a very good point quote below.  I’m not sure that we know how to achieve the goals of Code Year.  It’s amazing that Codecademy has raised $2.5M to support Code Year, but I do wonder if there’s a better use for that money–one that moves us closer to the goal of ubiquitous computing literacy.

Learning anything without context is hardly learning. I wish that Code Year was 2013 and 2012 was “some smart people with good ideas and a lot of money built took the time to build great pedagogically-driven tool to really solve an existing problem for folks who want and need training in this area.”

via Thoughts on Code Year, Codecademy, and Learning to Code |

Side note: I should be visiting with Alan Kay in 4 or 5 hours.  He’s introducing my keynote at the C5 Conference (, which I’m excited about.  Two of the C’s of C5 is “creating” and “computing,” and my talk is going to be about the challenges of supporting everyone in creating (for me, including “programming”) with computing.  I’m going to tell the MediaComp story, talk about Brian Dorn’s work with graphics designers, and with Klara Benda’s and Lijun Ni’s work that tells us about teachers’ needs to learn computer science.

January 18, 2012 at 7:06 am 8 comments

Response to Joanne–Wanted: Less Excuses And More Competitive Women

Interesting and challenging response to Joanne’s USNews blog piece in Forbes.  The author argues that women aren’t good at raising women who can compete with me.  I don’t agree, but it’s fascinating that this kind of debate is occurring in well-read mass media.

Ladies, we’re good at raising someone else’s self-esteem, helping them feel good. It is a byproduct of how we nurture, creating connection through listening, kind words and gentle touch. We suck at building self-confidence. It isn’t what we are wired to do.

Believe it or not, the guys are good at building self-confidence in others. Male aggression nurturance (Gurian & Annis: Leadership and the Sexes) builds self-confidence by expecting an individual to perform. Think of it as throwing someone into the deep end and expecting them to swim (while you’re standing on the shore with a floatie to throw if they need assistance). When they dog paddle to the shore, their self-confidence rises measurably. They did it and they know they can do it again.

via Wanted: Less Excuses And More Competitive Women – Forbes.

January 17, 2012 at 7:53 am 2 comments

Debating the ‘Flipped Classroom’ at Stanford

A blog from a Stanford student who took the online CS classes is raising some attention.  Who loses in online, “flipped” classrooms?  Maybe it’s the students who are there face-to-face.  Wouldn’t it be ironic if the efforts to expand the audience for the university, by putting classes on-line, ends up driving away the students who come to the brick-and-mortar university?

“Online lectures suck. Sure, they’re great for rainy days or people learning at a distance or people that don’t go to Stanford. However, these new classes are getting rid of in-person lectures completely. I met barely anyone in my CS229a class. Everything was done alone in my room, which is kind of crappy especially when there is such a nice campus right outside.”

“The initiative that Stanford has taken to open up education is great. However, God help me if all my classes become 2 hour weekly online lectures with review questions and auto-graded programming exercises. Stanford can expect a letter from me asking to get a cut in my tuition if the classes begin to go the way of CS229a.”

via Debating the ‘Flipped Classroom’ at Stanford – Wired Campus – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

January 16, 2012 at 8:22 am 9 comments

The Royal Society wants every UK Child to learn Computing

The Royal Society’s report on “Computing in Schools” was released yesterday, and it makes broad and significant recommendations.  Much of the report is focused on preparing teachers for a rigorous computer science curriculum, and on creating an infrastructure in schools where computing is available and maintained. The report is frank and honest about the challenges of implementing a rigorous computer science curriculum in schools.

I am most excited for what the report recommends about the curriculum.  The overall goal is “Every child should have the opportunity to learn Computing at school.”  The specifics include:

  • Every child should be expected to be ‘digitally literate’ by the end of compulsory education, in the same way that every child is expected to be able to read and write.
  • Every child should have the opportunity to learn concepts and principles from Computing (including Computer Science and Information Technology) from the beginning of primary education onwards, and by age 14 should be able to choose to study towards a recognised qualification in these areas.

Given the lack of specialist teachers, we recommend that only the teaching of digital literacy is made statutory at this point. However, the long-term aim should be to move to a
situation where there are sufficient specialist teachers to enable all young people to study
Information Technology and Computer Science at school. Accordingly, the Government should put in place an action plan to achieve this.

“Statutory” courses (and the report goes into some detail about what “statutory” means and why they make that recommendation)! Computing for everyone!  Think about what you could do in science, mathematics, and business classes if you could assume that everyone knew something about computer science from age 14.  Maybe Seymour Papert’s vision of computing being used to create a “Mathland” could finally be realized in the UK.  Think about how higher education computer science would change if you could assume several years of introductory computer science already.  Here in the US? Well, we’ll always have drills and drafting tables.

January 13, 2012 at 8:15 am 8 comments

This is CS in K-12: Career & Technical Education

Computer science in most states in K-12 is classified as “Career and Technical Education” (according to the Running on Empty report).  “Maybe that’s okay. Computing is important for many careers,” say some who hear this tidbit.  Maybe they don’t realize what “Career and Technical Education” is.

I’m now on a mailing list for career and technical education.  (CS in Georgia is in Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education.)  Yesterday, I got a catalog from a company that specializes in career and technical education.  Here’s what it looks like.  The people who pick the drills for your local high school may also be the ones who pick what programming languages are taught (if any). Computer science is in shop class.  There’s nothing wrong with shop class.  I’m not convinced that the preparation that makes you great at picking drills also makes you great at picking attributes of CS classes.

January 13, 2012 at 7:24 am 4 comments

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