Posts tagged ‘computing education’

ECEP has a new home at The University of Texas at Austin: First meeting this week at CSforAll

I can’t tell you how exciting this press release is for me.  Rick Adrion, Renee Fall, Barbara Ericson, and I started the Expanding Computing Education Pathways Alliance ( in 2012 to provide states with support as they broadened participation in computing education.  Six years later, we had 16 states and Puerto Rico involved — but we were ready to be done.  We all four had worked on previous alliances (CAITE and Georgia Computes) and felt that the movement needed new leaders.  I am so very pleased that Carol Fletcher and her wonderful team decided to carry on ECEP, and NSF has agreed to continue funding ECEP as it expands to TWENTY-THREE states and US territories!

ECEP (now based out of UT-Austin) will have its first meeting this week, at Wayne State University in Detroit (where Barbara and I first met in 1983) as part of the CSforAll summit.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded the UT STEM Center a three-year $2.5 million grant to lead the Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP) Alliance. ECEP is one of eight Broadening Participation in Computing Alliances (BPC) funded by the NSF to increase the number and diversity of students in K-16 pathways. ECEP works with state leadership teams to achieve this goal through education policy reform. First launched in 2012 through an NSF grant to Georgia Tech and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, ECEP has since grown through four phases from two states to sixteen and Puerto Rico. Building on the existing network of ECEP states noted in the map above, the ECEP leadership team is pleased to announce the fifth phase addition of six new states to the Alliance: Hawaii, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, Oregon, and Washington.

Source: National Alliance for Expanding Computing Education Pathways has a new home at The University of Texas at Austin

October 8, 2018 at 7:00 am Leave a comment

Closing the gaps is the real challenge in computing education (CIRCL Meet Mark Guzdial)

Meet_Mark_Guzdial_–_CIRCLThe Center for Innovative Research in CyberLearning (CIRCL) did a Perspectives interview with me (thanks, Quinn Burke!) that appears here.

I got to talk about the range of things I’ve done, what I’ve been surprised by and not surprised by, and what I think the big challenges to come in K-12 CS education.

In hindsight, it’s not a surprise that we’re having trouble closing the gaps.  There are increasingly more teachers who can teach CS, and there are governors and the Tech industry pushing for more CS Ed.  But in between, there are principals that don’t buy it, and the classes in the schools are few and tiny.  Most Schools of Education are still not players in promoting CS education. I predict over 85% of kids in Georgia (at least) are not getting a single experience with CS.  The percentage of schools having CS is getting higher, but real experience with CS is low.

As you might imagine, I focus on the need for more research and for reducing inequities. We have made a lot of progress on computing education, and we can make more progress still.

N.B. as Shriram points out in the comments, our claim for FCS1 about “language independent” is really about “multi-lingual.” I’ve asked CIRCL to update the piece, and I’ll try to be more careful about what I claim for FCS1 and SCS1.


October 1, 2018 at 8:00 am 11 comments

Why Don’t Women Want to Code? Better question: Why don’t women choose CS more often?

Jen Mankoff (U. Washington faculty member, and Georgia Tech alumna) has written a thoughtful piece in response to the Stuart Reges blog post (which I talked about here), where she tells her own stories and reframes the question.

Foremost, I think this is the wrong question to be asking. As my colleague Anna Karlin argues, women and everyone else should code. In many careers that women choose, they will code. And very little of my time as an academic is spent actually coding, since I also write, mentor, teach, etc. In my opinion, a more relevant question is, “Why don’t women choose computer science more often?”

My answer is not to presume prejudice, by women (against computer science) or by computer scientists (against women). I would argue instead that the structural inequalities faced by women are dangerous to women’s choice precisely because they are subtle and pervasive, and that they exist throughout a woman’s entire computer science career. Their insidious nature makes them hard to detect and correct.

Source: Why Don’t Women Want to Code? Ask Them! – Jennifer Mankoff – Medium

September 21, 2018 at 7:00 am 2 comments

International effort to improve data science in schools

I’ve been involved in this project over the last few months. (Where “involved” means, “a couple of phone conversations, and a set of emails about frameworks, standards, and curricula, and I missed every physical meeting.”) Nick Fisher has drawn together an impressive range of experts and professional societies to back the effort. It’s not clear where it’s going, but it is indicative of a growing worldwide interest in “data science” in schools.

The definition of “data science” is fuzzy for me, almost as fuzzy as the term “computational thinking.”  Does data science include computer science? statistics? probability? I think the answer is “yes” to all of those, but then it might be too big to easily teach in secondary schools. If we’re struggling to teach CS to teachers, how do we teach them CS and statistics and probability?

And if budgets and schedules are are a zero-sum game, what do we give up in order to teach data science?  For example, teacher preparation programs are packed full. What do we not teach in order to teach teachers about data science?

This group of experts knows a lot about what works in data science. Their opinion on what students need to know creates a useful measuring stick with which to look at the several data science classes that are being created (such as Unit 5 in Exploring CS). There’s some talk about this group of experts might develop their own course. I’m not sure that it’s possible to create a course to work internationally — school systems and expectations vary dramatically. But a framework is useful.

The aim of the International Data Science in Schools Project (IDSSP) is to transform the way data science is taught the last two years of secondary school. Its objectives are:

1. To ensure that school children develop a sufficient understanding and appreciation of how data can be acquired and used to make decisions so that they can make informed judgments in their daily lives, as children and then as adults

2. To inspire mathematically able school students to pursue tertiary studies in data science and its related fields, with a view to a career.

“In both cases, we want to teach people how to learn from data,” Dr Fisher said.

