Posts tagged ‘APCS’

SIGCSE 2020: Papers freely available, AP CSA over AP CSP for diversifying computing, and a tour of computing ed research in one hour

My Blog@CACM post for this month was about my first stop on my tour of SIGCSE 2020 papers (see link here). While the SIGCSE 2020 conference was cancelled, the papers are freely available now through the end of June — see all the proceedings here. I’ve started going through the proceedings myself. The obvious place to start such a tour is with the award-winning papers. My Blog@CACM post is on the paper from An Nguyen and Colleen M. Lewis of Harvey Mudd College on the negative impact of competitive enrollment policies (having students enroll to get into CS, or requiring a higher-than-just-passing GPA to get into the computing major) on students’ sense of belonging, self-efficacy, and perceptions of the department.

I said that this was the first stop on my tour, but that’s not really true. I’d already looked up the paper Does AP CS Principles Broaden Participation in Computing?: An Analysis of APCSA and APCSP Participants (see link here), because I’d heard about it from co-author Joanna Goode. I was eager to see the result. They show that AP CS Principles is effectively recruiting much more diverse students than the AP CS A course (which is mostly focused on Java programming). But, AP CS A students end up with more confidence in computing and much more interest in computing majors and tech careers. Maybe CSA students had more interest to begin with — there is likely some selection bias here. This result reminds me of the Weston et al result (see blog post here) showing that the female high school students they studied continued on to tech and computing majors and careers if they had programming classes.

I’ve been reading The Model of Domain Learning: Understanding the Development of Expertise (see Amazon link) which offers one explanation of what’s going on here. Pat Alexander’s Model of Domain Learning points out that domain knowledge is necessary to have sustained interest in a domain. You can draw students in with situational interest (having activities that are exciting and engage novices), but you only get sustained interest if they also learn enough about the domain. Maybe AP CSP has more situational interest, but doesn’t provide enough of the domain knowledge (like programming) that leads to continued success in computing.

In my SIGCSE 2020 Preview blog post (posted just two days before the conference was posted), I mentioned the cool session that Colleen Lewis was organizing where she was going to get 25 authors to present the entire 700+ page Cambridge Handbook of Computing Education Research in 75 minutes. Unfortunately, that display of organizational magic didn’t occur. However, in a demonstration of approximately the same level of organizational magic, Colleen got the authors to submit videos, and she compiled a 55 minute version (which is still shorter than reading the entire tome) — see it on YouTube here.

There are lots of other great papers in the proceedings that I’m eager to get into. A couple that are high on my list:

  • Dual-Modality Instruction and Learning: A Case Study in CS1 from Jeremiah Blanchard, Christina Gardner-McCune, and Lisa Anthony from University of Florida, which provides evidence that a blocks-based version of Java leads to more and deeper version on the same assessments as students learning with textual Java (see link here).
  • Design Principles behind Beauty and Joy of Computing by Paul Goldenberg and others. I love design principles papers, because they explain why the authors and developers were doing what they were doing. I have been reading Paul since back in the Logo days. I’m eager to read his treatment of how BJC works (see link here).

Please share in the comments your favorite papers with links to them.

May 4, 2020 at 7:00 am 3 comments

An Ebook for Java AP CS Review: Guest Blog Post from Barbara Ericson

My research partner, co-author, and wife, Barbara Ericson, has been building an ebook (like the ones we’ve been making for AP CSP, as mentioned here and here) for students studying Advanced Placement (AP) CS Level A. We wanted to write a blog post about it, to help more AP CS A students and teachers find it. She kindly wrote this blog post on the ebooks

I started creating a free interactive ebook for the Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science (CS) A course in 2014.  See http://tinyurl.com/JavaReview-new. The AP CSA course is intended to be equivalent to a first course for computer science majors at the college level.  It covers programming fundamentals (variables, strings, conditionals, loops), one and two dimensional arrays, lists, recursion, searching, sorting, and object-oriented programming in Java.

