Archive for November, 2016

Steps Teachers Can Take to Keep Girls and Minorities in Computer Science Education | Cynthia Lee in KQED News

So glad to see Cynthia Lee’s list (described in this blog post) get wider coverage.

Last summer, Cynthia Lee, a lecturer in the computer science department at Stanford University, created a widely-circulated document called, “What can I do today to create a more inclusive community in CS?” The list was developed during a summer workshop funded by the National Science Foundation for newly hired computer science faculty and was designed for busy educators. “I know the research behind these best practices,” said Lee, “but my passion comes from what I’ve experienced in tech spaces, and what students have told me about their experiences in computer science classrooms.”

Too often students from diverse backgrounds “feel that they simply aren’t wanted,” said Lee. “What I hear from students is that when they are working on their assignments, they love [computer science]. But when they look up and look around the classroom, they see that ‘there aren’t many people like me here.’ If anything is said or done to accentuate that, it can raise these doubts in their mind that cause them to questions their positive feelings about the subject matter.”

Source: Steps Teachers Can Take to Keep Girls and Minorities in Computer Science Education | MindShift | KQED News

November 30, 2016 at 7:31 am Leave a comment

Community college pathways to a four-year computer science degree: New Google Reports

My ECEP colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Rick Adrion and Renee Fall, led a successful NSF alliance called CAITE.  One of CAITE’s most successful strategies to improve diversity at university-level CS was to make it easier for students to transfer from community colleges.  Community colleges are much more diverse.

The latest reports from Google tell us more about the obstacles that CS students still face in moving from community colleges to bachelor’s degrees, and how to make it easier.

Our latest research shows that students who attend community colleges on the way to computer science (CS) bachelor’s degrees encounter many challenges and obstacles along the way. But there are many ways for community colleges and four-year colleges to work together and with industry to remove these obstacles and support students seeking to transfer into CS majors. Today, we are releasing two complementary research reports that explore the pathways that community college students follow to a bachelor’s degree in CS. The reports also examine the experiences of these students and the opportunities that exist or that might be created to ensure their successful career advancement. Longitudinal Analysis of Community College Pathways to Computer Science Bachelor’s Degrees investigates the national landscape of CS students at community colleges in order to better understand student behaviors and institutional characteristics that support or hinder community college students’ efforts to attain a CS bachelor’s degree. The companion report, Student Perspectives of Community College Pathways to Computer Science Bachelor’s Degrees, takes a complimentary in-depth and qualitative look at the experiences of students from underrepresented groups at community colleges in California, a state that enrolls one quarter of all community college students in the U.S.

Source: Community college pathways to a four-year computer science degree

November 28, 2016 at 7:15 am Leave a comment

Broadening what Core CS Looks At: People of ACM – Margaret Burnett

Margaret is a remarkable researcher whose work has influenced that of me and my students. Her interview linked below is worth reading. It’s the particular point I quote below that connects to ideas that I’ve been introduced to lately.

I’ve been working with a group that’s developing a proposal that will get reviewed across NSF CS, and it’s been eye-opening and a bit depressing. I’ve learned that “core CS” researchers (e.g., programming languages, theory, systems, software engineering) don’t see much value in computing education research. Margaret below is talking about the interaction between software engineering and end-user programming researchers. One perspective I have now heard is that “core CS” faculty don’t believe end-user programmers exist, and if they do exist, the faculty wish they didn’t because they’ll write cruddy code (a perspective I have heard before). People whom I trust have significant insight into NSF reviewers across CS have told me that talking about “diversity” will turn off “core CS” reviewers.  Much of what I do can’t be part of the proposal.

I didn’t realize my CS Ed “bubble” — I’m in a School of Interactive Computing, and my proposals are mostly reviewed as ed research. Margaret has explicitly been working at building bridges across communities.

End-user software engineering (EUSE) is important not only because of the number of people it impacts—end-user developers outnumber professional developers by an order of magnitude—but also because it can bring useful ideas back to traditional software engineering. EUSE is about technologies that collaborate with end users engaging in aspects of software development to improve the quality of the software they shape, using programming devices like spreadsheet formulas, macros by demonstration, setting configurations, and adding customizations. Thus, EUSE approaches do not attempt to impose work practices on end-user developers; rather, they attempt to blend in seamlessly with their existing work practices.

