Archive for December, 2014

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 250,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 11 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

December 31, 2014 at 12:34 pm Leave a comment

How do we create more autodidacts?

Gas station without pumps raises a really interesting point (a good one to use in ending 2014 — an important topic to reflect on over the holidays): How do we prepare students to be autodidacts?  I agree with him, that being an autodidact is not an innate quality.  It’s an important question, particularly in computing education when there is so little formal schooling available.

In learning sciences’ terms, an autodidact is a self-regulated learner (see definition here).  I’ve seen lists of strategies used by self-regulated learners, and even how to teach self-regulation strategies to gifted learners (see example here).  A common strategy of self-regulated learners is self explanation (see Chi’s 1994 paper on self-explanation strategies), i.e., monitoring one’s learning by explaining it back to oneself.  Mimi Recker and Pete Pirolli showed that self-explanation strategies could be taught to improve learning about programming (see paper here).  It’s a great area for future research, especially in computing.

So I know how to be an autodidact, but how do I teach it to others?  That is a question I have no easy answers for. I try giving open-ended assignments, I try scaffolding by having students search for answers to specific questions, I try deliberately leaving material out of a lecture or a lab handout and telling students to go read about it in Wikipedia, and I try whatever else I can think of that will get students to learn on their own.  For some students something clicks, and they start doing more learning on their own—sometimes a lot more. For others, I’ve not found a secret sauce.

via Autodidacts against and for | Gas station without pumps.

December 22, 2014 at 8:37 am 6 comments

CSEdWeek progress in Georgia: Math and Science teachers in CS/IT and a Transfer Summit

The Code.org site (see here) describes some of the successes of CSEd Week.  Over 81 million people tried the Hour of Code.  President Obama became the first US President to program (see Forbes piece).

I’m sure that there were a lot of outreach activities going on in Georgia, too.  I wasn’t involved in those. I want to report on two points of progress in Georgia that was more at an infrastructural level.

Chris Klaus (as I mentioned in this blog previously) has gathered stakeholders in a “Georgia Coding” group to push on improving computing in Georgia.  That effort bore fruit during CSedWeek.  Georgia had its first “Day of Code,” but Barb and I were most excited to visit the Georgia Professional Standards Commission website on Monday to see this:

Cursor_and_GaPSC_-_CAPS

All the high school IT/CS classes in Georgia can now be taught by teachers with Mathematics or Science certifications.  Previously, only Business Education and Mathematics teachers could teach AP CS, and only Business Education teachers could teach other IT/CS classes. (Even though AP CS counted as a science credit, science teachers couldn’t teach it.)  Now, it’s all open.  It’s much easier to teach Math and Science teachers about CS than Business Education teachers. Now, we have a much larger pool of possible teachers to recruit into CS classes.  I’m grateful that Georgia House Representative Mike Dudgeon took this from the Georgia Coding group and made it happen.

On Thursday, I hosted a Transfer Summit at Georgia Tech.  We had 15 attendees from 11 different institutions in the University System of Georgia, some two-year-mostly institutions and others four-year degree institutions.

Pathways-Meeting

 

The goal was to ease transfer between the schools.  This was a strategy that CAITE used successfully to increase the diversity in computing programs in Massachusetts.  Two year programs are much more diverse than universities (see some data here), but only about 25% of the students who want to transfer do so.  Part of our strategy with ECEP is to set up these meetings where we get schools to smooth out the bumps to ease the transition.

I learned a lot about transfer at this meeting.  For example, I learned that it’s often unsuccessful to have students take all their General Education requirements at the two-year institution and then transfer to the four-year institution, because that leaves just intense CS classes for the last two years — no easier classes.  At some schools, the pre-requisite chains prevent students from even getting a full load of just-CS classes, since students have to pass the pre-req before they can take the follow-on class.

At the end of the meeting, we had 9 new transfer agreements in-progress.  Some of the participants had come to a similar meeting last year, and they said that they were able to make more progress this year because they knew what to have ready.  Wayne Summers from Columbus State actually came with a whole new agreement with Georgia Perimeter College (a two-year institution) already worked out and ready to discuss with GPC representatives.  I was grateful that GPC brought three faculty to the meeting, so that they could have multiple agreements worked out in parallel.

