A theory for why there’s so little CS Ed in the US

October 28, 2013 at 1:48 am 48 comments

I have a theory that predicts when (if?) we will see more computing education research students in the US.  I think that it might also help understand when computer science education (e.g., an AP course in CS) might reach the majority of US high schools.

Why are there so few CS Ed research students in the US?

Recently, I hosted a visit from Dr. Nick Falkner (Associate Dean (IT), Faculty of Engineering, Mathematical and Computer Sciences) and Dr. Katrina Falkner (Deputy Head and Director of Teaching, School of Computer Science) from the University of Adelaide. We got to talking about the lack of CS education research (CER) graduate students in the United States. There are lots of PhD students studying CER in Australasia, Europe, and Israel. To offer a comparison point, when we visited Melbourne in 2011, they had just held a doctoral consortium in CS Ed with 20 students attending, all from just the Melbourne area. The ICER doctoral consortium at UCSD in August had 14 students, and not all 14 were from the US. The Australasian Computing Education will have its own DC, and they’re capping enrollment at 10, but there are far more CER PhD students than that in the region. I get invitations regularly to serve on review committees for dissertations from Australia and Europe, but rarely from the US.

Why is CER so much more popular among graduate students outside of the US? I’ve wondered if it’s an issue of funding for research, or how graduate students are recruited. Then it occurred to us.

Check out the Falkners’ titles: Associate Dean, Deputy Head (Katrina will be Head of School next year), Director. I remarked on that, and Nick and Katrina started naming other CS education research faculty who were Chairs, full Professors, and Deans and Directors in Australia. We went on naming other CS education researchers in high positions in New Zealand (e.g., Tim Bell, Professor and Deputy Head of Department), England (e.g., the great Computing Education Group at Kent), Denmark (e.g., Michael Caspersen as Director of the Center for Science Education), Sweden (e.g., CS Education Research at Uppsala), Finland, Germany, and Israel.

Then I was challenged to name:

  1. US CS Education researchers who are full Professors at research intensive universities;
  2. US CS Education researchers who are Chairs of their departments or schools;
  3. US CS Education researchers who are Deans or Center Directors.

I’m sure that there would be some quibbling if I tried to name US researchers in these categories. I don’t think anyone would disagree that none of these categories requires more than one hand to count — and I don’t think anyone needs more than a couple fingers for that last category.

We have great computing education researchers in the United States. Few are in these kinds of positions of visible prestige and authority. Many in the ICER community are at teaching institutions. Many who are at research intensive universities are in teaching track positions.

Computing Education Research is not as respected in US universities as it is in other countries. In these other countries, a graduate student could pursue computing education research, and might still be able to achieve tenure, promotion, and even an administrative position in prestigious institutions. That’s really rare in the United States.

There are many reasons why there isn’t more CER in research-intensive universities.  Maybe there’s not enough funding in CER (which is an outcome of lack of respect/value).  Most people don’t buy into computing for all in the US.  Unless there’s more CER in schools, maybe we don’t need much CER in Universities.  I’m actually not addressing why CER gets less respect in the US than in other countries — I’m hypothesizing a relationship between two variables because of that lack of respect.

The status of CER is definitely on the mind of students when they are considering CER as a research area. I’ve lost students to other areas of research when they realize that CER is a difficult academic path in the US. My first CS advisor at U-Michigan (before Elliot Soloway moved there) was strongly against my plans for a joint degree with education. “No CS department will hire you, and if they do, they won’t tenure you.” I succeeded into that first category (there was luck and great mentors involved).  It’s hard for me to say if my personal path could ever reach categories 2 or 3, and if barriers I meet are due more to my research area than my personal strengths and weaknesses.  All I can really say for sure is that, if you look around, there aren’t many CER people in those categories, which means that there is no obvious evidence to a graduate student that they can reach those kinds of success.

So, here’s my hypothesis:

Hypothesis: We will see more computing education research graduate students in the US when CER is a reasonable path to tenure, promotion, and advancement in research-intensive US universities.

