Posts tagged ‘computing at school’

Teaching Computer Science Is Great, But It’s Not Enough: Calls for Functional Computer Science Literacy

The article quoted below by Florence R. Sullivan & Jill Denner calls for us to go beyond “simply giving more students access.” We need to give them “functional computer science literacy.”  By that phrase, they mean that we need to have students consider ethical and social issues.  That’s not what Andy DiSessa meant when he defined computational literacy, who talked more about using computing to understand the world.  But there may be a more mundane, critical form of literacy than either of these definitions.

Computing classes that emphasize coding over traditional technology literacy (e.g., how to use the computer) are not attracting students in the UK.  The BBC said it frankly, “Computing in schools – alarm bells over England’s classes.” In the UK, even where there is access to computing education, but students aren’t flocking to the classes.  It’s not just a matter of “time, funding, and qualified teachers.” Traditional Information and Communications Technologies classes are more attractive to English students than Computing classes, based on number of students taking GCSE’s.

Massachusetts merged their digital literacy standards into their new computer science standards.  That’s likely going to be the most successful path. We can use digital literacy as a context to introduce some CS, to draw students into CS classes. CS may not be the draw. Literacy is.

There is still much work to do, however. In an ongoing, multiyear study on computer science education conducted by Google and Gallup, researchers found that although students, parents, teachers, and school administrators value computer science, it is still not offered in many schools. This is because of a lack of time, funding, and qualified teachers. Only 25 percent of schools nationwide reported offering a computer science class in 2014-15, and while that number rose to 40 percent in 2015-16, we are still years away from providing sufficient computer science education in all schools.

As educational researchers focused on computer science learning, we welcome the push by more districts to teach the discipline to students. But we believe that our nation’s current conception of computer science education does not go far enough. It is not sufficient to simply give more students access. As computer science continues to expand, we advocate for educators to teach functional computer science literacy, just as the field of science education has spent decades refining an approach to teaching socio-scientific reasoning (which integrates learning science content in the context of real-world issues).

Source: Education Week

August 14, 2017 at 7:00 am Leave a comment

Concerns about Computing in England’s Schools: What draws students and schools into CS?

The most amazing and somewhat depressing session I attended at CAS 2017 was the presentation by Peter Kemp on the Roehampton report, a detailed analysis of what’s going on with computing education in England.  As a computing education researcher, I was frankly jealous. They have access to data that I cannot get in the US — for the whole country: demographics, attendance in CS classes, outcomes on tests, family income, and schools and districts that offer CS.

Even if you just read the Key Findings (executive summary), you’ll need a bit of translation if you’re not familiar with the UK system.

  • A GCSE is a General Certificate of Secondary Education.  Students need these to be able to go on to college-level studies.  It’s part of successful completion of high school. There was a GCSE in Information and Communications Technology (ICT), but that’s going away in favor of one in Computer Science.
  • A-Levels are roughly equivalent to Advanced Placement in the US.  There are A-Levels available in Computing.
  • Pupil Premium is funding given to a school for each child they enroll that are underprivileged, roughly like free and reduced lunch in the US.

I’m going to generalize and interpret some of the findings in the Roehampton report:

  • Computing is predominantly male and wealthier in England.  Almost 27% of the GCSE computing classes had no females at all.
  • Overall, less than 30% of schools offer computer science. 29.5% of urban schools offer GCSE computing, and 22.7% of rural schools.
  • Where there is computer science, the classes are too small to be sustainable.  The tweet below is about A-levels, which are on average less than 6 students each, where the government sees 11 as a sustainable size (e.g., it’s worth the cost of the teacher to serve those students).

What’s worse, as described in the BBC article linked below, is that ICT is going away and computer science is not growing rapidly.  In the end, there may be less computing for English students than before the new CS curriculum.

There are many explanations for these results. People at CAS who were involved in developing the new CS curriculum told me that they didn’t want to swap out ICT for CS.  They wanted both, but the decision was made to have rigorous CS instead of digital literacy.  I found this timeline interesting. Though obviously biased in favor of ICT, the author has a good point.  Maybe students and teachers don’t want coding.

