White House Backs CS for All: Giving Every Student an Opportunity to Learn Through Computer Science For All

January 30, 2016 at 9:47 am 9 comments

I don’t usually blog on a Saturday, but this is huge.

In this week’s address, the President discussed his plan to give all students across the country the chance to learn computer science (CS) in school.  The President noted that our economy is rapidly shifting, and that educators and business leaders are increasingly recognizing that CS is a “new basic” skill necessary for economic opportunity. The President referenced his Computer Science for All Initiative, which provides $4 billion in funding for states and $100 million directly for districts in his upcoming budget; and invests more than $135 million beginning this year by the National Science Foundation and the Corporation for National and Community Service to support and train CS teachers.  The President called on even more Governors, Mayors, education leaders, CEOs, philanthropists, creative media and technology professionals, and others to get involved in the efforts.

Source: Weekly Address: Giving Every Student an Opportunity to Learn Through Computer Science For All | whitehouse.gov

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Human-Centric Development of Software Tools: Dagstuhl Seminar Report now published Broadening Access to Computing Education State by State: ECEP in CACM

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. alanone1  |  January 30, 2016 at 10:03 am

    And it worked so well for universal learning of math and science!

    (Not to mention how well going to the moon helped invent space travel)

    Beware of gestures! (And try to spot them)

    In several of the 3rd world education projects I’ve been involved in, it has occasionally been striking that the deep realization that education is lacking is a powerful force in the 3rd world, whereas the same kind of lack, but alongside “fake education” (e.g. in the US), is much less noticed because of the gesture of “offering access” via a societal action.

    What gets missed — and perhaps more and more — is that real work has to be done everywhere to preserve the content from being overwhelmed by the mere touching — “Real Guitar is replaced with Guitar Hero”.

    I’m quite worried so far about what is happening to computing in US education — not just the lacks but the very poor and misleading attempts to provide *something*.

    I don’t regard this “as a start* because the examples of math and science show at best asymptotes that don’t get near the needed thresholds. “Getting started” in some respects is actually holding the real things back.

    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  January 30, 2016 at 10:37 am

      I have a blog post written and queued up on one of the issues you raise, Alan. What are the mechanisms by which we assure quality of computing education, not just access? I’m not sure that they’re there.

      Except for Bootstrap, I’m not seeing outcomes data for the initiatives that the President’s initiative speaks of. I don’t know what’s being learned in BJC, Mobile CSP, and ExploringCS. I don’t know about changes in attitudes, intent to major, and perceptions of what computing is. We’re mostly being told “numbers served” — number of teachers trained, number of students who go through classes. And I don’t trust all of those — I’m not sure where this “only 25% of schools in the US offer computing classes” comes from. I think it’s far lower.

      On the other hand, this is a lot of money. This is a lot of interest. It would be great to use this to generate good things.

      • 3. alanone1  |  January 30, 2016 at 11:08 am

        In the 60s, there was a lot of money, a lot of interest, and a generally much higher level of thinkers and designers after the shock of Sputnik — and generally much better examples of curriculum produced — especially for many important sciences — along with tremendous resources put forth to train teachers by the many 10s of thousands for 10s of thousands of schools.

        As far as I’m aware, not a whiff remains in any kind of policy level at school boards or higher, and most did not even survive the 70s.

        I think it’s the case that more is understood today about why it is difficult to help a general population learn a “universally decreed” subject, and that — today — things would be helped a lot if early grade teachers were a lot more adept in a number of areas that they are. A bad old idea still propagates — that almost any adult knows enough to guide young children. I think it’s the case that — in the 20th and 21st centuries — the earliest grade teachers need to be the most deeply educated and trained. Montessori understood this more than 100 years ago, but most societies still don’t.

        There is a real context mismatch problem between our genetic and general cultural heritages and “modern knowledge and representations” that took many thousands of years for extremely unusual people to even discover. The journey to the new non-commonsense contexts doesn’t happen for most without help. And for most children, there is nothing in their lives that will provide that help. School should be the “universal help” but not if the perspectives and teachers, etc., are mired in the old contexts.

        Computing is not a special case — and it has the additional problem of having a weak part of it available to the pop culture (as far as I’m aware, there is not really a pop math or pop physics subculture). The pop computing subculture that does exists creates an illusion of “normal” for mostly bad ideas, and these easily propagate into the adult world and to mostly well meaning people who are “trying to do something”.

        The result is and will increasingly be “Yikes!”

        • 4. Mark Guzdial  |  January 30, 2016 at 11:25 am

          Here’s the description of the session I’m putting together for Tuesday at the NSF PI meeting.

          Integrating Computing Education into Preservice Teacher Development Programs
          (Mark Guzdial (moderator), Leigh Ann DeLyser, Joanna Goode, Yasmin Kafai, Aman Yadav)

          For computing education to become ubiquitous and sustainable in US K-12 schools, we need schools of Education to teach computing.
          ​What should we be teaching to preservice teachers?
          Where should we teach CS methods in preservice teacher development?
          How do we help schools of Ed to hire and sustain faculty who focus on computing education?
          Panelists will talk about how CS Ed is being integrated into their preservice teacher development programs, and about alternative models for addressing these questions

  • 5. Thad Crews  |  January 30, 2016 at 10:26 am

    Mark, this is clearly a positive step for the computing community. However, the concern is that these type of initiatives typically emphasize programming which in turn creates an impression in peoples minds that computer science means programming. As computer science professionals, what should our reaction be to this kind of initiative? How should we steer the subsequent conversation?

    • 6. Mark Guzdial  |  January 30, 2016 at 10:38 am

      As I argue in my book, the most important challenge of computing education is to teach people to program. I’m fine with that focus.

  • 7. US President announces CS For All.  | Nick Falkner  |  January 30, 2016 at 10:33 am

    […] rebel to know that an empowered and knowledgable generation of school kids is a beautiful thing. As Mark put it, this is […]

  • 8. lenandlar  |  January 30, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    This 4b is 3.5 my national budget for 2016 wow. Lots of money. Lots to learn from what will be experienced

  • […] President’s new “CS for All” initiative can only be influenced by the federal government.  In the United States, individual states make […]


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