Looking toward the future, EUSE research is at a crossroads. Aligning its work too closely to the classic software engineering lifecycle raises a risk of over-siloing the area, restricting future EUSE researchers’ vision of what can be achieved. By a silo, I mean a system, process, department, etc. that operates in isolation from others. Silos raise the risk that an area can become overly narrow, and in doing so, become disconnected from the way users really work. One strategy that can help researchers guard against such siloing is to focus on intents of end-user developers (e.g., “update my spreadsheet to meet my company’s standards”) instead of lifecycle stages (e.g., a requirements engineering tool for spreadsheets). Guarding against overly siloed thinking by incorporating more user-intent thinking can open the door to big gains that are cross-cutting and impactful, for both EUSE and for software engineering in general.

Source: People of ACM – Margaret Burnett

November 23, 2016 at 7:10 am 1 comment

African-Americans gain more in CS MS but not CS Bachelors: Minorities Gain Some Ground in CS&E Degrees

We’re seeing this in the AP CS data, too — more minority students are entering CS, but at different levels.

For African Americans, the picture in computer science is mixed. The share of bachelor’s degrees they receive has fallen off since the high point of 2007, but new data suggest that their share of master’s degrees surged for almost a decade before retreating somewhat after 2013. African Americans are actually overrepresented among Americans who receive master’s degrees.[i] Why? A report in Science Magazine cited this trend in Master’s degrees as early as 2011 and speculated that efforts to attract more African Americans into computer science graduate degrees were bearing fruit. That may well be true, but disappointing trends in bachelor’s degrees will surely thwart further progress in advanced degrees.

Source: New Data: Minorities Gain Some Ground in Computer Science and Engineering Degrees | Change the Equation

November 21, 2016 at 7:34 am 2 comments

Does Your Teaching Encourage Epistemological Pluralism?

Turkle and Papert’s paper on epistemological pluralisms is one of my favorite by Seymour (which I talked about here).  This is the first paper I’ve read about how to encourage them.

I remember a math teacher I once had. He would ask students to go up to the board and explain how they solved the problem. But he wouldn’t stop there. He would then ask if someone else had a different way of solving the problem and allow the different approaches to be shared with the class. This validated that there were multiple ways a problem can be solved, and that it was not enough to know just one way… It also meant no one remained in doubt about whether their (different) approach was “incorrect” (there was room to clear up misconceptions, for example). It’s not as deep as epistemology, but it’s a start. A start to plurality of the “how”, but we should consider maybe also the plurality of the “what” and “why” (because which questions we choose to pursue for learning and why they matter to us are deep ontological and epistemological questions).

Source: Does Your Teaching Encourage Epistemological Pluralism? – ProfHacker – Blogs – The Chronicle of Higher Education

November 18, 2016 at 7:29 am Leave a comment

OMS CS graduates a different kind of student: Work from Harvard Graduate School of Education

This is the work that most impresses me about OMSCS — that it attracts a different group of students that might get a face-to-face MS in CS. I’m not sure that I buy “equivalent in all ways to an in-person degree,” but I do see that it’s hard to measure and the paper makes a good effort at it.

Previous research has shown that most users of online education look fairly similar to the average college graduate — suggesting that digital learning isn’t yet the great educational equalizer it has the potential to be. But in a study of Georgia Tech’s hugely successful online master of science in computer science (OMSCS) program, educational economists Joshua Goodman and Amanda Pallais and public policy expert Julia Melkers found that digital learning can tap into a new market of students by offering an online degree that is equivalent in all ways to an in-person degree, at a fraction of the cost.

Source: The Digital Bridge | Harvard Graduate School of Education

November 16, 2016 at 7:14 am 8 comments

We will all code, but few will be professional software engineers: Disagree with Quartz

I disagree with the claim below “In the future, everyone is going to be a software engineer, but only a few will learn how to code,” but we need a better definition of what it means to “code” and to “program” (as discussed with respect to recent ITICSE 2016 papers).  If you’re using tools like Hypercard (“low-code” platforms), isn’t that still programming?  It’s certainly more than the no loops, conditionals, or variables that’s often seen in elementary school students’ use of Scratch. Those tools are not software engineering tools. Just because you’re developing software doesn’t mean that you’re doing software engineering.

We need a range of tools from no-code to low-code to software engineering support. It’s an insult to those who carefully engineer software to say that anyone who assembles software is an engineer.

A new industry is emerging to serve the Morts of the world by designing and selling what are called no-code or low-code platforms. Companies like Caspio, QuickBase, Appian, and Mendix are creating visual interfaces that enable people to essentially snap together blocks of software, and bypass the actual lines of code underlying those blocks (skilled developers can also dive into the code). With basic training, a non-technical employee can rapidly assemble software tools that solve business problems ranging from simple database queries to applications lashing together multiple legacy enterprise applications.