The AP CSA ebook was originally intended to be used as a review for the AP CSA exam.  I had created a web-site that thousands of students were using to take practice multiple-choice exams, but that web-site couldn’t handle the load and kept crashing.  Our team at Georgia Tech was creating a free interactive ebook for Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles (CSP) course on the Runestone platform. The Runestone platform was easily handling thousands of learners per day, so I moved the multiple choice questions into a new interactive ebook for AP CSA.  I also added a short description of each topic on the AP CSA exam and several practice exams.

Over the years, my team of undergraduate and high school students and I have added more content to the Java Review ebook and thousands of learners have used it.  It includes text, pictures, videos, executable and modifiable Java code, multiple-choice questions, fill-in-the-blank problems, mixed-up code problems (Parsons problems), clickable area problems, short answer questions, drag and drop questions, timed exams, and links to other practice sites such as CodingBat (https://codingbat.com/java) and the Java Tutor (http://pythontutor.com/java.html#mode=edit). It also includes free response (write code) questions from past exams.

Fill-in-the-blank problems ask a user to type in the answer to a question and the answer is checked against a regular expression. See https://tinyurl.com/fillInBlankEx.   Mixed-up code problems (Parsons problems) provide the correct code to solve a problem, but the code is broken into code blocks and mixed up.  The learner must drag the blocks into the correct order. See https://tinyurl.com/ParsonsEx.  I studied Parsons problems for my dissertation and invented two types of adaptation to modify the difficulty of Parsons problems to keep learners challenged, but not frustrated.  Clickable area questions ask learners to click on either lines of code or table elements to answer a question. See https://tinyurl.com/clickableEx.   Short answer questions allow users to type in text in response to a question.  See https://tinyurl.com/shortAnsEx. Drag and drop questions allow the learner to drag a definition to a concept.  See https://tinyurl.com/y68cxmpw.  Timed exams give the learner practice a set amount of time to finish an exam.  It shows the questions in the exam one at a time and doesn’t give the learner feedback about the correctness of the answer until after the exam.  See https://tinyurl.com/timedEx.

I am currently analyzing the log file data from both the AP CSA and CSP ebooks.  Learners typically attempt to answer the practice type questions, but don’t always run the example code or watch the videos.  In an observation study I ran as part of my dissertation work, teachers said that they didn’t run the code if the got the related practice question correct. They also didn’t always watch the videos, especially if the video content was also in the text.  Usage of the ebook tends to drop from the first chapter to the last instructional chapter, but increases again in the practice exam chapters at the end of the ebook. Usage also drops across the instructional material in a chapter and then increases again in the practice item subchapters near the end of each chapter.

Beryl Hoffman, an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Elms College and a member of the Mobile CSP team, has been creating a new AP CSA ebook based on my AP CSA ebook, but revised to match the changes to the AP CSA course for 2019-20202.  See https://tinyurl.com/csawesome.  One of the reasons for creating this new ebook is to help Mobile CSP teaches prepare to teach CSA.  The Mobile CSP team is piloting this book currently with CSP teachers.

June 17, 2019 at 7:00 am Leave a comment

SIGCSE 2018 Preview: Black Women in CS, Rise Up 4 CS, Community College to University CS, and Gestures for Learning CS

While I’m not going to be at this year’s SIGCSE, we’re going to have a bunch of us there presenting cool stuff.

On Wednesday, Barb Ericson is going to this exciting workshop, CS Education Infrastructure for All: Interoperability for Tools and Data Analytics, organized by Cliff Shaffer, Peter Brusilovsky, Ken Koedinger, and Stephen Edwards. Barb is eager to talk about her adaptive Parsons Problems and our ebook work.

My PhD student, Amber Solomon, is presenting at RESPECT 2018 (see program here) on a paper with Dekita Moon, Amisha Roberts, and Juan Gilbert, Not Just Black and Not Just a Woman: Black Women Belonging in Computing. They talk about how expectations of being Black in CS and expectations as a woman in CS come into conflict for the authors.

