Archive for March, 2014

Facts that conflict with identity can lead to rejection: Teaching outside the mainstream

Thought-provoking piece on NPR.  Take parents who believe that the MMR vaccine causes autism.  Show them the evidence that that’s not true.  They might tell you that they believe you — but they become even less likely to vaccinate future children.  What?!?

The explanation (quoted below) is that these parents found a sense of identity in their role as vaccine-deniers.  They rejected the evidence at a deeply personal level, even if they cognitively seemed to buy it.

I wonder if this explains a phenomenon I’ve seen several times in CS education: teaching with a non-traditional but pedagogically-useful tool leads to rejection because it’s not the authentic/accepted tool.  I saw it as an issue of students being legitimate peripheral participants in a community of practice. Identity conflict offers a different explanation for why students (especially the most experienced) reject Scheme in CS1, or the use of IDE’s other than Eclipse, or even CS teacher reaction when asked not to use the UNIX command line.  It’s a rejection of their identity.

An example: I used to teach object-oriented programming and user interface software using Squeak.  I had empirical evidence that it really worked well for student learning.  But students hated it — especially  the students who knew something about OOP and UI software.  “Why aren’t we using a real language?  Real OOP practitioners use Java or C++!”  I could point to Alan Kay’s quote, “I invented the term Object-Oriented, and I can tell you I did not have C++ in mind.”  That didn’t squelch their anger and outrage.  I’ve always interpreted their reaction to the perceived inauthenticity of Squeak — it’s not what the majority of programmers used.  But I now wonder if it’s about a rejection of an identity.  Students might be thinking, “I already know more about OOP than this bozo of a teacher! This is who I am! And I know that you use Java or C++!”  Even showing them evidence that Squeak was more OOP, or that it could do anything they could do in Java or C++ (and some things that they couldn’t do in Java or C++) didn’t matter.  I was telling them facts, and they were arguing about identity.

What Nyhan seems to be finding is that when you’re confronted by information that you don’t like, at a certain level you accept that the information might be true, but it damages your sense of self-esteem. It damages something about your identity. And so what you do is you fight back against the new information. You try and martial other kinds of information that would counter the new information coming in. In the political realm, Nyhan is exploring the possibility that if you boost people’s self-esteem before you give them this disconfirming information, it might help them take in the new information because they don’t feel as threatened as they might have been otherwise.

via When It Comes To Vaccines, Science Can Run Into A Brick Wall : NPR.

March 31, 2014 at 1:13 am 36 comments

Computer coding more in demand than languages: Survey of UK adults

It’s almost a race to the bottom — which do people care less about, learning programming or learning a modern language?

The teaching of computer coding should be prioritised over modern languages, according to a survey of British adults.

Twice as many thought teaching computer coding in school should be a priority than the number who saw Mandarin Chinese as more important. Coding was the top choice for 52%, against 38% who favoured French lessons, 32% Spanish, 25% German and 24% Mandarin.

The poll was published by code.org, a campaign to introduce children and parents to coding. It has created Hour of Code, a series of free tutorials designed to show students the basics of programming in an hour.

via Computer coding more in demand than languages, survey shows | Education | The Guardian.

March 28, 2014 at 1:13 am 2 comments

Gesture interfaces can convey scale better than fixed diagrams

The title on the post linked below is wrong, “Can iPads help students learn science? Yes, study shows.”  It’s never whether a technology can help learning. It’s how it can help, and what it can help with.  The study described is a great example of this.

iPads can be used really badly (while also being quite expensive) in schools.  Philip Sadler’s new study shows that students can use the gesture-based interface of the iPad to understand issues of scale (just how far is the Moon from the Earth?) better than any diagram can convey.

They found that while the traditional approaches produced no evident gain in understanding, the iPad classrooms showed strong gains. Students similarly struggle with concepts of scale when learning ideas in biology, chemistry, physics, and geology, which suggests that iPad-based simulations also may be beneficial for teaching concepts in many other scientific fields beyond astronomy.

