Archive for January, 2015

GenderIT Conference at Penn: Papers due Feb 20

GenderIT 2015 Advancing Diversity

Join us April 24-25 at the University of Pennsylvania!

In IT and technology-related fields at large, diversity has been a longstanding and troubling issue. Particularly, girls, women and minorities continue to be underrepresented in these fields; few engage in STEM-related classes or enter IT professions. What can we do to address these challenges? What do we know about interests, images, and intersections around gender, race, and IT? How can we design K-12 education and craft career trajectories so that more girls and minorities express interest and participate in IT? What are some promising and innovative designs and interventions? How are trends in related fields, such as gaming, connected to larger IT developments? In GenderIT 2015, we will set out to examine and discuss these issues and more around three focal areas:

–       Promoting computer science education in K-12

–       Understanding developments around gender and gaming

–       Developing new interventions and applications for STEM

Call for Papers and Posters

We invite researchers, designers, and practitioners to participate in the conference through contributions from your own work. Relevant topics include:

+ gender specific aspects of IT appropriation and use

+ the role of the new media for learning

+ gender awareness in computer science curricula and IT trainings

+ the relation of gender and IT in education, training, and work

+ the significance of gender for career choices and qualification paths in the IT domain

We welcome submissions following ACM format in the form of long papers (8 pages), short papers (4 pages) or posters (2 pages).


▪   Submissions: February 20, 2015

▪   Notifications: March 5, 2015

▪   Camera-Ready: March 20, 2015


▪   Paper (long and short): A long paper should consist of no more than 8 pages; a short paper should be no more than 4 pages. This is including figures, references and appendices, and an abstract of no more than 150 words. Longer submissions will automatically be rejected. The submission must be original; it cannot be published or be in a review process elsewhere. Long and short papers will be published in the ACM Digital Library.

▪   Poster: Posters are for new work, preliminary findings, designs or educational projects. They are accompanied by a two-page abstract. This text should articulate out the aspect of the work that is apt to lead to productive discussion with conference participants in the poster session. Posters will be published in the in the ACM Digital Library.

All submissions must adhere to the formatting guidelines in the ACM proceedings template. All submissions will be blind-reviewed. Please prepare your submission accordingly.


Please submit your papers for GIT 2015 here. The paper submission system is supported by Easy Chair and requires the creation of an “author” account for all submissions.

January 31, 2015 at 7:51 am Leave a comment

MIT Computer Scientists Demonstrate the Hard Way That Gender Still Matters

I met Elena Glassman at the ICER Doctoral Consortium in 2013.  Her article below on her “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit is an interesting commentary on gender bias in computing.

As it turned out, people were extremely interested in our AMA, though some not for the reasons we expected. Within an hour, the thread had rocketed to the Reddit front page, with hundreds of thousands of pageviews and more than 4,700 comments. But to our surprise, the most common questions were about why our gender was relevant at all. Some people wondered why we did not simply present ourselves as “computer scientists.” Others questioned if calling attention to gender perpetuated sexism. Yet others felt that we were taking advantage of the fact that we were women to get more attention for our AMA.

The interactions in the AMA itself showed that gender does still matter. Many of the comments and questions illustrated how women are often treated in male-dominated STEM fields. Commenters interacted with us in a way they would not have interacted with men, asking us about our bra sizes, how often we “copy male classmates’ answers,” and even demanding we show our contributions “or GTFO [Get The **** Out]”. One redditor helpfully called out the double standard, saying, “Don’t worry guys – when the male dog groomer did his AMA (where he specifically identified as male), there were also dozens of comments asking why his sex mattered. Oh no, wait, there weren’t.”

via MIT Computer Scientists Demonstrate the Hard Way That Gender Still Matters | WIRED.

January 30, 2015 at 7:45 am Leave a comment

Why the Maker Movement is important for Schools: Outside the Skinner Box

I liked Gary Stager’s argument in the post below about what’s important about the Maker Movement for schools: it’s authentic in a physical way, and it contextualizes mathematics and computing in an artistic setting.