On Thursday, Barb is presenting her paper (with Tom McKlin) Helping Underrepresented Students Succeed in AP CSA and Beyond, which are the amazing results from the alumni study from her Project Rise Up effort to help underrepresented students succeed at Advanced Placement CS A. When Barb was deciding on her dissertation topic, she considered making Rise Up her dissertation topic, or adaptive Parsons problems. She decided on the latter, so you might think about this paper as the dissertation final chapter if she had made Rise Up her dissertation focus. Project Rise Up grew from Barb’s interest in AP CS A and her careful, annual analysis of success rates in AP CS A for various demographics (here is her analysis for 2017). It had a strong impact (and was surprisingly inexpensive), as seen in the follow-on statistics and the quotes from the students now years after Rise Up. I recommend going to the talk — she has more than could fit into the paper.

On Friday, my PhD student, Katie Cunningham, is presenting with her colleagues from California State University Monterey Bay and Hartnell College, Upward Mobility for Underrepresented Students: A Model for a Cohort-Based Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science.  The full author list is Sathya Narayanan, Katie, Sonia Arteaga, William J. Welch, Leslie Maxwell, Zechariah Chawinga, and Bude Su. They’re presenting the “CSin3” program which drew in students from traditionally underrepresented groups and helped them earn CS degrees with remarkable success: A three year graduation rate of 71%, compared to a 22% four-year graduation rate, as well as job offers from selective tech companies. The paper describes the features of the program that made it so successful, like its multi-faceted support outside the classroom, the partnership between a community college and a university, and keeping a cohort model. The paper has been recognized with a SIGCSE 2018 Best Paper Award in the Curricula, Programs, Degrees, and Position Papers track.

On Friday, my colleague Betsy DiSalvo is going to present at the NSF Showcase some of the great work that she and her student, Kayla des Portes, have been doing with Maker Oriented Learning for Undergraduate CS.

On Saturday, my EarSketch colleagues are presenting their paper: Authenticity and Personal Creativity: How EarSketch Affects Student Persistence with Tom McKlin, Brian Magerko, Taneisha Lee, Dana Wanzer, Doug Edwards, and Jason Freeman.

Also on Saturday, Amber with her undergraduate researchers, Vedant Pradeep and Sara Li, are presenting a poster which is also a data collection activity, so I hope that many of you will stop by. Their poster is The Role of Gestures in Learning Computer Science. They are interested in how gesture can help with CS learning and might be an important evaluation tool — students who understand their code, tend to gesture differently when describing their code than students who have less understanding. They want to show attendees what they’ve seen, but more importantly, they want feedback on the gestures they’ve observed “in the wild.” Have you seen these? Have you seen other gestures that might be interesting and useful to Amber and her team? What other kinds of gestures do you use when explaining CS concepts? Please come by and help inform them about the gestures you see when teaching and learning CS.

February 21, 2018 at 7:00 am 3 comments

AP Computer Science Demographics Report for 2015 completed #CSEdWeek

Barbara Ericson, with the help of Phil Sands at Purdue, has now finished tabulating the demographic data for AP Computer Science for 2015 — see link here.  We don’t yet have the statistical tests that Kevin Karplus asked for (see post here), but Barbara did list the percentage of Hispanic exam takers with their proportion of the population.

hispanic-exam-takers

Our blog posts on AP CS have been picked up by Audrey Watters in her 2015 Top Ed-Tech Trends summary, in a decidedly negative light.

I’ll look at the whole “learn-to-code” push in an upcoming post, but I will note here: “Nationally, 37,327 students took the AP CS A exam in 2014,” Mark Guzdial observed. “This was a big increase (26.29%) from the 29,555 students who took it in 2013.” “Barbara Ericson’s 2015 AP CS demographics analysis: Still No African-Americans Taking the AP CS Exam in 9 States.” And Code.org teamed up with the College Board: because everyone needs to learn to code and then hand over money to the College Board for an AP test on the subject. Boom.