Why is there so little computing education in US high schools?

Other countries have a lot more computing education in their high schools than we do in the United States.  Israel, New Zealand, Denmark, and England all have national curricula that include significant computer science.  In Israel, you can even pursue a software engineering track in high school.  They all have an advantage over the US, since we have no national curricula at all.  However, Germany, which has a similarly distributed education model, still has much more advanced computing education curricula (the state of Bavaria has a computing curriculum for grades 6-12) and CS teacher professional development.  What’s different?

I suspect that there are similar factors at work in schools as in Universities.  Computing education is not highly valued in US society.  That gets reflected in decisions at both the University and school systems.  I don’t know much about influence relationships between the University and the K-12 system. I have suggested that we will not have a stable high school CS education program in the United States without getting the Schools of Education engaged in teacher pre-service education. I don’t know how changes in one influence the other.

However, I see a strong correlation, caused by an external social factor — maybe some of those I mentioned earlier (not enough funding for CER, don’t need more CER, etc.). Professors and University administrators are not separate from their societies and cultures. The same values and influences are present in the University as in the society at large. What the society values has an influence on what the University values.  If a change occurs in the values in the society, then the University values will likely change.  I don’t know if it works in the other way.

So here’s where I go further out on a limb:

Second Hypothesis: We will see the majority of US high schools offering computer science education (e.g., AP CS) when CER is a reasonable path to tenure, promotion, and advancement in research-intensive US universities.

Here are two examples to support the hypothesis:

  • Consider Physics. No one doubts the value of physics. Within society, we’re willing to spend billions to find a Higgs Boson, because we value physics. Similarly, we strive to offer physics education to every high school student. Similarly, physics faculty can aspire to become Deans and even University Presidents. Physics is valued by society and the University.
  • Consider Engineering Education Research. Twenty years ago, engineering education research was uncommon, and it had little presence in K-12 schools. Today, there are several Engineering Education academic units in the US — at Purdue, Clemson, and Virginia Tech. (There’s quite a list here.) Engineering education researchers can get tenured, promoted, and even become head of an engineering education research academic unit. And, Engineering is now taught in K-12 schools. Recently, I’ve been involved in an effort to directly interview kids in schools that offer AP CS. We can hardly find any! Several of the schools in the Atlanta area that used to offer AP CS now offer Engineering classes instead. (Maybe the belief is that engineers will take care of our CS/IT needs in the US?)  Engineering has a significant presence in K-12 education today.

I don’t think that this hypothesis works as a prescriptive model.  I’m not saying, “If we just create some computing education research units, we’ll get CS into high schools!”  I don’t know that there is much more CS Ed in schools in Australia, Sweden, or Finland than in the US, where CER is a path to advancement. I  hypothesize a correlation.  If we see changes at the Universities, we’ll be seeing changes in schools.  I expect that the reverse will also be true — if we ever see the majority of US high schools with CS, the Universities will support the effort.  But I thnk that the major influencer on both of these is the perception of CER in the larger society.  I’m hypothesizing that both will change if the major influence changes.

(Thanks to Briana Morrison, Barbara Ericson, Amy Bruckman, and Betsy DiSalvo on an earlier draft of this post.)

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48 Comments Add your own

  • 1. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  October 28, 2013 at 2:46 am

    I’m glad you are suggesting correlation rather than causality, because I think you have it backwards. Education research only starts getting respect when there is a lot of education going on by teachers who want to know what research has to say about their pedagogic approaches. Doing speculative research about how education would work if any were happening doesn’t get a lot respect, and studying university education doesn’t get much because most university teachers think that they already know what is best (and aren’t interested in finding out that they are wrong).

    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  October 28, 2013 at 8:50 am

      Thanks! That’s a really useful insight: That education research (at the University level) gets its value from it applicability in schools education. I’ll bet that you’re right, but I think that there’s still another cross-influence.

