Posts tagged ‘computing education research’

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 (6-10 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  • Work in progress (3-4 pages): unpublished original research in progress
  • Practical report (4-6 pages): unpublished, original projects in the field of “primary and secondary computing education”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:

Sue Sentence:

Jan Vahrenhold:

March 9, 2015 at 7:44 am 1 comment

UToronto TA’s and graduate student instructors on strike: Pay and teaching are inversely correlated in Universities today

The graduate student Teaching Assistants and Instructors at the University of Toronto are on strike.  I wouldn’t normally be aware about graduate student labor disputes in other countries, but UToronto has an active CS Education research group and at least one (very) active CS Ed PhD student, Elizabeth Patitsas who was in the ICER Doctoral Consortium last year.  The website on the strike (see link below and here) is interesting in describing the situation for Canadian PhD students, both what’s different than in the US (Toronto PhD students pay tuition — it isn’t waived for them) and what’s similar.  I’ll bet that the fact 3.5% of the university budget pays for 65% of the teaching is just as true in the US.  The Chronicle had an article recently titled Teach or Perish (see link here) with this claim (that I’m quite certain is true where I’m at, success is measured in terms of salary): “While teaching undergraduates is, normally, a large part of a professor’s job, success in our field is correlated with a professor’s ability to avoid teaching undergraduates.”

Graduate students in PhD programs continue to pay full tuition – almost $8,000 – even when they are not enrolled in courses. In return, graduate students receive the ‘privilege’ of underpaid work for the University, a library card, and meetings with supervisors. All comparable universities in North America offer post-residency fees or tuition wavers for graduate students finished with course work. The university rejected our proposals for similar provisions.

CUPE 3902 membership has been without a permanent contract for more than eight months, despite carrying out more than 65% of the teaching across the three campuses at the University of Toronto.

The university allocates a mere 3.5% of its $1.9 billion budget to CUPE 3902 workers, the vast majority of which comes from tuition and taxes.

via We Are UofT.

March 6, 2015 at 8:30 am 1 comment

Starting from the students to build engaging computing courses for non-CS majors: Response to Goldweber and Walker

Michael Goldweber and Henry Walker responded to my blog posts (here in Blog@CACM and here in this blog) in the Inroad blog (see article here). My thanks to them for taking the time to respond to me. I found their comments especially valuable in helping to see where I was making assumptions about common values, goals, and understanding. It’s too easy in a blog to only get responses from people who share a common understanding (even if we violently disagree about values and goals). I found it helpful to get feedback from Dr. Goldweber and Dr. Walker with whom I don’t correspond regularly.

“Pedagogy” isn’t just “how to teach” for me. They argue that their articles are not about pedagogy but about what should be taught in a course that students might take to explore computer science. The page I linked to at the US Department of Education is about evidence-based education, not evidence-based pedagogy. The definition of pedagogy is “the discipline that deals with the theory and practice of education” (Wikipedia link). One meaning of pedagogy is the whole field of education, which is how I meant it in that piece (as in Pedagogy of the Oppressed.) What to teach is part of pedagogy. If we don’t use evidence for making decisions what to teach, we are practicing folk pedagogy.

My larger point was about the role of evidence rather than intuition. Whether we’re talking about how to teach or what to teach, I believe that we have to gather evidence (or in Paulo Freire’s terms, have a dialog with the students and stakeholders). Certainly, we want to gather evidence about the effectiveness of our teaching. We also need to gather evidence when designing education. My background is in education and HCI. For me, “Know thy users for they are not you” is a given in HCI, and “Student-centered” is a given in Education. Both saying suggest that we start with not-me: not the designer, not the teacher, not the domain expert.  But for Dr. Walker, “The starting point is identifying the themes and Big Ideas, not pedagogy.”

The unspoken assumption behind my posts, which may not be shared with Dr. Walker and Dr. Goldweber, is that any CS course for non-CS majors (whether a service, elective, or exploratory course) should aim to increase interest in the field of CS, and especially, should be designed to attract and engage women and under-represented minorities in CS. If we are happy with just having the male white and Asian students that we typically attract now, then sure, Dr. Goldweber’s right — we can just do like Philosophy does and build the course based on what we think is important.

Dr. Walker is absolutely right — there is too little time in a course to fit in everything that we think is important about CS. Even if we leave programming out, there is still too much material. How do we decide which Big Ideas to include?

In my process, I start with the students. What are their life goals and desired careers? What’s needed from computing for them to be successful? What are their values? How can I show that computer science is relevant to those values?  To choose among the ideas of computer science, we should use what the students need.  To teach the ideas that students may not know they need, we should speak to their values.

I disagree with Dr. Goldweber on these points:

The design of a non-major’s course in computing, which is not a service course for some other department/program, should belong in the hands of the CS faculty.  Students electing to explore a discipline take these courses.  Surely, discipline experts are those who can best decide what to present from the discipline.

We can just design courses for non-CS majors based on our own experience and intuition.  We shouldn’t be surprised, then, if we mostly attract white or Asian males and if we fail to engage diverse audiences.  Since all three of us (Dr. Walker, Dr. Goldweber, and me) are white, male, CS professors, I believe that we’re the wrong people to use only our own experience and intuition when designing courses for non-CS majors, for a more diverse student population. Yes, we’re disciplinary experts, but that’s not enough. It is our responsibility to design the courses — on that, we’re agreed. It’s our responsibility to design for the students’ success.