We don’t analyze AP CS A in order to market for the College Board.  We analyze AP CS A exam demographics because it’s the only operational definition we have found of the state of computing education across the United States.  From our work in “Georgia Computes!” we know that AP CS A tracks closely all other computing education in Georgia.  AP CS A is a dipstick to get a sense for who’s in the high school CS population.

 

December 11, 2015 at 7:10 am 2 comments

How many schools will honor the AP CSP attestation?

My Blog@CACM post this month is A Call to Action for Higher Education to make AP CS Principles Work. The Advanced Placement course on CS Principles becomes “real” this Fall 2016, and the first offering of the exam will be Spring 2017.  I expect that we in academic CS departments in the United States will soon be getting phone calls, “If we offer AP CSP and our students pass the exam, what will it count for at your school?”

When I talk to people who have worked on CSP about this issue, the question I get back in response is, “But there’s the attestation!”  Over 80 schools supported creation of the AP CS Principles course — see the list here.  The wording of the attestation varied by school, but makes these five points (taken from Larry Snyder’s page):

  1. It’s a substantive, important project — keep up the good work!
  2. We intend to give successful students credit at our school
  3. We intend to offer a comparable, content-rich course
  4. We intend to give successful students placement in a sequent course at our school
  5. [Optional] We are willing to have our school listed as supporting AP CS Principle

I don’t know.  My school currently has no plans for #2, 3, or 4, but we did sign the attestation.  (I’m working on coming up with a plan at Georgia Tech, but am not getting much traction.)  I don’t know about the status at other schools that signed the attestation.  I expect that Duke and Berkeley are going to follow-through, since they have done #3.  Some schools don’t give any or much credit for AP, so #2 may be out of the CS departments hands. I don’t know if there’s any legal requirement to follow through on the attestation.

November 27, 2015 at 8:13 am 14 comments

Barbara Ericson’s 2015 AP CS demographics analysis: Still No African-Americans Taking the AP CS Exam in 9 States

Cursor_and_Still_No_African-Americans_Taking_the_AP_Computer_Science_Exam_in_Nine_States_-_Curriculum_Matters_-_Education_Week

Normally, this is the time of the year when Barb writes her guest post about the AP CS exam-taker demographics.  She did the analysis, and you can get the overview at this web page and the demographics details at this web page.

But before we got a chance to put together a blog post, Liana Heitin of EdWeek called her for an interview.  They did a nice job summarizing the results (including interactive graphs) at the article linked below.

Some of the more interesting points (from Liana’s article):

No girls took the exam in Mississippi, Montana, or Wyoming. (Though Montana had no test-takers at all, male included, this year. Wyoming, which previously had no students take the test, had three boys take the exam in 2015).

Hawaii had the largest percentage of female test-takers, with 33 percent.

The overall female pass rate went up 3 percentage points, to 61 percent, from the year before.

Twenty-four girls took the test in Iowa, and 100 percent of them passed.”You don’t usually see 100 percent passing with numbers that big,” said Ericson. “Maybe five out of five pass. But 24 out of 24 is pretty cool.”

No African-American students took the exam in nine states: Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. That’s better than last year, though, when 13 states had no African-American test-takers.

Notably, Mississippi has the highest population of African-Americans—about half of the state’s high school graduates last year were black, according to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. Yet of the five AP computer science test-takers, all were white or Asian and male.

Source: Still No African-Americans Taking the AP Computer Science Exam in Nine States – Curriculum Matters – Education Week

November 9, 2015 at 7:28 am 8 comments

More Students Taking AP CS Exams, but WAY more taking AP Physics

Surprising result!  We knew that AP CS was growing quickly (see Code.org blog post), but AP Physics just took a giant leap forward.  I wonder why that is, and what we can learn from that.