For too long, models, simulations, and rhetoric limited schools to abstraction. Schools embracing the energy, tools, and passion of the Maker Movement recognize that, for the first time in history, kids can make real things – and, as a result, their learning is that much more authentic. Best of all, these new technologies carry the seeds of education reform dreamed of for a century. Seymour Papert said that John Dewey’s educational vision was sound but impossible with the technology of his day. In the early- to mid-20th century, the humanities could be taught in a ­project-based, hands-on fashion, but the technology would not afford similarly authentic opportunities in mathematics, science, and engineering. This is no longer the case.

Increasingly affordable 3-D printers, laser cutters, and computer numerical control (CNC) machines allow laypeople to design and produce real objects on their computers. The revolution is not in having seventh-graders 3-D print identical Yoda key chains, but in providing children with access to the Z-axis for the first time. Usable 3-D design software allows students to engage with powerful mathematical ideas while producing an aesthetically pleasing artifact. Most important, the emerging fabrication technologies point to a day when we will use technology to produce the objects we need to solve specific problems.

via Outside the Skinner Box.

January 28, 2015 at 7:42 am 1 comment

Fourth edition of Python Media Computation released today: Teacher resources and desirable difficulties


According to Amazon, the Fourth Edition of the Python Media Computation book is released today (see page here). That’s the new cover above. I’ve been working on the 4th edition for most of the summer. Some of the bigger changes are:

  • Before we manipulate pictures, we manipulate letters, words, and language, e.g., build “MadLib” and “koan” generators, and encoding and decoding keyword ciphers. Language is a medium, too, and it’s easier to get started (for some folks) with the smaller-iteration loops of text before getting to the thousands-of-iterations loops of pixels in a picture. It’s an optional chapter — everything introduced there gets introduced again later.
  • Since the new version of JES fixed a round-off error in the Turtle class, we can do recursive turtle manipulations now (which tended to get messed up in earlier forms of JES).
  • I juggled content around so that we do more with conditionals and querying the pixel for its position, before we introduce nested loops. Nested loops are really hard for students, and I learned (from seeing the code that my students wrote) that they can do far more than I’d guessed with single loops — even with multiple pictures. I included more of that.
  • I have tried (for the last two editions) to provide screen-scraping examples, e.g., writing code to pull weather, news, or friends’ information from websites.  It’s getting harder and harder to write that kind of code.  Instead, I decided to provide more code that parses CSV files, as can be found at Open Data Journalism sites (like at The Guardian) and sources like the US Census.  The examples are still about parsing out useful information, but it’s a lot easier to parse CSV and encouraged at these sites.
  • There are more end of chapter problems, and new pictures.  And trying to catch all the errors in the Third Edition that master teachers like Susan Schwartz (at West Point) found.

We’re working on teacher resources now. Currently in development (aiming to have ready in the next couple months) the Powerpoint slides for each chapter of the book, a collection of all the code in the book for teachers, and a solutions manual for every end of chapter problem. These are surprisingly controversial. There are lots (mostly University) teachers who think that I shouldn’t provide any of these resources — teachers should be able to develop all of those themselves. Most of the high school and community college teachers I know appreciate having them.

In searching for the Fourth Edition on Amazon, I read the comments on the Third Edition (see here). Authors probably shouldn’t read the reviews of the book — they’re painful. But I did, and even worse, I actually responded.

Here is a quote from one, titled “False Advertising.”

Its biggest problem: false advertising. This is NOT a book on Python, it’s about JYTHON – A Java based imitation of Python.
Why? Well, there’s some pretty software, available to download, which uses the the JRE. The author chose to stick with this “easy learning environment” and basically cripple anyone wanting to write Python code for Blender, Maya, Android etc.

You may learn to program from this text, but don’t expect a trouble-free life when you get exposed to the real language.

