Archive for January, 2018

ECEP 2018: Measuring and Making Progress on Broadening Participation in Computing

The 2018 Annual Meeting of the Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP) Alliance was at Georgia Tech January 26-27. ECEP is an NSF-funded alliance to broaden participation in computing. We had about 90 participants, state leaders from 16 states and Puerto Rico. Attendees were from a range of positions, from state departments of education, state boards of education, STEM centers, non-profits, Governor’s offices, University professors, and CS teachers from elementary or high school. The focus at this meeting was to define what it means to broaden participation in computing (BPC) education for each state. The state teams worked at defining what data variables they needed in order to inform their BPC goals, and how they would know (by looking at those data) if they were making progress towards those goals.  You can see the play-by-play with pictures via Twitter hashtag #ECEP2017.

I learned so much at this event. I’m still processing all of it, but here are some of the things that are standing out to me right now.

Caitlin Dooley from Georgia Department of Education gave a terrific talk about the challenges in Georgia.  She made the argument that CS is the equity issue of our age.  She said that the challenge of getting CS teachers into poorer (low-SES) and rural districts is that teachers are leaving when they have the skillsets. The challenge is to have good school leaders to retain teachers.

Anne DeMallie from Massachusetts gave a compelling talk about how they’re integrating CS across the curriculum, especially in elementary school. Massachusetts and New Jersey are two states that integrated their CS and Digital Literacy standards, trying to make it easier for schools to integrate CS education. I liked the framework she offered on how to think about integrating CS into other subjects: exist, enhance, and extend.

I was impressed by the states who are setting concrete, measurable goals. Alabama has set a goal of every high school student having access to CS education by 2022. South Carolina plans to provide access to CS education in every middle and high school in five years. Maryland has a detailed 15 year plan that gets every student access to high-quality CS education with certified high school teachers. (Seen below, presented by Megean Garvin.)

Kamau Bobb of Constellations gave our keynote (as a “fireside chat” with Debra Richardson). His talk was exciting and challenging.  He pointed out that high school CS isn’t going to get kids into University. Pushing CS instead of math and science isn’t helping students get admission to higher education.  Schools aren’t held accountable for CS — they’re being held accountable for math, science, and language arts learning. CS has to play a role in meeting student and school needs.

Kamau pointed out that “Segregation is an immutable truth.”  One of the stories he told was to about textual literacy.  During Reconstruction (starting 1865), leaders realized the critical need for all African-Americans to learn to read.  The Georgia Literacy Project to address the dramatic literacy gap was just started in 2010 — 145 years later.  How long will it take us to achieve equitable access to computing education?

Most of the time was spent in working meetings — state teams sitting down with data reports, developing plans for broadening participation in CS, and grounding the plans in what data they have and what trends they expect to see in those data. The challenges of gathering data on the ground are huge.  I was sitting with one state where a CS teacher on the team pointed out that she had 85 students this year. The Department of Education person from that state did a search, and found that none of those students showed up in their database.  Other states pointed out how hard it is to compare data across states.  We use AP CS data for these kinds of comparisons, but in some states (like Arkansas), all AP exams are paid for by the state. That means that more kids are taking the exam, which means that the pass rates have a different context.

The amount of support for CS Education from each state varies dramatically. Many states have no one in the Department of Education who is informed about CS. Here in Georgia, we have one full-time CS coordinator, which is terrific. In Arkansas, they have nine full-time CS specialists to help teachers.

It was energizing to be with so many passionate leaders who are working to improve computing education in their state.  It’s also amazing to see how much work there is to go to reach everyone with high-quality computing education.

This was the last ECEP meeting organized by this group of NSF Principal Investigators. Rick Adrion, Renee Fall, Barbara Ericson, and I are done when the existing ECEP grant runs out at the end of September.  We’ve worked with a new team of PI’s to help them build a proposal for ECEP 2.  The amazing Sarah Dunton, the manager of our state and territory alliance, will continue in ECEP 2. The PIs for ECEP 2 are Carol Fletcher, Anne Leftwich, Debra Richardson, Maureen Biggers, and Leigh Ann DeLyser.  We’re hoping that they get funded and continue to help states make progress on implementing and broadening computing education.

