Posts tagged ‘computing education research’
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.
My Blog@CACM post this month is on the AAAS symposium I attended on undergraduate STEM education (see post here). The symposium set up for me a contrast between computing education and other STEM education. In math and science education, faculty are more likely to get continuing professional development and to value education more than CS faculty.
Why is it different in CS? In the blog post, I suggest that part of the issue is maturation of the field. But I have another hypothesis — I suggest that most CS teachers, especially at the undergraduate level, don’t think of themselves as teachers.
In my book Learner-Centered Design of Computing Education, I use Lave & Wenger’s situated learning theory as a lens for understanding motivations to pursue computing education. Lave & Wenger say every learner aims to join a community of practice. Learners start out on the periphery of the community, and work their way towards the center, adopting the skills, values, and knowledge that those in the center hold. They might need to take classes because that’s what the community values, or maybe they do an apprenticeship. The community of practice provides the learner and the practitioners a sense of identity: “I belong with this group. I do this practice. This is who I am.”
Lijun Ni taught me the value of teacher identity. Someone who says “I’m a math teacher” (for example) will join math teacher organizations, will seek out professional development, and will more likely be retained longer as a teacher. That’s their identity.
I believe that many science and math teachers (even at the undergraduate level) feel a sense of identity as teachers. Even at research universities, those teaching the intro courses in mathematics and science are likely teachers-first. They know that they are mostly no preparing future mathematicians, biologists, chemists, and physicists. They are preparing students for their chosen professions, perhaps in engineering, medicine, or computer science. The math and science teachers belong to a community of practice of teachers, e.g., they have a goal to be like the best teachers in their profession. They have an identity as teachers, e.g., they strive to be better math and science teachers.
I suspect that CS teachers feel a sense of identity as software developers. They see themselves as programmers primarily. They see themselves as producing future programmers. They take pride in what they can do with code. They have a sense of guardianship — they want the best and brightest in their field.
There’s a difference between CS teachers as programmers vs CS teachers. Programmers train other programmers. They learn new programming languages, new techniques of programming, the latest tools. Teachers teach everyone, and they learn how to be better at teaching. We need CS teachers to be teachers. It’s less important that they know the latest industry gadgets. It’s more important that they learn how to teach “all” about CS, and how to teach that CS better.
When Grady Booch came to SIGCSE 2007, I was surprised at how excited everyone was — people still talk about that visit (e.g., see the explanation for the BJC approach to computing). I realized that, for most of the people in the room, Grady was a role model. He was at the center of community that they most cared about. Note that Grady is not a teacher. He’s an exceptional software engineer.
There are serious ramifications of a teacher with an identity as a software engineer. I had a discussion a few months ago with one of our instructors, who told me, “I just don’t get why women would even want to be in computer science. Working in a cubicle is not a great place for women to be! They should get a better job.” I was shocked. I didn’t tackle the gender issues first. I started out trying to convince him that computer science doesn’t just lead to a cubicle. You could study computer science to become something other than a software developer, to work somewhere other than a cubicle. He wasn’t buying my argument. I realized that those cubicle jobs are the ones he wants to prepare students for. That’s where he imagines the best programmers working. He doesn’t want to teach computer science for whatever the students need it for. He prepares future programmers. That’s how he defines his job — a master software engineer with apprentice software engineers.
I am calling out undergraduate CS teachers in this post, but I suspect that many high school CS teachers see themselves as software developers (or as trainers of software developers), more than as teachers of computer science. I hear about high school CS teachers who proudly post on the wall the t-shirts of the tech companies who employ their former students. That’s a software developer focus, an apprenticeship focus. That’s not about teaching CS for all.
What would it take to shift the community of practice of CS teachers to value teaching over software development? It’s an important change in perspective, especially if we care about CS for all. Not all of our students are aiming for jobs in software development.
How did other STEM disciplines do it? How did they develop a culture and community of practice around teaching?