      From what I understand of mathematics education and science education, those classes (e.g., Physics, Calculus) start at Universities and then get copied into the best high schools, and then filter out from there. Educational influence is historically trickle-down. The schools first directly copy whatever is at the University level, and thus we get a programming-centric Java course for AP CS. Eventually, they create schools-specific forms of those classes. If you really wanted good domain-specific education in the schools from the start (as opposed to evolving over decades), you’d do the research in order to do it well in Universities, and then let that better model trickle-down. I think that’s really the goal of the CS Principles project. But there might not be enough support and research at the University level, because there’s little respect for ed research that isn’t in schools.

      And around we go.

  • 3. geekymom  |  October 28, 2013 at 6:24 am

    When you get school boards that care about computer science, that’s when you’ll get CS in schools. Public schools are local entities and really don’t pay much attention to what Universities are doing. So lobby your local school board.

    Even private schools don’t pay much attention, except in terms of what’s needed for admissions. Example: we dropped APs when they quit giving our kids an advantage in admissions. Our kids still take SATIIs (of which there isn’t one in CS) because many Engineering and Medical programs require them, even when the subject (a language!) isn’t applicable. Get a CS SATII and you might see CS required in better high schools because you’ll have students who want to get into certain college programs.

    I think the publicity around Hour of Code and Code.org has done some good. Parents have started to ask about CS and insist that there be some courses. I think it will take some more publicity and more lobbying to get it done.

    • 4. Mark Guzdial  |  October 28, 2013 at 7:47 am

      You live in the Northeast, right? In the Northeast and in California, “lobby your local school board” might get computer science into your local schools. But in other parts of the US (especially the South), school districts can only choose from the set of courses approved by the State Department of Education. “Lobby your local school board” won’t work, until you get CS into the state catalog.

      But even lobbying your board isn’t enough, if there aren’t teachers. In a school district in Georgia that my students and I are studying, there were three high schools offering AP CS. Two of them lost their teachers, and simply haven’t been able to find (or develop) a new one. Only one high school in the county still offers AP CS.

      Why aren’t there more high school CS teachers? It doesn’t seem to be a problem of professional development opportunities. Most of the teacher PD programs I know are under-filled. We have excess capacity. Why should teachers get CS PD? Of course, having the possibility of a job would help, but if there’s not a job at-hand, you’d want to get a certification of some sort to make a future job more promising. Few states offer any kind of CS certification for teachers.

      Schools are a system, and they are hard to perturb. “Lobby your local school board” isn’t even the first step in some parts of the US. It might get CS for your kids in your local schools, but if the goal is CS Ed in the majority of high schools in the US (the variable I describe in my post), then lobbying the local school board isn’t going to be enough.

      • 5. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  October 28, 2013 at 12:56 pm

        “lobby your school board” doesn’t do much good in California. The school boards are still desperately trying to produce balanced budgets on too little money—they’re not about to start anything that would require hiring a new teacher.

    • 6. Alfred Thompson  |  October 28, 2013 at 8:14 am

      The other time private schools (I teach at one) pay attention to CS is when they can use it as a differentiator to help enrollment. I’m in a fairly high tech area and when parents come though they ask about the CS program. It’s probably worth a few extra students a year which can be important for a tuition dependent school.

      • 7. Mark Guzdial  |  October 28, 2013 at 8:51 am

        That’s how the trickle-down educational influence works.

  • 8. Alfred Thompson  |  October 28, 2013 at 8:11 am

    One of the problems with CS education is that we don’t really know how to do it well. There are lots of theories on how to do it well but it seems like people are always trying new things in hopes that they will work. Some teachers get great results but it is often hard to know (vs think) if what they are doing is reproducible or overly dependent on the teacher’s personality. Research on pedagogy is lacking. Not that is it non existent of course. Just that there is not enough of it to allow teachers to really evaluate new ideas. More CER could help make more teachers more successful. I include making learning CS less painful for more students as part of my definition of success.