January 29, 2018 at 7:00 am 3 comments

The pushback begins: Who benefits from the push to teach every kid to code?

The pushback was inevitable.  Slate published a piece in December, “Who Benefits From the Push to Teach Every Kid to Code?” The article provides an answer in the subtitle, “Tech companies, for one.”

The article is more history lesson than explicit argument that the driver behind the current effort to promote computing is simply for Tech companies to bolster their bottom line.  It’s still an interesting piece and worth reading.

For some tech companies, this is an explicit goal. In 2016, Oracle and Micron Technology helped write a state education bill in Idaho that read, “It is essential that efforts to increase computer science instruction, kindergarten through career, be driven by the needs of industry and be developed in partnership with industry.” While two lawmakers objected to the corporate influence on the bill, it passed with an overwhelming majority.

Some critics argue that the goal of the coding push is to massively increase the number of programmers on the market, depressing wages and bolstering tech companies’ profit margins. Though there is no concrete evidence to support this claim, the fact remains that only half of college students who majored in science, technology, engineering, or math-related subjects get jobs in their field after graduation. That certainly casts doubt on the idea that there is a “skills gap“ between workers’ abilities and employers’ needs. Concerns about these disparities have helped justify investment in tech education over the past 20 years.

January 26, 2018 at 7:00 am 6 comments

Should computer science fulfill a foreign language admissions requirement?

An Atlanta-area PBS station did an article at the end of last year praising Georgia’s stance allowing CS to count as a foreign language: Is Computer Science A Foreign Language? Ga. Says Yes, Sees Boost In Enrollment | 90.1 FM WABE

The GT director of admissions was interviewed about this requirement in Insider HigherEd and had a much more reasonable take:

Rick Clark, director of undergraduate admissions at Georgia Institute of Technology, said he saw value in the steps by Georgia to encourage more study of computer science in elementary and secondary school.

“I like that kids, even in eighth and ninth grade, who are planning their path through school would take these courses, because basic coding and language will set them up for opportunities upon high school graduation that they would not have otherwise,” Clark said.

In fact, he said his concern is that access to computer science is unequal in Georgia high schools. Most of those who not only take a course, but are able to take Advanced Placement in computer science, are in the metro Atlanta area, Clark said. Georgia Tech is worried about these inequities and is exploring ways to use online instruction to make sure those outside the Atlanta area have access.

At the same time, Clark said, the push for computer science should not be viewed as either/or with foreign languages. He said Georgia Tech is “looking for students who demonstrate that international vision and interest,” and that he finds many of those applicants who are taking AP computer science in high school are also pursuing foreign language instruction as advanced levels.

More than half of Georgia Tech students participate in study abroad, he noted, and 10 percent of undergraduates are from outside the United States. “We are intent upon enrolling students who in high school chose to seek out that global perspective,” he said.

Source: Should computer science fulfill a foreign language admissions requirement?

January 22, 2018 at 7:00 am 3 comments

What does it mean for Computer Science to be harder to learn than other STEM subjects?

I made an argument in my Blog@CACM Post for this month that “Learning Computer Science is Different than Learning Other STEM Disciplines,” and on Twitter, I explicitly added “It’s harder.”

In my Blog@CACM post, I thought it was a no-brainer that CS is harder:

  1. Our infrastructure for teaching CS is younger, smaller, and weaker  (CS is so new, and we don’t have the decades of experience to figure out how to do it well yet.)

  2. We don’t realize how hard learning to program is (The fact that the Rainfall problem seems easy, but it’s clearly not easy, means that CS teachers don’t know how to estimate yet what’s hard for students, so our classes are probably harder than we mean them to be.)

  3. CS is so valuable that it changes the affective components of learning (Classes that are stuffed full of both CS majors and non-majors means that issues of self-efficacy, motivation, and belonging are much bigger in CS than in other STEM disciplines.)

