Posts filed under ‘Uncategorized’

Discussing the film “Code: Debugging the Gender Gap”

Barbara Ericson and I were invited to be discussants at a showing of “Code: Debugging the Gender Gap.”  I highly recommend the movie.  It was fascinating to watch, made all the more fun by seeing heroes that I know appear, like Nathan Ensmenger, Avis Yates Rivers, Jane Margolis, Ari Schlesinger, Colleen Lewis, and Maria Klawe.

Afterward, I got to make a few comments — expanding on some of the movie’s points, and disagreeing with others.

The movie makes the argument that men and women aren’t wired differently.  We are all capable of learning computer science.  They didn’t have to make a biological argument.  In the Middle East and many other parts of the world, computer science is female-dominated. Clearly, it’s not biology.  (Perhaps surprisingly, I recently got asked that question at one of the top institutes of technology in the United States: “Don’t women avoid CS because their brains work differently?”  REALLY?!?)

The movie talks about how companies like IBM and RCA started advertising in the 1970’s and 1980’s for “men” with “the right stuff,” and that’s when the field started masculinizing.  They don’t say anything about the role that educators played, the story that Nathan Ensmenger has talked about in his book “The Computer Boys Take Over.”  When we realized that we couldn’t teach programming well, we instead started to filter out everyone who would not become a great programmer. For example, that’s when calculus was added into computer science degree requirements.  Women were less interested in the increasingly competitive computer science programs, especially when there were obvious efforts to weed people out.  That was another factor in the masculinization of the field.

Many of those interviewed in the movie talk about the importance of providing “role models” to women in computing.  The work of researchers like the late (and great) Joanne Cohoon show that role models aren’t as big a deal as we might think.  Here’s a thought experiment to prove the point: There are biology departments where the faculty are even more male than most CS departments, yet those departments are still female-dominant.  What we do know is that women and URM students need encouragement to succeed in CS, and that that encouragement can come from male or female teachers.

Finally, several interviewed in the movie say that we have to get girls interested in CS early because high school or university is “way too late.”  That’s simply not true.  The chair of my School of Interactive Computing, Annie Antón, didn’t meet computing until she was an undergraduate, and now she’s full Professor in a top CS department.  Yes, starting earlier would likely attract more women to computing, but it’s never “too late.”

After the movie, an audience member asked me if I really believed that diversity was important to build better products, and how would we prove that.  I told him that I didn’t think about it that way.  I’m influenced by Joanna Goode and Jane Margolis.  Computing jobs are high-paying and numerous.  Women and under-represented minority students are not getting to those jobs because they’re not getting access to the opportunites, either because of a lack of access to computing education or because of bias and discrimination that keep them out.  It’s not about making better products.  This is a social justice issue.


April 28, 2017 at 7:00 am 5 comments

Call for Papers for Koli Calling: Papers due 4 August

Call for papers
17th Koli Calling International Conference on Computing Education Research
Koli, Finland, 16-19
November 2017
Koli Calling is one of the leading international conferences dedicated to the scholarship of teaching and learning and to education research in the computing disciplines. Koli Calling publishes high-quality papers that combine teaching and learning experiences with solid, theoretically anchored research. The conference is held annually at the Sokos Hotel Koli, located in the Koli National Park about 70km north of Joensuu, Finland. The Koli Calling 2017 conference is organised by the University of Eastern Finland, Finland, in collaboration with the University of Warwick, UK.

Submission deadline (all categories):            Friday 04 August at noon EET (GMT +3h)
Extended submission deadline (see below): Friday 11 August at noon EET (GMT +3h)
Notification of acceptance:                             Friday 08 September at noon EET (GMT +3h)
Submission of revised manuscripts:              Friday 22 September at noon EET (GMT +3h)
Early-bird Registration:                                   Friday 08 – Friday 29 September
Conference registration deadline:                  Friday 13 October at noon EET (GMT +3h)
Conference:                                  Thursday November 16 (evening) to Sunday November 19 (morning)
Extended submission deadline: we offer a re-submission slack of exactly one week. If a paper is submitted by the 04 August deadline, it will be possible to submit updated versions of the paper until 11 August. Papers that are not first submitted by 4 August, or that are not reasonably complete at that time, will not be considered.
Authors please note: The official publication date is the date the proceedings are made available in the ACM Digital Library. This date is expected to be one week prior to the first day of the conference. The official publication date affects the deadline for any patent filings related to published work.
Koli Calling is a single-track conference with research, practice and systems presentations as well as keynote and invited talks. The conference language is English. The conference is known for its moderate size, intimate atmosphere, and lively discussions. To maintain this reputation, a limited number of submissions will be accepted. Last year about 50 participants attended the conference from 9 countries on 3 continents.
Koli Calling 2017 will organise a pre-conference doctoral consortium (DC) on computational thinking (CT) from Tuesday 14th November (evening) until Thursday 16th November (evening), led by Professors Matti Tedre and Markku Tukiainen. During the DC participants will have the opportunity to contribute to others’ research ideas by providing useful insights, to further develop their own research interests, and to promote their academic community and network under the guidance of established and well-known researchers. We welcome submissions from participants at any stage of their doctoral studies.
Original submissions are invited in all areas related to the conference theme and should have an explicit connection to computing education. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:
  • Computing education research: theoretical aspects, methodologies and results;
  • Development and use of technology to support education in computing and related sciences, e.g., tools for visualisation or concretisation;
  • Teaching and assessment approaches, innovations and best practices;
  • Distance, online, blended, and informal learning;
  • Learning analytics and educational data mining;
  • Computing education in all educational levels, e.g., K12, context and teacher training.
For more information see the conference website
or contact Calkin Suero Montero and Mike Joy at
We are looking forward to seeing you at Koli.
Calkin Suero Montero and Mike Joy

Program Chairs, Koli Calling 2017

April 26, 2017 at 7:00 am Leave a comment

Report on Addressing Unconscious Bias in CS Classrooms

New research report available at from with Google and Thomas Dee of Stanford University and Seth Gershenson from American University.