The number of students taking the physics test doubled between 2014 and 2015. The College Board, the nonprofit that administers the AP program, said that represents the largest annual growth in any AP course in history.

Source: More Students Taking AP Physics, Computer Science Exams – Curriculum Matters – Education Week

October 19, 2015 at 8:55 am 7 comments

Statistics worrying about losing ground to CS: Claim that CS isn’t worthy

The linked blog post below bemoans the fact that the AP CS is growing, perhaps at the expense of growth in AP Statistics.  AP Stats is still enormously successful, but the part of the post that’s most interesting is the author’s complaints about what’s wrong with CS.  I read it as, “Students should know that CS is not worthy of their attention.”

It’s always worthwhile to consider thoughtful critiques seriously.  The author’s points about CS being mostly free of models and theories is well taken.  I do believe that there are theories and models used in many areas of CS, like networking, programming languages, and HCI. I don’t believe that most CS papers draw on them or build on them. It’s an empirical question, and unfortunately, we have the answer for computing education research.  A recent multi-national study concluded that less than half of the papers in computing education research draw on or build on any theory (see paper here).

Though the Stat leaders seem to regard all this as something of an existential threat to the well-being of their profession, I view it as much worse than that. The problem is not that CS people are doing Statistics, but rather that they are doing it poorly: Generally the quality of CS work in Stat is weak. It is not a problem of quality of the researchers themselves; indeed, many of them are very highly talented. Instead, there are a number of systemic reasons for this, structural problems with the CS research “business model.”

Source: Statistics: Losing Ground to CS, Losing Image Among Students

September 16, 2015 at 7:36 am 7 comments

Code.org grows CS Ed partnership to reduce the Babble in CS Ed

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.

via Code.org inks 11 new partnerships to help expand computer science education – GeekWire.

June 17, 2015 at 7:15 am 10 comments

AP is a national curriculum: Lawmakers Vote Overwhelmingly To Ban AP US History

Oklahoma isn’t the only state picking a fight over AP US History. Georgia’s legislators just introduced a similar bill (see article here).  I disagree with what they’re doing, but I do agree with the argument below.  The Advanced Placement program is a kind of “national curriculum.”  That’s why efforts like CS Principles are so valuable — they impact many schools across the country all at once.  My PhD advisor, Elliot Soloway, argues that it’s past time to establish national curricula (see article here), and he’s probably right.  The American political sentiment goes strongly against that perspective.

For other lawmakers, however, Fisher is thinking too small. Oklahoma Rep. Sally Kern (R) claims that all “AP courses violate the legislation approved last year that repealed Common Core.” She has asked the Oklahoma Attorney General to issue a ruling. Kern argues that “AP courses are similar to Common Core, in that they could be construed as an attempt to impose a national curriculum on American schools.”

via Oklahoma Lawmakers Vote Overwhelmingly To Ban Advanced Placement U.S. History | ThinkProgress.

March 25, 2015 at 7:34 am 1 comment

AP CS 2014 Results: Big jumps in participation! Demographics still poor

Every year, Barbara Ericson does an analysis of the AP CS exam demographics by state. The 2013 analysis (see here) got a lot of media attention (see on-going list).  Here’s the run-down for 2014.  Her detailed national analysis (from which I quote in this document) can be found here, and her detailed race and gender analysis (which I include some) can be found here.

Nationally, 37,327 students took the AP CS A exam in 2014. This was a big increase (26.29%) from the 29,555 students who took it in 2013.

  • The number of schools who passed the audit  (which is a reasonable proxy for the number of AP CS teachers) went up by almost 300: 2,525 versus 2,252 the previous year.
  • The number of female exam-takers was 7,458 (20%) which was up from 5,485 the year before (18.5%).
  • The number of black students was 1,469 which was an increase from 1,090 the previous year. The number of Hispanic students was 3,270 up from 2,408 the previous year.

