Archive for February, 2013

IT Research Hearing Focuses on Security and Computing Education

A congressional committee heard about the importance of computing research, and what the committee members responded with was a need for more cyber-security and more computing education.

Lazowska spoke about the NITRD program’s history and the role of computing in the US economy. He showed an NRC chart on research and IT sectors with billion dollar markets. Lazowska also talked about the need to integrate security into the building of systems and not added on at the end as a defensive measure when questioned about cybersecurity by Congressman Steven Stockman R-TX. Stockman, who credits support from the fiscally-conservative Tea Party for his election, had the quote of the hearing, when after having pressed Lazowska for an order-of-magnitude estimate on how much additional investment in fundamental cyber security research would move the needle seemed surprised that the number PITAC requested back in 2005 was “only” $90 million. “Well, I’m interested in getting you billions, not millions,” he said, indicating he was very concerned about the U.S. vulnerability to cyber attack.The Subcommittee members were very interested in how to tackle the education problem in computing as well as how they could help researchers address cybersecurity moving forward.

via IT Research Hearing Focuses on Security, Education.

February 28, 2013 at 1:26 am 6 comments

Georgia proposes reducing CS in high school curriculum

Georgia’s Department of Education is revising their curricula for computer science.  You can see the existing pathway definition for “Computing” (here), and the definition of the existing first course “Computing in the Modern World” (CiMW).  CiMW is based on the CSTA Standards, and includes computing topics like data representation, Moore’s Law, algorithmic thinking, and problem solving.

The proposed new first course is linked here, as part of the now-called “Information Technology” Pathway.  It’s called “Introduction to Digital Technology.”  It does include computational thinking, but removes most of the computer science pieces.

Why are they doing this?  We are not sure — Universities have not been involved in the revision, only high school teachers and industry folks.  One theory is that the Department of Education wants to better align high school courses with jobs, so that high school students can graduate and go into the IT industry (perhaps same goal in NYC?).

I suspect that another reason for the change is the challenge of teaching teachers about CiMW topics. Teachers can’t teach everything in CiMW because (I suspect) many of them teaching the course don’t all know the content yet. Some of the high school teachers involved in the redesign told us that they were asked to use fewer computing buzzwords, because the teachers don’t know all those terms.  The teachers in this pathway are Business teachers, often with little STEM background.  Professional development budgets in Georgia have been slashed since 2007 when the Computing Pathways was launched.  It’s disappointing (if I’m right) that the decision is to reduce the scope of the curriculum, instead of helping the teachers to learn.

The new course is open for public comment (here).  If you are interested, please consider leaving your comments on the changes in the questionnaire.

Overall, this feels like the last time that Georgia un-decided to let AP CS count towards high school graduation. Two steps forward, one step back. “Constant vigilance!”

February 28, 2013 at 1:16 am 3 comments

Connecticut aims to grow STEM enrollment

Interesting model.  To be effective, I’d suggest hiring the STEM faculty with an eye toward STEM education.  Hire faculty who want to make improving the quality and retention of STEM graduates, not just more STEM researchers.  Make it count.

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy announced Thursday a plan to dedicate $1.5 billion to growing the science, technology, engineering, and math programs at the University of Connecticut. The money will be used to hire more faculty members, enroll more students, build new STEM facilities and dorms, and create new doctoral fellowships and a STEM honors program.

The proposal, called Next Generation Connecticut, spans UConn’s three campuses. If the program passes the state legislature, it would increase the number of engineering undergraduates enrolled by 70 percent and the number of STEM graduates by 47 percent. UConn currently enrolls 7,701 undergraduates and 1,973 graduate students in STEM fields. It would also fund the hiring of 259 new faculty members, 200 of whom would be in the STEM fields.

“It’s transformational,” said UConn President Susan Herbst. “It’s really every president’s hope that they get this kind of investment from their state or from their donors.”

via Connecticut and Texas aim to grow STEM enrollment, but take different approaches | Inside Higher Ed.