Forrester reports the sector earned $1.7 billion in 2015 and is on track to bring in $15 billion by 2020 as the majority of large companies adopt “Citizen Development” policies similar to the bring-your-own-device rules. Employees will be empowered to choose tools, and even partially assemble software, to solve their own business problems without IT approval.

Source: In the future, everyone is going to be a software engineer, but only a few will learn how to code. — Quartz

November 14, 2016 at 7:35 am 4 comments

The role of higher education in reducing inequity: Using tuition, drop-out rates, and opportunity hoarding

This blog post isn’t about computing education.  You might want to simply delete this email, or skip over this post.  I’m using blog author’s prerogative to talk about things that fascinate me, even if they’re not in the title of the blog.

As frequent readers know, I increasingly read and think about economics, particularly with respect to higher education.  I’m going to collect in one blog post here (so that I don’t stray too far from the focus of the blog) some of the ideas and articles that have more interested me recently.

From Gladwell’s Revisionist History, we know that diverting tuition from the rich kids to the poor kids is common in schools that aim to bring in more lower-SES students and address issues of social inequity.  Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible. Here in Georgia, we’re forbidden by law to use tuition revenue to offer scholarships to less-advantaged children.  Puts us in a rough place when competing with schools that can.

Simply put, scholarship aid is not keeping pace with the rising price of college. While half of all families use a scholarship of some type to pay for college, much of that money is coming in the form of “discounts” off the tuition bill. Tuition discounts grew from $30 billion in 2007 to more than $50 billion in 2015, according to the College Board.While tuition discounts are marketed as scholarships in a student’s financial-aid package, they are not really scholarships. It’s not like a donor gave money to support a needy student with academic or musical talent. Rather, the scholarship money was diverted from another student’s tuition check. Last year, the average tuition discount for first-year students reached a staggering 47 percent — that’s nearly half off the published sticker price of tuition, up from about 40 percent just seven years ago.

Source: As College Tuitions Rise, Scholarships Fail to Keep Pace | Jeff Selingo | Pulse | LinkedIn

Without a doubt, one of saddest features of US higher education economics today: many of the kids saddled with higher education debt don’t even graduate! This is the awful perfect storm of increasing student debt and declining completion rates. Now, these students have massive debt, but don’t have the degree to get them a better paying job.

The author of the article linked below, Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University and author of Designing the New American University, visited at Georgia Tech this week, the day after Donald Trump became President-Elect of the US.  ASU has programs explicitly targeting those students, to help them get a degree that gives them entree to a better paying job that can help them to pay down their debt.  Crow said that the anger in this population is enormous — when they get saddled with debt, and higher ed fails them, they want to just blow up the system.  They’re through with how the existing system works.  Crow suggests that voices like that were what swept Trump to his surprising triumph.

Think about it: Tens of millions of people in the US are saddled with student debt and have no degree to help pay it off. They won’t get the substantial return on their investment—graduates with a bachelor’s degree earn about $1 million more in additional income over their lifetime than those with only a high school diploma—and they typically have not developed the adaptive learning skills that will help them prosper in a rapidly changing economy.In too many cases, they may never recover, leaving them feeling frustrated and bitter, disenfranchised and unable to find a way to better jobs and greater opportunity. Too many, saddled with debt and lacking a degree, feel trapped.

According to US Department of Education data, the ability to repay college loans depends more on whether a student graduated than on how much debt they are carrying. The research also found that students who don’t graduate are three times more likely to default on their loans than those who do.

Source: The Biggest Crisis in Higher Ed Isn’t Student Debt, It’s Students Who Don’t Graduate | Michael Crow | Pulse | LinkedIn

This last one is one that I saw linked to Emmanuel Schanzer’s wall in Facebook, and is deeply distressing. Rich kids who drop out of high school do as well as poor kids who complete college? Opportunity hoarding makes it difficult to really move the needle in terms of addressing economic inequity.  Crow talked about these kinds of inequalities in his talk, too.  If you’re in the bottom quartile in the US, you have an 8% chance of getting an undergraduate degree.  If you’re in the top quartile, you have an 80% chance — even if you do much worse in academics than the poor kids.

Even poor kids who do everything right don’t do much better than rich kids who do everything wrong. Advantages and disadvantages, in other words, tend to perpetuate themselves. You can see that in the above chart, based on a new paper from Richard Reeves and Isabel Sawhill, presented at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s annual conference, which is underway.

Specifically, rich high school dropouts remain in the top about as much as poor college grads stay stuck in the bottom — 14 versus 16 percent, respectively. Not only that, but these low-income strivers are just as likely to end up in the bottom as these wealthy ne’er-do-wells. Some meritocracy.