Getting math and science teachers into high school CS classes and helping students in two-year institutions move on to bachelors degrees isn’t as flashy as the Hour of Code and programming at White House.  Teacher certifications and transfer agreements are important when we move beyond the first hour and want to create pathways for students to pursue computing through graduation.

December 20, 2014 at 8:32 am 4 comments

What MOOCs are really good for: I’m going to do my first MOOC

A nice piece updating what we know about MOOCs, who’s taking them, and what they’re good for.  I have decided to offer my first MOOC, as part of an HCI specialization with Coursera.  (See the announcement here.)  This fits in exactly with what I think a MOOC is good for — it’s professional development for people with background in the field.  If students going to learn about HCI, I’d also like them to learn about making technologies for learning and about how people learn.  I agreed to do a short four week MOOC on designing learning technologies, development to occur this summer.  This isn’t about my research exactly (though, because it’s me, a lot of the examples will probably come from computing education). It’s not about reaching an under-served population, or teaching CS-novices or teachers.  Different purpose, different objectives — and objectives for this course and for the GT HCI specialization match for what a MOOC is good for.

The companies that rode to fame on the MOOC wave had visions and still do of offering unfettered elite education to the masses and driving down college tuition. But the sweet spot for MOOCs is far less inspirational and compelling. The courses have become an important supplement to classroom learning and a tool for professional development.

via Demystifying the MOOC – NYTimes.com.

December 19, 2014 at 8:15 am Leave a comment

Makers are mostly rich white guys: Broadening participation in computing requires formal education

“I’m tired of organizations being set up to tell young women and young brown and black men that they should aspire to be young white men.”

Leah Buechley makes a compelling case in the below video that the Maker movement is not reaching the kind of audience that we might have hoped for.  It’s mostly talking to “rich white guys.”  This is another example of what Fields and Kafai were talking about at WIPSCE 2014 (see my description here) — informal education mostly attracts the most privileged groups.  Here’s an interesting blog post on how to create Maker spaces that bridging gaps.

December 17, 2014 at 7:59 am 3 comments

STEM is incredibly valuable, but STEAM makes it better

I am sympathetic to this argument for the value of STEAM (STEM+Art), rather than just STEM.  I strongly believe in the value of creative expression in learning STEM subjects.  That’s core to our goals for Media Computation.  I believe that the STEAM perspective is why MediaComp has measurably improved motivation, engagement, and retention.

As a researcher, it’s challenging to measure the value of including art in learning STEM. I’m particularly concerned about the argument below.  Singapore and Japan are less creative because they have less art in school?  If we include more art in our schools, our students will be more innovative?  If we’re already more innovative, and we have too little art classes, why should we believe that adding more art will increase our innovation?

But STEM leaves out a big part of the picture. “It misses the fact that having multiple perspectives are an invaluable aspect of how we learn to become agile, curious human beings,” Maeda said. “The STEM ‘bundle’ is suitable for building a Vulcan civilization, but misses wonderful irrationalities inherent to living life as a human being and in relation to other human beings.” A foundation in STEM education is exceptional at making us more efficient or increasing speed all within set processes, but it’s not so good at growing our curiosity or imagination. Its focus is poor at sparking our creativity. It doesn’t teach us empathy or what it means to relate to others on a deep emotional level. Singapore and Japan are two great examples. “[They] are looked to as exemplar STEM nations, but as nations they suffer the ability to be perceived as creative on a global scale.” Maeda said. Is the United States completely misinformed and heading down the wrong track? Not entirely. Science, technology, engineering and math are great things to teach and focus on, but they can’t do the job alone. In order to prepare our students to lead the world in innovation, we need to focus on the creative thought that gives individuals that innovative edge.

via STEM is incredibly valuable, but if we want the best innovators we must teach the arts – The Washington Post.