The push back was really interesting.  People pointed out that they took CS classes and math classes, or CS and physics, and CS seemed easy in comparison.  They may be right, but that’s self-report on introspection by people who succeeded at both classes.  My point is that we are probably flunking out (or students are giving up, or opting out) of CS at much higher rates than any other STEM subject, because of the reasons I give.  We’re really using two different measures of “harder” — harder to succeed, or harder in retrospect once succeeded.

I only have a qualitative argument for “It’s harder.” I’m not sure how one would even evaluate the point empirically.  Any suggestions?  How could we measure when one subject is harder than another?

It’s not an important question to answer which is harder, CS vs math, or CS vs physics. A much more important and supportable claim is that CS “is harder” than it needs to be.  We have a lot of extraneous complexity and cognitive load in learning CS.

January 19, 2018 at 7:00 am 17 comments

ICER 2018 Call for Participation (I’m co-chairing Works in Progress)

Do submit to ICER 2018 in Finland.  I particularly encourage you to join the Works in Progress workshop, for which I’ll be the junior co-chair as I learn the ropes from Colleen Lewis. I was a participant in the Works in Progress workshop in Glasgow and found it fun and useful.

ICER’18 – Call For Participation

The fourteenth 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
– design-based research, learner-centered design, and evaluation of educational technology supporting computing knowledge or skills development
pedagogical environments fostering computational thinking
learning sciences work in the computing content domain
psychology of programming
learning analytics and educational data mining in CS/IS content areas
learnability/usability of programming languages
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
rigorous replication of empirical work to compare with or extend previous empirical research results
systematic literature review on some topic related to computer science education


In addition to standard research paper contributions, we continue our longstanding commitment to fostering discussion and exploring new research areas by offering several ways to engage. These include a doctoral consortium for graduate students just prior to the conference, a work-in-progress workshop for researchers following the conference, and poster and lightning talks. This is in addition to the format of conference sessions, where all research paper presentations include time for discussion among the attendees followed by feedback to the paper presenters.

Submission Categories

ICER provides multiple options for participation, with various levels of discussion and interaction between the presenter and audience. These sessions also support work at various levels, ranging from formative work to polished, complete research results.


Research Papers
Papers are limited to 8 pages, excluding references, double-blind peer reviewed and published in the ACM digital library as part of the conference proceedings. Accepted papers are allotted time for presentation and discussion at the conference


Doctoral Consortium
2 page extended abstract submission required and published in ACM digital library as part of the conference proceedings. Students will present their work to distinguished faculty mentors during an all-day workshop and during the conference in a dedicated poster session.


Lightning Talks and Posters
Abstract (250 words) submission required and made available on conference website, but not published in proceedings. Accepted abstracts for lightning talks will be given a 3-minute time slot for rapid presentation at the conference followed by a discussion period for all attendees. Posters may either accompany a lightning talk or may be proposed separately using the same abstract submission process.


Work in Progress Workshop
This one-day workshop is a venue to get sustained engagement with and feedback about early work in computing education.    White paper submission required but not included in proceedings.


Co-located Workshops
Proposals for pre/post conference workshops of interest to the ICER community (i.e., those that aim to advance computer science education research) are welcomed and encouraged. ICER local arrangements personnel will be available to assist with workshop logistics where possible. If interested, contact the conference chairs for more details by April 10th, 2018: Lauri.Malmi@aalto.fi or Ari.Korhonen@aalto.fi.


For more information about preparation and submission, please visit the page corresponding to the submission type of interest.