Architecture and art is often taught in a design studio setting, where students work in a large, open space where everyone can see what everyone else is doing all the time — for collaboration, for inspiration, and for camaraderie. Colleen Kehoe wrote her dissertation on advantages of these pedagogies for learning and how they might be used in CS classes. Colleen was part of establishing the use of design gallery walks (where students work is displayed for the whole class to review and comment on) in some of our HCI classes. The challenge to using design studio pedagogies in most CS classes is that our work lives just on the screen, where the only ones who can see it are those right in front of the screen.
This semester, we built a design studio classroom using augmented reality technology, and taught a recitation section of a Media Computation course using it.
The room was created by Blair MacIntyre with students Ashwin Kacchara and Ryan Jones. They used technology from Microsoft Research called RoomAlive, which uses Kinects to scan the room and develop a model to drive the projectors. Blair and his students defined a set of virtual displays for each student’s work. When students were in the room, they programmed in Pythy from Steve Edwards, a browser-based Python IDE that supports the Media Computation library. Ryan modified Pythy so that the last picture generated from student work was saved to a database, then he and Ashwin used RoomAlive to display those images around the room. The effect was that the wall was covered with the latest of students’ work for all to see.
Betsy DiSalvo is an expert on design pedagogies. She guided the design of the room and me (as the teacher in the room) in figuring out how to use the room. Amber Solomon is a first year PhD student working with me who evaluated the project. Betsy has been working with Amber during the evaluation, since I’m conflicted as the teacher of the class. Amber’s done an amazing job, observing literally hours of the design studio recitation section and a comparison recitation section, then interviewing almost all of the students in the design studio classroom. They’ve written one article already, for the IEEE Virtual Reality 2016 Workshop on K-12 Embodied Learning through Virtual & Augmented Reality (KELVAR) which is available through the workshop website.
I had a great time teaching in the class. I was able to move around the room, pointing to student work as examples of things I wanted to highlight. I knew the room was really working the first time that a student produced a humorous picture (turning Donald Trump into a Shrek-like green). Students started laughing, grabbing one another to get their attention. Then another student pulled our his phone to Snapchat the image. How often do CS students use Snapchat to share other students’ CS work?
I’m writing this now because Amber is now finishing her interviews, and we’re already getting some surprising results. I don’t want to give away too much, because I hope she’s going to publish another fascinating paper on her results.
We were worried about the effect of the technology on the students. Would it frighten students off? Would it be too unusual? Amber says that students didn’t find it unusual or novel.
The biggest surprise for me so-far: It helped students in getting help. In any CS class, you can provide help, but it’s hard to get students to take it. There is a whole literature on help-seeking behavior. For a student to seek help, the student has to first admit that he needs help — and that can trigger imposter syndrome. Students told Amber that they were willing to ask for help because their work (and everyone else’s) was visible, so everyone knew who needed help. One student told Amber, “I liked it alot. It projects like the last image someone produced. You could see who had already, like, fully understood the topic and, like, who had completed the task and then you could ask them for help if you needed too, or people who are struggling you could help them.”
We’re grateful for support for this project from Microsoft Research and from a GVU/IPaT Engagement Seed Grant.
I’ve never been to Koli Calling, but am finding myself doing more work these days that fits the kind of work that’s presented at Koli. I’m going to serve as a reviewer for them this year, and we’re planning to submit a couple of papers there. Finland in November!
Call for papers
16th Koli Calling International Conference on Computing Education Research
Koli, Finland, 24-27 November 2016
Koli Calling (http://www.kolicalling.fi/) is one of the leading international conferences dedicated to the scholarship of teaching and learning and to education research in the computing disciplines. Koli Calling aims to publish high quality papers that combine teaching and learning experiences with solid, theoretically anchored research.
The conference is held annually at the Hotel Koli, about 60km north of Joensuu, Finland. The 2016 conference is organised by the University of Eastern Finland in collaboration with Monash University, Australia.