Two curriculum frameworks are being created to support development of a pre-calculus course in data science that is rigorous, engaging and accessible to all students, and a joy to teach.

  • Framework 1 (Data Science for students). This framework is designed as the basis for developing a course with a total of some 240 hours of instruction.
  • Framework 2 (Data Science for teachers). As a parallel development, this framework is designed as the basis for guiding the development of teachers from a wide variety of backgrounds (mathematics, computer science, science, economics, …) to teach a data science course well.

Dr Fisher said that the draft frameworks will be published for widespread public consultation in early 2019 before completion by August.

“We envisage the material will be used not just in schools, but also as a valuable source of information for data science courses in community colleges and universities and for private study.” For further information:, or visit

September 17, 2018 at 7:00 am 2 comments

South Carolina requires CS to fulfill high school requirement, and Keyboarding is no longer CS

Pat Yongpradit of shared some great news with me.  Well, it’s not really “new” — it happened back in March 2018. But it was something that both of us worked on, and it was great to finally see it happen.

South Carolina was one of the first ECEP (Expanding Computing Education Pathways) Alliance states. They had one of the first statewide summits on computing education (see blog post here). They were one of the first states to require computer science for all high school students.

The problem was that they didn’t actually require computer science. They allowed some 90 classes to count as CS, and only six actually contained CS content (like programming or algorithms). Even a course on “keyboarding” counted as “CS” under the South Carolina system. South Carolina resisted changing this requirement, as Tony Dillon of the state Department of Education argued (see this blog post). I’ve worried that other states that mandate CS would fall into a similar trap (see blog post here on that).

That changed March 28, 2018 with this memo. South Carolina has computer science standards. Keyboarding no longer counts.

It’s an interesting question how this happened.  I know that Pat and others at have been working a lot in South Carolina.  I know that our South Carolina ECEP collaborators, like Eileen Kraemer, Tiffany Barnes, and Mary Lou Maher, have been working tirelessly on the state. I also know that my involvement from Georgia had limited success.  As one Department of Education official said when I was working in Columbia, “No professor from Georgia Tech is going to tell me about AP CS.”

My suspicion is that this happened because there was significant internal and external pressure.  South Carolina wasn’t going to do much when it was just external pressure. But when it was both, there were changes made.

Pat has promised me that is going to be helping South Carolina fulfill their plans for new CS requirements.


September 10, 2018 at 7:00 am Leave a comment

High school students learning programming do better with block-based languages, and the impact is greatest for female and minority students

I learned about this study months ago, and I was so glad to see it published in ICLS 2018 this last summer.  The paper is “Blocks or Text? How Programming Language Modality Makes a Difference in Assessing Underrepresented Populations” by David Weintrop, Heather Killen, and Baker Franke.  Here’s the abstract:

Broadening participation in computing is a major goal in contemporary computer science education. The emergence of visual, block-based programming environments such as Scratch and Alice have created a new pathway into computing, bringing creativity and playfulness into introductory computing contexts. Building on these successes, national curricular efforts in the United States are starting to incorporate block-based programming into instructional materials alongside, or in place of, conventional text-based programming. To understand if this decision is helping learners from historically underrepresented populations succeed in computing classes, this paper presents an analysis of over 5,000 students answering questions presented in both block-based and text-based modalities. A comparative analysis shows that while all students perform better when questions are presented in the block-based form, female students and students from historically underrepresented minorities saw the largest improvements. This finding suggests the choice of representation can positively affect groups historically marginalized in computing.

Here’s the key idea as I see it. They studied over 5,000 high school students learning programming. They compared students use block-based and text-based programming questions.  Everyone does better with blocks, but the difference is largest for female students and those from under-represented groups.

Here’s the key graph from the paper:


So, why wouldn’t we start teaching programming with blocks?  There is an issue that students might think that it’s a “toy” and not authentic — Betsy DiSalvo saw that with her Glitch students. But a study with 5K students suggests that the advantages of blocks swamp the issues of inauthenticity.

The International Conference on the Learning Sciences (ICLS) 2018 Proceedings are available here.

August 20, 2018 at 7:00 am 10 comments

CRA Memo on Best Practices for Engaging Teaching Faculty in Research Computing Departments

I’m excited to see this memo from the Computing Research Association on the status of teaching faculty in computing departments. Computing departments are increasingly relying on teaching faculty, and it’s important to give them fair and equitable treatment.

I wrote in 2016 that “CS Teaching Faculty are like Tenant Farmers.” This memo addresses some of the issues I raised, though some are buried in the text of the memo.  I argued that teaching faculty should be involved in hiring for both traditional and teaching faculty, and that teaching faculty should serve in upper-level leadership positions.  The report does state halfway down the report, “Similarly, teaching faculty should be broadly included in faculty governance on matters related to their roles in the department, including participation in faculty meetings, voting rights on matters impacting the education mission, inclusion in evaluation of the teaching performance of other faculty, and input on hiring decisions.”  This memo is a step in the right direction.

To achieve their educational mission, computing departments at research universities increasingly depend on full-time teaching faculty who choose teaching as a long-term career. This memo discusses the need for teaching faculty, explores the impact of teaching faculty, and recommends best practices.

Essential best practices for departments include:

  • Departments should provide teaching faculty with equitable rights and resources, except in limited areas where differing job responsibilities make that inappropriate.

  • Departments should encourage teaching faculty to be equal and active partners on projects and committees with the goal of contributing to the department’s educational mission.

  • Departments should set course, preparation, student, and service loads of teaching faculty at a level that allows for innovation and quality instruction.


Source: Laying a Foundation: Best Practices for Engaging Teaching Faculty in Research Computing Departments

August 17, 2018 at 7:00 am 6 comments

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