I found the article below fascinating, but as an instance of a general model. The article describes how scientists who study gun control have very different opinions about gun control than the general American public — who (presumably) don’t draw on scientific evidence to inform their opinions. People who draw on evidence have different opinions than those who don’t. Most people do not draw on evidence when informing their opinions.
I don’t see that the story here is “Scientists are smart and the public is dumb.”
I would bet that if you asked these same gun control scientists about something outside of their area of expertise, they similarly ignore evidence. I work with CS professors all the time who draw on evidence to inform their opinions within their area of expertise (e.g., robotics, HCI, networking), but when it comes to education, evidence goes out the window. Davide Fossati and I did a study (yeah, evidence — we know what that’s worth) describing how CS faculty make decisions (see post here). In my experience, if the evidence is counter to their opinion, evidence is frequently ignored. One of the things we learned in “Georgia Computes!” was just how hard it is to change faculty (see our journal article where we tell this story). CS teachers are pretty convinced that they teach just fine, despite evidence to the contrary. I regularly try to convince my colleagues to teach using active learning approaches like peer instruction given the overwhelming evidence of its effectiveness (see this article, for just one), and I regularly get told, “It really doesn’t work for me.”
People are people, even when scientists and CS faculty.
Of the 150 scientists who responded, most were confident that a gun in the home increases the chance that a woman living there will be murdered (72 percent agreed, 11 percent disagreed), that strict gun control laws reduce homicide (71 percent versus 12 percent), that more permissive gun laws have not reduced crime rates (62 percent versus 9 percent), that guns are used more often in crimes that in self-defense (73 percent versus 8 percent), and that a gun in the home makes it a more dangerous place to be (64 percent versus 5 percent).
Eighty-four percent of the respondents said that having a firearm at home increased the risk of suicide.
These figures stand sharply at odds with the opinions of the American public. A November 2014 Gallup poll found that 63 percent of Americans say that having a gun in the house makes it a safer place to be, a figure that has nearly doubled since 2000. According to the same survey, about 40 percent of Americans keep a gun in the home.
I wrote my May Blog@CACM post on the “Babble of Computing Education,” about the wide variety of perspectives, definitions, and cross-purposes going on in the US in computing education. At the end, I talk about the new Code.org partnership with the College Board and how this may reduce the Babble — the definition of CS Principles will become Code.org. Owen Astrachan, co-PI of the NSF CS Principles grant, and I have a bet for dinner and beer that we made on Facebook. I predict that in the first offering of the AP CS Principles exam, more than 50% of the schools that teach CSP and send students to the exam will be using Code.org curricula. He thinks that there will be greater diversity.
I don’t know how the new partnerships announced below fit into our bet. BJC, PLTW, and other curricula are now going to be promoted by Code.org as their partners. Will a school adopt BJC because Code.org recommends it? I think that’s likely. Will the school believe that they are adopting a curriculum out of Berkeley or a Code.org curriculum? I expect the latter. From schools’ perspective, all the eleven new partners will be Code.org curricula. The definition of CS Principles will become Code.org. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — that may provide a corporate face that will assure administrators in schools who don’t know CS.
“Code.org’s courses already reach millions of students globally in grades K-8,” Partovi said. “But as we expand in high school, we work region by region, and we can’t do it all. We’re leading a movement and we need partners to help.”
When Code.org meets with school districts, it will now also highlight the new partnerships as alternative ways to teach computer science versus utilizing Code.org’s own programs.
On my recent trip to Germany, I got to connect to live coding again. At the Dagstuhl Seminar I attended, I visited with Alan Blackwell who organized the live coding Dagstuhl Seminar I attended and has been doing live coding with Sam Aaron (of SonicPI fame). When I got back to Oldenburg, I visited with Graham Coleman, a Georgia Tech alum who is completing a PhD in computer music and who was an active live coder in Atlanta. Great to see the first international conference happening soon!
First International Conference on Live Coding
ICSRiM, School of Music, University of Leeds
13th-15th July 2015
We are happy to announce that registration for ICLC2015 is now open. Live coding turns programming languages into live interfaces, allowing us to directly manipulate computation via its notation. Live coding has great potential, being used for example to create improvised music and visuals, to allow developers to collaborate in new ways, to better understand computational models by making fundamental changes to them on-the-fly, and to find new ways to learn and teach programming.
Since the beginning of the TOPLAP movement in 2003 (building on an extensive but hidden pre-history), live coding has grown fast, attracting interest from many people in artistic, creative, scientific, educational, business and mixed contexts. After a good number of international events, the time is right to bring these people together for an academic conference, exchanging ideas and techniques, and enjoying dozens of peer reviewed papers and performances. The conference will also open up the field for people new to live coding, so they may develop and contribute their own perspectives on this emerging field. Join us!