December 15, 2014 at 8:22 am 14 comments

The by-gender vs by-discipline view of women in STEM from Valerie Barr #CSEdWeek

Valerie Barr has written a Blog@CACM post (linked below) where she considers a by-gender view of women earning STEM or CS, vs the more traditional by-discipline view.  She’s computing the number of degrees who go to women in CS over all the degrees that women earn.  It’s an interesting argument and well-worth exploring.

My concern about this perspective is that it’s politically more complicated when arguing for resources to promote women in computing.  You only grow the by-gender number by convincing women not to go into a different field — it’s a share of all women on-campus/graduating.  That puts you in a tug of war with others on campus.  In a by-discipline perspective, you can improve your share by drawing more women in (or by the number of men decreasing, as seems to have happened in our CM degree, see here).

While the by-discipline view of STEM degrees is far from rosy, this by-gender view of the data facilitates a more accurate assessment of the situation for women in STEM, and we can build on this to understand the ways in which the by-discipline view can mislead. If there were parity between men and women in STEM disciplines then they would graduate with degrees in those fields at the same rate relative to the size of their respective pools. We see this only in Biology where the graduation rate is almost equal (7% of women’s 2012 degrees were earned in Biology versus 6.77% of men’s 2012 degrees). In all other STEM fields men earned degrees at a higher rate and women are far from parity.

via Women in STEM, Women in Computer Science: We’re Looking At It Incorrectly | blog@CACM | Communications of the ACM.

December 12, 2014 at 8:32 am 5 comments

Manipulating NASA Astronomy Data with Pencil Code: A Media Computation Hour of Code Project #CSedWeek

HCC-Google-NASA

I got this email from Matthew Dawson at Google, and was delighted and amazed.  Check out the image before.  They’re using Pencil Code to walk the pixels of an image, with optical, IR, and X-Ray data.  The loop maps the IR and X-Ray data into colors in order to create a visualization.  What a terrifically cool MediaComp Hour of Code project!  I’m sharing this email with his permission:

I wanted to share a media computation type Hour of Code project that I helped create. I’m a big fan of everything you’ve done to advance the use of media in computer science, and thought that you might like to see this application.

It was created by myself, David Bau a Googler who created Pencil Code (an IDE that can transition between blocks and text), and astronomers at NASA and the ASA. In it, students get to create image mashups by tinkering with the R,G,B values of two images. They then get to apply those concepts to recolor real supernova images of various wavelengths to generate colorful astronomical images. Kim Arcand, who voices the last three videos, is the Visualization Lead for NASA’s Chandra X-Ray telescope, and this application of CS very closely matches the types of things she does each day.

This activity was created by volunteers August Muench, astronomer for the American Astronomical Society, Kim Arcand, visualization lead for NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, and Sydney Pickens and Matthew Dawson, both computer science educators with Google CS First

December 11, 2014 at 1:08 pm Leave a comment

Half of STEM graduates in US went to community college at some point #CSEdWeek

Interesting claim from the American Association of Community Colleges — thanks from Cheryl Kiras for this: http://www.aacc.nche.edu/Publications/datapoints/Documents/ScienceCred_102814.pdf  Here’s another reason why it’s important to care about all of the education pathways, and to look to community colleges for more (and more diverse) computing undergraduates.

www_aacc_nche_edu_Publications_datapoints_Documents_ScienceCred_102814_pdf

December 11, 2014 at 8:32 am 7 comments

Decline in CS in Scottish Schools: CAS-Scotland 2014 Report #CSEdWeek

The 2014 report from Computing At School (CAS) Scotland is out on the status of computer science education nationwide (see the report here).  The results are remarkable and distressing.  CAS Scotland succeeded at getting computer science to be a recognized subject, with the goal of replacing the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) curriculum.  However, computer science education in schools has declined dramatically.  Roger McDermott, who pointed out the report to me, is wondering if the push to improve the rigor of computing in schools may have led to the decline.

