Archive for February, 2013
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.
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!”
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.”
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.
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.”
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?
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.