Posts tagged ‘broadening participation in computing’

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.


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 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

Blog Post #1999: The Georgia Tech School of Computing Education #CSEdWeek

Three and a half years, and 1000 blog posts ago, I wrote my 999th blog post about research questions in computing education (see post here). I just recently wrote a blog post offering my students’ take on research questions in computing education (see post here), which serves to update the previous post. In this blog post, I’m going to go more meta.

In my CS Education Research class (see description here), my students read a lot of work by me and my students, some work on EarSketch by Brian Magerko and Jason Freeman, and some by Betsy DiSalvo. There are other researchers doing work related to computing education in the College of Computing at Georgia Tech, notably John Stasko’s work on algorithm visualization, Jim Foley’s work on flipped classrooms (predating MOOCs by several years), and David Joyner and Ashok Goel’s work on knowledge-based AI in flipped and MOOC classrooms, and my students know some of this work. I posed the question to my students:

If you were going to characterize the Georgia Tech school of thought in computing education, how would you describe it?

We talked some about the contrasts. Work at CMU emphasizes cognitive science and cognitive tutoring technologies. Work at the MIT Media Lab is constructionist-based.


Below is my interpretation of what I wrote on the board as they called out comments.

  • Contextualization. The Georgia Tech School of Computing education emphasizes learning computing in the context of an application domain or non-CS discipline.
  • Beyond average, white male. We are less interested in supporting the current majority learner in CS.
  • Targeted interventions. Georgia Tech computing education researchers create interventions with particular expectations or hypotheses. We want to attract this kind of learner. We aim to improve learning, or we aim to improve retention. We make public bets before we try something.
  • Broader community. Our goal is to have a broaden participation in computing, to extend the reach of computer science.
  • We are less interested in making good CS students better. To use an analogy, we are not about raising the ceiling. We’re about pushing back the walls and lowering the floors, and sometimes, creating whole new adjacent buildings.
  • We draw on learning sciences theory, which includes cognitive science and educational psychology (e.g., cognitive load theory).
  • We draw on social theories, especially distributed cognition, situated learning, social cognitive theory (e.g., expectancy-value theory, self-efficacy).

I might have spent hours coming up with a list like this, but in ten minutes, my students came up with a good characterization of what constitutes the Georgia Tech School of Thought in Computing Education.

December 7, 2015 at 7:43 am 1 comment

Requirements for a Computing-Literate Society: VL/HCC 2105 Keynote

I gave a keynote talk at VL/HCC 2015 (see the program here) on Tuesday morning.  Here is the abstract, the short form outline, and a link to the slides on

Abstract: We share a vision of a society that is able to express problems and ideas computationally. Andrea diSessa called that computational literacy, and he invented the Boxer Programming Environment to explore the media of computational literacy. Education has the job of making citizens literate. Education systems around the world are exploring the question of what should all citizens know about computing and how do we provide that knowledge. The questions being asked are about public policy, but also about what does it mean to be expressive with computation and what should computing users know. The answers to these questions have implications for the future of human-centric computing.


I. Our Job: The first computer scientists set the goal to achieve a Computing-Literate Society.

II. Challenges to Achieving a Computing-Literate Society
Access and Diversity
Inverse Lake Wobegon Effect
Unanswered research questions of policymakers

III. Inventing New Kinds of Computing Education
Story #1: Contextualized Computing Education.
Story #2: Understanding the Needs of High School CS Teachers.


October 21, 2015 at 8:13 am 3 comments

New solicitation for NSF STEM-C: Emphasis on K-12 and Integration with Other STEM Disciplines

The new NSF STEM-C solicitation is out: See

The introduction to the new solicitation is visionary and speaks of the power of computing in STEM and for all students.  Here’s just the first paragraph:

The STEM + Computing (STEM+C) Partnerships program seeks to advance a 21st century conceptualization of education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) that includes computing. The “+ Computing” notation emphasizes that computing is integral to the practice of all the other STEM disciplines. In this solicitation, computing refers to the whole set of fundamental concepts and skills that will allow students to creatively apply and adapt computation across a range of application domains, to “bend digital technology to one’s needs, purposes, and will.”

The focus of this solicitation is primarily on integration of computing with other STEM education disciplines, and secondarily, on computing education in K-12 (including teachers).  The prioritization is pretty clear from the budget limits:

The maximum total budget for Track 1: Integration of Computing in STEM Education awards is $2.5 million for Design and Development awards, $1.25 million for Exploratory Integration awards, and $250,000 for Field-Building Conferences and Workshops. The maximum total budget for Track 2: Computing Education Knowledge and Capacity Building awards is $600,000 for Research on Education and Broadening Participation awards and $1.0 million for CS 10K awards.