February 27, 2013 at 1:25 am Leave a comment

Using Education Theory to Frame CER: HCIL Invited Lecture

I gave a talk on 19 February at HCIL at U. Maryland-College Park.  I was pleased with how it turned out.  One of the things I learned when I gave my Indiana talks was that I ought to frame my talk with how I define learning and what theoretical frameworks I’m drawing on (e.g., learning sciences, constructionism, situated learning, community of practice, and authenticity).  This was my first talk where I tried to do that, and I liked how I could keep referencing back to the theory as I went along.  The talk gave me a chance to connect my work in computing education research (CER) to a broader education theory.

HCIL 30th Anniversary Distinguished Lecturer Series: Mark Guzdial, Georgia Tech – YouTube.

February 27, 2013 at 1:09 am 3 comments

NYC to teach computer science and software engineering in 20 schools

This is stunning: New York City Schools are going to teach computer science and software engineering in grades 6-12 in 20 schools starting this Fall.  By 2016, they plan to more than triple the number of children enrolled in the “Software Engineering Pilot program.”  I’m really curious about how they’re going to ramp up professional development to this scale.  It’s a great test for the future CS10K plans by NSF.  It’s not clear to me the goal — that these children will be ready to enter the IT workforce with their high school diplomas, or that these children will have the skills to succeed in later certificate and degree programs?

“We know it’s vital to prepare our children to succeed in an increasingly technology-centered economy and the Software Engineering Pilot will help us do just that,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “This groundbreaking program will ensure that more students receive computer science and software engineering instruction so that they can compete for the tech jobs that are increasingly becoming a part of our city’s economy. We’re creating the home-grown workforce our city needs and teaching our students skills that will open up new doors for them and their future.”


February 26, 2013 at 1:38 am 8 comments

The Unsustainable MOOCiversity

I have a post-it on my monitor with a quote from Alan Kay: “You can fix a clock, but you have to negotiate with a system.”  I was reminded of that in reading the below essay.  I have been worried about the sustainability of the (lack of a) revenue model for MOOCs, but this essay goes further.  If we destroy the universities, who makes the next generation of MOOCs?  There are ramifications of the changes that are being proposed for using MOOCs as a replacement for our current higher education system.

Failing to account for, and pay for, the continuation and reproduction of a necessary system isn’t economic rationality; it isn’t a hard-nosed commitment to making the tough choices; it’s the exact opposite. It’s living as if there is no future, no need to reproduce the systems we have now for the future generations who will eventually need them. The fantasy that we could MOOCify education this year to save money on professor labor next year, and gain a few black lines in the budget, ignores the obvious need for a higher educational system that will be able to update, replenish, and sustain the glorious MOOCiversity when that time inevitably comes. Who is supposed to develop all the new and updated MOOCs we’ll need in two, five, ten, twenty years, in response to events and discoveries and technologies we cannot yet imagine? Who is going to moderate the discussion forums, grade the tests, answer questions from the students? In what capacity and under what contract terms will these MOOC-updaters and MOOC-runners be employed? By whom? Where will they have received their training, and how will that training have been paid for? What is the business model for the MOOC — not this quarter, but this decade, this century?

via Some Preliminary Theses on MOOCs « Gerry Canavan.

February 26, 2013 at 1:24 am 6 comments

It’s not disruption of Higher Education – it’s privatization

Great piece by Aaron Bady about the trends in higher education.  I particularly liked the definition of “Borg complex” about MOOCs, which I’d not heard of previously.

So I want to shift the debate a bit. Shirky thinks in terms of “disruption” and what can come of it, in theory. I think in terms of what the “disruption” of the University of California system looks like in practice, as a complex of politicians, financiers, and career administrators move in lock-step to transform it into a self-sufficient corporate entity, and to enrich private industry in the bargain. I see a group of decision-makers who quite manifestly do not know what they are talking about and who barely try to disguise it, for whom “online” is code word for privatization. If I am against MOOC’s, I am against the way “MOOC” is being experienced in California, in practice: as an excuse to cheapen education and free the state budget from its responsibility to educate its citizenry.

via Tree Sitting – The New Inquiry.