  • 12. guy  |  October 28, 2013 at 10:52 am

    Silicon Valley amazes me at times, especially when those brought up in its environment think that the rest of the country can mimic them. My nephew forwarded an article to me moments ago. Just after I finished reading this post and all of its comments.

    Can a toy robot teach kids computer programming? Veterans from Apple and Google launch a crowdfunding campaign to find out


    Here’s a gotcha:

    Kids interact with Play-i’s robots, Yana and Bo, by giving
    them instructions. This can be through a tablet or smartphone,
    where they can drag and drop a sequence of commands.

    So, now 2, 3, 4 year-olds need their own smartphone/tablet…

    Another thing I found funny was that the young founders (early-retirees) appear to not have enough faith in their idea to fund their start-up themselves, choosing instead to go with crowdfunding.


    • 13. Alfred Thompson  |  October 28, 2013 at 10:59 am

      I get email from them regularly because of my own blog. I didn’t realize that they were early-retirees. That does make you wonder about going the crowd funding route. On the other hand it seems as if crowdfunding is sometimes as much a marketing ploy as a fundraising opportunity.

  • 14. Michael Kirkpatrick  |  October 28, 2013 at 10:55 am

    I found the choice of physics to be perfectly illustrative for different social reasons than the ones you cited. When is the last time that you heard about some whiz kid making a revolutionary physics breakthrough in his parents’ basement? I’ve never heard such a story. However, the lore of Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg, et al., is all about some young, untrained malcontent that drops out of school to pursue fame and glory.

    So, echoing GSWP’s point about the correlation being the other way, I believe we first need more teachers in the field. And my hypothesis would be that this will happen when the public perception of CS changes; that is, the general populace must first recognize that success in CS is more about hard work and training than fly-by-night talent.

    • 15. Mark Guzdial  |  October 28, 2013 at 11:16 am

      We don’t need revolutionary breakthroughs to get any subject into the majority of high schools. Schools don’t care about revolutionary breakthroughs in history, English, or physical education, but they’ll still teach those subjects.

      Absolutely, we need more teachers. Where will we get those teachers? As the UChicago studies show us, almost all CS teacher PD today is coming from the universities. Who’s going to offer it there? It’s hard to fund a University position all on PD. You’re going to need some respect to get some tenure and promotion to stay there.

      It’s all inter-twingled.

      (It’s the causation that’s directional — correlation is undirected.)

      • 16. Garth  |  October 28, 2013 at 3:16 pm

        There are about 300 schools in Montana. There are less that 10 CS teachers in Montana (no kidding). So Montana, a very low population state, needs about 290 CS teachers. Not to be a pessimist, but there will NEVER be a CS class in most Montana schools. I do not think Montana is an exception. Is there a solution? CS needs to become a high demand high school requirement in order to get teacher training colleges to offer a CSEd degree. Will CS become a high demand required class? I do not see it soon.

        • 17. Bri Morrison  |  October 30, 2013 at 10:45 am

          There is another alternative rather than 1 teacher in every school – 1 teacher can be spread across multiple schools. I think the business side of education administrators like this because if they only teach 1 or 2 programming classes per school, why not share across schools? The departments and principals are less thrilled however.

      • 18. Michael Kirkpatrick  |  October 28, 2013 at 9:30 pm

        You seem to have interpreted my post in the exact opposite sense of what I meant. You’re right that we don’t need revolutionary breakthroughs. I’m actually arguing that the fact that we have had them is hurting us. My point is that if we didn’t have these outliers, the public perception would then become that hard work and CS education are important. That’s why physics education is deemed important: You don’t have teenage physicists discovering the Higgs boson with some homebrew garage setup; you have highly skilled, trained professionals. In contrast, the mythical teenage hacker genius adds to the devaluing of CS education, because you either have the talent or you don’t; there is no point in trying to teach these skills.

        And, you’re right: It is all intertwined. I was just trying to toss one more dimension into the mix.

        (P.S., I do understand correlation vs. causation. I just mis-typed because I was hurrying to prepare for a meeting.)

