Posts tagged ‘computing education’
White House Call to Action: Incorporating Active STEM Learning Strategies into K-12 and Higher Education
I’m so happy to see this! I’ve received significant pushback on adopting active learning among CS faculty. Maybe a White House call can convince CS higher education faculty to adopt active learning strategies?
Active learning strategies include experiences such as:
- Authentic scientific research or engineering or software design in the classroom to help students understand the practice of science, technology, and engineering and promote deep learning of the subject matter;
- Interactive computer activities to support students’ exposure to trial-and-error and promote deep learning;Discussions to encourage collaboration and idea exchange among students; and
- Writing to generate original ideas and solidify knowledge.
Today, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is issuing a call to action to educators in K-12 and higher education, professional development providers, non-profit organizations, Federal agencies, private industry, and members of the public to participate in a nationwide effort to meet the goals of STEM for All through the use of active learning at all grade levels and in higher education.
ISTE has just released their ed-tech-influenced standards for students for 2016, and they include computational thinking — with a better definition than the more traditional ones. It’s not about changing how students think. It’s about giving students the tools to solve problems with technology. I liked the frequent use of the term “algorithmic thinking” to emphasize the connections to the history of the ideas. This definition doesn’t get to systems and processes (for example), but it’s more realistic than the broad transferable thinking skills claim.
Students develop and employ strategies for understanding and solving problems in ways that leverage the power of technological methods to develop and test solutions.
Source: For Students 2016
I review for the WIPSCE conference (an international conference on K-12 computing), and found a phrase in one of the papers I was reviewing about computing education now being mandatory in the United States. Well, not really — kinda, sorta, in someplaces. It may be hard for educators outside the US to understand the decentralized nature of computing education in the US. The individual 50 states control primary and secondary school education by law, and some of those states (notably, California, Massachusetts, and Nebraska) are “local-control” — the state itself decides to shift almost all of the education decision-making to the individual school districts (easily a hundred in a small state, multiple hundreds in large ones).
Recently the National Association of State Boards of Education has come out with a policy update about CS education in the states. Useful — except for the local control states, where the state boards of education don’t really have that much power.
While educators and parents recognize computer science as a key skill for career readiness, only five states have adopted learning standards in this area. Tides are changing, however, as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) recognizes with its call on states to provide a “well-rounded education” for students, to include computer science standards. This NASBE Policy Update outlines what states need to consider as they develop computer science standards and improve instruction, highlighting several promising state efforts already under way.
How do local control states implement reforms like computing education? In California, they’re trying to pass legislation to create an advisory board about integrating CS into education. It’s all about advice and recommendation — the state can’t make the districts do much.
California legislators are reviewing a bill that would create an advisory board to integrate computer science into education.The Assembly legislation would create a 23-person panel overseen by the state Superintendent that would deliver recommendations by September 2017 on how to improve computer science education, and establish curriculum standards for grades K-12.The panel would comprise teachers, administrators and professors across K-12 and higher education, as well as representatives from government, parent associations and student advocacy organizations. The bill is backed by Microsoft and Code.org.
Massachusetts has just come out with their new state standards. I haven’t gone through them all, but from what I’ve seen (and knowing people who helped build it), I believe that they’re really high-quality. But they’re just voluntary. The districts have to be coaxed into adopting them.
Massachusetts public schools may start using new digital literacy and computer science standards as soon as this fall. The state board of elementary and secondary education unanimously approved the standards, which are voluntary, at its monthly meeting Tuesday.”Today’s vote recognizes the importance of digital literacy and computer science to modern life, work and learning,” board chairman Paul Sagan said in a statement. “These standards will help our students think about problem solving in new ways and introduce them to valuable skills they will need in today’s economy.”
The Connected Learner is an interesting project led by Mary Lou Maher at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. Her blog post quoted below points to one of the difficulties in talking about teaching among CS faculty.
It seems relatively uncommon for research-track CS faculty to discuss their teaching at conferences and research meetings (no, I’m not saying it never happens, but it is rarely the focus, except at CS education conferences like SIGCSE and ICER). So, while we are likely aware of our colleagues’ research projects, we may not realize that our colleagues are experimenting with innovative teaching methods, trying out new learning technologies or adapting some best practices related to active learning. Because we don’t talk about it, we may think it’s not happening and this can lead to us not wanting to talk about our own innovations. We think our colleagues only value core research, so that is what we focus our own discussions on.