I’m wondering about the meaning for the US and the rest of the world. The CAS movement is ahead of many national efforts to provide computing in primary and secondary schools for all students. Part of the belief of the AP CSP and CS for All movements in the US has been that if you have good curriculum and well-prepared teachers, schools will want to teach CS and kids (of all demographic groups) will want to take CS.  CAS offers terrific curriculum and high-quality professional development (see their Tenderfoot materials, for example). And yet, one hypothesis that explains the given data is that English students prefer digital literacy to computer science.

Maybe we have been wrong in how we go about computing education. Maybe access and curriculum aren’t enough. If students and teachers have prior negative conceptions about CS and coding, maybe the excellent curriculum and professional development from CAS is not enough to draw in the students nor to convince the schools to offer CS. Why should we expect it to be different in the US?  Is it enough that President Obama made CS for All a personal initiative?  Or do stories about sexism in the IT industry counteract that?  I’m dismayed that American CS faculty are pushing against recruiting women or making a special effort to retain them (see comments at CACM).  It’s not clear that it will be different in the US.

The old ICT course, which was the main way school students learned about computing, is being scrapped, with the last GCSE entrants taking the exam next year. The subject, which was described by critics as teaching little more than how to use Microsoft Office, is being replaced by the more rigorous computer science GCSE.

But figures from Ofqual showing entries for the exam rising to 67,800 this year from 61,220 in 2016 have set alarm bells ringing. With 58,600 still taking the ICT exam, the overall number getting a GCSE computing qualification has fallen slightly.

The British Computing Society says that when ICT disappears, the computer science exam will fail to fill the gap.

“If we don’t act now,” says Bill Mitchell from the BCS, “by 2020 we are likely to see the number of students studying computing at GCSE halve, when it should be doubling. If that happens, it will be a disaster for our children, and the future of the nation.”

Source: Computing in schools – alarm bells over England’s classes – BBC News

July 12, 2017 at 7:00 am 7 comments

Attending the amazing 2017 Computing at School conference #CASConf17

June 17, Barbara and I attended the Computing at School conference in Birmingham, England (which I wrote about here).  The slides from my talk are below. I highly recommend the summary from Duncan Hull which I quote at the bottom.

CAS was a terrifically fun event. It was packed full with 300 attendees. I under-estimated the length of my talk (I tend to talk too fast), so instead of a brief Q&A, there was almost half the time for Q&A. Interacting with the audience to answer teachers’ questions was more fun (and hopefully, more useful and entertaining) than me talking for longer. The session was well received based on the Tweets I read. In fact, that’s probably the best way to get a sense for the whole day — on Twitter, hashtag #CASConf17. (I’m going to try to embed some tweets with pictures below.)

Barbara’s two workshops on Media Computation in Python using our ebooks went over really well.

I enjoyed my interactions all day long. I was asked about research results in just about every conversation — the CAS teachers are eager to see what computing education research can offer them.  I met several computing education research PhD students, which was particularly exciting and fun. England takes computing education research seriously.

Miles Berry demonstrated Project Quantum by having participants answer questions from the database.  That was an engaging and fascinating interactive presentation.

Linda Liukas gave a terrific closing keynote. She views the world from a perspective that reminded me of Mitchel Resnick’s Lifelong Kindergarten and Seymour Papert’s playfulness. I was inspired.

The session that most made me think was from Peter Kemp on the report that he and co-authors have just completed on the state of computing education in England. That one deserves a separate blog post – coming Wednesday.

Check out Duncan’s summary of the conference:

The Computing At School (CAS) conference is an annual event for educators, mostly primary and secondary school teachers from the public and private sector in the UK. Now in its ninth year, it attracts over 300 delegates from across the UK and beyond to the University of Birmingham, see the brochure for details. One of the purposes of the conference is to give teachers new ideas to use in their classrooms to teach Computer Science and Computational Thinking. I went along for my first time (*blushes*) seeking ideas to use in an after school Code Club (ages 7-10) I’ve been running for a few years and also for approaches that undergraduate students in Computer Science (age 20+) at the University of Manchester could use in their final year Computer Science Education projects that I supervise. So here are nine ideas (in random brain dump order) I’ll be putting to immediate use in clubs, classrooms, labs and lecture theatres:

Source: Nine ideas for teaching Computing at School from the 2017 CAS conference | O’Really?

