Posts tagged ‘computing for everyone’
I’ve raised the concern before that the CS for All effort might mean “CS for only the rich” (see post here). Our data from Georgia suggest that few students are actually getting access to CS education, even if there is a CS teacher in the school (see post here). Kathi Fisler, Shriram Krishnamurthi, and Emmanuel Schanzer offer a Blog@CACM post where they consider how we make sure that #CS4All is equitable.
Mandating every child take a computing class is a great way to ensure everyone takes CS, but very few states, cities, or even school districts are in a position to hire enough dedicated CS teachers or offer dedicated CS classes to reach every child. Recent declarations from several major districts that “every child will learn to code” often place impossible burdens on schools. Similarly, few schools can afford to offer CS programs that require cutting-edge computers, expensive consumables, or technology that requires significant maintenance.
To truly achieve CS4All Students in a sustainable way, equity and scale are issues that must be built in by design. Similarly, initiatives have to think about differently-abled users from scratch, not just bolt them on as an afterthought. Accessibility needs to be designed into software, curriculum, and pedagogy from the earliest stages.
The “move fast and break things” culture of computing is no help here. Right now, computing education has enormous attention. That day will pass. By the time we get around to focusing on equity, we may have depleted the energy left to overhaul computing curricula. Instead, we have to think this through at the very outset. Another computing principle is that products typically get one shot at gaining users’ attention. For the foreseeable future, this is that one shot for computing education.
Top business leaders, 27 governors, urge Congress to boost computer science education – The Washington Post
I saw on Facebook that Hadi Partovi was at Congress. Now I see why — there’s an effort underway to get Congress to fund more in CS education. I’m wondering what they want to get funded. Incentives for teachers? Professional development? Pre-service education? Does someone know the details?
Despite this groundswell, three-quarters of U.S. schools do not offer meaningful computer science courses. At a time when every industry in every state is impacted by advances in computer technology, our schools should give all students the opportunity to understand how this technology works, to learn how to be creators, coders, and makers — not just consumers. Instead, what is increasingly a basic skill is only available to the lucky few, leaving most students behind, particularly students of color and girls.
How is this acceptable? America leads the world in technology. We invented the personal computer, the Internet, e-commerce, social networking, and the smartphone. This is our chance to position the next generation to participate in the new American Dream.
I’m excited by this initiative. We need to see more CS + X kinds of programs. Our Computational Media degree program has been a Computing + Digital Media program, and is wildly successful (see example post here). The challenge is to engage faculty from across campus in the initiative.
Bates last September launched a similar project, called the Digital Course Design/Redesign Initiative, for faculty members interested in adding digital and computational tools or methods to existing courses. If it becomes popular among faculty members, the initiative could help realize Bates’s plans of having interdisciplinary pathways for its digital and computational studies majors. Auer, the Bates dean, acknowledged that building those pathways is “going to require deep consultation with the faculty” — as well as some new faculty members in other departments.
Brian Drayton has now written a couple of posts critical of the CS for All initiative (one is linked below, and here’s another one), and his points are well taken. In my book on Learner-Centered Design of Computing Education, I consider several possible reasons for teaching CS to everyone. I prefer the same ones that he does, and I agree that much of the initiative is poorly justified. I do not believe that we should put CS into all schools in order to make high school graduates “job-ready” (see the White House release using that phrase).
I agree that “everyone should code” is both unrealistic and poorly justified, as it has currently been advocated. I think we could make more progress (both in expanding people’s understanding of computer science or computation, and in empowering people to adopt such knowledge as a valuable tool for growth, creativity, and employment) if we did a better job envisioning what we’d like a classroom to look like that is deeply conversant with the tools and the insights of computer science in the same way that the classroom is already deeply infused with the tools and insights of literacy and numeracy.
As I noted in my Blog@CACM post about the ECEP Cohort (see post here), some states are starting to track enrollments and sections of CS classes offered. Georgia is one of those, and I got to see the first presentation of these data at a CS Task Force meeting from Dr. Caitlin McMunn Dooley. Slides from the presentation are here.
