Archive for November, 2012

A new MOOC Platform: Class2Go, Stanford’s New Open-Source Platform

MOOCs are still quite new, so it’s not surprising that more platforms are coming out.  It’s a little surprising that this is the third one to come out of Stanford.  Why is Stanford ground-zero for the MOOC movement?  Because Stanford is so entrepreneurial or innovative?  Because of the Silicon Valley culture which encourages exploring use of technology to solve problems, like education?  Because Stanford has deep enough pockets that they can afford to experiment?  I really don’t know, and do find it fascinating.

To unpack that a little: When Class2Go says it’s portable, it means that it wants to be platform agnostic. Its documents are already portable, its videos already live outside its system on YouTube, its assets can be repurposed as professors see fit and the platform’s exercises and problem sets are in the Khan Academy format (meaning they’re not in a proprietary database) and can be used anywhere.

In terms of interoperability, Class2Go’s website reads, “we don’t want to build or maintain more than we have to,” so it stands on the shoulders of, or relies significantly on, other services to run, like Khan, Piazza, YouTube, Python Django, Amazon AWS, Opscode and Github. Furthermore, designing the platform for both teaching and research means that the platform will leverage data to inform and evolve pedagogy, as well as to give them a glimpse into the efficacy of lessons, teaching style, tech tools, etc.

via Class2Go: Stanford’s New Open-Source Platform For Online Education | TechCrunch.

November 30, 2012 at 5:31 am 4 comments

In USAToday: Women band together, make inroads into tech

The basic story here is one we’ve heard before. What I liked about this one was who is talking.  These aren’t just interviews with the academics and others working with NCWIT.  These are interviews with corporations and engineers, and even our Georgia Tech Dean of Engineering, Gary May.  This is a broader base for the argument for getting more women into computing.

Despite an influx of females among Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial ranks, the computer-science field remains dominated by men. According to the National Science Foundation, women have plummeted from 28% of the graduates in computer sciences at U.S. schools in 2000 to 17% in 2010, the most recent year for which data are available.

“There should be more female engineers,” says Rani Borkar, general manager for Intel’s Architecture Development Group. She came to the U.S. from India in 1985 and has seen steady, if slow, progress.

The field’s stunted growth, especially for women, is rooted in education. There just aren’t enough kids weaned on the topic in high school and, before that, elementary school, says Gary May, dean of the College of Engineering at Georgia Tech.

Computer science is taught in a fraction of U.S. high schools. Only 2,100 of 42,000 were certified to teach advanced-placement computer science courses in 2011,and just 21,139 students took the AP exam.

via Women band together, make inroads into tech.

November 29, 2012 at 9:28 am Leave a comment

Draft ICT Programme of Study now available for comment

The process that started with the Royal Society’s report on the state of computer science education in UK schools has now resulted in a new draft program of study, available for comment. It’s interesting to contrast with CS:Principles and Exploring Computer Science as two US curricula aiming to, similarly, give students the computing knowledge and skills that they need for modern society.

In his speech to BETT on 11 January, the Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove responded to the call from industry by starting a consultation on withdrawing the existing National Curriculum Programme of Study for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) from September this year. The intention was to allow the development of innovative, exciting and rigorous new ICT courses in advance of the launch of the new National Curriculum in 2014. Following consultation, the government confirmed on 11 June that it was their intention to proceed and that ICT would be a compulsory subject up to Key Stage 4 with its own Programme of Study.

In late August 2012 the DfE invited BCS and the Royal Academy of Engineering to coordinate the drafting of a new Programme of Study for ICT. In discussion with DfE, BCS and the Royal Academy of Engineering decided to follow the following process

  • Form a small working party to write a first draft.
  • Publish this first draft in late October, and seek broad comment and feedback.
  • Revise the draft during November and December in the light of that feedback.
  • The DfE will publish the revised draft, along with the Programmes of Study for other subjects, for full public consultation in the Spring of 2013.

The working party included several school teachers, together with representation from Naace, CAS, ITTE, Vital, and NextGen Skills. The group’s membership appears below. It met for the first time on 19 September, and completed the draft by 22 October as required by DfE.

We are now at Step 2 of this process. The current draft should be regarded as a first step, not as a finished product. It has not received widespread scrutiny, and it is not endorsed by DfE. It is simply a concrete starting point for wider public debate.

via Draft ICT Programme of Study | BCS Academy of Computing.

November 29, 2012 at 7:09 am 1 comment

How do we measure the value of a degree to society?

I enjoyed this blog post from “Gas stations without pumps,” where he talks about how we value the “private good” value of a college education. But given the interesting distinction he makes in the first paragraph (below), I wonder if we could measure the value of a degree to a society, rather than to a person. How much good does it do the society and the economy for someone to earn their college degree? I’ve read evidence that dropouts have a high cost to society, but I don’t know how to measure the value that society gets by having someone finish. It’s an important question, as the cost of higher education gets increasingly shifted to the individual.