The final review period is June 8-29. Do engage with the review. Whatever comes out of this is likely to influence the standards for K-12 CS education in the United States for the next five to ten years.
I’m not so happy with the framework, but I recognize that it’s a collaborative process where no one is going to be completely happy (see previous post about the framework). A source of difficulty for building the framework is that we are so early in CS Education in the United States. We are optimizing for the current state, at time when that state is rapidly changing.
Here’s an instance of the general problem. Last time I was at a framework meeting as an advisor, I pushed hard to include the concept of the word bit as a learning objective in the framework. Even as quantum computing is developed, the Claude Shannon notion of a bit as a fundamental unit of information is still relevant and useful — it’s one of the foundational ideas of computing. The suggestion was vehemently rejected by the writers because current teachers fear binary. I tried to argue that we can talk about bits (e.g., what is information, how we can store/represent bits, and how we can encode information in bits) without talking about binary, but the writers argued that teachers will perceive bits as being about binary and reject it. I pointed out that the word bit did appear in the document, just not explained. It’s hard to talk about computing without talking about “bits.” In response, every instance of the word bit was removed from the framework document.
We have so few teachers today in schools (e.g., no state has high school CS teachers in more than even 30% of their high schools, we likely need ten times the number of current teachers in order to provide CS education to everyone in the United States), and we’re still just figuring out how to develop new CS teachers. Should we really make decisions about the next 5-10 years based on what current teachers dislike? Especially when too few of those teachers have had significant teacher professional development? Maybe we do — we might need to keep those teachers engaged in order to grow the programs to create more teachers.
I argued in the past that it’s about consensus not vision. It still is. The question is how much unpleasantness we can swallow and still agree on the framework.
The goals of the K-12 CS framework review process are to provide transparency into the development of the K-12 CS framework and include feedback from a diverse range of voices and stakeholders. If you haven’t already, please sign up for framework updates.Individuals and institutions are invited to be reviewers of the K-12 CS framework. Institutions, such as state/district departments of education and organizations (industry, companies, non-profits), are responsible for selecting an individual or a group to represent the institution.
Last month, NSF hosted a STEM Education video showcase. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed and learned from these. They’re only 3 minutes each, so it’s a brief investment in getting a sense of a project — and there are a lot of interesting projects here. Here are some of my notes on what I found that was cool:
- You can find the CS education videos here, but there’s a lot more relevant stuff beyond that category, like the videos on integrating STEM and CS.
- Jill Denner’s video on the Digital NEST changed my mind about the role of informal education in broadening participation in computing. I’ve worried that afterschool computer clubs and MakerSpaces are mostly for the privileged (as in this blog post). Jill’s video was a compelling picture Hispanic/Latino/a youth in technology education.
- Learning scientists are increasingly exploring the role of embodiment in learning. The project on integrating dance and CS was the first example that I’ve seen in how to do this in CS — exciting work!
- I was pleased to see Sarah Wille’s work on providing computing education to students with learning disabilities. It’s a really important area that we need for CS for All. I have worked with Sarah on BASICS and didn’t know about this project.
- Celine Latulipe had a video on her lightweight teams that she uses in a Media Computation class (yay!) which is a short version of her SIGCSE 2016 paper.
- Sara Dunton did a great job organizing the ECEP video.
There are a lot more great videos, but I’ll stop there. Highly recommended viewing!
Medieval guilds were associations of craftsmen who carefully protected who had could practice the craft. In the end, they faded away because (as Wikipedia describes), “the guilds negatively affected quality, skills, and innovation.” The economy grew after the guilds faded away.
The below linked article in TechCrunch is an example of programming craftsmen protecting their turf, the way that the guilds did hundreds of years ago. I have responded to some of these complaints before, like the one that suggested that people should just be users and not programmers. “You can’t do it as well as we can” and “you’ll just make a mess of it” are the kinds of complaints that professionals have made over the centuries to keep others from adopting their practice. Of course, both of those are correct statements, as they are true whenever you’re talking about learners. They are correctable problems.
The below quote is particularly aggravating because it says that programming is only right for a certain “type of person.” For the technology industry, that usually equates to privileged white or Asian males.
When has it ever worked to say, “You shouldn’t learn X” especially if X is valuable and useful?
Don’t get me wrong; I do believe that engineering and programming are important skills. But only in the right context, and only for the type of person willing to put in the necessary blood, sweat and tears to succeed. The same could be said of many other skills. I would no more urge everyone to learn to program than I would urge everyone to learn to plumb.