Moreover, student understanding improved with as little as 20 minutes of iPad use. Guided instruction could produce even more dramatic and rapid gains in student comprehension.

“While it may seem obvious that hands-on use of computer simulations that accurately portray scale would lead to better understanding,” says Philip Sadler, a co-author of the study, “we don’t generally teach that way.” All too often, instruction makes use of models and drawings that distort the scale of the universe, “and this leads to misconceptions.”

via Can iPads help students learn science? Yes, study shows.

March 27, 2014 at 1:16 am Leave a comment

Revamped computer science classes attracting more girls: Maybe, or maybe they just want CS

Great to see Dan Garcia and his class getting this kind of press!  I’m not sure I buy the argument that SFGate is making, though.  Do female students at Berkeley find out about this terrific class and then decide to take it?  Or are they deciding to take some CS and end up in this class?  Based on Mike Hewner’s work, I don’t think that students know much about the content of even great classes like Dan’s before they get there.

It is a predictable college scene, but this Berkeley computer science class is at the vanguard of a tech world shift. The class has 106 women and 104 men.

The gender flip first occurred last spring. It was the first time since at least 1993 – as far back as university enrollment records are digitized – that more women enrolled in an introductory computer science course. It was likely the first time ever.

It’s a small but a significant benchmark. Male computer science majors still far outnumber female, but Prof. Dan Garcia’s class is a sign that efforts to attract more women to a field where they have always been vastly underrepresented are working.

“We are starting to see a shift,” said Telle Whitney, president of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology.

via Revamped computer science classes attracting more girls – SFGate.

March 26, 2014 at 1:05 am 1 comment

Computer Science for Non-Majors in the CCC Blog

Nice post from Ran Libeskind-Hadas, Chair of Computer Science at Harvey Mudd College, on the importance of computer science for everyone on campus.

College students across all fields are quickly recognizing two important facts:  Every well educated citizen should understand something about the computationally-pervasive world in which we live.  Second, computing skills are likely to be useful across virtually all disciplines including the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

Many of these students discover computing late in their college lives and/or have other constraints that prevent them from taking more than one or two computing courses.  Those students, I believe, are not ideally served by traditional CS 1 and 2 courses which are often designed as the stepping stones of a computer science major.  While implementing a queue as a doubly-linked list is probably important for a CS major (although one could reasonably argue that it still doesn’t have to be presented in CS 1), it’s almost certainly not the highest priority for a social scientist or a biologist.

via Computer Science for Non-Majors » CCC Blog.

March 25, 2014 at 1:03 am Leave a comment

ScratchJr: Coding for Young Kids — Kickstarter Campaign

I got to see a build of ScratchJr at the NSF CE21 PI’s meeting in January — it’s really fun.  Attractive, responsive, and well thought through, as one would expect with this team.

Coding (or computer programming) is a new type of literacy. Just as writing helps you organize your thinking and express your ideas, the same is true for coding. In the past, coding was seen as too difficult for most people. But we think coding should be for everyone, just like writing.

As young children code with ScratchJr, they learn how to create and express themselves with the computer, not just interact with it. In the process, children develop design and problem-solving skills that are foundational for later academic success, and they use math and language in a meaningful and motivating context, supporting the development of early-childhood numeracy and literacy.

With ScratchJr, children aren’t just learning to code, they are coding to learn.

via ScratchJr: Coding for Young Kids by Mitchel Resnick — Kickstarter.

March 24, 2014 at 1:29 am 2 comments

A kind of worked examples for large classrooms

I passed on to the MediaComp-Teach list something I’m trying to do in my class this semester.  I had several suggestions to share it with others. It’s based on worked examples and peer instruction.

I’m teaching Python MediaComp, first time in 8 years on campus.  We have just shy of 300 students, and I have 155 in my lecture.  While I’m a big fan of worked examples, the way I’ve used them in small classes of 30-40 won’t work with 155.

