Archive for February, 2014

SIGCSE2014 Preview: How informal CS education (unfortunately) is hidden from poor families

I’ve been excited to see this paper get published since Betsy first told me about the work.  The paper described below (by Betsy DiSalvo, Cecili Reid, and Parisa Khanipour Roshan) looks at the terms that families commonly use to find on-line resources to help their children learn about computer science.  They didn’t find Alice or Scratch or Blockly — none of the things that would be our first choices for CS education opportunities on-line.  Betsy and her students show how we accidentally hide our resources from the uneducated and under-privileged, by presuming that the searchers are well-educated and privileged.  They point out that this is one way that open education resources actually actually increase the socioeconomic gap, by not being easily discoverable by those without privilege.  I got to see a preview of this talk, and the results are surprising — a video of the preview talk will be available here. Friday March 7, 3:45-5, in Room Hanover DE.

They Can’t Find Us: The Search for Informal CS Education

In this study we found that search terms that would likely be used by parents to find out-of-school computer science (CS) learning opportunities for their children yielded remarkably unproductive results. This is important to the field of CS education because, to date, there is no empirical evidence that demonstrates how a lack of CS vocabulary is a barrier to accessing informal CS learning opportunities. This study focuses on the experience of parents who do not have the privilege of education and technical experience when searching for learning opportunities for their children. The findings presented will demonstrate that issues of access to CS education go beyond technical means, and include ability to conduct suitable searches and identify appropriate computational learning tools. Out-of-school learning is an important factor in who is motivated and prepared to study computer science in college. It is likely that without early access to informal CS learning, fewer students are motivated to explore CS in formal classrooms.

via SIGCSE2014 – OpenConf Peer Review & Conference Management System.

February 28, 2014 at 1:19 am 3 comments

There are no computer science teachers in NY

Here’s the next step after the Hour of Code and plans to implement comprehensive CS reform (like in Chicago): Where are you going to get the teachers?

It is widely acknowledged that for New York City to prosper in the 21st century, its middle and high schools must teach computer science. What is not so well known is that there are no computer science teachers in New York—at least not on paper.

The state does not recognize computer science as an official subject, which means that teachers do not get trained in it while they are becoming certified as instructors.

That’s one reason public-school students have little exposure to the skills needed to snag computer software programming jobs, which are expected to grow faster than any other profession during the next decade.

Out of 75,000 teachers in New York City public schools, fewer than 100 teach computer science. While state officials are trying to modernize the education syllabus, industry leaders have been filling in the gap with a handful of innovative efforts that illustrate the ad hoc nature of the solution to the shortfall of qualified teachers. But it will be years before all 800 of New York’s middle schools and high schools can offer even a single computer science class.

via There are no computer science teachers in NY | Crain’s New York Business.

February 27, 2014 at 1:38 am 8 comments

Mercury News passes the buck: Can early CS education boost number of women in tech?

Check out the headline “Can early computer science education boost number of women in tech?”  Then read the part (quoted below) where they show what works at Harvey Mudd.  I don’t read anything there about early CS education.  I do believe that we need CS in high schools to improve diversity in computing, but I’m not sure that much earlier than high school helps much.  I worry about higher education giving up on issues of diversity, by changing the discussion to K12.

I wish that Mercury News would have really said what they found: University Computing Programs, you have the power to improve your diversity! You can change your classes and your culture! Don’t just pass the buck to K12 schools!

“The difference is, females in general are much more interested in what you can do with the technology, than with just the technology itself,” says Harvey Mudd President Maria Klawe, a computer scientist herself.

So administrators created an introductory course specifically for students without programming experience. They emphasized coding’s connection to other disciplines. They paid for freshman women to attend the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, a chance to meet programming role models in diverse fields. And they provided early research opportunities for women students to inspire them to stick with the field.

The result? The percentage of female computer science majors at Harvey Mudd increased from about 10 percent before the initiatives to 43 percent today.

via Can early computer science education boost number of women in tech? – San Jose Mercury News.