My talk slides:

July 10, 2017 at 7:00 am 1 comment

Losing CS Teachers in Scotland: Latest report on CS teacher numbers from Computing At School Scotland

If you can forgive the bias in the graph (what looks like a 90% drop is actually a 25% drop), you will find this to be an important and interesting report. Scotland has one of the strongest computing at schools efforts in the world (see site here), with an advanced curriculum and a large and well-designed professional development effort (PLAN-C).  Why are they losing CS teachers?

When I wrote about this in 2014 (the trend has only continued), I pointed out that part of the problem is teachers refusing to shift from teaching Office applications to computer science.  The current report doesn’t give us much more insight into why. The point I found most interesting was that Scottish student numbers dropped 11%, and teacher numbers in the other disciplines are also declining (e.g., mathematics teachers are declining by 6% over the same period), but at a much slower rate than the CS decline of 25%. That makes sense too — if you’re a teacher and things are getting tough, stick with the “core” subjects, not the “new” one.  It’s worth asking, “How do we avoid this in the US?” and “Can we avoid it?”

We know too little about what happens to CS teachers in the US after professional development. I know of only one study of CS teacher retention in the US, and the observed attrition rate in that study was far worse than 25%. Do we know what US retention rate is for CS teachers? Maybe Scotland is actually doing better than the US?

Today we launch our latest report into the numbers of Computing Science teacher numbers across Scotland.  We have carried out this survey in 2012, 2014 and now 2016 as we are concerned about the decreasing number in Computing teachers in Scottish schools.  Nationally we now have 17% of schools with no computing specialist and a quarter of Secondary schools have only one CS teacher.

Source: Latest report on CS teacher numbers | Computing At School Scotland

September 12, 2016 at 7:26 am 2 comments

Interview with Sue Sentance on Computing Education Research: CAS TV YouTube Channel

I didn’t realize that Computing at School has their own YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/computingatschooltv

This episode is particularly relevant for this blog — Sue Sentence talking about computing education research: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-NaxSaXtRA

Some of the articles mentioned by Sue (from Miles Berry on the CAS site):

September 7, 2016 at 7:15 am Leave a comment

Crowd-sourcing high-quality CS Ed Assessments: CAS’s Project Quantum

Bold new project from the UK’s Computing at School project aims to create high-quality assessments for their entire computing curriculum, across grade levels.  The goal is to generate crowd-sourced problems with quality control checks to produce a large online resource of free assessments. It’s a remarkable idea — I’ve not heard of anything this scale before.  If it works, it’ll be a significant education outcome, as well as an enormous resource for computing educators.

I’m a bit concerned whether it can work. Let’s use open-source software as a comparison. While there are many great open-source projects, most of them die off.  There simply aren’t enough programmers in open-source to contribute to all the great ideas and keep them all going.  There are fewer people who can write high-quality assessment questions in computing, and fewer still who will do it for free. Can we get enough assessments made for this to be useful?

Project Quantum will help computing teachers check their students’ understanding, and support their progress, by providing free access to an online assessment system. The assessments will be formative, automatically marked, of high quality, and will support teaching by guiding content, measuring progress, and identifying misconceptions.Teachers will be able to direct pupils to specific quizzes and their pupils’ responses can be analysed to inform future teaching. Teachers can write questions themselves, and can create quizzes using their own questions or questions drawn from the question bank. A significant outcome is the crowd-sourced quality-checked question bank itself, and the subsequent anonymised analysis of the pupils’ responses to identify common misconceptions.

