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

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