One of my favorite quotes about computing education comes from Betsy DiSalvo and Amy Bruckman. “Computer science is not that difficult, but wanting to learn it is.” (See article here.) If we our goal is for students to learn computer science, we have to figure out will make them want to learn it.

March 5, 2015 at 8:38 am 15 comments

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):


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:


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.


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 1 comment

SIGCSE 2015 Week! ECEP BOF and Ebooks and IRB and other CS Ed terms

This week is the SIGCSE 2015 Technical Symposium, the largest computing education conference in the US, perhaps in the world.  About 1300 people will be heading to Kansas City for four days of discussion, workshops, and talks.  See the conference page here and the program here.

Barbara Ericson and I will be presenting at several events:

  • I’m speaking on a panel Thursday afternoon at 3:45 on human-subjects review of experiment protocols (by Institutional Review Boards (IRB)) and the challenges we’ve had in working in high schools and working on cross-institutional projects.
  • Barb and I will be hosting with Rick Adrion a Birds of a Feather (BOF) session on state-level change at 6:30 Thursday.  This is part of our ECEP work.
  • On Friday morning at 10 am, we’ll be showing our electronic book (ebook) for high school teachers interested in learning CS Principles.  The first public showing was at the NSF BPC Community meeting in January, but that was to a small audience.  We’ll be presenting at the NSF Showcase at 10 am on the exhibition floor.
  • Barb is speaking on Friday afternoon in a panel at 3:30 on activities for K-12 CS outreach.
  • On Friday night, Barb is running her famous “How to run a computing summer camp workshop.”

As usual, Georgia Tech is sending several of us (not just Barb and me).  One of my PhD students, Briana Morrison, is on a panel on Flipped Classrooms Thursday 1:45-3 pm in 3501G.  Another of my PhD students, Miranda Parker, is part of a BOF Preparing Undergraduates to Make the Most of Attending CS Conferences 6:30-7:20 on Thursday evening.  Our colleague, Betsy DiSalvo, is speaking Friday morning 10:45-12 on a panel Research, Resources and Communities: Informal Ed as a Partner in Computer Science Education in 2505A.

This is one of my shorter stays at a SIGCSE conference.  I’ll be coming in late Wednesday and leaving Friday afternoon.  I’ve been traveling way too much lately (NSF BPC Community meeting in January, talk at Penn in early February, Tapia conference in Boston two weeks ago, AP CS Principles review meeting in Chicago this last week).  I am fortunate to be teaching Media Computation this semester, and I hate to miss so many lectures.  More, it’s hard on our family when we’re both gone.  Barb will be at SIGCSE all week, from Tuesday night to Sunday morning, so be sure to stop by and say hello to her.

March 3, 2015 at 9:23 am Leave a comment

More diversity and more progress with CS teachers vs just on-line:

Hadi Partovi of has a blog post (see here) with data from their on-line classes.  He’s making the argument that classroom teachers are super important for diversity and for student success.

Learning #1: Classrooms progress farther than students studying alone

In the graph below, the X axis is student age, the Y axis is their average progress in our courses. The blue line is students in classrooms with teachers. The red line is students studying without a classroom/teacher.


Learning #3: The ethnic backgrounds of students with teachers are impressively diverse

The data below doesn’t come from all students, because (for privacy reasons) we do not allow students to tell us their ethnic background. This chart was collected via an opt-in survey of teachers in the U.S. offering our courses, and as such is susceptible to inaccuracy. The picture it paints helps confirm our thesis that by integrating computer science into younger-aged classrooms in public schools, we can increase the diversity of students learning computer science.

February 25, 2015 at 8:03 am 5 comments

EarSketch Workshop at SIGCSE 2015

I’m an advisor on the EarSketch project, and it’s really cool. Recommended.

Next month, the EarSketch team will be offering a workshop at SIGCSE in Kansas City. This is a great opportunity to learn more about EarSketch, get hands on experience with the curriculum and environment, and learn how to use EarSketch in your classroom. This year’s workshop will also offer advice on integrating EarSketch into Computer Science Principles courses, though the workshop is of relevance to anyone teaching an introductory computing course.

For more information about SIGCSE, visit
To register for the workshop, please visit
Please contact Jason Freeman ( with any questions.

Workshop #20: Computer Science Principles with EarSketch
Saturday, March 7th, 2015
3 pm – 6 pm

Jason Freeman, Georgia Institute of Technology
Brian Magerko, Georgia Institute of Technology
Regis Verdin, Georgia Institute of Technology

EarSketch ( is an integrated curriculum, software toolset, audio loop library, and social sharing site that teaches computing principles through digital music composition and remixing. Attendees will learn to code in Python and/or JavaScript to place audio clips, create rhythms, and add and control effects within a multi-track digital audio workstation (DAW) environment while learning computing concepts such as variables, iteration, conditionals, strings, lists, functions, and recursion. Participants write code to make music, with a focus on popular genres such as hip hop. The agenda outlines the pedagogy of connecting musical expression to computation to broaden participation and engagement in computing; the underlying concept of thickly authentic STEAM that drives this approach; the alignment of the curriculum and learning environment with CS Principles; and basic musical concepts underlying EarSketch. The intended audience for this workshop is secondary and early post secondary CS educators. The course is of particular relevance to CS Principles teachers but also applicable to any introductory programming or computing course. No prior musical knowledge or experience is expected and no prior programming experience with Python or JavaScript is required.

February 14, 2015 at 8:18 am Leave a comment

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