- Submission deadline (all categories): Monday 5 August at noon Finnish time (GMT +2h)
- Extended submission deadline (see below): Monday 12 August at noon Finnish time (GMT +2h)
- Notification of acceptance: Monday 9 September
- Submission of revised manuscripts: Monday 30 September at noon Finnish time (GMT +2h)
- Early Registration deadline: Monday 7 October
Conference: Thursday November 24 (evening) to Sunday November 27 (lunchtime)
Extended submission deadline: we offer a re-submission slack of exactly one week. If a paper is submitted by the 5 August deadline, it will be possible to submit updated versions of the paper until 12 August. Papers that are not first submitted by 5 August, or that are not reasonably complete at that time, will not be considered.
Koli Calling is a single-track conference with research, practice and systems presentations as well as keynote and invited talks. The conference language is English. The conference is known for its moderate size, intimate atmosphere, and lively discussions. To maintain this reputation, a limited number of submissions will be accepted. In 2015 about 48 participants attended the conference from 14 countries on 4 continents.
Original submissions are invited in all areas related to the conference theme and should have an explicit connection to computing education. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:
- Computing education research: theoretical aspects, methodologies and results
- Development and use of technology to support education in computing and related sciences, e.g., tools for visualisation or concretisation
- Teaching and assessment approaches, innovations and best practices
- Distance, online, blended learning, and informal learning
- Learning analytics and educational data mining
- Computing education in all educational levels, e.g., K12 context and teacher training
For more information see the conference website http://www.kolicalling.fi/
or contact Judy Sheard and Calkin Suero Montero at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are looking forward to seeing you at Koli.
Judy Sheard and Calkin Suero Montero
Program Chairs, Koli Calling 2016
My school chair, Annie Anton (most recently famous for being on a Presidential Commission on Cybersecurity), asked me to think about what I’d like to do, what I’d like to make, and what I’d like to be next — and what are the challenges to those goals. It’s a great exercise for anyone post-full professor. I have no tenure or promotion goals to achieve, but I “am not dead yet.” What comes next?
I’ve been privileged to be part of some significant efforts: From “Georgia Computes!” and “Media Computation,” to “ECEP” and our ebooks. Both of my currently-funded NSF projects (ECEP and our Ebooks) end in Fall 2017. So I have to do something else to fund graduate students and to cover the overhead of being faculty in a research university.
Below are some of the options that appeal to me. It isn’t really a wish list — there are incompatible activities on this list. This is an exploration of possibilities that particularly appeal to me. Many interesting and worthwhile problems that I might pursue aren’t interesting to me because I don’t think I have any useful leverage on the problem, or the problem is too big to make a useful dent in it..
I’m sharing it as a blog post because it might be a useful starting point for similar reflections for other post-full faculty.
To be part of a significantly-sized Computing Education Research group
The last few weeks, I’ve been part of an NSF Expeditions preliminary proposal around computing education research. It’s been a deeply engaging intellectual activity, and one that I’d like to do more often. It’s been terrific to work with a group of faculty who know computing education research (different emphases, different areas of research, but with a common core literature and research values) to have detailed discussions about what we think is known and what’s important to do next.
I see my colleagues around here doing that kind of planning in HCI and in Robotics, and it probably happens in any area with three or more faculty. I used to be a peripheral participant in meetings like that at University of Michigan, when Elliot Soloway, Phyllis Blumenfeld, Joe Krajcik, and Ron Marx were inventing technology-enhanced project-based learning for STEM. We used to have visioning activities like those when Janet Kolodner led the EduTech Institute here at Georgia Tech, but most of those faculty at the heart of the EduTech have moved on. (It’s even hard to find a digital footprint of EduTech today.)
You can do that kind of planning if you have several faculty in an area. It’s harder to do with one or two faculty and some students. It’s still hard to grow CER at scale in research-oriented computing departments. How many CER courses can one department offer, and when you hit that limit, what else will the CER faculty teach? Like any new area, it’s hard to explain it to all the other faculty, to get them to appreciate a candidate.