Here’s what I’m doing this semester.  Every Thursday, I distribute a PDF with a bunch of code in sets, like this:

worked-examples-pic1

The students are getting 12-20 little programs every Thursday.  Most students type them ALL in before lecture Friday morning at 10 am.

Then on Friday, I put up PI-like questions like this:

Exercises4-5_pptxb

and

 

Exercises4-5_pptx

Students are required to work on these in groups.  I walk around the lecture hall and insist that nobody sit alone.  I get lots of questions in the five minutes when everybody’s working away.

We don’t have clickers, but I’ve given every student four colored index cards.  When I call for votes, everybody holds up the right colored card.

Here’s the interesting part — they TALK about the programs.  Here’s a question in Piazza with a student’s answer:

CS_1315__4_unread_

 

The other instructor in the class is also using these, and he says that the students are using them after the Friday lecture as examples to study from and to use in building homework.  I’ve had lots of comments about these from students, in office hours and via email.  They find them valuable to study.

My worked examples aren’t giving them much process.  I am getting them to look at lots of programs, type them in, get them running, and think about them.  I’m pretty excited about it.  Given that I haven’t been in this class in the last 8 years, the class isn’t really “mine” anymore.  I’m trying to be sensitive to how much I change about a huge machine (14 TA’s, two instructors…) that I’m only visiting in.  But everyone seems into this, and it’s fitting in pretty easily.

I have been uploading all of the PDF’s, PPTs, and PY’s  at http://home.cc.gatech.edu/mediaComp/95, if you’re interested.  (There are some weeks missing because Atlanta actually had some Winter this year.)

 

March 21, 2014 at 1:51 am 14 comments

Who Needs to Know How to Code? More than just the rich white boys

Wall Street Journal just ran an article (linked below) about people “flocking to coding classes.”  The lead for the story (quoted below) is a common story, but concerning.  If coding is all extra-curricular, with the (presumably expensive) once-a-week tutor, then how do the average kids get access?  How do the middle and lower kids get access?  Hadi Partovi and Jane Margolis talked about this on PRI’s Science Friday — CS education can’t be an afterschool activity, or we’ll keep making CS a privileged activity for white boys.

Like many 10-year-olds, Nick Wald takes private lessons. His once-a-week tutor isn’t helping him with piano scales or Spanish conjugations, but teaching him how to code.

Nick, a fifth-grader in New York, went in with no experience and has since learned enough HTML, JavaScript and CSS to build a simple website. He is now working in Apple’s XCode environment to finish an app named “Clockie” that can be used to set alarms and reminders. He plans to offer it in the iOS App Store for free.

“I always liked to get apps from the app store, and I always wanted to figure out how they worked and how I could develop it like that,” Nick says.

As the ability to code, or use programming languages to build sites and apps, becomes more in demand, technical skills are no longer just for IT professionals. Children as young as 7 can take online classes in Scratch programming, while 20-somethings are filling up coding boot camps that promise to make them marketable in the tech sector. Businesses such as American Express Co. AXP -0.57% send senior executives to programs about data and computational design not so they can build websites, but so they can better manage the employees who do.

via Who Needs to Know How to Code – WSJ.com.

March 20, 2014 at 1:06 am 5 comments

2014 Annual CSTA Conference — reserve your place

I’ve mentioned before that Yasmin Kafai and Michael Kölling will be keynoters there.  Barbara and I will also be there, offering a MediaComp Python workshop.

2014 CSTA Annual Conference
July 14-15, 2014 Pheasant Run Resort, St. Charles, Illinois

 

The CSTA annual conference is a professional development opportunity for computer science and information technology teachers who need practical, classroom-focused information to help them prepare their students for the future.

