Posts tagged ‘broadening participation in computing’

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

In Silicon Valley diversity conversations, age is left out

I’ve heard this from former students in Silicon Valley.  It’s hard to stay in the game for long, because you “age out.”

But one set of statistics has been noticeably absent: the age of those companies workers.Silicon Valleys conversation about diversity has revolved chiefly around gender and race, although the stereotype of the techie as white, male and young has written out the over-40 set as well.”Walk into any hot tech company and you’ll find disproportionate representation of young Caucasian and Asian males,” said Ed Lazowska, who holds the Bill & Melinda Gates chair in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington. “All forms of diversity are important, for the same reasons: workforce demand, equality of opportunity and quality of end product.”

via In Silicon Valley diversity conversations, age is left out – SFGate.

October 22, 2014 at 8:39 am 3 comments

Why MOOCs don’t help CS Education: Learning to lighten up

Last year, Peter Denning approached me about contributing a post to an on-line Symposium that he was going to hold in the  ACM Ubiquity magazine.  The opening statement was written by Candace Thille  — I am a big fan of Candace’s work, and I really liked her statement. I agreed to provide a response for the symposium.

My article has just been published (here). The whole symposium with all the preceding posts is here.  But the ending I quote below is not the ending it had originally.

Back in May, when I originally wrote the ending, I was concerned that so many Computer Scientists were working in MOOCs.  MOOCs don’t address the critical needs of CS education, which are broadening participation and preparing more teachers. The real worry I had was that MOOCs would suck all the air out of the room. When all the attention is going to MOOCs, not enough attention is going to meeting our real needs. MOOCs are a solution in search of a problem, when we already have big problems with too few solutions.

My original ending took off from Cameron Wilson’s (then director of public policy for ACM, now COO of call for “All Hands on Deck” to address issues of broadening participation and teacher professional development. Extending the metaphor, I suggested that the computer scientists working on MOOCs had gone “AWOL.” They were deserters from the main front for CS education.

This was the first article that I’ve ever written where the editor sent it back saying (paraphrased), “Lighten up, man.” I agreed. I wrote the new conclusion (below).  MOOCs are worth exploring, and are clearly attractive for computer scientists to work on. Researchers should explore the avenues that they think are most interesting and most promising.

I’m still worried that we need more attention on challenges in computing education, and I still think that MOOCs won’t get us there.  Critiquing MOOC proponents for not working on CS ed issues will not get us to solutions any faster.  But I do plan to keep prodding and cajoling folks to turn attention to computing education.

Here’s the new ending to the paper:

MOOCs may be bringing the American university to an end—a tsunami wiping out higher education. Given that MOOCs are least effective for our most at-risk students, replacing existing courses and degrees with MOOCs is the wrong direction. We would be tailoring higher education only to those who already succeed well at the current models, where we ought to be broadening our offerings to support more students.

Computer science owns the MOOC movement. MOOC companies were started by faculty from computing, and the first MOOC courses were in computer science. One might expect that our educational advances should address our educational problems. In computing education, our most significant educational challenges are to educate a diverse audience, and to educate non-IT professionals, such as teachers. MOOCs are unlikely to help with either of these right now—and that’s surprising.

The allure of MOOCs for computer scientists is obvious. It’s a bright, shiny new technology. Computer scientists are expert at exploring the potential of new computing technology. However, we should be careful not to let “the shoemaker’s children go barefoot.” As we develop MOOC technology, let’s aim to address our educational problems. And if we can’t address the problems with MOOC technology, let’s look for other answers. Computing education is too important for our community and for our society.

via Ubiquity symposium: MOOCs and technology to advance learning and learning research.

July 31, 2014 at 8:54 am 5 comments

Boycotting a science conference because program is all-male wrote about the boycott that’s emerging because a major chemistry conference is all male.  The linked article, from the President of the University of Cincinnati, talks about what’s needed to retain and grow women in STEM.  I wouldn’t have guessed that we’d have this problem in Chemistry before Computer Science.

The recent threat to boycott an upcoming international chemistry conference because of its all-male speaking program reminds us how far we still have to go when it comes to women in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. The challenge remains that many STEM professions remain male-dominated, especially in academia.

via Campuses must create formal networks for female STEM professors (essay) | Inside Higher Ed.

May 21, 2014 at 8:29 am 14 comments

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