JES 5 Now Released: New Jython, Faster, Updated Watcher, with Jython Music Challenges of using Big Data to inform education

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  • 1. alfredtwo  |  September 19, 2014 at 9:18 am

    When I read things like this I confess that one thought that come to mind is “Fine, don’t teach kids computer science and let my students have an advantage.” But really I have to ask myself if we are making the right case for teaching CS to more students.

  • 2. Michael S. Kirkpatrick  |  September 19, 2014 at 10:51 am

    Number 4 reminds me of a point that you’ve made on multiple occasions: It’s a fallacy to equate teaching programming with teaching problem solving skills. Even though many people like to assume the former implies the latter (because of correlation), there is no evidence of causality.

  • 3. Dale Reed  |  September 19, 2014 at 11:49 am

    I’m a “cautious believer” but perhaps not a “true believer.” The “true believer” part of me died when I realized a cart full of laptops wasn’t going to be much help getting all the students in my son’s Chicago first grade class learn how to read and write.

    We’re replicating in Chicago the Exploring Computer Science (ECS) curriculum that has had success in L.A., offering this course so far to ~10,000 Chicago Public Schools students. Our students are not majority white, nor are they middle- or upper-middle class students, nor is it a boutique offering. It will take years to see if we are successful in providing a relevant and compelling CS experience for every Chicago Public Schools student, but I am cautiously optimistic, and see this as a justice issue for our time.

    I caution against false expectations for technology to offer quick fixes. I applaud Jan Cuny’s goal of 10,000 teachers for 10,000 schools, and am involved with the professional development effort this past summer that gave a week-long PD to 475 teachers across the country.

    What I have learned here in Chicago is that systemic change can only happen as fast as it takes for relationships of trust to develop and for teaching practices to change, and that takes years.

  • 4. Diana  |  September 19, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    I agree with #4 – that is something the CER community needs to work on (including myself). However, #3 does not at all match with what I’m seeing. The schools with low income, first generation and immigrant populations are clamoring for computing curricula just as much as the white, middle- and upper- class schools. It’s just more important for them that the curriculum be scaffolded, supported, gradual, a blend of skill-building and constructionism, etc.

    • 5. Mark Guzdial  |  September 20, 2014 at 10:35 am

      I’ve got a blog coming out where we’re doing the “Where are CS teachers” and “What’s the household income in those districts” correlations and maps in several states. The correlation is very high — middle and upper income districts have CS teachers, low income districts do not. Barb and I had shown that correlation in our SIGCSE paper on AP CS data from last March, but then, we were looking at whole states. The picture is much more stark at the district level.

      • 6. Diana  |  September 20, 2014 at 11:19 am

        I am not surprised it is true at the high school level, where it requires extra resources. At K-6, we’re targeting the traditional classroom teachers, so the curriculum can be taught with the existing people. Perhaps that’s part of the appeal.

  • 7. Leigh Ann DeLyser  |  September 23, 2014 at 8:51 am

    I have two comments to make.

    First, about the socioeconomic issue – we are working hard to change that. There are people who recognize that a diverse workforce means diverse and more successful businesses and products. We are slowly making inroads in NYC, just like Chicago, focusing on CS access for all at the most basic or introductory levels.

    Secondly, about the question of transfer. 30 years ago the reason to teach CS was about transfer. We wanted to make students better at math and science, and maybe some of those students would eventually work in computers (in the few jobs that existed). Today, we are seeing a much different world. Its not about transfer to math or science. Actually, the mathematicians and scientists NEED computers to do their jobs. Additionally there is a need for a technically literate workforce. Just as being able to converse with a doctor about your body is important for being a literate citizen, so too is the ability to produce artifacts using technology and perhaps converse with a technologist about what you need for your job or personal life.

    Does that mean everyone needs the equivalent of a data structures and algorithms course? No. But should everyone have an exposure experience? I believe yes.

    • 8. Mark Guzdial  |  September 23, 2014 at 10:20 am

      Leigh Ann, I completely agree with you about the goal for learning CS: it’s not about transfer, it’s about literacy, understanding one’s world, participating in a technological society, productivity, and expressive/communicative power.

      But that’s not what most of the CS Ed community is focused on. I went to the CE21 Evaluator’s meeting in June, where this was a frequent theme. Most people in the room believed in the far transfer vision of Seymour Papert. A big focus of the CE21 efforts (especially as they merge into MSP efforts) is to look for outcomes in math and science standardized test scores.

      Or the evaluators think that they’re doing workforce training. I was in one working group where we were talking about the Big Questions we’d like to answer one day. I raised the question, “How does doing CS Unplugged or learning Scratch or Alice impact learning traditional software development languages later?” An evaluator in the working group turned to me and asked, “Wait — professional software developers don’t use Scratch and Alice?” Long pause, and then several of us in the working group assure her that no professional apps are written in Scratch or Alice, and that Java and C++ are much more common professional software development languages. “Then why are we teaching them?!? Why aren’t we teaching Java and C++? My child is one of those classes — what’s the point?!?”

      The idea of teaching CS for literacy and to meet the needs of scientifically-capable citizens of the 21st century is not the most common reason for teaching CS today. Most people (especially at the public policy, NSF, corporate levels) buy into the transfer or workforce arguments.

      • 9. Leigh Ann Sudol-DeLyser  |  September 26, 2014 at 5:20 pm

        We get the questions about Scratch a lot since it is part of our first course at the Academy for Software Engineering (A CS CTE high school in NYC). Our answer is that we don’t stay there for the full four years, and an if statement is an if statement in whatever language students use. The concepts are the same even if the tools are different.

        Does anyone think that modern biologists use the same equipment found in a HS biology class?

        We need to re-educate our community about the idea of far transfer. I’ve found that the computer scientists who worked with the psychologists during Papert’s era understand the difficulty of transfer, but some of the newer researchers to the field who have not come up through a strong social science background do not have an appreciation for the depth of work that was done in the 70s and 80s. They believe their “gut” when it tells them that of course computing will make you better at everything.

        I do think there are workforce arguments for teaching the pedagogical languages – especially with regards to filling the pipeline. And in the evaluator’s defense, many of us use the pipeline argument in the preamble of our grant applications.

  • […] Kafai respond to the concerns of Larry Cuban about the “coding for all” movement (that I blogged on here).  They address a wide range of issues, from the challenges of changing school to the importance […]


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