        • 19. Mark Guzdial  |  October 28, 2013 at 9:43 pm

          Ahhh — I get it, Michael. My apologies. I see your point now.

  • 20. Bonnie  |  October 28, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    This is an example of a group that has had some success in one of our local school districts (alas, not my kids’ district). I think it is successful because it is driven by parents and community members, working with the schools in the district. I think university-driven approaches are doomed to failure, at least up here in the Northeast.

    • 21. Mark Guzdial  |  October 28, 2013 at 12:37 pm

      Thanks for the link, Bonnie. Barbara Ericson just did a keynote at the NY CSTA meeting in Buffalo. There she met some NY legislators who are trying to push through a bill to get CS to count towards high school graduation requirements. They were seeking University help in supporting the bill. I’m sure that you’re right that University-driven approaches are unlikely to succeed at the grassroots level in your area, but the University folks still play a role in the ecosystem.

  • 22. Elizabeth Patitsas  |  October 28, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    So, I think the structuring of research funding will have something to do with it. This is based on my experience as a CS ed grad student in Canada — another country with relatively little CS ed.

    Government research funding in Canada comes from one of three funding bodies (known as the Tri-Council):
    – the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)
    – the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)
    – the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)

    Per federal reguration of the tri-council, you can only receive funding from *one* of these bodies in a given year. So if you hold a NSERC grant, you can’t apply for SSHRC, etc.

    NSERC funds computer science research, but does not fund CS ed research (or any other domain-specific science research). All domain-specific science education research is considered under the jurisdiction of SSHRC. Due to systematic funding cuts to SSHRC, SSHRC funding is relatively hard to come by.

    So for any CS prof receiving NSERC who wants to do a side project in CS education — no luck, you can’t apply for SSHRC.

    Computer science departments are focused around NSERC funding. It’s not impossible to apply for SSHRC but you’ll get significantly less support in the process than you would for applying for NSERC.

    The result is largely that CS departments in Canada are unlikely to hire CS ed professors: they can’t get NSERC funding, and they’re not well positioned to get SSHRC funding (and indeed, there are no CS ed professors in Canada). And since there is no standardized CS in any provincial high school curriculum, education departments in Canada are uninterested in CS ed: their focus is overwhelmingly on k-12.

    • 23. Mark Guzdial  |  October 28, 2013 at 12:43 pm

      Thanks, Elizabeth — fascinating (and disappointing) limitation in Canadian funding mechanisms. Hard to do interdisciplinary work that crosses Councils there.

  • 24. Michal Armoni  |  October 29, 2013 at 4:33 am

    With the exception of some institutions and some cases, in general, faculty (holding research positions) in CS research departments is obviously expected to engage in CS research, rather than CS education research. In those cases where CS education researchers are in CS departments, it is indeed hard to imagine that their research would be valued enough to lead, for example, to appointing such researchers as deans. At least in my country, CS education research positions are available, next to research positions in mathematics education, physics education, biology education, and so on – in Science Teaching Departments. I can’t recall a science education department in the US in which CS is represented (and I apologize if I missed such a department). The way I see it, this is because science teaching department are mostly (though not solely) invested in K-12 education. So, I concur with previous comments: Once CS is widely taught in US schools, CS is likely to enter US science teaching departments. Again, this was the case here in Israel. When there are initiatives for including CS education in school, they call for curricular developers, for researchers that evaluate the programs, for teacher preparation programs, and for faculty to develop such programs and train the teachers. When our current CS program started in high schools, back in the nineties, there were not enough teachers, and ad-hoc solutions of training in-service teachers had to be found. Now, once the school subject is well established, there are pre-service teacher training programs in all teacher education institutions in the country. Of course, once CS is in those science teaching research departments, the relationship becomes more complicated (and fruitful), with these departments affecting, contributing and enhancing CS school education, by developing more programs, etc.
    There’s a SIGCSE paper (2008) discussing these relationships in the specific case of Israel, by Orit Hazzan, Judith Gal-Ezer and Lenore Blum: A Model for High School Computer Science Education: The Four Key Elements that Make It!