It would be great to be part of a Center doing the work that pushes the boundary of what we know and what we know how to do in computing education research. I know some universities that are thinking about building a Center that includes computing education research. Others, aren’t. There is some distrust of STEM Ed research — I once had a senior administrator say that an academic unit focused on STEM education research would happen on his campus “over his dead body.” I’d like to work with others to create significant, impactful projects in CER — the kinds of things that are bigger than what one or two people can do.
To create an organization/system to have a lasting impact on Computing Education in the US
Like most people in CER, I hope my work has research value in the future, but I don’t expect any of the particular products to last for long. I expect that no curriculum, assessments, tools, or standards that we’re developing for K-12 schools today will still be in schools in 20 years. All of these will have to change dramatically because the students we’ll be teaching, what we think we ought to teach, and how we teach will change. We’re at the very beginning of growth of the field, so now’s (a) when we expect to realize how little we know, and (b) when I hope that decision-makers will start asking, “What do we already know?” That’s a big part of why I wrote the book last year Learner-Centered Design of Computing Education: Research on Computing for Everyone. I wanted to put a signpost to say, “Here’s where we’ve been and where we are now in figuring out how to teach computing to everybody.”
I’ve got a few more years left in my career. I’d like to leave something of longterm use for computing education. I’m creating a CS Ed Research class at Georgia Tech, but classes come and go. We created a lot of learning science and technologies classes when we had those faculty in years past, but we can’t even teach all of those courses anymore.
We need to create organizations, systems, and programs to sustain computing education. Key to that goal is establishing CER in schools of Education. I would like to be part of that effort. Schools of Education are how we get education reforms to stick around in the United States. We need faculty doing CER in schools of Education. We need computing education in pre-service teacher education. I love the idea of defining introductory computer science classes for teachers. (Hint: “Python or Java?” is completely the wrong question, and not the least because both answers are wrong.)
To be part of growing Computing Education Research globally
My experience in India has me realizing how little I know about how most of the world’s education systems work (see blog post comparing Indian and US Education contexts). I also realize that computing education is growing all over the world. My years spent at the boundary of computer science and education suggest to me that I might have something to share in those efforts.
I was one of the co-founders of the International Computing Education Research (ICER) conference, and that’s the most rigorous CER conference around today. That’s great to have a high-quality conference, but there’s a lot more demand for CER than ICER can meet. The SIGCSE Symposium and ITICSE serve a larger audience than ICER, but are still mostly Western, mostly privileged, and mostly missing most of the world.
I’ve recently joined the program committees of both Koli Calling (Finland) and LaTICE (which has mostly Southeastern Asia, but moving to Saudi Arabia this next year and South Africa in two years). I would like to be involved in more international conferences. I want to understand what parts of the challenge of computing education are due to the design of the educational system and context, and what parts are inherent to the complexity of understanding computing.
The mechanics of being a participant in an international community are challenging. I’ve used NSF funds to go to ICER and Dagstuhl (in Germany), but that’s dissemination on a grant. How does one fund going to international conferences when it’s less about dissemination and more about scholarly exchange — me learning about their context, and us discussing research issues from different contexts? There probably are mechanisms, but beyond the ones used by a traditional US POP (Plain Ole Professor).
To focus on teaching
I still love to teach Media Computation. Every Spring, I get to teach around 150 non-technical majors about computation. There’s a set curriculum that is mostly programming-focused (about 80% intersection with my book), but I still find space to talk about Alan Turing and Claude Shannon, incompleteness theorem, and how “The Matrix” and “Sin City” were created. Could I become a full-time teaching faculty? I don’t like how they get typically treated (see this blog post), so I don’t think I would want to become teaching track.
If I did focus on my teaching, I’d need to do it in a context that values research-based CS teaching methods. I want to be able to say to my colleague teachers, “Did you see what Beth, Leo, and Cynthia are doing with peer-instruction? Or how about what Leo and Dan are doing from the last SIGCSE proceedings? Let’s try that!” The teaching faculty that I know work very hard and care deeply. Especially with today’s enrollments, few of them have the capacity to read CER, too. I know I’d get bored if I couldn’t talk about the research, try to use it, and to extend it with my colleagues.
