Archive for April, 2018

Indian Supreme Court rules that CS degrees cannot be provided on-line

On-line CS degrees cannot be on par with face-to-face CS degrees, rules the highest court in India.

What makes an online class worse than a face-to-face class?  I think that there’s a good bit of evidence that they are worse for many students, e.g., the NYTimes article about how on-line classes hinder students needing remedial help. I’m interested in the research question of why on-line classes have such differential results from face-to-face classes — it isn’t obvious to me.  But the court’s rules says that on-line classes always are worse, and even that they always will be.  There’s a design space to explore, and it’s short-sighted to rule that on-line is always worse and never on par.

But how should the court have ruled? We need a measure of quality such that we can compare the results of the two degrees.  It’s hard to figure out what such a measure might be — maybe success in work, or employability, or even a measure of skill or content knowledge.  Any reasonable measure would be better than making a decision based on the medium.

(Thanks to Amy Bruckman for sending me this article.)

The Court affirmed the findings of the Punjab and Haryana High Court which had given a similar ruling two years ago, stating that a degree in the subject of ‘computer science’ from a distance learning course could not be considered on par with one attained by attending regular classes.

The verdict came on a batch of appeals challenging the orders of the High Courts of Orissa and Punjab and Haryana by which the former held the degrees in engineering obtained by serving diploma holders through distance learning mode offered by certain deemed universities to be valid, whereas the latter termed such degrees to be invalid.

The top court also directed the University Grants Commission (UGC) to restrain such institutions from using the word ‘University’ within one month from today, observing that commercialisation of education “seriously affects the credibility of standards in education, eroding power and essence of knowledge and seriously affecting excellence and merit”.

Source: Cannot provide technical education through correspondence, rules Supreme Court

April 30, 2018 at 7:00 am 2 comments

Lack of funding leads to lack of teachers leads to lack of CS classes: We may need to change our strategy

Pat Yongpradit of Code.org linked to this article on Facebook. Cambridge MA schools are turning away CS students because of a lack of teachers.

Eight folks gave urgent pitches for at least one more computer teacher at Cambridge Ridge and Latin School. Teacher Liz Atwood, who said she was “disappointed to hear that our request for another hire was denied,” declared that demand was so high for computer science classes that, based on registration requests for next year from current ninth- through-11th graders, without a new teacher, “we will be turning away six classes of students.”

Atwood, two parents and two current students stressed the importance of access to the classes, and several others appearing for other reasons echoed support after hearing their pleas. “Over 50 percent of students signing up for Level 2 [computer science] courses next year identify as African Americans,” Atwood said, speaking before eighth-graders had registered. “These are high-paying jobs. [State curriculum standards] are moving toward making computer science a graduation requirement. This seems like a step in the wrong direction” to reject a new hire, she said.

From “Shortages in computer education stand out in a swift process for $191.1M school budget” in Cambridge Day

I see this as evidence in support of my previous post that states are making a mistake by requiring CS without funding it.  I don’t think Cambridge schools are requiring CS, but they’re allowing students to sign up for it without the funding and teachers to support those classes.

There are multiple ways to fix this problem.

  • Obviously, we could fund CS classes, but that might mean stealing funding from other important areas that are underfunded.
  • We could increase supply of CS teachers.  If all teachers were taught CS (as part of all undergraduates being taught CS), we would dramatically increase the supply of teachers who could teach CS. Schools wouldn’t have to hire an extra, specialty teacher.  We would also have more teachers who would have the background to integrate computing into their classes.
  • We could (as Emmanuel Schanzer of Bootstrap pointed out in response to Pat) integrate CS into an existing, funded class.

We may not be able to achieve CS for All with CS-specific classes. They’re just too expensive.

 

April 27, 2018 at 7:00 am 4 comments

Open Letter to Future Students: On the Shortage of Computer Science Faculty

Thanks to Pat Yongpradit for sending the below links article to me. I knew that CS faculty have been complaining about the costs of the enrollment pressure.  This was the first I’d heard of the students rising up to complain, and even to recommend to future students not to go into CS.

Being able to take on and graduate its own majors, which the department already strains to do, is the bare minimum of what we should expect from a department at a liberal arts college. As much as Haverford likes to present itself as an environment where each student can explore a diversity of academic interests and cultivate a multifaceted worldview, right now the CS department is unable to help broaden the education of non-majors. It has even been forced to eliminate the CS minor, because non-majors simply cannot get into upper-level courses to complete it. That this should be necessary at an institution of our caliber is shameful, and as the situation continues to deteriorate it will actively undermine the institution’s status. What kind of a college, prospective students are (appropriately) thinking, cannot offer its students the ability to understand how computing works? Deception by omission from the admissions office about the availability of CS courses is a very limited tool in holding back this information, as illustrated by the recent open letter to admitted Bryn Mawr students urging them to consider not enrolling if they are interested in science (especially CS).