February 26, 2014 at 1:07 pm 12 comments

Are MOOCs the New Textbooks? Misunderstanding the role of the teacher

An interesting blog post by an important CS researcher in programming languages and software engineering, but with a deep misperception about teaching.  Teaching is not presentation.  Making “production” better doesn’t make the teaching more effective.  Student engagement pedagogies are likely to make teaching more effective, but it’s still an open question how to make those happen in a MOOC.

But the presenter of a MOOC is not likely to be a passive player in the same sense. Video is a dynamic medium, that used well can establish a significant emotional connection between the speaker and the audience. This is already clear in some MOOCs, and as production gets better and better this emotional quality of the courses will only improve.

What’s more, MOOC instructors are always at their best. They never have an off day. They never have a pressing grant deadline. All those bad takes got edited out. The students will also always hear them clearly, and when they don’t, the MOOC instructor will patiently repeat what they said. As many times as the student wants.

via Are MOOCs the New Textbooks? | Flexible Learning.

February 26, 2014 at 1:56 am 5 comments

Massachusetts prepares K12 CS education standards

Thanks to Ben Shapiro for the pointer.  My ECEP colleague, Rick Adrion, is part of MassCAN.  Massachusetts has just decided to develop K-12 standards that will include computer science.

These discussions have led to a vision of expanded computing education opportunities for all students. To realize this vision, the Department will be collaborating with MassCAN on the development of voluntary Computer Science Standards for Massachusetts schools. The current Technology Literacy standards will be analyzed and updated and a decision will be made whether to fold Technology Literacy standards into a single document with computer science (Digital Literacy and Computer Science Standards), or to produce two separate documents.

The standards development committee plans to present draft standards to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education about a year from now, in winter 2014-15. Given the significant education initiatives already underway, I would recommend putting the standards out for public comment no earlier than fall 2015, and would ask the Board to vote on adopting the standards no earlier than spring 2016.

via Briefing for the February 24, 2014 Special Meeting and the February 25, 2014 Regular Meeting – Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

February 25, 2014 at 9:55 am 4 comments

Making Music with Computers: Book is now out!

I got a chance to review and write a foreword for:

Making Music with Computers: Creative Programming in Python (Chapman & Hall/CRC Textbooks in Computing): Bill Manaris, Andrew R. Brown: 9781439867914: Amazon.com: Books.

I’m really pleased to see that it’s finally out!  Recommended.

February 25, 2014 at 1:51 am 1 comment

Interesting new NSF Career award in interactive data visualization

Here’s an interesting project that could really get at generalizable “computational thinking” skills:

Wilkerson-Jerde’s research project will explore how young people think and learn about data visualization from the perspective of a conceptual toolkit. Her goals for “DataSketch: Exploring Computational Data Visualization in the Middle Grades” are to understand the knowledge and skills students bring together to make sense of novel data visualizations, and to design tools and activities that support students’ development of critical, flexible data visualization competence.

“Usually when we think of data visualization in school, we think of histograms or line graphs. But in contemporary science and media, people rely on novel, interactive visualizations that tell unique stories using data,” she explains.

via Michelle Wilkerson-Jerde (PhD12) Wins National Science Foundation CAREER Award :: School of Education & Social Policy :: Northwestern University.

February 24, 2014 at 1:50 am Leave a comment

What defines quality of an open-education book?

I’m dubious about open-education resources, because I see that the capitalist system does encourage authors to produce books that teachers want and that work for students (books don’t remain adopted if students hate them).  I’m willing to believe the claim below that “free, high-quality educational materials are available” but I’d like to know the definition of “high-quality.”  Who measures the quality of open-education resources?  By what definition can we claim that OpenStax books are high-quality?

I’m working on an answer to this question for the ebooks we’re working on.  While I am an author of textbooks with commercial publishers, I am also writing books for the Runestone Interactive site.  For those books, we are developing assessments to measure learning pre/post, and we are measuring retention and student engagement.  I hope to have evidence to support the claim that our books are high-quality.

What kinds of processes are open-education resource providers using to make a claim about high-quality?

“Although a growing number of free, high-quality educational materials are available, many instructors and academic leaders are uncertain about how to begin taking advantage of these resources,” said David Harris, editor-in-chief of OpenStax College.

With a combination of high-quality content and a well-supported pathway to OER adoption, OpenStax College and Lumen Learning expect to achieve significant textbook cost savings at both two- and four-year colleges and universities nationwide.

via Open-education partners hope to save students $10 million by 2015.