Some of the key findings (all of the points below are quotes from the report):

  • There has been a drop of 14% in Computing Science teachers over the last two years. Overall the number of Computing Science teachers in Scotland has gone down from 866 in 2007 to 773 in 2012 and to 663 in 2014. Low uptake, staff leaving and a need to reduce staffing were reasons given by some Local Authorities for the reduction. The number of schools without any Computing Science teachers has gone up slightly from 7.6% in 2012 (27 schools) to 12 % in 2014.
  • One school mentioned that one factor was Universities don’t require Higher Computing Science as an entry requirement:

    “[We] stopped offering certificate computing over ten years ago. The Head Teacher decided that with reducing staffing, low uptake by pupils and the fact that the higher was not required for further and higher education entry that certificate classes were not viable.”

  • Another area of concern is the lack of Computing Science teachers. There are currently not enough Computing Science teachers to address demand. Ten local authorities out of the 32 said that they had problems recruiting Computing Science teachers.
  • Many schools claim to be delivering Computing Science outcomes across the curriculum, but there is evidence of confusion with ICT skills.
  • The target for PGDE Computing in Scotland (the path to becoming a CS teacher in Scotland — see this link for an explanation) this year was 25 students (with a maximum cap set at 42 places). To date, 20 offers have been accepted for courses at Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities.

The problems that CAS-Scotland is facing are quite similar to ones we’re facing the United States:  Too few CS teachers, too few teachers interested in becoming CS teachers, a high drop-out rate among CS teachers (as already seen in ExploringCS), and a lack of value at the University level which influences perception at the high school level.  A mandate to teach computer science in all schools doesn’t make it happen.  Scotland is a smaller country which makes the problem more manageable, and they are already far ahead of the United States in terms of curriculum, teacher preparation programs, and having CS teachers in schools.  (Does anyone else look wistfully at that 12% of schools not teaching CS?  Only 12%?)  We need to watch how Scotland solves these problems, because we might able to use their solutions.

December 10, 2014 at 8:03 am 6 comments

Google aims to address the challenge of rapidly increasing CS enrollments and increasing diversity #CSEdWeek

I wrote a blog post in October (link here) about the rapidly rising enrollment in computer science and how that will likely reduce diversity in computer science —- again, as it did in the mid-1980’s. I don’t know any obvious solutions, since mechanisms like a lottery are pragmatically and politically infeasible (see “Gas Station without Pumps” analysis of the lottery problem).

Google is stepping up by providing funds to colleges and universities who have ideas for managing the rise. They are providing mini-grants to find ways to increase capacity for CS enrollments. And their criteria for funding explicitly requires increasing diversity.

The focus for all grants is education innovation, and specifically not investment in capital projects or faculty hiring. The proposed program must be:

  • Scalability and sustainability: Proposals must address scalability, preferably with models that can scale beyond a single University. Programs must also be self-sustaining within 3 years.
  • Measurability: Proposals must define and include success metrics, including year-over-year enrollment growth and retention of women and diverse students. Second- and third-year funding will be decided based on measurable success.
  • Diversity: We want to see growth in areas of historically underrepresented groups in computer science: women, underrepresented ethnic minorities, and first-generation college students — and will prioritize Proposals that have a specific strategy for positive impact in this area.

Currently, the program is invitation-only to a select set of 35 colleges and universities as part of a pilot program. You can read the Request for Proposals (RFP) here. The program comes out of Maggie Johnson’s ENGedu group at Google, and Chris Stephenson was a champion for the program.

It’s hard to manage increasing enrollments without giving up on diversity. It’s even harder to meet the demands and increase diversity. Google is helping the community significantly by funding efforts to find those hard solutions.

December 9, 2014 at 8:01 am 1 comment

ISTE Debate: Should we teach computer science in elementary school? #CSEdWeek

Both sides in this debate make good points.  Of course, I’m on Pat Yongpradit’s side — computing education is very important and should be in all schools.  But I totally see his opponent’s position (and I’ve made similar arguments myself about why the US is not ready for mandatory CS education): it’s expensive, teachers are not well-prepared, and it’s not obvious (to schools or teachers) how computer science helps with the primary goals of literacy and numeracy.

I’m not saying that elementary students are not capable of using or even mastering code. But I believe that really teaching — not just introducing — coding is simply beyond the scope of what most K-5 schools and their students are able to do, and it’s even asking a lot of middle schools when both lab time and class time are so limited. What’s more, pushing students into the study of abstract concepts before they are developmentally ready will not make them any more prepared for the rest of the 21st century than they are now.

via ISTE | Should we teach computer science in elementary school?.