Source: Open Letter: On the Shortage of Computer Science Faculty

April 23, 2018 at 7:00 am Leave a comment

Teaching Computational Thinking across an Entire University, With Guest Blogger Roland Tormey

During Spring Break, Barbara and I were invited to go to Switzerland.  Sure, when most people go someplace warm for Spring Break, let’s head to the mountains!

Roland Tormey organized a fascinating workshop at EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland (see workshop page here) to inform a bold and innovative new effort at EPFL. They want to integrate computational thinking across their entire university, from required courses for freshman, to support for graduate students doing Computational X (where X is everything that EPFL does).  The initiative has the highest level of administrative support, with the President and Vice-President of Education for EPFL speaking at the workshop.  The faculty really bought in — the room held 80-some folks, and it was packed most of the day.

Roland got a good videographer who captured both of the keynotes well.  I had the first keynote on “Improving Computing Education with Learning Sciences: Methods for Teaching Computing Across Disciplines.”  I argued that we need different methods to teach computing across the curriculum — we can’t teach CS the same way we teach CS majors as future software developers.  I talk about Media Computation, predictions (and they caught my audio demo with ukulele playing well), subgoal labeling, and Parsons problems.

Shriram Krishnamurthi had the second keynote on “Curriculum Design as an Engineering Problem.”  He talked about the problems of transfer and how Bootstrap works.  I liked how he broke down the problem of transfer — there there are three requirements: Deep structural similarities between the problems, explicit instruction, and a process for performing tasks.  He showed how all other design disciplines have multi-stage processes, use multiple representations in their designs, and look at problems from multiple viewpoints.  Mostly in CS classes, we just code.  I learned about how Bootstrap scaffolds problem-solving, and includes all of those elements.  I recommend the talk.

Barb’s panel on teaching computational thinking wasn’t captured.  She talked about the methods she’s developed for teaching computing, including her great results on Parsons problems.  In a short talk, she gave a lot of pointers to her work and others’ on how to teach CT.

Roland sent me a note with what he took away from the workshop. I thought it was a great list, so with his permission, I’m including it here:

For me, we also had a lot of other valuable take home points from the day:

(1) We need to work on putting Computational thinking (and maybe Math and Physics too) into the context of the students’ own disciplines — at least, though the examples and exercises we choose.

(2) The drive to better develop scientific thinking in disciplines like chemistry and life sciences and the development of CT are entirely consistent, but one shouldn’t eclipse the other. It’s not about replacing existing scientific processes with CT. It’s about augmenting them.

(3) We need to help professors gather data on effective methods of teaching as well as help them become aware of methodologies with demonstrated effectiveness (like the Parsons Problems for example).

(4) The exercises and exercise sessions will be crucial for making the link between CT and disciplines, but this implies giving the doctoral and teaching assistants a clear understanding of the goals and methods of CT. They have to understand what we are trying to achieve.

(5) CT provides an understanding of, a language for, and a toolbox for analysing processes, and these can be applied in a lot of domains. However that is not going to happen unless we explicitly teach CT in ways that promote near and far transfer

(6) We need to make the most of the EPFL initiative by properly evaluating the impact, which implies the need to collect some pre-intervention data now.

April 20, 2018 at 7:00 am 10 comments

Finding a Home for CS Ed in Schools of Ed: Priming the CS Teacher Pump Report Released

Thursday April 12, the report on finding a home for CS Ed in Schools of Education was released at Microsoft’s Times Square offices.  Leigh Ann DeLyser and Frances Schick of “CS for All” did a great job pulling it all together.You can see the play-by-play (or tweet-by-tweet) of the event on the Twitter stream #home4CS.  The report is available on the website http://www.computingteacher.org/.