The top 10 states in terms of the number of exams taken were in 2014 were (with their 2014 and 2013 positions listed — Florida rose and Maryland dropped):

toptenstates

But California is also the largest state.  If we control for population, here are the top 10 states by # exams in 2014 / estimated 2012 population / 100,000:

top10-by-pop

Eight states had a decrease in the number of students taking the AP CS A exam from the previous year: Oregon, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Kansas, Montana, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Maine.

Eighteen states had less than 100 people take the AP CS A exam in 2014, with Wyoming still the only state with no students taking the exam.

bottomStates

Barbara had help from Phil Sands from Purdue this year in doing the demographic analysis.

Females: The top three states with the most women taking the exam in 2014 are:

  1. California with 1599 exams (24%) and a pass rate of 65%
  2. Texas with 1102 exams (24%) and a pass rate of 51%
  3. New York with 504 exams (18.4%) and a pass rate of 56%

The top three states with the highest percentage of females taking the exam are (number of women / number of exams)
Mississippi (1/4 = 25%), Washington (260/1048 = 25%), Oklahoma (42/171 = 25%).

Tennessee, which had 31% female exam-takers in 2012, is no longer in the top ten of states.

No females took the exam in Montana (0 women of 4 exam takers) or Wyoming (but nobody took the exam in Wyoming). Eight more states had at least one woman but less than 10 women take the exam:Mississippi (1/4), North Dakota (1/14), Nebraska (2/71), Kansas (3/40), Alaska (4/30), South Dakota (4/29) and Utah (5/104) and Delaware (7/79).

African American: The top three states that had the most African American students take the exam in 2014 are:

  1. Maryland with 192 exams and a pass rate of 30.2% for African Americans compared to the overall pass rate of 62.1%.
  2. Texas with 161 exams and a pass rate of 40% compared to the overall pass rate of 55.7%.
  3. Georgia with 155 exams and a pass rate of 23% compared to the overall pass rate of 45.8%.

Thirteen states had no African American exam-takers in 2014 (number of African Americans / number of exams)
Alaska (0/30), Idaho (0/58), Kansas (0/40), Maine (0/99), Mississippi (0/4), Montana (0/4), Nebraska (0/71), New Hampshire (0/108), New Mexico (0/61), North Dakota (0/14), South Dakota (0/29), Vermont (0/71), and Wyoming (0/0).

Hispanic: The top three states that had the most Hispanics take the exam in 2014 (the College Board separates this into Mexican American, Puerto Rican, and Other Hispanic)

  1. Texas with 968 and a pass rate of 32% compared to the overall pass rate of 55.7%.
  2. California with 610 and a pass rate of 45.2% compared to the overall pass rate of 67.3%.
  3. Florida with 450 and a pass rate of 39.1% compared to the overall pass rate of 42.5%.

Seven states had no Hispanics take the exam in 2014: Iowa (0/119) which is 5.5% Hispanic by population, Mississippi (0/4) which is 2.9% Hispanic, Montana (0/4), North Dakota (0/14), South Dakota (0/29), West Virginia (0/48), and Wyoming (0/0).

March 4, 2015 at 8:46 am 3 comments

Programming with Pseudocode, Keeping Student Interest, the Need for School, and International Curricula: Trip Report on WiPSCE 2014

First week of this month, Barb and I went to Berlin for WiPSCE 2014 conference. See the program here and the proceedings here, and the post on my keynote here. Let me tell you about some of the interesting things I heard there.