Here was my response:

Everything in this book is useful when wanting to write Python code for Blender, Maya, Android, etc. This is an introductory book on data, loops, conditionals, and objects. Those parts of Python are identical in this book and in the Python that you’ll use in Blender, Maya, and Android. For introductory Python programming, Jython and CPython are exactly the same.

I was surprised to see the original commenter responded. His point was that some kinds of friction, in dealing with the “real world” is desirable:

As an introductory book, I would expect a section on how to install and configure Python. Written covering Windows, Linux, and the Mac OSX. There is no such section; the whole point of Jython is to “hide” this technical level. Which is fine for learning loops etc. but leaves a student lost when encountering Python out in the real world.

It’s an interesting perspective, kind of a “rugged individualism” approach. I do agree with the notion of desirable difficulties in learning (see more here),  but don’t agree that installing Python is one of those.  Do most Python programmers install Python themselves, or is it already installed on the servers, computers, etc. that they will be programming? Is it a critical part of learning a language? Is it significantly different than installing JES (try that here)? Are you “lost” and unable to program if you don’t install it yourself first?

A sad addendum to this story: Our Media Computation data structures book (see the Amazon page here) has gone out of print. The publisher didn’t notify us. Someone approached us about using the book, and was told that it was out of print. When I queried Pearson, they admitted it. More, because it’s not out of print everywhere (I guess it’s available in some non-US markets), Pearson won’t let us post the content anywhere. It’s a dead book now.

January 26, 2015 at 8:28 am 10 comments

New International Conference: Research on Equity and Sustained Participation in Engineering, Computing, and Technology (RESPECT)

Shared from Tiffany Barnes, with her permission.

The engagement of diverse people in an endeavor drives creativity and innovation, but in computing and STEM fields, broadening participation is also a matter of equity. It is critical that we, as the computer science education community, improve inclusion of diverse people, especially those from underrepresented populations. Globally, underrepresentation differs regionally and culturally by gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic advantage, physical, mental, and cognitive ability, and LGBT status. The need to support diversity becomes even more important for disenfranchised groups with limited legal rights and protections. Lest we think that this is a minority-only issue, consider developing countries or the poor of every nation, with little to no access to education and resources, where computing could help build the economy, health, education, and financial systems.

We invite you to join IEEE Computer’s newly-established Special Technical Community on Broadening Participation ( to create a collective global strategy to research and improve participation and inclusion in computing.

Research on Equity and Sustained Participation in Engineering, Computing, and Technology (RESPECT) is the focus of our first international meeting. Co-located with the STARS Celebration in Charlotte, NC, just after ICER, RESPECT 2015 will be a premier research conference with research papers, experience reports (due March 27), posters and panels (due June 5). We invite all interdisciplinary work that draws on computer science, education, learning sciences, and the social sciences to help us build a strong community, theory, and foundation for broadening participation research.

We hope you will get involved today by joining, submitting to, attending RESPECT 2015 August 13-14, or contacting the STC-BP chairs Tiffany Barnes,, or George K. Thiruvathukal,

January 24, 2015 at 8:27 am Leave a comment

What are the Barriers and Supports to Intro CS in school? BASICS – The Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education

I’m an advisor on the BASICS project at U. Chicago — the Barriers and Supports to Introductory CS in schools. I visited them in December after our semester ended. The link below goes to a page with some of the first results of the project.

Computer Science teachers in Chicago and Washington, DC completed a questionnaire in Spring 2014 that, among other things, asked them to identify the three biggest supports for and barriers to their computer science classes. All of the teachers were using Exploring Computer Science (ECS) instructional materials.

via BASICS – The Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education.

They have links on the page referenced above to the top barriers and supports that they heard from ECS teachers in those districts.  Top barrier for teachers: their own lack of self-efficacy.  Top support for teachers: professional development.