Highlights:

  • Explore issues and trends relating directly to your classroom
  • Learn, network and interact
  • Choose from various workshops and breakout sessions

 

Some of this year’s session topics include:

  • Advanced Placement Computer Science
  • Computational Thinking
  • Increasing Enrollment in Computer Science
  • Programming
  • Robotics

 

Keynotes:

  • Yasmin Kafai, Professor of learning sciences at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Michael Kölling, Professor at the School of Computing, University of Kent, in Canterbury, UK.

 

Pre-registration is required and will be accepted for the first 500 teachers. The registration deadline is June 26, 2014. Also, please note that you must complete the payment portion of the online form in order to be fully registered for the conference!

 

Thanks to the generous donations of our sponsors, the registration fee of $75 (+$60 per workshop) includes lunch, resource materials, and a closing session raffle. The 2014 CSTA Annual Conference is made possible by the generous support of Oracle and Universal Technical Institute.

Please note that all workshops are “bring your own laptop” and that workshop registration is limited to 30-40 participants; so be sure to register early to get your workshop choice.

Register at: www.cstaconference.org

For more information contact: t.nash@csta-hq.org

March 19, 2014 at 1:49 pm Leave a comment

Why Counting CS as a Foreign Language Credit is a Bad Idea from CSTA Blog

Interesting and detailed response to the decision in Texas (and proposed in New Mexico and Kentucky) to count programming as a foreign language.

When these policy makers look at schools, they see that computer science is not part of the “common core” of prescribed learning for students. And then they hear that Texas has just passed legislation to enable students to count a computer science course as a foreign language credit and it seems like a great idea.

But all we have to do is to look at Texas to see how this idea could, at the implementation level, turn out to be an unfortunate choice for computer science education. Here are the unintended consequences

1. If a course counts as a foreign language course, it will be suggested that a new course must be created.

2. If a new course is created, chances are that it won’t fit well into any of the already existing course pathways for college-prep or CTE.

3. This new course will be added to the current confusing array of “computing” courses which students and their parents already find difficult to navigate.

4. There will be pressure brought to ensure that that course focuses somehow on a “language”. For the last ten years we have been trying to help people understand that computer science is more than programming. Programming/coding is to computer science as the multiplication table is to mathematics, a critical tool but certainly not the entire discipline.

5. If this new course is going to be a “language” course, we have to pick a language (just one). And so the programming language wars begin.

via Computer Science Teachers Association.

March 19, 2014 at 1:06 am 6 comments

Candidate for Massachusetts Governor pushing CS Ed

An interesting piece on “The importance of expanding CS Education in Massachusetts.”  I’m particularly interested in her use of AP CS data to argue for the need to broaden access to computing education.

In July, the Boston Globe reported that, of the nearly 86,000 Advanced Placement tests taken by high school students in Massachusetts, only about 900 were in computer science. This is far too low for a state that aspires to lead the world in technological innovation.

Part of the problem is that, too often, students simply don’t have the interest, or the basic computer skills, necessary to tackle higher-level computer science courses. But the greater challenge, across all levels, is that we do not have enough computer science teachers, so students who are interested are left out in the cold. In 2012, more than half of all students who passed the computer science AP exam came from just 14 high schools around the state, meaning that the other 364 high schools in Massachusetts accounted for only around 275 students who passed the exam.

via Boston Governor Martha Coakley Economy, Education & Job Creation Platform | BostInno.

March 18, 2014 at 1:05 am Leave a comment

Studying under-representation in AP CS from the perspective of a single state

Mihaela Sabin at University of New Hampshire Manchester took Barb’s AP analysis, and produced a version specific to New Hampshire.  Quite interesting — would be great to see other states do this!

  • 77% exam takers passed the test, which is closer to the upper end of the 43% – 83% range reported across all states.

  • Only twelve girls took the AP CS exam, which represents 11.88% of all AP CS exam takers. This participation percentile of girls taking the exam is 4 times smaller that female representation in the state and nation.

  • Half of the girls who took the exam passed. 82% of the boys who took the exam passed.

