Posts tagged ‘computer science education’
There is a flip side to Matt’s question which is even more disappointing — the programs that exist are woefully undersubscribed.
About a week ago (although it was before Sandy and seems like a year ago), I asked one of our GAs and to compile a list of graduate programs that focus on Computer Science Education or Teaching Computer Science; programs that prepare people to teach Computer Science in K-12 schools. I’m thinking that Adelphi should offer a degree with this focus. I knew that we would be the first in the region, but I didn’t expect the options to be so limited, nationwide.
NSF has reached out to the education side (yay — we really need that!) to start to get a handle on what it will take to scale CS education across the US in schools. Cameron Wilson wrote a blog post on the effort (quoted and linked below). The University of Chicago “landscape survey” that they’re asking everyone involved in K-12 CS Education to take is here. Please do fill it out and help U. Chicago get a picture of what’s going on now.
It’s a comprehensive survey — be sure to leave enough time for it. The goal is to get a handle on our overall capacity to offer professional development. So, the survey is asking for details on every offering of every professional development session across the country, including uploaded agendas (i.e., you can’t provide a URL to a webpage). We’re still trying to understand some of the terms in the survey, e.g., an on-line component seems to imply a webinar or using a tool like Piazza outside of the face-to-face time.
Ensuring wide-spread access to rigorous and engaging K-12 computer science education is a grand challenge, and this challenge revolves around key questions: How much professional development around new curricular approaches do we need and what models are out there? How are we going to directly engage with states, school districts and teachers on these issues? What will campaigns of sustained advocacy and awareness look like that will ensure the policy environment supports reform? If we are successful in scaling, how do we sustain reform?
The University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute (UEI) and the University of Chicago’s Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education (CEMSE) are carrying out an 18-month study for ACM’s partnership to better understand the answers to these questions and the availability and nature of computer science professional development for K-12 teachers.
Two recent blog posts that are pointing out an interesting need.. First, from “Gas Stations without Pumps,” a discussion about how teaching writing and programming are similar in importance and the difficulty of doing it well.
There is a strong temptation to throw the problem over the fence to a small group of experts (writing instructors or computer science lecturers) teaching first-year classes. That happened in most universities to writing instruction over the past 2 decades, with the result that students write very few papers after their freshman year in most majors, and almost never get detailed feedback on them. It is happening in computer science also, except that the freshman CS courses already do not provide any feedback on programming style other than whether things compile and work on a few test cases. (That’s like checking English papers for word count, word length, and sentence length, but not for content—sort of what scoring of SAT essays is like.)
Next, from a new blog that I just discovered: A post from “Run(),” which talks about how Udacity is helping a long-time programmer become a better programmer. The first post is pointing out how formal education is failing future programmers, because it’s not providing enough to develop real expertise. The second post is agreeing, but pointing out that maybe that’s the role of Udacity. I’m not arguing that Udacity or Coursera is dealing with teaching novices to code well — maybe it’s possible to do that via crowd-sourcing, but I don’t really see them filling that role now. I do see the possibility of Udacity of filling other holes in formal computing education, like seeing multiple languages, which doesn’t happen much now.
It showed to me that there are many people out there programming without truly understanding the essence of programming. I would bet that there are many out there just like Rick, who dabble in programming or are self-taught programmers, who have focused most of their efforts on learning programming languages that they never realized the common logical backbone that is in so many programming languages. It does venture into a somewhat theoretical space, but I think many would stand to benefit from investing some time to understand these abstractions from the get-go. It also makes me think, once again, that you can become a better programmer if you can be exposed to at least more than one programming languages from early on– so that you are not trapped in the workings of a single mental model.
The new K-12 Science Framework report from the National Research Council does mention CS, but doesn’t include it as part of the core framework. Instead, they say the below:
Computer science and statistics are other areas of science that are not addressed here, even though they have a valid presence in K-12 education. Statistics is basically a subdiscipline of mathematical sciences, and it is addressed to some extent in the common core mathematics standards. Computer science, too, can be seen as a branch of the mathematical sciences, as well as having some elements of engineering. But, again, because this area of the curriculum has a history and a teaching corps that are generally distinct from those of the sciences, the committee has not taken this domain as part of our charge. Once again, this omission should not be interpreted to mean that computer science or statistics should be excluded from the K-12 curriculum. There are aspects of computational and statistical thinking that must be understood and applied in learning about the sciences, and we identify these aspects, along with mathematical thinking, in our discussion of science practices in Chapter 3.
This is a strange argument. They are saying that, because CS teachers are a different set of teachers from science teachers, CS doesn’t belong in a science curricular framework. This isn’t an argument what should be. Explicitly, they are saying that this is the historical precedent, and they’re okay with it.
The NRC report does talk about “computational thinking” for K-9, but all the high school requirements talk about using computers, especially simulations. In reality, there’s no real computer science in the framework. ACM is complaining through the Education Policy Committee. Their point is well-taken — the NRC framework is pretty significantly different from the recent PCAST report on the role of computer science in K-12 STEM education.