January 23, 2015 at 8:52 am 3 comments

Call for Papers for ICER 2015 in Omaha: Due April 13

Call for Papers and Submissions
ICER’15: International Computing Education Research Conference
August 9-13, Omaha, Nebraska, USA
The eleventh annual ACM International Computing Education Research (ICER) Conference aims to gather high-quality contributions to the computing education research discipline. We invite submissions across a variety of categories for research investigating how people of all ages come to understand computational processes and devices, and empirical evaluation of approaches to improve that understanding in formal and informal learning environments. 
Research areas of particular interest include:
·         discipline based education research (DBER) in computer science (CS), information sciences (IS), and related disciplines
·         learnability/usability of programming languages and the psychology of programming
·         pedagogical environments fostering computational thinking
·         design-based research, learner-centered design, and evaluation of educational technology supporting computing knowledge development
·         learning sciences work in the computing content domain
·         learning analytics and educational data mining in CS/IS content areas
·         informal learning experiences related to programming and software development (all ages), ranging from after-school programs for children, to end-user development communities, to workplace training of computing professionals
·         measurement instrument development and validation (e.g., concept inventories, attitudes scales, etc) for use in computing disciplines
·         research on CS/computing teacher thinking and professional development models at all levels
Submission Types
We continue ICER’s longstanding commitment to fostering discussion and exploring new research areas by offering several ways to contribute.  New for 2015, ICER features an increased page length for research papers of 8 pages for body content, plus up to 2 additional pages for references.  We have also expanded submission types to include a new research poster track. 
·         Research Papers: Empirical and theoretical contributions to the computing education research literature will be peer-reviewed by members of the international program committee and will be published in conference proceedings in the ACM digital library.  (8 pages, plus references)
·         Lightning Talks: Brief, timed talks highlighting a research issue/opportunity, a new project, other early-stage work.  (abstract submission)
·         Posters (new!): Posters provide another avenue to disseminate your work in computing education at ICER.  (abstract submission)
·         Work-in-Progress Workshop:  An in-depth workshop environment providing extensive feedback on in-progress research (application form required)
·         Doctoral Consortium: PhD students pursuing research related to computing education are invited to submit abstracts for participation in the doctoral consortium.  Abstracts from accepted participants are published in the conference proceedings (application and 2-page abstract)
·         Co-located Workshops:  Pre/post conference workshop proposals related to computing education research are welcomed.  (contact conference chairs)
For full details and submission information, see the conference website:
Important Deadlines
13 April, 2015 – Research paper abstract submission (mandatory)
20 April, 2015 – Research paper full copy, blind submission

20 April, 2015 – Co-located workshop proposals

20 May, 2015   – Doctoral consortium submissions due

1 June, 2015  – Notification to research paper authors

15 June, 2015  – Lighting talk & poster abstracts

15 June, 2015  – Work in progress workshop application deadline
Conference Chairs
Brian Dorn, University of Nebraska at Omaha, USA –
Judy Sheard, Monash University, Australia –
Quintin Cutts, University of Glasgow, UK –

January 22, 2015 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

Spatial Visualization Skills FAQs – Engage Engineering

A cool FAQ on the importance of spatial visualization skills in most STEM fields, and the research on how to improve them.

Research has demonstrated that training is an effective way to improve spatial visualization skills Contero et al., 2006; Ferguson, Ball, McDaniel, & Anderson, 2008; Hand, Uttal, Marulis, & Newcombe, 2008; Hsi et al., 1997; Martín-Dorta et al., 2008; Newcombe, 2006; Onyancha, Derov, & Kinsey, 2009; Onyancha, R., Towle, E., & Kinsey, B., 2007; Sorby, 2009; Sorby & Baartmans, 2000; Terlecki, Newcombe, & Little, 2008.  In the area of mental rotation where the largest gender gap in performance exists, training has been effective as well Sorby & Baartmans, 2000; Sorby, Drummer, Hungwe, Parolini, & Molzan, 2006.In one study, students who failed the Purdue Spatial Visualization Test PSVT:R and enrolled in spatial skills training were able to improve their scores on the mental rotation test from approximately 50% to 77% or higher than students who failed the test and did not enroll in the course. These students also got better grades in 1st year STEM courses Sorby, 2009.

via Spatial Visualization Skills FAQs – Engage Engineering.