Registration is £80 (£50 concessions) for the three day conference
including lunches, evening events, and more.
See the website for details of the developing programme:
And register here, completing both the on-line payment and registration forms.
ICLC is organised by the Live Coding Research Network, which is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
Lucy Sanders is terrific as always in this NYTimes piece. I particularly like that the article draws on evidence, which is too rarely used in making CS Ed decisions.
The focus on recruiting and retaining women might increase their numbers but also singles them out, say some critics of programs that change curriculums to attract more women or offer classes specifically for women. Students often say they want to be seen as a computer scientist, not a female computer scientist.
But Ms. Sanders says the American computer science curriculum is in need of a complete overhaul, not just for women.
“I don’t particularly think that the existing computer science curriculum has been effective for anybody,” she said. “It needs to be situated in a real-world or meaningful context so people understand why they’re doing it. That doesn’t make it less rigorous — students learn the same things, but in a different way.”
Want to give a lightning talk or present a poster in Omaha, August 10-12 to spark discussion or discover possible collaborations? Keep reading!
Lightning Talk Application Deadline: June 15, 2014 (submission details below)
ICER 2015 — International Computing Education Research Conference
University of Nebraska, Omaha
August 10-12, 2015
What is a Lightning Talk?
Lightning Talks are strictly timed 3 minute presentations intended to further expand the ICER community and spark discussion among conference participants. The intent is for these talks to provide a venue in support of new ideas and newcomers to our community. Lightning Talks are a great way to get early feedback on a work in progress, to demo a new tool or technique, and to find potential collaborators at other institutions.
What is a Poster?
Posters are a new way for ICER attendees to present early results, gain feedback from conference attendees, find collaborators on a topic, and/or spark discussion among conference participants. The intent is for these posters is similar to lightning talks in that they provide a venue in support of new ideas and newcomers to our community.
Can I do both – give a Lightning Talk and have a Poster?
Absolutely! New this year, Lightning Talk presenters may elect to present a poster in conjunction with their lightning talk to provide additional information to curious parties and help foster post-lightning talk discussion.
Note: Work already being presented at ICER (i.e., accepted papers, doctoral consortium submissions) is ineligible for the lightning talks or poster sessions.
Submissions for consideration as lightning talks should use the provided MS Word template and are limited to a maximum of 300 words. Abstracts should be submitted no later than June 15 to Leo Porter at firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration. The template can be found at:
Are there additional opportunities to receive feedback on a work in progress?
If you are interested in an interactive feedback session after ICER, you may also want to check out the Works in Progress Workshop:
Please let me know if you have any questions!
Assistant Teaching Professor, Computer Science
University of California, San Diego
New Video “Code” and the Quest for Inclusive Software, and a big question for Broadening Participation in Computing
The article quoted below is about a new documentary on gender issues in the computing industry. More interestingly, the article raises an important question for broadening participation in computing: Can we come up with examples of where a lack of diversity impacts the software product?
“Code” also addresses a question that has been discussed less often. When Reynolds described the film’s theme to her mother, her mother asked, “Well, Robin, why does it matter who’s coding as long as we have the products?” It’s a valid question: If women don’t want to program, what’s the harm? Reynolds told me that it led her to seek out, in her interviews, cases in which less diverse engineering teams created worse products than they otherwise might have. “I said, ‘Can you give me an example of where not having a diverse coding team has affected the product?’” she recalled.
We’re years into the MOOC phenomenon, and I’d hoped that we’d get past MOOC hype. But we’re not. The article below shows the same misunderstandings of learning and teaching that we heard at the start — misunderstandings that even MOOC supporters (like here and here) have stopped espousing.
The value of being in the front row of a class is that you talk with the teacher. Getting physically closer to the lecturer doesn’t improve learning. Engagement improves learning. A MOOC puts everyone at the back of the class, listening only and doing the homework.
In many ways, we have a romanticized view of college. Popular portrayals of a typical classroom show a handful of engaged students sitting attentively around a small seminar table while their Harrison Ford-like professor shares their wisdom about the world. We all know the real classroom is very different. Especially in big introductory classes — American history, U.S. government, human psychology, etc. — hundreds of disinterested, and often distracted, students cram into large impersonal lecture halls, passively taking notes, occasionally glancing up at the clock waiting for the class to end. And it’s no more engaging for the professor. Usually we can’t tell whether students are taking notes or updating their Facebook page. For me, everything past the ninth row was distance learning. A good online platform puts every student in the front row.