Archive for August 1, 2016

Seymour Papert has died and leaves a lasting legacy

We have now lost both Seymour and Marvin Minsky this year.

I met Seymour a few times, and heard him speak at several Logo conferences and at Alan Kay’s Apple Hill camps (and even contra danced next to him once!).  Probably the most frightening meeting was when, as a PhD student, I sat next to Seymour at dinner, and he challenged my dissertation ideas for over an hour.  At the time, one of the directions that I was exploring was the interaction of learning styles and how that might influence how we learn programming. (Yes, I was a learning styles believer, too.)  Seymour did believe in styles of thinking, but didn’t buy the simplistic learning styles definition.  He insisted that I read the book Neurotic Styles because he thought the psychoanalytic perspective provided more insight into how people might approach programming.  I realized later that our discussion was probably just as he and Sherry Turkle were developing their paper Epistemological Pluralism and the Revaluation of the Concrete which has been one of my favorite Seymour papers.

While I had only a few direct experiences with Seymour, I have been mightily influenced by his papers, book, and most of all, his students.  Yasmin Kafai, Brian Silverman, Amy Bruckman, Gary Stager, Mitchel Resnick, Uri Wilensky, Idit Harel, David Shaffer, David Cavallo, Marina Bers — I am hesitant to list them because I’m sure that I’m forgetting many.  Seymour’s students have been my friends, mentors, (constructive) critics, colleagues, and co-authors.  Through them, I have developed my understanding of constructionism and the power of computing as a medium for expression and learning.

What a wonderful legacy Seymour Papert has left us!

Seymour Papert, Co-Founder and Chairman of the Logo Foundation, died on July 31 at his home in Blue Hill, Maine. He has inspired millions of people around the word to be joyful and creative learners and teachers.

Source: Logo Foundation

August 1, 2016 at 10:30 am 4 comments

US States Move toward CS Ed: MA, CA, and the challenge of local control

I review for the WIPSCE conference (an international conference on K-12 computing), and found a phrase in one of the papers I was reviewing about computing education now being mandatory in the United States.  Well, not really — kinda, sorta, in someplaces.  It may be hard for educators outside the US to understand the decentralized nature of computing education in the US.  The individual 50 states control primary and secondary school education by law, and some of those states (notably, California, Massachusetts, and Nebraska) are “local-control” — the state itself decides to shift almost all of the education decision-making to the individual school districts (easily a hundred in a small state, multiple hundreds in large ones).

Recently the National Association of State Boards of Education has come out with a policy update about CS education in the states.  Useful — except for the local control states, where the state boards of education don’t really have that much power.

While educators and parents recognize computer science as a key skill for career readiness, only five states have adopted learning standards in this area. Tides are changing, however, as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) recognizes with its call on states to provide a “well-rounded education” for students, to include computer science standards. This NASBE Policy Update outlines what states need to consider as they develop computer science standards and improve instruction, highlighting several promising state efforts already under way.

Source: NASBE – States Move toward Computer Science Standards

How do local control states implement reforms like computing education? In California, they’re trying to pass legislation to create an advisory board about integrating CS into education. It’s all about advice and recommendation — the state can’t make the districts do much.

California legislators are reviewing a bill that would create an advisory board to integrate computer science into education.The Assembly legislation would create a 23-person panel overseen by the state Superintendent that would deliver recommendations by September 2017 on how to improve computer science education, and establish curriculum standards for grades K-12.The panel would comprise teachers, administrators and professors across K-12 and higher education, as well as representatives from government, parent associations and student advocacy organizations. The bill is backed by Microsoft and Code.org.

Source: California legislators push computer science education bill

Massachusetts has just come out with their new state standards. I haven’t gone through them all, but from what I’ve seen (and knowing people who helped build it), I believe that they’re really high-quality. But they’re just voluntary. The districts have to be coaxed into adopting them.

Massachusetts public schools may start using new digital literacy and computer science standards as soon as this fall. The state board of elementary and secondary education unanimously approved the standards, which are voluntary, at its monthly meeting Tuesday.”Today’s vote recognizes the importance of digital literacy and computer science to modern life, work and learning,” board chairman Paul Sagan said in a statement. “These standards will help our students think about problem solving in new ways and introduce them to valuable skills they will need in today’s economy.”

Source: Mass. Has New K-12 Standards For Digital Literacy, Computer Science | WBUR News

August 1, 2016 at 7:57 am Leave a comment


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