February 25, 2013 at 5:28 am 4 comments

Defining the role for computer science in a national curriculum

The UK has achieved something that the US has not yet accomplished (but is trying through the Computing in the Core effort). Computer science is now included as part of a national UK curriculum.  Computer science is not yet part of most US state curricula.  Neil Brown does a great job (in the blog post linked below) considering the strengths and weaknesses of the new curriculum.  In particular, he considers seriously what every student needs to have — certainly some CS (like in the CS:Principles effort), and trying out programming, but with ICT and digital literacy as probably the most critical for everyone.

At the core of computing is the science and engineering discipline of computer science, in which pupils are taught how digital systems work, how they are designed and programmed, and the fundamental principles of information and computation. Building on this core, computing equips pupils to apply information technology to create products and solutions. A computing education also ensures that pupils become digitally literate – able to use, and express themselves through, information and communication technology – at a level suitable for the future workplace and as active participants in a digital world.

via Computing in the National Curriculum | Academic Computing.

February 25, 2013 at 1:22 am Leave a comment

Pedagogy trumps Technology: Why All the Fuss about MOOCs?

Nice piece in our C21U newsletter, suggesting that pedagogy is more important than the MOOC technology.  How we teach is much more important for dramatic impacts on learning, than aiming for scale via advanced technology.

We may find that MOOCs work well for self-motivated students who have a lot of technology at their fingertips, have been raised in stimulating intellectual environments all their lives, who have lots of support mechanisms within their grasp to help them learn the material, and who have the wherewithal to spend the time and energy required to learn deeply what is being taught in these MOOCs.

But what about those students who don’t have the resources required to support their learning, who have not been raised in intellectually stimulating environments, who don’t even know how to study well? It is hard to see how MOOCs will work for these students, yet these are the students that it is most important that we reach in order to meet the challenges of 21st-century education.

I would much rather see the resources of Georgia Tech and our nation’s other educational institutions, being used to support the creation of research-based learning environments that can most effectively support the learning of all students, regardless of their background. Learning environments that do not rely on the lecture. Learning environments that make good use of those precious and valuable times when students are in direct contact with their instructors.

via Why All the Fuss about MOOCs? | Center for 21st Century Universities.

February 22, 2013 at 5:53 am 1 comment

LiveCode Adopted by More than 25% of High Schools in Scotland

25% of all high schools in Scotland is pretty amazing adoption.  This would be fascinating to study.  How does programming in HyperTalk differ from graphical languages (like Alice or Scratch) versus textual programming languages designed for professionals (like Java or Python)?  What transfers from learning HyperTalk to learning more traditional textual languages later?  How do students’ notional machines of computing differ when learning these different languages?

We’re delighted to be able to announce that with the adoption today by all 24 schools in the North Lanarkshire Council region here in Scotland, we now have over a quarter of all high schools in Scotland using LiveCode! What a great model for other countries to follow once the platform goes open source.

via Next Generation LiveCode (Open Source) by RunRev Ltd » LiveCode Adopted by More than 25% of High Schools in Scotland; Raspberry Pi — Kickstarter.

February 22, 2013 at 1:39 am 4 comments

First PhD in CS in US went to a Sister

An interesting excursion into the history of computing.  One of the first two PhD’s in Computer Science in the United States went to a female and a member of a religious order!  I would never have guessed.

But at virtually the same time in June 1965, two other degrees were completed: Sister Mary Kenneth Keller, BVM, earned a Ph.D. from the Computer Sciences Department at the University of Wisconsin, and Irving C. Tang earned a D.Sc. from the Applied Mathematics and Computer Science Department at Washington University in St. Louis. The purpose of this article is to show that in the United States, Keller and Tang were not just earlier but also first, thereby providing a more accurate historical record.

via Who Earned First Computer Science Ph.D.? | blog@CACM | Communications of the ACM.

February 21, 2013 at 10:18 am 2 comments

U.K. (just like US) Students Not Lining Up To Study IT

I hear all the time about the decline of interest in computing among high school students in the US.  Not surprising, but still disappointing, to see that the problem is also in the UK.

