Posts filed under ‘Uncategorized’
Scientists Looking at Programmers’ Brains see more Language than Mathematics: The Neuroscience of Programming
I’m not convinced that our ability to image brains is actually telling us much about cognition yet. I did find this result surprising, that our understanding of programming languages seems more linguistic than mathematical
Scientists are finding that there may be a deeper connection between programming languages and other languages then previously thought. Brain-imaging techniques, such as fMRI allow scientists to compare and contrast different cognitive tasks by analyzing differences in brain locations that are activated by the tasks. For people that are fluent in a second language, studies have shown distinct developmental differences in language processing regions of the brain. A new study provides new evidence that programmers are using language regions of the brain when understanding code and found little activation in other regions of the brain devoted to mathematical thinking.
I drew on Cognitive Apprenticeship a lot in my dissertation — so much so that Carl Berger asked me at my proposal, “Are you testing Cognitive Apprenticeship as a model?” I had no idea how to respond, and 25 years later, I still don’t. How do you test a conceptual framework?
Cognitive apprenticeship, like situated learning, starts from the assumption that apprenticeship is a particularly effective form of education. Then it asks, “How do you offer an apprenticeship around invisible tasks?”
What I like about the essay linked below is that it places cognitive apprenticeship in a broader context. Apprenticeship isn’t always the best option (as discussed in the post about the Herb Simon paper).
Active listeners or readers, who test their understanding and pursue the issues that are raised in their minds, learn things that apprenticeship can never teach. To the degree that readers or listeners are passive, however, they will not learn as much as they would by apprenticeship, because apprenticeship forces them to use their knowledge. Moreover, few people learn to be active readers and listeners on their own, and that is where cognitive apprenticeship is critical–observing the processes by which an expert listener or reader thinks and practicing these skills under the guidance of the expert can teach students to learn on their own more skillfully.
I wonder if this result explains why the second semester students in Briana’s studies (see previous blog post) didn’t have the “W” effect. If you do enough code, you move down the power law of practice, and now you can attend to things like context and generating subgoal labels.
Different subjects start the experiment with different amounts of ability and past experience. Before starting, subjects took a multiple choice test of their knowledge. If we take the results of this test as a proxy for the ability/knowledge at the start of the experiment, then the power law equation becomes (a similar modification can be made to the exponential equation):
That is, the test score is treated as equivalent to performing some number of rounds of implementation). A power law is a better fit than exponential to this data (code+data); the fit captures the general shape, but misses lots of what look like important details.
Insightful new report from ACCESS-CA on who is taking AP CS in California and on the challenges (quoted below):
Despite the strong outlook for the technology economy in California, there are major challenges in meeting the growing demand for skilled technology workers and preparing Californians to participate in the workforce of the future:
The lack of computer science standards, courses, and teachers and the lack of alignment between computing pathways and workforce needs. Roughly 65% of high schools in California offer no computing classes and the state has yet to develop a statewide plan for computing education.
The lack of diversity in the computing education pipeline and within the technology sector, particularly given the rapidly-increasing diversity of California’s population. 60% of California’s student population is Latinx or African American, yet these students comprise just 16% of students taking AP CS A and 15% of the technology workforce
California is now starting a process of developing computer science standards for K-12, explicitly using the new K-12 CS Framework. California is huge and has a huge influence on the rest of the country’s education policy and practice. This will likely be one of the most important outcomes of the K-12 CS Framework process.
Computer Science Content Standards Development
The CDE, Instructional Quality Commission, and State Board of Education (SBE) are commencing the process for developing new California computer science content standards. Per California Education Code. Section 60605.4, “on or before July 31, 2019, the Instructional Quality Commission shall consider developing and recommending to the SBE computer science content standards for kindergarten and grades 1 to 12, inclusive, pursuant to recommendations developed by a group of computer science experts.” Information and updates concerning the development of computer science content standards for California public schools will be posted here.
Interesting essay from Neil Brown who decided to try to resurrect some of the best of CS Education research software from the past. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I have found that Logo code from the past doesn’t run as-is on modern Logo implementations. I was just talking to a colleague about how great it would be to be able to run Boxer and HyperCard again. (Yes, I have a license for Livecode, but it’s not the same interface as HyperCard.) Etoys still runs on everything, but it’s a rare exception. It’s important to make progress that we build on the past, and not simply re-invent it, forget it, or mis-remember it.
I did have one or two successes, such as getting a version of the GENIE editor running in an emulator. And it was a revelation that greatly pushed forward my understanding of old structured editors. By modern standards, they were awful. The papers’ descriptions didn’t make clear how tedious and fiddly the navigation was, how unhelpful the editor was, how awkward it was to deal with errors. Running the software was an absolutely crucial step to comparing our work to theirs. It allowed me to understand the design and critique the editor’s operation for myself, rather than relying on the authors’ incomplete descriptions of their own software.For all the other editors which I couldn’t run, there are these reviewers asking the perfectly valid question in research: “How does your work relate to previous work X?” And the honest answer is: I don’t know. Perhaps nobody can know any more — the paper wasn’t very detailed and the software is lost in time. This is no way to do research.
From Ruthe Farmer in White House OSTP. It’s great that we’re going to get more data about CS Education in the United States. Should it be at the federal level, when decisions about K-12 in the US are at the state level? I’d like to get data collected at a level that impacts decision-making. How do we get states to track CS education? Will the federal government’s effort be a prompt to get the states to track who takes CS classes, where they’re offered, and where they’re not?
Computer science has been added to the proposed 2017-18 Dept of Ed Civil Rights Data Collection. The proposed new collection instruments are open for public comment through 2/28/17.
You can view the documents here:
(you will find the proposed data collection instruments on pages 29-31 of the doc titled A-2_CRDC_Data_Groups_12_23_16)
You can add comments here:
Comments from the public are critical to inclusion of this new data request, as the overall push is to lessen the reporting load for schools. However, we felt it was necessary to add computer science as a separately tracked subject to obtain a better picture of total enrollment nationally.
Please share this opportunity to comment with your networks.
Ruthe A. Farmer | Senior Policy Advisor for Tech Inclusion
Office of Science & Technology Policy
Executive Office of the President