White House Backs CS for All: Giving Every Student an Opportunity to Learn Through Computer Science For All
I don’t usually blog on a Saturday, but this is huge.
In this week’s address, the President discussed his plan to give all students across the country the chance to learn computer science (CS) in school. The President noted that our economy is rapidly shifting, and that educators and business leaders are increasingly recognizing that CS is a “new basic” skill necessary for economic opportunity. The President referenced his Computer Science for All Initiative, which provides $4 billion in funding for states and $100 million directly for districts in his upcoming budget; and invests more than $135 million beginning this year by the National Science Foundation and the Corporation for National and Community Service to support and train CS teachers. The President called on even more Governors, Mayors, education leaders, CEOs, philanthropists, creative media and technology professionals, and others to get involved in the efforts.
I wrote about this seminar when I attended (see post here) — the report has now been posted. I grimace a bit in sharing this since the title of my paragraph has a mis-spelling in it…Sigh.
Over two and half days, over 30 participants engaged in inventing and evaluating programming and software engineering tools from a human rather than tool perspective. We discussed methods, theories, recruitment, research questions, and community issues such as methods training and reviewing. This report is a summary of the key insights generated in the workshop.
Sarah Guthals, a CS Education Researcher, was identified by Forbes Magazine as one of the “30 under 30” scientists to watch in years to come. Congratulations to Sarah! She wrote an interesting blog post on imposter syndrome and the nomination.
I have suffered from imposter syndrome for at least a decade. I have worked hard, but it’s really hard for me to believe that I deserve what I have, or that the accomplishments that I’ve made are valid. I recognized my imposter syndrome when I was in my first year of grad school and since then I have been really trying to combat it — but I think instead I have just been ignoring it. Let’s see if I can explain it in the context of this weeks events.
When I found out I was nominated, I was very happy, but already feeling like a fraud. Am I really the one that should be nominated? What have I done to deserve it? I haven’t done anything alone (always had a team or partner).
Should be interesting — see if you can guess where each of us sits on the Pseudocode question tonight.
Computer Science Principles (CSP) is a programming language agnostic course. CSP aims to teach students the fundamentals of programming and the process involved in building algorithms and solving problems. Pseudocode and flow charts are two common tools, but how useful are they? How best should they be used in a CSP high school classroom?
Come and listen to Deepa Muralidhar (our webinar host) and the following experts discuss these questions during our next CSPwebinar on Tuesday, January 26 at 4:30pm PT/7:30pm ET:
- Dan Garcia – Professor, UC Berkeley
- Mark Guzdial – Professor, School of Interactive Computing, Georgia Tech
- Jill Westerlund – CS Principles Teacher, Hoover High School, Alabama
To join via Adobe Connect, go to http://air.adobeconnect.com/pseudocode/. Or call in at +1-8667678829.
Congratulations to Jane Margolis and Andy Stefik, two computing education researchers named by the White House as Champions of Change!
Jane Margolis is a researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, where she investigates why so few women and students of color have learned computer science. Based on research discussed in her books Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing and Stuck in the Shallow End: Education, Race and Computing, she and her collaborators, with support from the National Science Foundation, created Exploring Computer Science (ECS), a high school curriculum and teacher professional development program committed to reaching all students, especially those in underserved communities and schools. ECS now exists across the nation, including in seven of the largest school districts.
Andreas Stefik, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. For the last decade, he has been creating technologies that make it easier for people, including those with disabilities, to write computer software. With grants from the National Science Foundation, he established the first national educational infrastructure for blind or visually impaired students to learn computer science. He is the inventor of Quorum, the first evidence-oriented programming language. The design of Quorum is based on rigorous empirical data from experiments on human behavior.
Code.org has just released an interesting survey about their Hour of Code initiative. They’ve been criticized for providing only an hour and overly focusing on puzzles (see Mitchel Resnick’s article here). The results suggest that they’re reaching a diverse audience, and having an effect beyond an hour — students keep going, and teachers start teaching CS.
Programming is a literacy, and no one develops any kind of literacy in just an hour of practice. Games are not the most interesting and powerful kinds of programming activities.
But they’re a start. Particularly when we get past the Inverse Lake Wobegon Effect of thinking about students as being like us. We know from many studies that students are afraid of computer programming. I’m teaching Media Computation again this semester, and at least a third of the students who have come talk to me after class have started their conversation with, “I’m one of those people who just don’t do computers.” And that’s just those self-reporting without prompting! Students associate CS with being a geek and wouldn’t want to let their friends know they like computer science, even if they do. Few students get any kind of computer science education outside of Hour of Code.
When we think about most people, sustained activity in programming for one hour can go a long way to reducing fear, increasing self-efficacy, and nurturing interest. (Consider an Hour of Code compared to less than <5 minutes typically spent at a museum exhibit.) Games are a useful place to start because they’re well-structured. Aptitude-treatment interaction tells us that more structure is better with students who have less background in a subject. Open-ended, constructionist activities like those that Mitchel is promoting are more successful with more privileged students, those who have more experience which results in higher-ability students. The Hour of Code can help inspire students to get that additional experience needed to develop more ability.) An Hour of Code is a good first step for the remedial state of computing education in the United States today.
Hooray for Hour of Code, and thanks to Code.org for promoting it and for sharing these data.
The onus is on us to turn the Hour of Code into a Lifetime of Computational Literacy.
After the Hour of Code, we asked participating organizers how it went and got some fantastic news for our field.
- 98% had a good or great experience.
- 85% of those new to computer science said the Hour of Code increased their interest in teaching computer science.
- 49% said they plan to continue teaching computer science beyond one hour.
- 18% said they began teaching computer science after a previous Hour of Code campaign!
- 87% said their students did more than just one hour of coding.
I was intrigued to see this post during CS Ed Week from ChangeTheEquation.org. They’re revisiting the Scaffidi, Shaw, and Myers question from 2005 (mentioned in this blog post).
You may be surprised to learn that nearly DOUBLE the number of workers use computing than originally thought. Our new research infographic shows that 7.7 million people use complex computing in their jobs — that’s 3.9 million more than the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) reports. We examined a major international dataset that looks past job titles to see what skills people actually use on the job. It turns out that the need for complex computer skills extends far beyond what the BLS currently classifies as computer occupations. Even more reason why computer science education is more critical than ever!
ChangeTheEquation.org is coming up with a much lower estimate of end-user programmers than did Scaffidi et al. Why is that? I looked at their methodology:
To estimate the total number of U.S. citizens who use computers in complex ways on the job, CTEq and AIR examined responses to question G_Q06 in the PIAAC survey: What level of computer use is/was needed to perform your job/last job?
- STRAIGHTFORWARD, for example using a computer for straightforward routine tasks such as data entry or sending and receiving e-mails
- MODERATE, for example word-processing, spreadsheets or database management
- COMPLEX, for example developing software or modifying computer games, programming using languages like java, sql, php or perl, or maintaining a computer network
Their “Complex” use is certainly programming, but Scaffidi et al would also call building spreadsheet macros and SQL queries programming. ChangeTheEquation has a different definition that I think undercounts significantly.