Source: CAS Community | Quantum: tests worth teaching to

May 25, 2016 at 7:51 am 3 comments

BBC is giving away 1 million mini computers so kids can learn to code: Prediction — little impact on broadening participation

I agree that these boards are cool, but I’m a geeky white guy.  I predict that they’ll have little impact in increasing access to computing education or in diversifying computing. Bare board computers are not more attractive to teachers, so we don’t get more teachers going into CS. They’re not more attractive than existing computers to women who aren’t already interested in computing. Why are people so excited about handing out bare board computers to grade school children?  Is this just white males emphasizing the attributes that attract them?  Judith Bishop of MSR (whose TouchDevelop will work on these new computers) says that she’s seen girls get engaged by these new computers, but nobody has done any research to see if that’s more than the 20% of females who get interested in computing now, or if that happens outside of the pilot classrooms.

Currently in development, the Micro Bit is a small piece of programmable, wearable hardware that helps kids learn basic coding and programming. It could act as a springboard for more advanced coding on products, such as the single-board computer Raspberry Pi, according to the BBC.

Children will be able to plug the device into a computer, and start creating with it immediately.

“BBC Make it Digital could help digital creativity become as familiar and fundamental as writing, and I’m truly excited by what Britain, and future great Britons, can achieve,” BBC director general Tony Hall said in a statement Thursday.

via BBC is giving away 1 million mini computers so kids can learn to code.

April 17, 2015 at 8:32 am 16 comments

WiPSCE 2015 Call for Papers and Participation

Barb and I went to this last year, and it was terrific — diverse and high-quality.

Call for Papers and Participation:

WiPSCE 2015

We invite you to submit a paper, report, or poster for the 10th Workshop in Primary and Secondary Computing Education (WiPSCE 2015) and join us inLondon, United Kingdom, on November 9-11, 2015. WiPSCE aims at improving the exchange of research and practice relevant to teaching and learning in primary and secondary computing education, teacher training, and related research.

Important 2015 Dates

Submission deadline: Monday, June 1

Re-submission deadline: Monday, June 8

Notification of acceptance: Monday, July 27

Submission of revised manuscripts: Monday, September 15

Early Registration deadline: Monday, October 19

Original submissions in all areas related to primary and secondary computing education are invited in the following categories:

  • Full paper (610 pages): expected to meet one of two categories – empirical research papers and philosophical research papers
  • Work in progress (3-4 pages): unpublished original research in progress
  • Practical report (4-6 pages): unpublished, original projects in the field of “primary and secondary computing education”
  • Posters (2 page abstract)

Topics include:

  • Learning: attitudes, beliefs, motivation, misconceptions, learning difficulties, student engagement with educational technology (e.g., visualization), conceptualization of computing
  • Teaching: teaching approaches, teaching methods, teaching with educational technology
  • Content: curricular aspects, learning standards, tools, educational approaches, context relevant teaching, assessment
  • Institutional aspects: establishing and enhancing computing education, professional development

Special Theme:Computing? How young is too young?
For more information, please contact:

Judith Gal-Ezer: galezer@cs.openu.ac.il

Sue Sentence: sue.sentance@kcl.ac.uk

Jan Vahrenhold: jan.vahrenhold@uni-muenster.de

March 9, 2015 at 7:44 am 1 comment

Decline in CS in Scottish Schools: CAS-Scotland 2014 Report #CSEdWeek

The 2014 report from Computing At School (CAS) Scotland is out on the status of computer science education nationwide (see the report here).  The results are remarkable and distressing.  CAS Scotland succeeded at getting computer science to be a recognized subject, with the goal of replacing the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) curriculum.  However, computer science education in schools has declined dramatically.  Roger McDermott, who pointed out the report to me, is wondering if the push to improve the rigor of computing in schools may have led to the decline.

Some of the key findings (all of the points below are quotes from the report):

  • There has been a drop of 14% in Computing Science teachers over the last two years. Overall the number of Computing Science teachers in Scotland has gone down from 866 in 2007 to 773 in 2012 and to 663 in 2014. Low uptake, staff leaving and a need to reduce staffing were reasons given by some Local Authorities for the reduction. The number of schools without any Computing Science teachers has gone up slightly from 7.6% in 2012 (27 schools) to 12 % in 2014.
  • One school mentioned that one factor was Universities don’t require Higher Computing Science as an entry requirement:

    “[We] stopped offering certificate computing over ten years ago. The Head Teacher decided that with reducing staffing, low uptake by pupils and the fact that the higher was not required for further and higher education entry that certificate classes were not viable.”