Important Deadlines and Dates


Research Papers

30 March, 2018 – – Abstract submission (250 words, mandator)
6 April, 2018 – – Full paper submission 
1 June – – Notification of acceptance 
15 June – -Final camera ready deadline
Other Submission Types
1 May – – Doctoral consortium submissions
8 June – – Lightning talk and Poster proposals
8 June – – Work in progress workshop application

Conference Schedule

Doctoral Consortium, Sunday, August 12, 2018
ICER Conference, Monday, August 13 – Wednesday August 15, 2018
Work in Progress Workshop, Wednesday evening, August 15 – Thursday, August 16, 2018
For more details, see the conference website:
 http://www.icer-conference.org

Conference Co-Chairs
Lauri Malmi, Aalto University, Finland (Lauri.Malmi@aalto.fi)
Ari Korhonen, Aalto University, Finland (Ari.Korhonen@aalto.fi
Robert McCartney, University of Connecticut, USA (robert.mccartney@uconn.edu)
Andrew Petersen, University of Toronto Mississauga, Canada (andrew.petersen@utoronto.ca)


AUTHORS TAKE NOTE: The official publication date is the date the proceedings are made available in the ACM Digital Library. This date will be up to two weeks prior to the first day of the conference. The official publication date affects the deadline for any patent filings related to published work.

January 15, 2018 at 7:30 am Leave a comment

Georgia Tech Launches Constellations Center Aimed at Equity in Computing

 

The Constellations Center was launched at a big event on December 11.  I was there, to hear Executive Director Charles Isbell host the night, which included a great conversation with Senior Director Kamau Bobb (formerly of NSF).

 

Constellations is going to play a significant role in keeping a focus on broadening participation in computing in Georgia, and to serve as a national leader in making sure that everyone gets access to computing education.

Georgia Tech’s College of Computing has launched the Constellations Center for Equity in Computing with the goal of democratizing computer science education. The mission of the new center is to ensure that all students—especially students of color, women, and others underserved in K-12 and post-secondary institutions—have access to quality computer science education, a fundamental life skill in the 21st century.

Constellations is dedicated to challenging and improving the national computer science (CS) educational ecosystem through the provision of curricular content, educational policy assessment, and development of strategic institutional partnerships. According to Senior Director Kamau Bobb, democratizing computing requires a “real reckoning with the race and class divisions of contemporary American life.”

See more here.

January 12, 2018 at 7:00 am 1 comment

Analysis of 2017 AP CS exam participation from Barbara Ericson

Like last year, I’m pleased that we can rely on others to write the blog post on Barbara Ericson’s annual AP CS exam data analyses.  The College of Computing at Georgia Tech just wrote a nice description of the findings here: Positive Signs, But Diversity Still Lagging in AP Computer Science Exam Participation, and quoted in part below. Barb’s detailed analyses can be found here, and her detailed gender and race analyses are here.

Barb has been doing more visualizations of her data.  The GVU Center at Georgia Tech produced this nice summary of 20 years of AP CS A data, by state. Of the images she’s produced, this is the one that I find most compelling — the number of exam-takers per 100,00 people in the state.  There are some big goose eggs and many single digit numbers out there.

Increasing female & minority access

According to Barbara Ericson, Georgia Tech research scientist and author of the analysis, the introduction this year of a new AP CS P course and exam contributed to the increases.

“This is exactly what we hoped for. The CS principles course is on par with a college-level intro course for non-CS majors, so it is more accessible to more people,” said Ericson.

Officials had estimated nearly 20,000 AP CS P exams would be taken this year. However, Ericson said the actual number topped 40,000.

“Although overall growth in female and minority participation in the AP CS A exam was relatively flat this year, we’re hopeful that the introduction of the P exam will help swell A exam participation rates in the next few years.”

AP Computer Science A

Despite marginal growth among underrepresented students, overall participation in the AP CS A exam grew by 11.2 percent year-over-year in 2017. A record 60,519 U.S. high school students took the exam with an overall pass rate of 61.8 percent, up more than a percentage point from the previous year.

“It’s great to see growth across the board, but there’s still a long way to go before AP computer science is as available in U.S. classrooms as, say, AP Physics or Calculus,” said Ericson.

More than 170,000 students took the AP Physics 1 exam this year, while more than 316,000 took the AP Calculus AB exam.

January 8, 2018 at 7:00 am 5 comments

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