January 21, 2015 at 8:34 am Leave a comment

Predictions about education for 2015

There are lots of these kinds of lists around the beginning of a new year, but I thought that these predictions were interesting. I’m betting that the first one below is right, but I know a lot of people are betting against it. I’m seeing the second one in my discussions with K12 education policymakers in states.  They want their students to come out with “job skills,” which is hard to do with an introduction to computing designed for students who have no previous background.

10. Online learning will grow modestly (Eduventures): The company predicts that enrollment in wholly online degree programs will be modest this year, with only 2 percent growth due mostly to uncertainty and indecision among adult learners. At the same time, the percentage of colleges entering the online market will grow very little, if at all. “Growth will be stunted due to increased regulatory concerns such as state authorization, competition from large adult-serving providers, and enrollment strategies incapable of keeping pace with the savvyness of today’s adult learners,” it stated. “Institutions will back away from online programming to focus on blended learning and improving quality and access for traditional age students.”

11. Outcomes will dominate (Eduventures): Eduventures research shows that in 2013, “career preparation” surpassed “academic strength” as the top priority for both students and parents in selecting a school. Adding to parent and student concerns, the government has increased its focus on this issue, including the possibility of Title IV funding consequences. “Look for schools to become more aggressive in differentiating themselves in reporting outcomes data in 2015,” said the company.

via 15 higher-ed technology predictions for 2015 – Page 2 of 2 – eCampus News | eCampus News | 2.

January 20, 2015 at 7:03 am 1 comment

New solicitation for NSF STEM-C: Emphasis on K-12 and Integration with Other STEM Disciplines

The new NSF STEM-C solicitation is out: See

The introduction to the new solicitation is visionary and speaks of the power of computing in STEM and for all students.  Here’s just the first paragraph:

The STEM + Computing (STEM+C) Partnerships program seeks to advance a 21st century conceptualization of education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) that includes computing. The “+ Computing” notation emphasizes that computing is integral to the practice of all the other STEM disciplines. In this solicitation, computing refers to the whole set of fundamental concepts and skills that will allow students to creatively apply and adapt computation across a range of application domains, to “bend digital technology to one’s needs, purposes, and will.”

The focus of this solicitation is primarily on integration of computing with other STEM education disciplines, and secondarily, on computing education in K-12 (including teachers).  The prioritization is pretty clear from the budget limits:

The maximum total budget for Track 1: Integration of Computing in STEM Education awards is $2.5 million for Design and Development awards, $1.25 million for Exploratory Integration awards, and $250,000 for Field-Building Conferences and Workshops. The maximum total budget for Track 2: Computing Education Knowledge and Capacity Building awards is $600,000 for Research on Education and Broadening Participation awards and $1.0 million for CS 10K awards.

You can get up to $1.25M USD to explore integration of computing in STEM ($2.5M to design and develop), but at most $1M to put computing into schools and at most $600K to do research on computing education and broadening participation.  We might argue about the ratios, but in the end, both tracks and all the types of proposals have enough funding to do important work that needs to happen.

January 19, 2015 at 8:06 am 3 comments

Search is on for new CSTA Executive Director

I wrote a while back about Chris Stephenson moving to Google.  It’s time to find a new executive director for CSTA!

The Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) announces its search for an Executive Director. The Executive Director must be deeply committed to CSTA’s core mission, which is to empower, support and advocate for K-12 computer science teachers worldwide. The Executive Director reports to and works collaboratively with the Board of Directors to set strategic direction, develop goals, attain/manage resources, and establish policies for the organization.

The Executive Director is responsible for the organization’s consistent achievement of its mission and financial objectives and ensures ongoing programmatic excellence, rigorous program evaluation, and consistent quality of finance, administration, fundraising, communications, and organizational systems.

This is a full-time position. The Executive Director manages a staff including an Assistant Director and four part-time administrators (meeting planner, web developer, project coordinator, and newsletter editor), and conducts their work from a virtual office. Considerable travel is required.