What’s going on? Well, it’s all about glass floors and glass ceilings. Rich kids who can go work for the family business — and, in Canada at least, 70 percent of the sons of the top 1 percent do just that — or inherit the family estate don’t need a high school diploma to get ahead. It’s an extreme example of what economists call “opportunity hoarding.” That includes everything from legacy college admissions to unpaid internships that let affluent parents rig the game a little more in their children’s favor.

Source: Poor kids who do everything right don’t do better than rich kids who do everything wrong – The Washington Post

November 11, 2016 at 7:22 am 3 comments

Designing for Wide Walls with Contextualized Computing Education

Nice blog post from Mitchel.  The wide walls metaphor is an argument for contextualized computing education.  Computing is a literacy, and we have to offer a variety of genres and purposes to engage students.

But the most important lesson that I learned from Seymour isn’t captured in the low-floor/high-ceiling metaphor. For a more complete picture, we need to add an extra dimension: wide walls. It’s not enough to provide a single path from low floor to high ceiling; we need to provide wide walls so that kids can explore multiple pathways from floor to ceiling.Why are wide walls important? We know that kids will become most engaged, and learn the most, when they are working on projects that are personally meaningful to them. But no single project will be meaningful to all kids. So if we want to engage all kids—from many different backgrounds, with many different interests—we need to support a wide diversity of pathways and projects.

Source: Mitchel Resnick: Designing for Wide Walls | Design.blog

November 9, 2016 at 7:37 am 2 comments

Growing Computer Science Education Into a STEM Education Discipline: November CACM

I manage the education column in CACM’s Viewpoints section, and this quarter, Briana Morrison and I wrote the piece.  While CS is now officially “in STEM,” it’s not like mathematics and science classes.  In the November issue, we look at what has to happen to make CS as available as mathematics or science education. ( BTW, Briana defends her dissertation today!)

Computing education is changing. At this year’s CRA Snowbird Conference, there was a plenary talk and three breakout sessions dedicated to CS education and enrollments. In one of the breakout sessions, Tracy Camp showed that much of the growth in CS classes is coming from non-CS majors, who have different goals and needs for computing education than CS majors.a U.S. President Obama in January 2016 announced the CS for All initiative with a goal of making computing education available to all students.

Last year, the U.S. Congress passed the STEM Education Act of 2015, which officially made computer science part of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). The federal government offers incentives to grow participation in STEM, such as scholarships to STEM students and to prepare STEM teachers. Declaring CS part of STEM is an important step toward making computing education as available as mathematics or science education.

The declaration is just a first step. Mathematics and science classes are common in schools today. Growing computing education so it is just as common requires recognition that education in computer science is different in important ways from education in STEM. We have to learn to manage those differences.

Source: Growing Computer Science Education Into a STEM Education Discipline | November 2016 | Communications of the ACM

November 7, 2016 at 7:20 am 3 comments

What research will you do for #CSforAll? White House call for commitments

Ruthe Farmer let me know that the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is explicitly interested in getting research commitments in response to this call:

In less than two months, there will be another opportunity to celebrate, to mark progress, and to grow the coalition working to expand computer science. This Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek), taking place from December 5-11, schools, community organizations, families, companies, and government agencies-including the White House and Federal agencies like NASA, the National Science Foundation, the US Patent and Trademark Office, and the Department of Energy-will host events and activities to give students direct access to CS. This will include everything from Family Code Nights that engage parents and students in learning computer science together, to Hour of Code events at schools, in homes, and online worldwide, to events here at the White House highlighting making and computer science, bringing broadband internet access to all Americans, and using open data to drive innovation.

With your help, this upcoming CSEdWeek has the potential to be the largest and most successful to date and we look forward to hearing about your plans. One of the ways your organization can get involved is to commit to expand computer science in your community or nationally, with measurable, specific goals that uniquely utilize what you can do to spread opportunity.

If you have an action you want to undertake to support CS education, submit it here by November 14, 2016. We want to hear about remarkable strides being made in your community and how we can build on them!
https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/10/27/call-new-csforall-actions-during-computer-science-education-week

The Research+Practice Collaboratory led the ECEP State Teams last week in framing research questions relevant to the President’s CS for All initiative.  Below are some of my pictures from that effort, to prime thinking about the research questions that surround CS for All.  (I have a lot more to tell about last week’s meetings, but first I have to recover and recoup time lost to planning/logistics/travel.)

img_3925 img_3924 img_3928 img_3927

November 2, 2016 at 7:15 am 2 comments


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