You can get up to $1.25M USD to explore integration of computing in STEM ($2.5M to design and develop), but at most $1M to put computing into schools and at most $600K to do research on computing education and broadening participation.  We might argue about the ratios, but in the end, both tracks and all the types of proposals have enough funding to do important work that needs to happen.

January 19, 2015 at 8:06 am 3 comments

CS Education Research at Tufts: Keynote by Ben Shapiro

I recommend this talk by Ben Shapiro.  He does a great job framing his work in computing education research, and shows some terrific examples of his latest work.  I like how his work fits so well into both computing and education — he’s using education theory to help students learn important ideas in CS from distributed systems and parallelism (like latency and synchronization) that aren’t yet in the CS standards.  This is using advanced knowledge in CS and advanced knowledge in Education to explore new ground.

December 5, 2014 at 8:15 am 1 comment

Talk at Rutgers on Dec 9: Creative Expression to Motivate Interest in Computing

If you’re in the New Jersey area on Tuesday December 9:

Library & Information Science Department Guest Lecture, open to the Rutgers Community….

Dr. Mark Guzdial and Barbara Ericson

Scholarly Communication Center at Alexander Library (4th Floor lecture hall)

Tuesday, 12/9/2014, 12-1:30pm

Title: Creative Expression to Motivate Interest in Computing

Abstract:  Efforts in the US to promote learning about computer science and computational thinking emphasize the vocational benefits.  Research on end-user programming suggests that for every professional software developer in the United States, there are four more professionals who program as part of doing their job.  Efforts in other countries (UK, Denmark, New Zealand) instead emphasize the value of computing as a rigorous discipline providing insight into our world.  We offer a third motivation: computing as a powerful medium for creative expression.  We have used computational media to motivate children to study computing, to go beyond thinking about “geeks” in computing.  We use media computation to encourage teachers and introductory students at college. The approach draws in a different audience than we normally get in computer science The BS in Computational Media at Georgia Tech is the most gender-balanced, ABET-accredited undergraduate computing degree in the United States.  We use these examples to paint a picture of  using creative expression to motivate interest in computing.


  • Mark Guzdial is a Professor in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech. He is a learning scientist who focuses on computing education research. He invented the Media Computation approach to teaching introductory computing. He serves on the ACM’s Education Council, and is on the editorial boards of the “Journal of the Learning Sciences,” “ACM Transactions on Computing Education,” and “Communications of the ACM.” With his wife and colleague, Barbara Ericson, he received the 2010 ACM Karlstrom Outstanding Educator award.  He was also the recipient of the 2012 IEEE Computer Society Undergraduate Teaching Award.
  • Barbara Ericson is the Director of Computing Outreach and a Senior Research Scientist for the College of Computing at Georgia Tech.  She has worked at Georgia Tech to increase the quantity and quality of secondary computing teachers and the quantity and diversity of computing students since 2004. She is currently also pursuing a Human-Centered Computing PhD at Georgia Tech. She has co-authored four books on Media Computation.  She was the winner of the 2012 A. Richard Newton Educator Award.  She has served on the CSTA’s Board of Directors, the Advanced Placement Computer Science Development Committee, and the NCWIT executive committee for the K-12 Alliance.

December 3, 2014 at 8:11 am 4 comments

The dark at the end of the funnel: The pipeline in computing education leads to a sewage plant

Recommended blog post from Neil Brown, in response to comments from Mark Zuckerberg that the problem with getting more women into computing is solved by getting computing education earlier.  It’s not.  It used to be that we’d say, “Women aren’t going into computing because they don’t know what it is.”  Now we’d say, “Women aren’t going into computing because they know exactly what it’s like. Smart women.”

However, this is not solely an issue with the education system though that would be a familiar narrative — work force not as we would like it? Must be the fault of schools and universities. The pipeline or funnel doesn’t just need filling by shoving lots of 5 year old girls in one end and waiting for the hordes of female developers to swim out of the other end into an idyllic tech industry pool. Zuckerberg mentions that the lack of women in the industry forms a vicious cycle. This is not a problem at the education end of the funnel.

As this Fortune article describes, the industry is not welcoming to women. The Anita Borg Institute found that women’s quit rates were double those of men. Not to mention issues like maternity leave. The pool at the end of the pipeline is leaking, and for good reason. So the vicious cycle is not simply an accident of history; the women that are in the industry tend to leave. There are several reasons for this, some of which are identity and culture in the industry.

via The dark at the end of the funnel | Academic Computing.

November 29, 2014 at 8:32 am 2 comments

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