For position specifications, including key responsibilities, qualifications, and procedures for candidacy, please visit

January 17, 2015 at 8:56 am Leave a comment

Google Computer Science for High School open for face-to-face again

Really great news: The Google CS4HS program is again open to face-to-face professional development!  Last year, they only offered MOOC-based PD (see blog post here).  The new call is backed up with research, so that the CS4HS programs are designed to be more effective.  (I suspect that Chris Stephenson’s move to Google had something to do with this…)

Google believes the new Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles (CSP) course being developed by the National Science Foundation and the College Board is key to engaging a more diverse audience of students in computer science. Adoption and exemplary teaching of this course requires a community-wide effort to prepare teachers. To that end, in 2015 the CS4HS program will be providing grants to universities and educational non-profits interested in helping their local teacher community prepare to teach CSP.

Research (Joyce & Showers, 2002; Wiske, Stone, & Levinson, 1993) shows that peer-to-peer professional development and on-going support improve teachers’ abilities to adopt and implement new content and skills. Based on this research Google’s intention in 2015 is to provide funding support for:

  • professional development workshops (face to face and online) focused on CSP
  • establishment of or work with existing communities of practice (COP) that will support ongoing professional development and advocacy for CSP on an ongoing basis.


  • Applicants must satisfy the following criteria in order to be eligible:

  • You must be affiliated with a college, university, technical college, community college, or an official non-profit organization focused on education.

  • Your workshop must have a clear focus on the College Board’s new AP Computer Science Principles curriculum.

  • Your workshop must be followed up with a plan for year-round communities of practice work that supports ongoing PD and advocacy for the Computer Science Principles curriculum.

  • Online courses must use Google products for content delivery.

  • Online courses must be massive, open, and online; therefore enrollment cannot be capped.

via Google Computer Science for High School.

January 16, 2015 at 8:47 am Leave a comment

African-American students preference for graphical or text-based programming languages depended on career goals

One of the results from Betsy DiSalvo’s dissertation on Glitch (see a post on that work) that I found most interesting was that there wasn’t a clear winner between graphical, drag-and-drop programming (Alice) and text-based programming (Python).  She has now written up that part of the dissertation work, and it’s linked below.


To determine appropriate computer science curricula, educators sought to better understand the different affordances of teaching with a visual programming language (Alice) or a text-based language (Jython). Although students often preferred one language, that language wasn’t necessarily the one from which they learned the most.

via IEEE Xplore Abstract – Graphical Qualities of Educational Technology: Using Drag-and-Drop and Text-Based Programs for Intro….

January 12, 2015 at 8:39 am 7 comments

STEM: Closing the Gender Gap | Pearson

Colleagues at Pearson asked me to share this announcement with you.

Join Pearson and learning leaders from Higher Ed, K–12, and STEM industries in Silicon Valley to discuss strategies for closing the gender gap in STEM. We’ve partnered with Google,, Maker Ed, Girls Who Code, and the City of San Francisco to bring you lively discussions and presentations on how educators and industry leaders can work together to close the gap in STEM education and STEM careers.

Event Highlights

  • Keynote presented by Mona Akmal, Director of Product at
  • Google presentation of the company’s research report Women Who Choose Computer Science—What Really Matters
  • Google campus tour
  • Panel discussion featuring Susan Nesbitt from Girls Who Code & Patrick Mitchell from TechSF, City & County of San Francisco
  • Presentation about the gender gap’s economic implications by J. Robert Gillette, Associate Professor of Economics, Gatton College of Business & Economics, University of Kentucky
  • Presentation “Imagine a World Where Women Feel Safe: Break the Silence” by Deborah Acosta, Chief Innovation Officer for the City of San Leandro
  • Panel discussion, moderated by Lisa Regalla, National Program Manager at Maker Ed, featuring secondary-school and college women discussing their interest in STEM careers, mentorship, and other topics
  • via STEM: Closing the Gender Gap | Pearson.

January 9, 2015 at 7:45 am 1 comment

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