To just focus on research
I could hunker down and just do computing education research — no more public policy, no more broadening participation work, only occasional international conferences when we have something big to report. It is so hard to make traction on broadening participation in computing these days — diversity has taken a back-burner in many CS departments because they’re just trying to keep their head above water.
There are lots of research questions I’m interested in:
- I recently attended a AAAS/NSF symposium on STEM Education (which I blogged about at Blog@CACM), and was struck again about how far behind computing education research (CER) is behind other discipline-based education research (DBER). Too much of what we know about CER is bound to particular classes and languages. (Because novices tend to attend to surface-level features, programming languages likely are important, but then we need to parameterize use the language to understand how different languages interact with student understanding.) So much of computing education is focused on implementation, and there is so much fundamental research yet to do. We know too little about misconceptions, learning progressions, alternative models of big ideas and thinking practices, and even, interaction of different natural languages with learning CS (see Yogendra Pal’s work). There is so much to do, and we are years behind other fields.
- What is the right media for teaching about computation? I’m working on a couple of different kinds of ebooks now. I’ve always been interested in interactive multimedia (see MediaText that I did as a grad student), and the work of our ebooks is promising. I’ve even been thinking about the interaction between MOOCs and ebooks — how could they aid one another?
- How do we provide education without a teacher? I think often about my trip to India and the need for learning without teachers. MIT recently produced a tablet that they literally just gave to kids in Ethiopia, and it did lead to gains in literacy (see article here). What would you put on a tablet to self-start learning about computing?
I don’t think I’d stop writing in the blog, at least in the forseeable future, for any of these paths. I like to write. The blog gives me an excuse. I hope it provides a service to readers.
(Thanks to the friends who gave me comments on earlier drafts of this document! I appreciate all of it!)
The ICER 2016 Doctoral Consortium provides an opportunity for doctoral students studying computing education to explore and develop their research interests in a supportive workshop environment with a panel of established researchers. We invite students to apply for this opportunity to share their work with students in a similar situation as well as senior researchers in the field.
Applicants to the Doctoral Consortium should have begun their research, but should not have completed it. We want people who have questions to raise with their peers and the more senior mentors, and who still have time to respond to and use the feedback in their research.
DC Co-Chairs for 2016:
Anthony Robins, University of Otago, New Zealand
Ben Shapiro, University of Colorado, USA
Contact us at: email@example.com
The DC has the following objectives:
- Provide participants a supportive setting for feedback on their research
- Offer participants comments and fresh perspectives from outside their own institution
- Promote the development of a supportive community of scholars
- Support a new generation of researchers with information and advice on research and academic career paths
- Contribute to the conference goals through interaction with other researchers and conference events
The DC will be held on Thursday, September 8, 2016 (prior to the main ICER conference, in Melbourne, Australia). Students at any stage of their doctoral studies are welcome to apply and attend. The number of participants is limited to 15. Applicants who are selected will receive a limited partial reimbursement of travel, accommodation and subsistence (i.e., food) expenses of $600 (USD). An extra $200 may be available for participants with travel expenses greatly exceeding the standard support.
- Friday 20th May – initial submission
- Friday 3rd June – notification of acceptance
- Friday 17th June – camera ready copy due
You can find more information on applying athttps://icer.hosting.acm.org/icer-2016/doctoral-consortium/
At the end of LaTICE 2016, the Vice-Rector of Al-Baha University in Saudi Arabia (see information here) welcomed attendees to LaTICE 2017. After the presentation about Al-Baha University, Sahana Murthy of IIT-Bombay stood up and asked, “Can I come to LaTICE 2017 dressed as I am right now, in Indian clothes?” The Vice-Rector replied, “No.” All women, including foreigners, will be required to cover their hair at LaTICE 2017.