Between now and 2020, according to an October report from the Royal Academy of Engineering, the U.K. will need 10,000 more new graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) each year just to fill current employment needs.

It’s difficult to see where they’re going to come from, especially in tech, judging from January data from the U.K Department for Education. Only 3,420 British students, or 0.4%, took a computer science A-level (similar to a U.S. high school diploma) in 2011-12, compared to a high of 12,529 in 1998.

The gender gap is another concern here, as a mere 7% — 255 total — of computing A-level students were female in the 2011-12 school year.

via U.K. Students Not Lining Up To Study IT – Education – K-12 –.

February 21, 2013 at 5:52 am 3 comments

Kids Use Coding Skills to Hack Online Games: Singular or Plural?

What a strange story!  Are there really “kids” using coding skills to hack accounts?  Or is there one case of one 11 year old Canadian boy, which has AVG concerned about coding instruction?  And who’s calling C# “elementary”?  What elementary schools are teaching “C#”?

Why would AVG be concerned about kids learning to program?  It’s not the case that most CS classes cover “How to make a virus 101” or “Advanced how to cheat other gamers.”  I wonder if this is another case of “Don’t learn to code — leave it to the experts.”  Is it really threatening to IT firms that more teenagers are learning to program?

Kids as young as 11 are using coding skills to hack accounts on social media and gaming sites, according to one report. Antivirus firm AVG says children are writing malware to steal data and virtual currency from friends.

However, the hacks are still in their infancy, as researchers found errors that trace back to the original source. One author included his exact email address, password and additional information, revealing an 11-year-old boy in Canada. Most programming languages researchers found in the study were elementary, such as C# and Visual Basic. Check out the video, above, for more.

via Kids Use Coding Skills to Hack Online Games.

February 20, 2013 at 5:50 am 3 comments

Taming the Monolith: Refactoring for an open source HyperCard

LiveCode had an earlier blog piece on how they want to implement “Open Language” so that the HyperTalk syntax could be extended.  This piece (linked below) goes into more detail and is an interesting history of how LiveCode evolved from HyperCard, and how they plan to refactor it so that it’s extensible by an open source community.

LiveCode is a large, mature software product which has been around in some form for over 20 years. In this highly technical article, Mark Waddingham, RunRev CTO, takes us under the hood to look at our plan to modularize the code, making it easy for a community to contribute to the project. The project described in this post will make the platform an order of magnitude more flexible, extensible and faster to develop by both our team and the community.

Like many such projects which are developed by a small team (a single person to begin with – Dr Scott Raney – who had a vision for a HyperCard environment running on UNIX systems and thus started MetaCard from which LiveCode derives), LiveCode has grown organically over two decades as it adapts to ever expanding needs.

With the focus on maintenance, porting to new platforms and adding features after all this time evolving we now have what you’d describe as a monolithic system – where all aspects are interwoven to some degree rather than being architecturally separate components.

via Taming the Monolith.

February 19, 2013 at 5:53 am Leave a comment

Survey of Non-Doctoral Computing Departments: Please Participate!

The Computing Research Association conducts an annual survey of US doctorate-granting departments in Computing, called the Taulbee Survey.  It’s an important resource for understanding the state of computing education in the United States, but only gives the research-focused side of the picture.  The ACM has launched an effort to do a similar survey of the-rest-of-us (hence it’s original name, “TauRUs,” Taulbee for the Rest of Us).  Please do help to get the word out so that we can get a clearer picture of US post-secondary computing education.

As of last week, the NDC Survey of Non-Doctoral Granting Departments in Computing (all U.S., not-for-profit bachelor’s and master’s programs in CE, CS, IS, IT, SE), previously known as TauRUs, is live. We have gone out to our list of qualifying schools, but we can use YOUR help in getting the word out so we can get to those who may have been left off the mailing, and those who might “forget” to participate! Among other benefits, there is a drawing for five $2,500 grants for the respondents’ departments!

Here is an informational flyer you can share with your colleagues in the non-doctoral computing program community:

There will also be an announcement in SIGCSE welcome bags and its listserv.

February 19, 2013 at 5:45 am 1 comment

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