February 21, 2014 at 1:42 am 1 comment

NSF CAREER awards include a CS Ed Research track

For the first time ever, CS Education research is a field eligible for NSF CAREER. Applicants will be able to select STEM-CP: CE21 as the program for the July deadline. Please help getting the word out to potential applicants. We’d like to see some good proposals in this first year inviting CE21 CAREER proposals.

Colleagues,

The National Science Foundation’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate (CISE) invites proposals this year to the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program for faculty engaging in Computing Education research. That is, if you apply for the CAREER program, you’ll be able to select “STEM-CP: CE21” as your Unit of Consideration. The intent of the CAREER program (http://www.nsf.gov/career) is to provide stable support at a sufficient level and duration to enable awardees to develop careers as outstanding researchers and educators who effectively integrate teaching, learning and discovery.

CISE is organizing a one-day proposal writing workshop (registration and details at: http://cs.gmu.edu/events/nsfcisecareer2014/) for CAREER-eligible faculty on March 31, 2014 in Arlington, VA. The registration deadline is February 28th. Unlike past years, this will be the only CISE CAREER workshop during this calendar year. Please circulate this information among interested faculty. The next deadline for CISE CAREER proposals is July 21, 2014.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Best,

Jeff

Jeffrey R.N. Forbes
Program Director
CISE/CNS Education and Workforce Cluster
National Science Foundation
jforbes@nsf.gov, +1 (919) 292-4291

February 20, 2014 at 3:41 pm Leave a comment

Ideation is the new manufacturing: Then programming is advanced manufacturing

Interesting economic argument being made in the below piece — that we don’t have large numbers of manufacturing jobs, but we have large numbers of jobs that involve creating using digital technologies.

In the start of our Media Computation book, we make the argument that comes after this.  Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, and Audacity are wonderful tools that can do a lot — if you know how to use them.  Knowing programming gives you the ability to make with digital media, even if you don’t know how to get the tools to do.  Knowing programming lets you say things with digital media, even if the tools don’t support it.

“We have moved from the industrial age to the knowledge economy,” said Facebook’s CIO Tim Campos at the HP Discover conference in Barcelona last month. An economy, that is, in which a company’s “core asset” lies not in material infrastructure but rather “the thoughts and ideas that come from our workforce.”

via Ideation is the new manufacturing | Al Jazeera America.

February 20, 2014 at 1:18 am 5 comments

College Board program to provide funding to districts to start AP courses

Here’s a great answer to the under-representation on the AP CS — the College Board (with funding from Google) will offer grants to help start AP programs, including AP CS (see details for AP CS for STEM Access).

AP STEM Access Program: In fall 2013, the College Board implemented the AP STEM Access program in 335 public high schools across the country. With the support of a $5 million Google Global Impact Award to DonorsChoose.org, these schools started offering new AP math and science courses with the goal of enabling underrepresented minority and female students who have demonstrated strong academic potential to enroll in and explore these areas of study and related careers. Over the next three years, the AP STEM Access program will give an estimated 36,000 students the opportunity to study college-level STEM course work in these newly offered AP classes.

via 10 Years of Advanced Placement Exam Data Show Significant Gains in Access and Success; Areas for Improvement | The College Board.

February 19, 2014 at 1:08 am Leave a comment

NPR: A Push To Boost Computer Science Learning, Even At An Early Age (with listener pushback)

Nice coverage in NPR, including Barb’s AP CS data, with interviews with Hadi Partovi and Chris Stephenson.

What’s most striking about this piece are the comments.  These are NPR listeners, and by and large, they are a reasonable group.  But by and large, they are against  teaching computer science in elementary school.  Their arguments are interesting. Many are of the form “In my day…”  Others are pushing back against the idea of teaching kids in elementary school something that is supposed to be a job skill.  Still others are making an argument that I made this month in CACM: If the goal is more CS graduates, and there’s nothing in high school or middle school, what’s the point of making a significant effort to get computer science into elementary school?