The ongoing privatization of higher education in the USA is driven largely by a view of education as a private good (of benefit primarily to the one receiving the education) rather than a public good (where society as a whole reaps the benefit of an educated populace). To make the “private good” view work, one has to convince people that there is a substantial benefit to the recipients of the education that far exceeds any benefit to society. This has generally been done in crassly monetary terms, talking about the earnings of graduates compared to those with less education (generally in lifetime earning terms, to make the differences appear as large as possible). By using a purely monetary assessment, one can conveniently ignore all the other effects on society, and pretend that education is purely a private investment in increasing earning potential.

via How much is a degree worth? « Gas station without pumps.

November 28, 2012 at 5:58 am 1 comment

Crazy Travel Begins: NASA Goddard, MIT CSAIL, Stanford, and Tufts

It’s nearing the end of the semester here, and classes are wrapping up, so the pent-up travel bursts into my calendar.  Here’s what I’ve got the next three weeks:

  • I told my youngest daughter, “I’ve got a cool talk coming up.  What’s the coolest, geekiest, most amazing techie thing you’ve heard of recently?”  She immediately replied, “The Mars Rover!” And I got to say, “I’m going to NASA!”  (which is even cooler in our house than saying, “I’m going to DisneyWorld!”)  I’m flying tonight to Baltimore to visit NASA Goddard Space Flight Center tomorrow and give a talk about computing education for everyone.  My eldest daughter wishes she could come with me — “That’s my dream job!”
  • Friday, I’m going to MIT Computer Science and AI Laboratory (CSAIL) to talk about “What we know about teaching computer science (Answer: Not all that much)”.  It’s going to be an exciting day. Hal Abelson and Mitchel Resnick are both on my schedule.  I’ve already received a note from Richard Stallman saying that he can’t make my talk, but am I going to release any free/libre software to address problems in CS education?  (Seriously!)
  • Next Tuesday and Wednesday (Dec 4-5), Barbara and I are visiting Stanford again.  We were just there in March and are pleased to be invited back so soon.  I’m giving two talks on Tuesday (and the nervousness factor rises geometrically, not linearly).  The first is a demonstration lecture, which I’m excited about and wish I got invited to do more often when I visit places — I don’t get to teach introductory CS much here, and I love doing it, so it’s a treat for me.  The second is a research talk on “On-Line CS Education.”
  • Then the following Monday (Dec 10), I’m at Tufts University visiting the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach. There’s a bunch of great work going on there, but I have a more personal interest in going there, too.  I lived at Tufts when I was an intern for GTE Laboratories in Waltham in the Summer of 1983, and have fond memories of the campus.

If I’m slow in responding here (or via email) over the next three weeks, I hope you’ll understand.  If you’re around one of these places and can come to my talk, please do and stop by to say hello!

November 27, 2012 at 10:26 am 4 comments

Learning Science and Engineering Professional Masters Program at CMU

I admit jealousy. This sounds like a great program that I wish we could offer at Georgia Tech. A CS Ed track would be natural in a program like this.

The Learning Science and Engineering Professional Masters Program (LSE)

The Master of Science in Learning Science and Engineering program offers students who have a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in such areas as psychology, education, computer science, information technology, business, or design the opportunity to improve their training with advanced study in Learning Science and Engineering. Our students will gain the knowledge, skills, and techniques to develop and evaluate programs in learning settings that range from schools to workplaces, museums to computer-based environments—as well as other formal, informal and non-traditional educational settings. Graduates of the program will take key positions in corporations and private and public universities and schools; they will become designers, developers, and evaluators of educational technologies and learning environments as well as domain experts, learning technology policy-makers, or Chief Learning Officers.

via Learning Science and Engineering Professional Masters Program – Overview | Human-Computer Interaction Institute.

November 27, 2012 at 9:17 am 1 comment

The BlueJ/Greenfoot Team Are Hiring at University of Kent at Canterbury

This does sound like a wicked-cool job.  And U. Kent-Canterbury would be a wicked-cool place to work.

We are a small team: essentially, there’s Michael Kölling and Ian Utting, who also teach at the university, and then there’s Davin (now doing his PhD) and me — where Davin and I are the sole developers at the moment. (Honourable mentions for our PhD students Michael Berry and Fraser McKay.) Right now, we’re too small, and we need more people! The group’s main activities currently include:

  1. development and maintenance of BlueJ (a large Java application)
  2. development and maintenance of Greenfoot (another large Java application)
  3. user support
  4. development and maintenance of various Ruby on Rails websites (, and a few more)
  5. developing a large-scale data collection mechanism for BlueJ
  6. designing the Next Big Thing in computing education (ha! — we hope)
  7. doing outreach with teachers, especially around the UK
  8. developing educational material
  9. writing academic papers

via The BlueJ/Greenfoot Team Are Hiring | Academic Computing.

November 26, 2012 at 12:28 pm Leave a comment

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