  • Another area of concern is the lack of Computing Science teachers. There are currently not enough Computing Science teachers to address demand. Ten local authorities out of the 32 said that they had problems recruiting Computing Science teachers.
  • Many schools claim to be delivering Computing Science outcomes across the curriculum, but there is evidence of confusion with ICT skills.
  • The target for PGDE Computing in Scotland (the path to becoming a CS teacher in Scotland — see this link for an explanation) this year was 25 students (with a maximum cap set at 42 places). To date, 20 offers have been accepted for courses at Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities.

The problems that CAS-Scotland is facing are quite similar to ones we’re facing the United States:  Too few CS teachers, too few teachers interested in becoming CS teachers, a high drop-out rate among CS teachers (as already seen in ExploringCS), and a lack of value at the University level which influences perception at the high school level.  A mandate to teach computer science in all schools doesn’t make it happen.  Scotland is a smaller country which makes the problem more manageable, and they are already far ahead of the United States in terms of curriculum, teacher preparation programs, and having CS teachers in schools.  (Does anyone else look wistfully at that 12% of schools not teaching CS?  Only 12%?)  We need to watch how Scotland solves these problems, because we might able to use their solutions.

December 10, 2014 at 8:03 am 6 comments

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.

Bios:

  • 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

Special Issue of ACM Transactions on Computing Education: International K12 CS with “Georgia Computes!”

The special issue of ACM Transactions on Computing Education on primary and secondary schools’ computing has just come out (see table of contents).  There are articles on the UK’s Computing at School effort, Tim Bell’s effort in New Zealand, and efforts in Israel, Germany, Italy, Russia, and several others.

This is a particularly big deal for Barb and me, because in this issue, we publish the capstone journal paper on “Georgia Computes!” and describe what resulted from our six years worth of effort.  We present both the positives (e.g., big increase in Hispanic participation in CS, teacher professional development touching 37% of all high schools in the state, great summer camp programs spread across the state) and the negatives (e.g., little impact on African American participation, little uptake by University faculty).

Georgia Computes! (GaComputes) was a six-year (2006–2012) project to improve computing education across the state of Georgia in the United States, funded by the National Science Foundation. The goal of GaComputes was to broaden participation in computing and especially to engage more members of underrepresented groups which includes women, African Americans, and Hispanics. GaComputes’ interventions were multi-faceted and broad: summer camps and after-school/weekend programs for 4th–12th grade students, professional development for secondary teachers, and professional development for post-secondary instructors faculty. All of the efforts were carefully evaluated by an external team (led by the third and fourth authors), which provides us with an unusually detailed view into a computing education intervention across a region (about 59K square miles, about 9.9 million residents). Our dataset includes evaluations from over 2,000 students who attended after-school or weekend workshops, over 500 secondary school teachers who attended professional development, 120 post-secondary teachers who attended professional development, and over 2,000 students who attended a summer day (non-residential) camp. GaComputes evaluations provide insight into details of interventions and into influences on student motivation and learning. In this article, we describe the results of these evaluations and describe how GaComputes broadened participation in computing in Georgia through both direct interventions and indirect support of other projects.

July 15, 2014 at 9:01 am 4 comments

We need computing in schools, in whatever category will work

At the NCWIT Summit this year, I heard an interesting concern.  If CS counts as a mathematics or science course towards high school graduation requirements, will that make CS even less diverse?  Should we keep CS as a business topic (elective) where the women and under-represented minorities are?

I took up that question for my Blog@CACM post for this month: Why Counting CS as Science or Math is Not Considered Harmful. I argue that our goal is universal computational literacy, with everyone using computing in every class and everyone taking CS.  I don’t really care how it gets a foothold in schools.  It was fun to write about Alan Kay, Adele Goldberg, and Andy diSessa, pointing out that they were talking about these ideas long time before computational thinking.

 

June 24, 2014 at 8:48 am 8 comments


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

Join 9,005 other followers

Feeds

Recent Posts

Blog Stats

  • 1,880,333 hits
October 2021
M T W T F S S
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031

CS Teaching Tips