Part of the problem here is the kind of argument that we’re making for CS in schools, including this NPR piece.  I believe that the strongest argument is that most professions need computing, so it makes sense to build up that literacy.  But it’s a hard argument to sell, and we keep falling back on the “CS jobs are going unfilled” argument.

A handful of nonprofit and for-profit groups are working to address what they see as a national education crisis: Too few of America’s K-12 public schools actually teach computer science basics and fewer still offer it for credit.

It’s projected that in the next decade there will be about 1 million more U.S. jobs in the tech sector than computer science graduates to fill them. And it’s estimated that only about 10 percent of K-12 schools teach computer science.

So some in the education technology sector, an industry worth some $8 billion a year and growing, are stepping in.

At a Silicon Valley hotel recently, venture capitalists and interested parties heard funding pitches and watched demonstrations from 13 ed-tech start-ups backed by an incubator called Imagine K-12. One of them is Kodable, which aims to teach kids five years and younger the fundamentals of programming through a game where you guide a Pac-Man-esque fuzz ball.

via A Push To Boost Computer Science Learning, Even At An Early Age : All Tech Considered : NPR.

February 18, 2014 at 1:21 pm 27 comments

Hello Ruby by Linda Liukas: A hardcover book to introduce CS to kids

Interesting Kickstarter campaign to fund a storybook to introduce young children to programming. (Thanks to Monica McGill for the pointer!)

Ruby is a small girl with a huge imagination. She stomps and stumbles around her own little world while her dad is traveling. On her adventures, Ruby makes friends with the lonely Snow Leopard, visits castles made of windows, and solves problems with the wise penguins. She bakes gingerbreads with the green robots and throws a garden party with… well, if you like to hear the rest of the story, I need your help.

Ruby’s world is an extension of the way I’ve learned to see technology. It goes far beyond the bits and bytes inside the computer. This is the story of what happens between the ones and zeros, before the arrays and the if/else statements. The book and workbook are aimed for four to seven year olds.

I believe stories are the most formative force of our childhood. Everyone has a book that made the world seem beautiful and full of possibility. My book is about little Ruby.

via Hello Ruby by Linda Liukas — Kickstarter.

February 18, 2014 at 1:49 am Leave a comment

Microsoft providing UK teachers with content and professional development for new curriculum

There’s a new computer science curriculum rolling out in the UK for elementary school students (thanks to the Computing at Schools effort), and Microsoft is making a big push to help the adoption.

Steve Beswick, senior director of Education at Microsoft UK, said: “We welcomed the news of the new computing curriculum alongside others in the industry because it is absolutely critical for the future success of our young people. The challenge now is to ensure that primary teachers are equipped to deliver it by September.”

“That’s why we are launching our First Class Computing programme now, which, through new materials, teacher training, and our ongoing work with the education community, can help a new generation of teachers inspire young people.”

via Microsoft unveils primary school suite for new computing curriculum teachers.

February 17, 2014 at 1:55 am Leave a comment

CSTA Keynote Speakers for 2014: Yasmin Kafai and Michael Kölling

Great names at the CSTA conference this year!

CSTA is excited to announce our keynote speakers for 2014!

Yasmin Kafai is a researcher, co-developer, author and professor of learning sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. She earned her doctorate from Harvard University and is a Fellow of the American Education Research Association. Kafai’s discussion titled “Connected Code: A New Agenda for K-12 Programming in Classrooms, Clubs, and Communities” will cover three central shifts that lead us from computational thinking to computational participation—from code to applications, from tools to communities, and from scratch to remix—in teaching and learning programming to broaden participation in computing for all.

Michael Kölling is a professor at the School of Computing, University of Kent, in Canterbury, UK. He holds a PhD in computer science from Sydney University and has worked in Europe and Australia. He is also an author and lead-developer of educational programming environments and a Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy. Kölling will discuss “What’s Next for CS Education: Thoughts on Topics, Tools, and All the Rest.” In his talk, Kölling will share his speculations and opinions on what should happen in the near future for computer science education, focusing on educational software tools.

Please join us at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, Illinois July 14-15, 2014.

Learn more on our conference page at:

http://csta.acm.org/ProfessionalDevelopment/sub/CSTAConference.html

and register today at:

https://www.softconf.com/d/csta2014/

February 15, 2014 at 1:31 am 2 comments

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