That exchange was a central topic of conversation for the rest of the conference and in social media for me. I heard some female computing education researchers say that they would attend anyway. Many I heard from expressed outrage. Several were angry that the organizing committee for LaTICE would even place the conference in Saudi Arabia under these restrictions.
I spoke to Neena Thota about LaTICE 2017 (seen below after my keynote). She was one of the Chairs for LaTICE 2016 (faculty at Uppsala University and University of St. Joseph in Macau) who went to Saudi Arabia in preparation for the conference. She felt respected there and taken seriously as a scholar, but she did have to cover-up. Neena doesn’t expect that the rules for women in Saudi Arabia (see the Wikipedia page here about them) will change for a long time. Do we simply ignore the scholars there and ostracize them, for rules over which they may have no control? As in Qatar, computer science students in Saudi Arabia are majority female.
The question is no longer rhetorical for me. I was invited to attend the Program Committee meeting at LaTICE 2016 as a non-voting observer, and I have been invited to serve on the PC for LaTICE 2017. I have already had several people warn me that I should not participate. They urged me to shun the conference publicly, in order to send a clear message against the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia.
I’ve been thinking about this, and discussing it with women in my life (my wife, my daughters, and my colleagues). I’m not female, and I can’t fully understand my own biases as a male, so I sought advice from women in my life and very much appreciate all the comments I received. I’ve decided that I will serve on the LaTICE 2017 program committee.
I understand the reasons of anyone who chooses not to participate. Those who choose not to review are sending a message that LaTICE should never have gone to a place that restricts the rights of women. I can understand why women, especially from the West, might choose not to attend. I don’t think foreign women should go there, unless they’re willing to abide by the laws and customs of the place they’re visiting.
Here are my reasons for thinking it worthwhile to engage in LaTICE 2017:
- The female Computing students and faculty in Saudi Arabia might not otherwise be able to attend a conference like LaTICE. Unless LaTICE goes there, they do not get the opportunity to hear other perspectives, to share their practices, and to participate in a community of education scholars. By participating in the PC, I get to share what I know about computing education with the community of scholars in Saudi Arabia, both female and male.
- As an education researcher, I know that learning and change occurs from active dialogue, not from passive silence. I doubt that I can change much in Saudi Arabia, either by my engagement or my public refusal to engage. This semester our seminar on Learning Sciences and Technologies at Georgia Tech read Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Freire points out that privileged people can’t solve the problems of the less-privileged, nor can the privileged even “help” the less-privileged. All that any of us can do is to create dialogue which creates opportunities for learning for everyone. Freire explicitly includes teachers in that everyone. Teachers ought to aim to learn from students. Dialogue requires engagement. Reading papers and responding to them with my comments creates dialogue.
- Finally, I want to be engaged because of what I will learn. I’m curious. I learned more about India from attending LaTICE 2016 (see the first and second blog posts in this series). I would like to learn more about Saudi Arabia. It makes me a more informed and effective researcher when I am more aware of other contexts.
Neeti Pathak, one of the students with whom I work, pointed out that there is interplay between religion and culture in Saudi Arabia. I also look to my own faith in thinking about LaTICE 2017. Pope Francis, the leading figure in my faith, recently made a proclamation encouraging the Church to be more welcoming, even to those that the Church may have once ostracized (see NYTimes piece). That’s a proclamation that relates to LaTICE 2017. Everyone gains by engaging, even with those whose activities and rules we might not like.
I’m not willing to ostracize a whole country, even if they have rules and customs that I think are wrong. I’m not confident that I understand the issues in Saudi Arabia. I’m not confident that my views on them are more than my Western biases interpreting customs and values I don’t understand. I don’t feel justified in making a statement against LaTICE 2017. I see value in engaging in dialogue.
I shared earlier versions of this post with several colleagues, who are angry with me for the stance I’m taking. These are complicated issues. I am sure that there are many more perspectives that I have not yet considered. I welcome further discussion in the comments, including telling me why I’m wrong.