December 8, 2014 at 8:33 am 4 comments

CS Education Research at Tufts: Keynote by Ben Shapiro

I recommend this talk by Ben Shapiro.  He does a great job framing his work in computing education research, and shows some terrific examples of his latest work.  I like how his work fits so well into both computing and education — he’s using education theory to help students learn important ideas in CS from distributed systems and parallelism (like latency and synchronization) that aren’t yet in the CS standards.  This is using advanced knowledge in CS and advanced knowledge in Education to explore new ground.

December 5, 2014 at 8:15 am 1 comment

Talk at Rutgers on Dec 9: Creative Expression to Motivate Interest in Computing

If you’re in the New Jersey area on Tuesday December 9:

Library & Information Science Department Guest Lecture, open to the Rutgers Community….

Dr. Mark Guzdial and Barbara Ericson

Scholarly Communication Center at Alexander Library (4th Floor lecture hall)

Tuesday, 12/9/2014, 12-1:30pm

Title: Creative Expression to Motivate Interest in Computing

Abstract:  Efforts in the US to promote learning about computer science and computational thinking emphasize the vocational benefits.  Research on end-user programming suggests that for every professional software developer in the United States, there are four more professionals who program as part of doing their job.  Efforts in other countries (UK, Denmark, New Zealand) instead emphasize the value of computing as a rigorous discipline providing insight into our world.  We offer a third motivation: computing as a powerful medium for creative expression.  We have used computational media to motivate children to study computing, to go beyond thinking about “geeks” in computing.  We use media computation to encourage teachers and introductory students at college. The approach draws in a different audience than we normally get in computer science The BS in Computational Media at Georgia Tech is the most gender-balanced, ABET-accredited undergraduate computing degree in the United States.  We use these examples to paint a picture of  using creative expression to motivate interest in computing.

Bios:

  • Mark Guzdial is a Professor in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech. He is a learning scientist who focuses on computing education research. He invented the Media Computation approach to teaching introductory computing. He serves on the ACM’s Education Council, and is on the editorial boards of the “Journal of the Learning Sciences,” “ACM Transactions on Computing Education,” and “Communications of the ACM.” With his wife and colleague, Barbara Ericson, he received the 2010 ACM Karlstrom Outstanding Educator award.  He was also the recipient of the 2012 IEEE Computer Society Undergraduate Teaching Award.
  • Barbara Ericson is the Director of Computing Outreach and a Senior Research Scientist for the College of Computing at Georgia Tech.  She has worked at Georgia Tech to increase the quantity and quality of secondary computing teachers and the quantity and diversity of computing students since 2004. She is currently also pursuing a Human-Centered Computing PhD at Georgia Tech. She has co-authored four books on Media Computation.  She was the winner of the 2012 A. Richard Newton Educator Award.  She has served on the CSTA’s Board of Directors, the Advanced Placement Computer Science Development Committee, and the NCWIT executive committee for the K-12 Alliance.

December 3, 2014 at 8:11 am 4 comments

Do We Need a Title IX for IT Workers?

I’ve raised the question about using Title IX to force greater gender diversity in CS classes.  This is a bolder position — that we should use Title IX to change hiring practices.  Certainly, there is evidence of a lack of gender diversity in the computing industry.

Bridging the gender gap in IT might require a bold act on the part of policymakers, something along the lines of Title IX, the landmark civil rights law barring gender discrimination in education.

So mused Lisa Schlosser, deputy associate administrator of e-Government and Information Technology at the Office of Management and Budget Office, who spoke on a panel discussion Thursday at the annual FOSE government IT conference.

“Is there a Title IX for technology that we need to think about? Title IX was very transformational for women. You know, it’s kind of how I got the opportunity,” Schlosser said. “I’d just challenge us all to think, is there something bold … is there something like that that we really need to promote so that we can get more folks into technology early?”

via Do We Need a Title IX for STEM Workers? – CIO.com.

December 1, 2014 at 8:39 am 1 comment


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