In sum, Unconscious Bias (UB) is a nontrivial problem in education, especially in CS and STEM education, and it is not easily addressed via traditional educational policies and interventions. However, interventions that identify and alter the frequently unconscious psychological processes that harm individuals’ outcomes are currently being developed and piloted. Teacher-facing interventions, which can be administered to both pre- and in-service teachers, are particularly promising. In part, this is because by addressing UB among teachers, we can help shape the entire classroom context in supportive ways. Furthermore, teacher-facing interventions are potentially cost-effective and scalable, because infrastructure for teacher training is already in place.

April 26, 2017 at 7:00 am Leave a comment

ACM TURC 2017: Come see Amber, Dan, and me in China

The ACM Turing China conference will have a SIGCSE track this May.  Come see SIGCSE Chair Amber Settle, world-famous CS educator Dan Garcia (recently in NYTimes) from Berkeley, and me in Shanghai in May.

The ACM TURC 2017 (SIGCSE China) conference is a new leading international forum at the intersection of computer science and the learning sciences, seeking to improve practice and theories of CS education. ACM TURC 2017 will be held in Shanghai, China, 12-14 May, 2017. We invite the submission of original rigorous research on methodologies, studies, analyses, tools, or technologies for computing education.

Source: ACM TURC 2017 (SIGCSE China)

April 24, 2017 at 7:00 am Leave a comment

Stanford CS department updates introductory courses: Java is Gone

Stanford has decided to move away from Java in their intro courses. Surprisingly, they have decided to move to JavaScript.  Philip Guo showed that most top CS departments are moving to Python.  The Stanford Daily article linked below doesn’t address any other languages considered.

The SIGCSE-Members list recently polled all of their members to talk about what they’re currently teaching.  The final spreadsheet of results is here.  Python appears 60 times, C++ 54 times, Java 84 times, and JavaScript 28 times.  I was surprised to see how common C++ is, and if Java is dying (or “showing its age,” as Eric Roberts is quoted below), it’s going out as the reigning champ.

When Java came out in 1995, the computer science faculty was excited to transition to the new language. Roberts wrote the textbooks, worked with other faculty members to restructure the course and assignments and introduced Java at Stanford in 2002. “Java had stabilized,” Roberts said. “It was clear that many universities were going in that direction. It’s 2017 now, and Java is showing its age.” According to Roberts, Java was intended early on as “the language of the Internet”. But now, more than a decade after the transition to Java, Javascript has taken its place as a web language.

Source: CS department updates introductory courses | Stanford Daily

ADDENDUM: As you see from Nick Parlante’s comment below, the JavaScript version is only an experiment.  From people I’ve talked to at Stanford, and from how I read the article quoted above (“more than a decade after the transition to Java, Javascript has taken its place”), I believe that Stanford is ending Java in CS106.  I’m leaving the title as-is for now. I’ve offered to Marty Stepp that if CS106 is still predominantly Java in one year, I will post a new blog post admitting that I was wrong.  Someone remind me in April 2018, please.

April 21, 2017 at 7:09 am 20 comments

Google seeking input on next directions in CS Education Research

Please follow the survey link below to give feedback to Google on what you think is important in CS education research.

We are collecting input to inform the direction of Google’s computer science (CS) education research in order to better support the field.  As researchers, educators, and advocates working in the field everyday, your input is extremely valued.  Please complete this survey by Sunday, April 23.  Feel free to share this survey with others who may be interested in sharing their insights.

Thank you,
Jennifer, on behalf of Google‘s CS Education Research & Evaluation team

April 19, 2017 at 7:00 am 5 comments

Katie Cunningham receives NSF fellowship: Studying how CS students use sketching and tracing

Kate Cunningham is a first year PhD student working with me in computing education research.  She just won an NSF graduate research fellowship, and the College of Computing interviewed her. She explains the direction that she’s exploring now, which I think is super exciting.

“I’m interested in examining the kinds of things students draw and sketch when they trace through code,” she said. “Can certain types of sketching help students do better when they learn introductory programming?”  She grew interested in this topic while working as a teacher for a program in California. As she watched students there work with code, she found that they worked solely with the numbers and text on their computer screen.“They weren’t really drawing,” she said. “I found that the drawing techniques we encouraged were really useful for those students, so I was inspired to study it at Georgia Tech.”

Essentially, the idea is that by drawing or sketching a visual representation of their work as they code, students may be able to better understand the operations of how the computer works. “It’s a term we call the ‘notional machine,’” Cunningham explained. “It’s this idea of how the computer processes the instructions. I think if students are drawing out the process for how their code is working, that can help them to fully understand how the instructions are working.” That’s one benefit. Another, she said, is better collaboration. If a student is sketching the process, she posits, the teacher can better see and understand what they’re thinking.

Source: IC Ph.D. student Katie Cunningham receives NSF fellowship | College of Computing

April 17, 2017 at 7:00 am Leave a comment

Older Posts

Recent Posts

April 2017
« Mar    


Blog Stats

  • 1,379,196 hits

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

Join 4,657 other followers

CS Teaching Tips