There are five courses that currently count towards high school graduation in Georgia, and these are the ones being most closely tracked: AP CS Level A, CS Principles, IB CS Year 1, IB CS Year 2, and a Georgia-specific course, Programming Games, Apps, and Society. If you look at the counts of how many teachers are teaching of these course, it looks like good growth. There are just over 440 high schools in Georgia, so if there were one of these teachers in each high school, we could have 25-50% of Georgia high schools with CS teachers. What we don’t know is how many of these teachers are appearing in multiple categories. These are unlikely to be all unique teachers. How many AP CS teachers, for example, are also teaching CS Principles?
The data below were the most surprising to me. Georgia’s state education system is broken into 16 Regional Education Service Agencies (RESAs). We have the counts of the number of teachers of CS classes in each of those 16 RESAs, and we have the count of the number of sections of CS classes offered in each RESA. Notice that the numbers are pretty similar. For the most part, high school CS teachers in Georgia are only teaching one or two sections of CS. We have very few high school teachers who teach CS full-time. There are a few, e.g., some of our teachers who worked with us in “Georgia Computes!” were teaching five sections of CS each day. Most Georgia CS teachers are likely teaching some other discipline most of the time, and offering just a couple sections of CS.
If our goal is for all high school students to have access to CS education, we need to have more than one section of 30-40 students per teacher or per school (which is roughly the same thing right now). We need more teachers offering a section of CS and/or we need each teacher to offer more sections of CS. Right now, too few teachers offer CS to too few students.
I don’t know how common these trends are nationwide. Few states are tracking CS classes yet. Georgia is one of the leading states measuring progress in CS education. We need more information to know what’s going on.
The President’s new “CS for All” initiative can only be influenced by the federal government. In the United States, individual states make all school education decisions. We just had a meeting of our ECEP cohort (the day after the announcement), and talked about where we’re at. How close are we to CS for All? What’s involved in getting there? I did a Blog@CACM post summarizing the reports.
I’m mentioning this because tomorrow (Friday March 4), Jan Cuny will be recognized by SIGCSE for her Outstanding Contribution to CS Education (see announcement here). Jan has done more for the CS for All effort than anyone else I know. Her efforts in the NSF Broadening Participation in Computing have made significant, long-term progress in promoting CS for everyone, not just the people in CS today. It’s a well-deserved award.
Coincidentally, the day after the President’s announcement, a group of state and territory leaders who belong to the Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP) Alliance presented their five-year plans at a meeting near Washington D.C. Leaders from Alabama, California, Connecticut, Georgia, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Maryland, Massachusetts, Puerto Rico, Texas, and Utah described how they plan to grow CS, broaden participation in computing, and develop teachers. These plans give us insight into the progress toward and challenges to achieving CSforAll.
SIGCSE 2016 Preview: Parsons Problems and Subgoal Labeling, and Improving Female Pass Rates on the AP CS exam
Our research group has two papers at this year’s SIGCSE Technical Symposium.
Subgoals help students solve Parsons Problems by Briana Morrison, Lauren Margulieux, Barbara Ericson, and Mark Guzdial. (Thursday 10:45-12, MCCC: L5-L6)
This is a continuation of our subgoal labeling work, which includes Lauren’s original work showing how subgoal labels improved learning, retention and transfer in learning App Inventor (see summary here), the 2015 ICER Chairs Paper Award-winning paper from Briana and Lauren showing that subgoals work for text languages (see this post for summary), and Briana’s recent dissertation proposal where she explores the cognitive load implications for learning programming (see this post for summary). This latest paper shows that subgoal labels improve success at Parson’s Problems, too. One of the fascinating results in this paper is that Parson’s Problems are more sensitive as a learning assessment than asking students to write programs.
Sisters Rise Up 4 CS: Helping Female Students Pass the Advanced Placement Computer Science A Exam by Barbara Ericson, Miranda Parker, and Shelly Engelman. (Friday 10:45-12, MCCC: L2-L3)
Barb has been developing Project Rise Up 4 CS to support African-American students in succeeding at the AP CS exam (see post here from RESPECT and this post here from last year’s SIGCSE). Sisters Rise Up 4 CS is a similar project targeting female students. These are populations that have lower pass rates than white or Asian males. These are examples of supporting equality and not equity. This paper introduces Sisters Rise Up 4 CS and contrasts it with Project Rise Up 4 CS. Barb has resources to support people who want to try these interventions, including a how-to ebook at http://ice-web.cc.gatech.edu/ce21/SRU4CS/index.html and an ebook for students to support preparation for the AP CS A.