    • 25. Mark Guzdial  |  October 29, 2013 at 9:49 am

      Thank you for the comments, Michal. Before the 1990’s, where were CS Ed Researchers in Israeli institutions? Weren’t David Ginat and Moti Ben-Ari in CS departments? Judith Gal-Ezer is still in a Math and CS Department, right? In general, domain specific education research tends to start in the domains. Math Education started in Math departments (e.g., Felix Klein of klein bottle created the first Math Ed organization), and Physics Education started in Physics departments (e.g., Lillian McDermott, David Hestenes). I suspect that the state of CS Ed in the US is about 30-40 years behind Israel right now.

      • 26. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  October 29, 2013 at 12:24 pm

        If you want a list of early people in physics education research, try looking at the winners of the Oersted Medal http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oersted_Medal
        “The Oersted Medal recognizes notable contributions to the teaching of physics. Established in 1936, it is awarded by the American Association of Physics Teachers. The award is named for Hans Christian Ørsted. It is the Association’s most prestigious award. … The 2008 medalist, Mildred S. Dresselhaus, is the third woman to win the award in its 70-plus year history.”

        Note that there has been a professional organization for physics teachers since 1930. Is there a similar organization for CS teachers?

        • 27. Mark Guzdial  |  October 29, 2013 at 12:29 pm

          Yes, CSTA (http://csta.acm.org) founded in 2005.

          • 28. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  October 29, 2013 at 12:48 pm

            So we can hope for as much respect for CS teachers and CS education research in about 75 years (2005–1930).

            • 29. Mark Guzdial  |  October 29, 2013 at 1:58 pm

              Yes, you’re probably right. One big difference: physics was already being taught in schools in 1930. So, it might take longer.

      • 30. katrinafalkner  |  October 30, 2013 at 1:23 am

        The majority of CS education research within Australia is done within CS departments, although there certainly is some within Teaching Departments. The argument that I have always put forward and, I believe, is becoming easier in my local environment is that CS education research is CS research.

        My feeling is that our promotions process (we don’t share the same tenure process) does not tend to confine academics to specific topics, and is not driven by trying to match to existing “approved” areas within the Faculty. As long as you are achieving the right metrics for your research (high quality publications, industry contracts, research grants, national/international impact) then that is fine. An interesting recent change is that our main government-based education research fund has recently been moved into the same funding category (CAT 1) as our main “general” research fund, which gives the same benefits and recognition for participants involved in projects.

        • 31. Michal Armoni  |  October 30, 2013 at 6:54 am

          The way I see it, CS education research is of course very much connected to CS (in general, science education is a synergy of science and education, combining these two as components that are equally-important, and adds on top of the combination), and of course has a lot to contribute to the practice of teaching CS (and therefore to CS departments), but CS education research is not CS research, mainly because these two disciplines rely on different research methodologies. Research in CS education is under the umbrella of social sciences (where education in general belongs), and uses methodologies of social sciences to study people (students, teachers) and the processes they go through. Again, CS education research necessitates a deep knowledge in CS and contributes to CS teaching, but it is not the same as CS research. In what kind of department does CS education research fit better? That is, is it better for CS education researchers to be in CS departments or in science teaching departments? Obviously, there are advantages both ways, and it is also very subjective. Personally, and based on my own experience, I think that being in a science teaching department (while maintaining connections with CS departments) has been more beneficial to my scientific work.

          • 32. katrinafalkner  |  October 30, 2013 at 9:59 am

            Thanks Michal. I find your question as to where CS education research fits very interesting!

            To me, CS education research is a cross discipline area involving not just the pedagogy of teaching CS but also how CS can change or benefit pedagogy. As such, it blends CS, psychology and education and – to me – could sit in each. In that sense, CS education research is CS research in the same sense that other cross discipline areas could be viewed as (partially?) CS research. As to which area it is best viewed as, I am not sure – I certainly feel that my own work is better suited within a CS school, although I do work closely with colleagues from other disciplines.