We heard about so many international CS curricula efforts. Tim Bell talked about different levels of programming activity going on in different curricula (all the images in this blog post are from me snapping pictures of presentations).

tim-bell-stages-in-curricula

We heard about Austrian efforts, Flemish efforts, and programs I was aware of in the UK, New Zealand, Germany, Israel, and the United States.  I had not previously hear much about Poland in CS Ed, but they’ve been including computing in their curriculum for a long time.

poland-curricula

Quintin Cutts (Code or (not Code) – Separating Formal and Natural Language in CS Education) talked about a problem that they’re having in Scotland that we’re also facing in the US with the CS Principles effort. There are several different programming languages in use in schools. Nobody wants to be the bad guy to say “You have to use X (maybe Scratch? Alice? App Inventor? Python?), because that’s what the national test will be in.” So, national test-developers are creating pseudocode languages that aim to be understandable without getting hung up on syntax. Scotland has one that’s made up of bits and pieces of other languages (which they call “Haggis” — seriously!). The problem is that if a piece of code is never expected to run, it can have assumptions within it that would have to be cleared up to build a runtime system.  Quintin showed how even simple examples of the pseudocode from their national test have all kinds of logical inconsistencies.

It’s a real problem. Allison Elliott Tew’s dissertation (see here for post) showed that weakest performing students had the worst time transferring their knowledge from whatever language they learned to a pseudo-code. That means that your top students are going to be fine with a pseudo-code test, but your bottom students are not going to do well at all — they won’t know all the concepts, and they’re going to trip over the language. A pseudo-code test is going to be another barrier to underprepared students getting into CS.

Now, once you get them in the door, how do you keep them there? One interesting paper (Scratch vs. Karel – Impact on Learning Outcomes and Motivation) compared student interest in using Scratch or Karol the Robot. Scratch is a blocks-based language, and Karol was programmed in a text-based language. Students liked Scratch and performed better with it, but felt that Karol was more “real-life” and thus was more motivating for doing more in CS later. Betsy DiSalvo found similar results with her Glitch students. When comparing Alice and Python, students liked what they could produce with Alice, but felt that Python was more like what real programmers did and was consequently more motivating for some students.  This paper has had me thinking, “Maybe we should bring Logo back?”  It’s text-based like Karol, designed for students, and we have LOTS of books and other materials available for Logo across the curriculum.

Leigh Ann DeLyser talked about her work with CS NYC (Software Engineering Students in the City). It’s a remarkable program: 1900 students applied for 120 slots, and the selection among the qualified students was by lottery. They did pre and post surveys around the first year of the program, with questions like “Would you like to study CS or SE after this semester?” or “Want to be a computer scientist or software engineer one day?” Females lost much more interest in a future computing career then males.

csnyc-girls-losing-interest

Finally, the talk that has most been in my thoughts since the conference was by Debby Fields and Yasmin Kafai on their Scratch study (Programming in the Wild: Patterns of Computational Participation in the Scratch Online Social Networking Forum). They studied 5000 visitors to the Scratch website in the first quarter of 2012. First big finding — most of them don’t do much. 55% visit but don’t do anything. The other 45% engage at a variety of levels, and the levels are pretty much gender-balanced.  The most active participants are about evenly split male-female.

where-5K-users-go

Debbie and Yasmin defined four “classes” of programming activity based on the programs that these users uploaded to the Scratch website. Booleans are a big differentiator, as are variables and random numbers. The below figure describes how much of each kind of programming block appears in each class of programs, and what percentage of programs they saw land in each class.

programming-profiles

Here’s the disappointing part: The highest level of programming activity was almost all boys. Girls don’t go much beyond the simplest programming.

scratch-where-girls-disappear

Now, we don’t know much about ages or where these students are or their ethnic group. As Debby pointed out, age and location are self-reported on the Scratch website, and it’s remarkable how many 100 year old Scratch programmers there are in Antartica. Their data suggest that informal education activities like Scratch (or Kahn Academy or MOOCs) are unlikely to reach a broad range of users. Debby pointed out that what students are building influences what students do. If Scratch programmers can tell stories without booleans, how do you motivate more advanced programming actvities if they’re only story-telling? If we want to reach more diverse students, and we want to encourage more kinds of activities, we need school. We need formal education to reach everyone.

