Posts tagged ‘computing education’

The Connected Learner: The Teaching Research Taboo

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.

Source: The Connected Learner: The Teaching Research Taboo

July 1, 2016 at 8:03 am Leave a comment

Final Review Period for the K-12 CS Framework for K-12 Computer Science Education June 8-29

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.

Source: Review – A Framework for K-12 Computer Science Education

June 10, 2016 at 8:03 am 10 comments

Highlighting NSF STEM Education Showcase Videos

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:

There are a lot more great videos, but I’ll stop there.  Highly recommended viewing!

June 8, 2016 at 7:26 am Leave a comment

The programming guild doesn’t want you to learn to code

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.

Source: Please don’t learn to code | TechCrunch

June 6, 2016 at 7:54 am 7 comments

Motivating STEM Engagement in Children, Families, and Communities

I’ve known Dan Hickey for many years, and got to spend some time with him at Indiana when I visited there a couple years ago.  He’s dealing with an issue in this blog post that is critical to CS Education.  If we want students to value computing, it has to be valued and promoted in their families and communities.  How do we get engagement at a beyond-school level in computing education?

These issues of trajectories and non-participation in STEM learning have personal relevance for me and my own family. I was quite pleased a few years ago when my son Lucas enrolled in a computer programming class in high school. I never learned to program myself and these days it I find it quite a handicap. While I bought an Apple II+ computer in 1982 (!) and taught myself BASIC, an instructional technology professor discouraged me from delving too deeply into technology or programming (because “it changes too often”). While I still want to learn how to code, my non-participation in programming clearly helped define my trajectory towards a Ph.D in Psychology and satisfying career as a Learning Scientist.Unfortunately, the curriculum in my son’s programming class was like the typical secondary computer science instruction that Mark Guzdial chronicles in his Computing Education blog. The coding worksheets seemed to have been haphazardly created to match various videos located on the web. My son wanted to use the much more professional videos and exercises that we were able to access via my university’s account at, but his teacher insisted that my son complete the worksheets as well (so teacher could grade them).

Source: re-mediating assessment: Motivating STEM Engagement in Children, Families, and Communities

May 27, 2016 at 8:04 am Leave a comment

What’s going on with CS PhD Enrollments: Guest Blog Post from Betsy Bizot

Betsy Bizot at Computing Research Association (CRA) dug into the question that I posed about CS PhD’s, and came up with these answers. Thanks, Betsy!


Percentages are computed from those who answered the question about their postdoctoral status, about 90% of all SED respondents. They include those who said they were returning to or continuing with predoctoral employment, or who have a definite commitment for employment or postdoctoral study. Those who were negotiating with one or more possible employers were not counted.

Values in the Engineering column are from Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2014 (for the 2004 and 2009 figures) and Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2013 (for the 2013 figure), Table 42, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, available from the “data” tab at These were reported in Mark Guzdial’s Computing Education Blog

Values in the Computer Science column are computed using data from the Survey of Earned Doctorates licensed to the Computing Research Association through the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics at the National Science Foundation. The use of NSF data does not imply NSF endorsement of the research methods or conclusions contained in this report. Licensing of this data was supported by grant B2014-12 from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

May 20, 2016 at 7:31 am 2 comments

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