            It certainly uses methodologies from social sciences, however I would argue that it also uses methodologies from the sciences as well, particularly in the application of CS to the enhancement of pedagogy. Perhaps it is our focus on this aspect that changes our view?

            • 33. Mark Guzdial  |  October 30, 2013 at 10:24 am

              I’m less concerned with where CS education research ought to be, but how we in the US get to someplace useful. Where is the best place for CS ed research to grow in the US, when it isn’t established now? In Israel, it grew out of CS. Math Ed and Physics Ed grew out of mathematics and physics, respectively. Most Ed programs in the US don’t grok CS Ed. At some point, some parts CS Ed research has to move into Schools of Education for longterm stability, e.g., for pre-service teacher development. At what point?

  • 34. Mark Guzdial  |  October 29, 2013 at 9:53 am

    Joe Kmoch considered why engineering education is doing so much better than CS education in schools in a blog post in response to this one here: http://inroads.acm.org/blog/2013/10/one-reason-we-have-so-much-engineering-and-so-little-computer-science-taught-at-us-high-schools/

  • 35. Bri Morrison  |  October 30, 2013 at 10:56 am

    And here’s the pessimist in me coming out: Perhaps we need more publicly visible debacles like healthcare.gov. Once the public comes to understand that developing software is difficult (and that the average high school genius can’t get rich on a single app) and that to support our economy we need more qualified individuals in the field, then perhaps they will begin to demand CS education within K-12. I can always hope, right?

    • 36. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  October 30, 2013 at 3:11 pm

      I’m even more pessimistic. When people see debacles like the Common App and healthcare.gov being done by “professionals” who have supposedly been taught how to build software, they conclude that there is no point to teaching the subject, since even those supposedly trained in the field do an awful job.

      • 37. Bonnie  |  October 31, 2013 at 7:52 am

        It isn’t just the debacles. I am very concerned about these learn-to-code in 8 weeks camps that are springing up for adults, because they give the impression that all you need to develop software is a smattering of Python or Java. This will take us back to the situation of the late 90’s, where companies thought they could get by with the high school kid who knew a little code. An awful lot of buggy, terrible software was created by those whiz kids.

        In fact, this ties in to the healthcare.gov disaster. I worked in healthcare IT for a number of years, in fact, on systems pretty similar to healthcare.gov (and I know WAY too much about what is probably wrong with that site, but that’s another topic). In healthcare IT, there was always the attitude that you could hire an ex-nurse or healthcare admin, teach him or her a little code, and start building large enterprise systems. It was always a disaster, which is why I am not surprised at all by healthcare.gov. It was probably built by people who “know a little coding”.

  • 38. All of education is fad-driven... - reestheskin  |  October 30, 2013 at 11:18 am

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  • 43. ncmathsadist  |  February 17, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    America is in the process of cutting teacher salaries, which are hardly princely, and in worsening working conditions. Strong programming ability means a starting salary that will land you in a solid middle class existence. A starting teaching salary in many states does not put you far from food stamp eligibility. Most states offer no dependent coverage, or it is available for a high price (here in NC: over $500/month). A teacher here does not earn 40K until ten years in. What was your question again?

  • […]  If the computing education policy-and-PR machine ignores the research, we’re showing more disrespect for the field of computing education research and makes it even harder to establish […]

  • […] and I had an email correspondence around the blog posts aboutrenaming the field and gaining respect for the study of how people learn and think about computation. He suggested a path forward that was […]

  • […] We were asked to consider the issue of getting more respect for computing education research (an issue I’ve written on before). I decided to explore the characteristics of CER that are important and that are not present in […]

  • […] Other countries are further than the US in recognizing computing education contributions (see post on that theme here). We need to learn how to tell the stories of impact in computing education, in order to advance […]

  • […] and I had an email correspondence around the blog posts aboutrenaming the field and gaining respect for the study of how people learn and think about computation. He suggested a path forward that was […]


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