  • One Hispanic and two Black students took the AP CS exam. The College Board requires that a minimum of five students from a gender, racial, and ethnic group take the test in order to have their passing scores recorded.

  • 2012 NH census data reports that Blacks represent 1.4% of the state population and Hispanics represent 3%. Having two Black students taking the test in 2013 means that their participation of 1.98% of all AP CS exam takers is 1.4 times higher than the percentage of the Black population in the state of NH. However, Hispanics participation in the AP CS exam of 0.99% is 3 times lower than their representation of 3% in the state.

nh-underrepresentation-hs-computing-education – Google Drive.

March 17, 2014 at 1:10 am 6 comments

Depressing story in Washington Post: Keeping women in high-tech fields is big challenge

I know that NCWIT has been exploring how to support male advocates for women.  Overall, this article seemed to be saying that women are leaving tech companies, and there’s not much we can do about it.

But keeping women in those fields — and helping them reach the top — may be an even bigger challenge. A report released Wednesday by the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI), a research think tank founded by economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett, finds that U.S. women working in these fields are 45 percent more likely than their male peers to leave the industry within a year.

In addition, the study also found that nearly one-third of senior leaders — both men and women — who work in science, engineering and technology fields reported that a woman would never reach the top position in their companies. “Even the senior guys who are in a position to make change for the women in their company don’t feel like they can do it,” said Laura Sherbin, the director of research for CTI. When that’s the case, she asks, “what’s left?”

via Keeping women in high-tech fields is big challenge, report finds – The Washington Post.

March 14, 2014 at 1:48 am 1 comment

Bard College offers an MAT with a concentration in CS Ed

Announced on the CSTA website.  There are relatively few pre-service CS Ed programs in the United States.

Bard College Master of Arts in Teaching Program, a CSTA sponsoring school, is accepting applications for the 2014-2015 preservice program.

Bard College’s preservice teaching program offers a one-year, 63 credit Master of Arts in Teaching degree and NYS Initial Teaching Certification, grades 7-12 for math, biology, history, and English. Applications are being accepted for the program now through April 30th.

Responding to a nationally recognized need for computer science curriculum in our public schools, the Bard MAT Program is offering a unique curriculum for math teachers with a commitment to teaching computer science in secondary public schools. The student dedicated to becoming a mathematics and computer science teacher values the Bard MAT Program’s commitment to the discipline with its substantive research projects in mathematics, computer science, and math/cs education. Students will work with computer science teachers in the middle and high schools in New York’s Hudson Valley, preparing for teaching careers in computer science.

Visit our website http://www.bard.edu/mat for more information
Apply online at: https://bard.slideroom.com/

March 13, 2014 at 1:16 am 1 comment

Wisdom of massive open online courses now in doubt: Hennessy critiques MOOCs

I thought John Hennessy’s quote below was remarkable, and quite different from his tsunami rhetoric of just last July.  I was also struck by this quote later in the piece:   “MOOCs are basically the 21st-century equivalent of reading a bunch of books and saying you got a degree.”

“Two words are wrong in ‘MOOC’: massive and open,” Stanford President John Hennessy said in a widely noted interview with the Financial Times.

At Tufts University outside Boston, members of the schools of arts and sciences and faculty in the engineering department approved a policyin December that would allow more Web-based classes to be used toward graduation. But Tufts instructors stopped short of joining the world of MOOCs.

“So much of the big conversation around the country is around these massive online courses, and from our perspective, we don’t see evidence that that’s a model that leads to real learning,” Education Policy Committee head David Hammer told The Tufts Daily, the school newspaper. “If I had 750 students, if I had 7,500 students I’m not going to hear and respond to student thinking.”

via Wisdom of massive open online courses now in doubt – Washington Times.

March 12, 2014 at 1:13 am 3 comments

Older Posts


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 9,002 other followers

Feeds

Recent Posts

Blog Stats

  • 1,875,054 hits
March 2014
M T W T F S S
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31  

CS Teaching Tips