November 21, 2014 at 8:51 am 12 comments

Where AP CS is taught in Georgia and California, and where there is none at all

2014-15_AP_CS_A_Schools

April Heard at Georgia Tech built this map for us about where AP CS is taught in the state of Georgia.  Some of it is totally to be expected. Most of the schools are in the Atlanta region, with a couple in Columbus, a handful in Macon, and a few more in Augusta and Savannah area.

But what’s disappointing is that huge swath in the south of the state with nothing.  Not a single school south of Columbus and west of Brunswick.  In terms of area, it’s about 1/3 of the state.  Albany is home to Albany State University, the largest HBCU in Georgia.  No AP CS at all there.  And Georgia is one of the top states for having AP CS.

Sure, there might be some non-AP CS teachers in South Georgia, but we’re talking a handful.  Not double, and certainly not a magnitude more than AP CS.

I suspect that much of the US looks like this, with wide stretches without a CS teacher in sight.  April is continuing to generate these maps for states that we’re working with in ECEP.  Here’s California, with big empty stretches.

AP_CS_Schools_-_California

Tom McKlin just generated this new map, which overlays the AP CS teacher data on top of mean household income in a school district.  The correlation is very high — districts with money have AP CS, and those that don’t, don’t.

AP CS Median Income

 

October 10, 2014 at 8:29 am 11 comments

Python is the most popular intro language: But what about CS Principles?

Philip Guo did an analysis of what top CS departments teach in their introductory courses (see link below) and found that Python now tops Java.  MATLAB tops C and C++ (though not if these are combined), and Scheme and Scratch are near the bottom.

Philip’s analysis did include CS0 and CS1 courses, which points to a problem for adoption of CS Principles as an Advanced Placement exam.  Scratch is the only one of the popular CS Principles languages now used in the CSP Pilots that is also being used in CS departments.  Other CSP popular languages include App Inventor, Alice, Processing, JavaScript, and Snap!.  Those don’t appear in Philip’s results to any significant degree.

It’s reasonable to say that an AP will only succeed (e.g., students will take it) if they can get credit or placement for the exam in college or university.  Typically, colleges and universities give credit for courses that are currently taught.  Will we see colleges and universities start teaching CS Principles?  Will they give credit for a course that they don’t teach? For languages they don’t teach?  Maybe we’ll see more of an influx of CSP languages and courses into colleges and universities. I predict that we won’t.

Scratch is the only visual, blocks-based language that made this list. It’s one of the most popular languages of this genre, which include related projects such as Alice, App Inventor, Etoys, Kodu, StarLogo, and TouchDevelop. The creators of these sorts of languages focus mostly on K-12 education, which might explain why they haven’t gotten as much adoption at the university level.

via Python is now the most popular introductory teaching language at top U.S. universities | blog@CACM | Communications of the ACM.

August 3, 2014 at 9:45 am 38 comments

2014 AP Exam Score Distributions: AP CS had a big increase, bimodal scores

Barb will probably do her demographic analysis in the Fall. Gas Station Without Pumps analysis on raw scores is out now and is quite interesting.

The Computer Science A exam saw an increase of 33% in test takers, with about a 61% pass rate 3, 4, or 5. The exams scores were heavily bimodal, with peaks at scores of 4 and at 1.  I wonder whether the new AP CS courses that Google funded contributed more to the 4s or to the 1s. I also wonder whether the scores clustered by schools, with some schools doing a decent job of teaching Java syntax most of what the AP CS exam covers, so far as I can tell and some doing a terrible job, or whether the bimodal distribution is happening within classes also.  I suspect clustering by school is more prevalent. The bimodal distribution of scores was there in 2011, 2012, and 2013 also, so is not a new phenomenon.  Calculus BC sees a similar bimodal distribution in past years—the 2014 distribution is not available yet.

via 2014 AP Exam Score Distributions | Gas station without pumps.

July 13, 2014 at 8:25 am 1 comment

Older Posts


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

Join 7,966 other followers

Feeds

Recent Posts

Blog Stats

  • 1,783,874 hits
August 2020
M T W T F S S
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31  

CS Teaching Tips