Some of the points that I found particularly interesting or compelling:

  • Yasmin Kafai talking about the tension between standalone CS classes and integrating CS into other disciplines.  The latter is likely how CS is going to end up in K-8, and budget concerns may make that the most common path to giving high school students access to CS education. But our research shows that it’s really hard to make that work well.  CS will likely get little attention, if programming is just used as the tool for some STEM learning activities.  Questions from the audience were skeptical that we could get teachers to pay attention to both CS and the integrated subject well.
  • A big question was how to add something to US Schools of Education that are facing enrollment declines and budget cutbacks.  Aman Yadav addressed that point head-on, by identifying the courses that we’re already teaching in pre-service development programs where CS education could be integrated.
  • The discussion afterward was really great.  Participants stuck around for more than an hour to talk about these issues.  A common theme I heard was, “Give us the answers.  What are the best pre-service CS teacher PD programs?  What are the models we should be using?  Where are the syllabi for these courses?”  I don’t think that these are answerable questions in the US.  We don’t have one education system. We have one in each state.  Almost nothing transfers as-is from one state to another, from one university to another.  I’m more interested in the points that Joanna Goode made — how do we grow education leadership to understand the issues of CS Ed?  We need to inform the leaders who know their contexts to help them integrate CS Education.
  • I spoke about the challenges of growing a pipeline of CS Education Research PhD’s. One of the questions I got about my topic was, “What is the biggest lever for increasing the number of CS Ed PhD’s?  Is it just money?”  For my colleagues in Schools of Ed, money would really help — they don’t get enough funding.  For those of us in CS, it’s also the creation of PhD programs that meet the needs of CS Ed researchers.  Georgia Tech’s Human-Centered Computing PhD is great for that.  A traditional CS PhD is not a great fit, because it typically requires courses in systems development and theory that don’t help a CS Ed researcher and cost time and effort.

The report makes a bunch of recommendations, but doesn’t offer many answers.  It does start a conversation about how to make CS education sustainable in the US, which is a critical topic for long-term survival of the “CS for All” movement.

 

April 16, 2018 at 7:00 am 10 comments

A job is a strange outcome measure: Udacity drops money-back guarantee on finding a job

Udacity has dropped a money-back guarantee that they were offering to students in some of their Nanodegree programs. The guarantee (with stipulations and caveats) was that students would find a job after getting the nanodegree, or they would get their money back.

An article in Inside Higher Ed (quoted below and linked here) describes some of the tensions. Other for-profit coding schools offer similar or better guarantees, but others do not. Ryan Craig, quoted below, suggests that Udacity might not have been hitting its targets for job placements. Does that mean that Udacity was doing something wrong?

A job is such a strange outcome measure for any kind of educational program.  I know some techniques for evaluating someone’s knowledge of programming, and I know how to create educational opportunities that might lead to successful evaluation.  There are factors like student attitude and motivation and whether students engage in deliberate practice that are not entirely within my control.  Even then, I’d be willing to say, “I can design a program where the majority of students will achieve this level of proficiency in coding.”  But a job?  Where I can’t control how the students interview, or where they apply, or what the companies are looking for (if they’re looking at all)?

A job is not a well-defined outcome measure for an educational intervention. That may be what the students are seeking, but they are being unrealistic if they think that any school can guarantee them that.

Ryan Craig, managing director of investment company University Ventures, noted that none of the major employers associated with Udacity will publicly commit to hire or interview nanodegree candidates. Craig pointed to a 2017 report from VentureBeat, which stated that of around 10,000 students who had earned nanodegrees since 2014, around 1,000 had found jobs as a result. “A placement rate of around 10 percent should spell the demise of any last-mile training program,” said Craig.

Craig said the effectiveness of Udacity’s job guarantee was likely very limited for students. “Money-back guarantees don’t address the real guarantee that students are seeking: a job,” said Craig.

Daniel Friedman, co-founder of coding school Thinkful, wrote in January 2016 that Udacity’s guarantee was vaguer and weaker than the guarantees offered by his own company and others such as Bloc and Flatiron School. Such guarantees are common at coding schools, though Friedman noted that some schools have had to drop guarantees because they conflicted with state regulations.

April 13, 2018 at 7:00 am 3 comments

High School CS Teacher’s Experience like University CS Teacher’s: “Code Shock”

Jeff Yearout has been teaching for over 25 years, and is just in his second year of teaching CS.  His concerns in his blog echo many of the same ones that I hear from higher-education CS teachers, e.g., dealing with the wide variance of students, and getting all students to engage around code (pseudo or otherwise).

I think one of the hardest things to manage in designing a curriculum is how to dial the difficulty up at a proper pace for the “center mass” of the class skill level. And in this new curriculum from PLTW this particular unit starts out manageable, but suddenly shoots up rapidly, thus the “code shock” mentioned above. I also have the challenge of having a lot of kids in class who simply don’t want to interact in class when, for instance, I’m working through pseudocode on the board.

From “Teaching CS is Hard

April 9, 2018 at 7:00 am 4 comments

Older Posts


Recent Posts

April 2018
M T W T F S S
« Mar   May »
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30  

Feeds

Blog Stats

  • 1,538,641 hits

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5,301 other followers

CS Teaching Tips