Although the National Research Council’s newly released Framework for K-12 Science Education provides a helpful next step in revising the existing scientific ideas and practices for all U.S. students to know by the end of high school, ACM is concerned that computing and computer science are not yet included as a core part of the framework for mathematics and science K-12 education despite substantial input from the computing community.
“Computing is by far where the greatest demand for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs is in today’s economy,” said Bobby Schnabel, Chair of ACM’s Education Policy Committee http://www.acm.org/public-policy/education-policy-committee . ”But the major efforts by the Governors and the Academy to define what students should know for the 21st Century make little mention of the need for computer science in the core curriculum. This is a missed opportunity to expose students to a fundamental discipline that they will need for their careers as well as their lives.”
A couple of weeks ago, Barb and I were awarded Georgia Tech’s Service Award for our work with Georgia Computes!. At the same awards ceremony, across the table, was David Collard of Chemistry who was getting the Professional education award. He’s been part of an effort (described below) called cCWCS which teaches chemistry faculty how to teach better — and the program has taught over a thousand faculty!
A thousand faculty?!? I’ve blogged about how hard it is to get CS faculty to come to our workshops, either Media Computation or Georgia Computes. I’ve talked to other folks who offer workshops to CS faculty, and they say that they have to invite high school teachers, too, or they won’t have enough people to run the workshop. Why do so many Chemistry professors show up, when we struggle to get CS professors to show up at teaching workshops?
Barb had an interesting insight: Maybe it’s because Chemistry is taught to everyone. When you teach something to everyone, you have to teach it better, or at least differently than what you’d just teach to your majors who are more motivated to learn it. If you don’t change your practice, you end up flunking all the students, and that becomes a political problem on campus. CS faculty, for the most part, teach to our own. Maybe as we teach CS to more (as Eric Roberts’ post suggests), we too will have to increase our focus on teaching.
What cCWCS does
cCWCS provides support for STEM education dissemination efforts efforts. This takes the form of sponsorship of workshops and symposia, assistance with advertising and webpage development, and formation fo partnerships and networks. Please see our What cCWCS can do for YOU! webpage for more details.
Origins of cCWCS
The Chemistry Collaborations, Workshops and Communities of Scholars (cCWCS) program is the successor to the Center for Workshops in the Chemical Sciences (CWCS). CWCS was supported for 2000-2010 by a series of grants from NSF Division of Undergraduate Education Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement program. Over a ten-year period, CWCS offered over 100 hands-on, intentive and immersive five-day workshops for over 1800 participants. These workshops were designed for individuals engaged in undergraduate teaching. They incorporated lots of hands-on experiential learning and provided extensive sets of high quality tested curriculum materials.
As cCWCS, funded by the NSF TUES program, the schedule of workshops will continue but a much broader set of activities will further engage members of the professoriate networking opportunities. These include both week-long workshops, shorter workshops and symposia at conferences, support of regional initiatives, and dissemination and implementation grants. The development of new web-based communities provides further opportunities to engage the professoriate in professional development activities.
Max Hailperin passed on this story to the SIGCSE-Members list. He added that: “About 40 students will graduate from the program in May. But that will leave about 40 who haven’t. They hope to get those students through within two years. But even if they do, the students may be forced to take upper-level computer science classes from faculty who may not have taught them before.” Interesting that Aviation was going to be cancelled, too, but the local business community worked to save that program. But not CS.
It’s been a bit blue in Minnesota State University’s computer science department.
But it’s not hard to understand why.
“Everyone in the department has either been fired, retired or has resigned,” said Dean Kelley, one of those faculty members. “Two took retirement — one effective last year, one this year — one who was on a leave of absence and has resigned. As for the remaining three, the word they used was ‘retrenched.’”
Computer science as a functioning program at MSU will cease to exist at the end of this semester. So will astronomy (although they’ll still have a minor and will still offer low-level astronomy courses). And the word “journalism” will disappear entirely from the mass communications program as it transforms itself into a program of mass media.
Other programs have been retired as well. All of it, of course, was done in hopes of mitigating the damage that will be dealt to higher education across the state when the $6 billion budget shortfall is dealt with. For MSU, that means trimming roughly $10 million.
The CRA-E report on issues critical to the future of CS Education was presented and released at the Snowbird meeting last month. I blogged on Andy’s presentation of the report at the ACM Ed Council meeting earlier in the summer. (This post appeared last week, when it turned out that I was a bit early and referenced the wrong report. Thanks to Andy Bernat, I know it really and truly is done now.)
Basic Computing Knowledge: Andy van Dam from Brown University presented the findings from the CRA Education Committee on trends critical to the future of computer science, including diversity, pipeline issues, and general apathy toward the field of computer science. The report, two years in the making, details best practices to introduce students to computational thinking, to address computer-science curricula, and to identify and develop cognitive, mastery, and research skills.