Posts tagged ‘computing literacy’

Teaching Computer Science Is Great, But It’s Not Enough: Calls for Functional Computer Science Literacy

The article quoted below by Florence R. Sullivan & Jill Denner calls for us to go beyond “simply giving more students access.” We need to give them “functional computer science literacy.”  By that phrase, they mean that we need to have students consider ethical and social issues.  That’s not what Andy DiSessa meant when he defined computational literacy, who talked more about using computing to understand the world.  But there may be a more mundane, critical form of literacy than either of these definitions.

Computing classes that emphasize coding over traditional technology literacy (e.g., how to use the computer) are not attracting students in the UK.  The BBC said it frankly, “Computing in schools – alarm bells over England’s classes.” In the UK, even where there is access to computing education, but students aren’t flocking to the classes.  It’s not just a matter of “time, funding, and qualified teachers.” Traditional Information and Communications Technologies classes are more attractive to English students than Computing classes, based on number of students taking GCSE’s.

Massachusetts merged their digital literacy standards into their new computer science standards.  That’s likely going to be the most successful path. We can use digital literacy as a context to introduce some CS, to draw students into CS classes. CS may not be the draw. Literacy is.

There is still much work to do, however. In an ongoing, multiyear study on computer science education conducted by Google and Gallup, researchers found that although students, parents, teachers, and school administrators value computer science, it is still not offered in many schools. This is because of a lack of time, funding, and qualified teachers. Only 25 percent of schools nationwide reported offering a computer science class in 2014-15, and while that number rose to 40 percent in 2015-16, we are still years away from providing sufficient computer science education in all schools.

As educational researchers focused on computer science learning, we welcome the push by more districts to teach the discipline to students. But we believe that our nation’s current conception of computer science education does not go far enough. It is not sufficient to simply give more students access. As computer science continues to expand, we advocate for educators to teach functional computer science literacy, just as the field of science education has spent decades refining an approach to teaching socio-scientific reasoning (which integrates learning science content in the context of real-world issues).

Source: Education Week

August 14, 2017 at 7:00 am Leave a comment

What Science Literacy Really Means: Concepts, Contexts, and Consequences

I’ve only just started reading this new report from National Academies Press, but am finding it useful and interesting.  What do we mean when we say that we want people to be scientifically literate?  It’s an important question to ask when considering the goal of computational literacy.

Science is a way of knowing about the world. At once a process, a product, and an institution, science enables people to both engage in the construction of new knowledge as well as use information to achieve desired ends. Access to science—whether using knowledge or creating it—necessitates some level of familiarity with the enterprise and practice of science: we refer to this as science literacy.

Science literacy is desirable not only for individuals, but also for the health and well-being of communities and society. More than just basic knowledge of science facts, contemporary definitions of science literacy have expanded to include understandings of scientific processes and practices, familiarity with how science and scientists work, a capacity to weigh and evaluate the products of science, and an ability to engage in civic decisions about the value of science. Although science literacy has traditionally been seen as the responsibility of individuals, individuals are nested within communities that are nested within societies—and, as a result, individual science literacy is limited or enhanced by the circumstances of that nesting.

Science Literacy studies the role of science literacy in public support of science. This report synthesizes the available research literature on science literacy, makes recommendations on the need to improve the understanding of science and scientific research in the United States, and considers the relationship between scientific literacy and support for and use of science and research.

Source: Science Literacy: Concepts, Contexts, and Consequences | The National Academies Press

October 14, 2016 at 7:42 am 1 comment

Michael Littman’s new blog: End-user programming for household devices

I’m excited about the direction that Michael Littman is taking with his new blog.  It’s a different argument for “Computing for Everyone.”  He’s not making a literacy argument, or a jobs argument.  He’s simply saying that our world is filled with computers, and it should be easy to talk to those computers — for everybody.  Nobody should be prevented from talking to their own devices.

The aspiration of the “Scratchable Devices” team is to help move us to a future in which end-user programming is commonplace.  The short version of the pitch goes like this.  We are all surrounded by computers—more and more of the devices we interact with on a daily basis are general purpose CPUs in disguise.  The marvelous thing about these machines is that they can carry out activities on our behalf: activities that we are too inaccurate or slow or fragile or inconsistent or frankly important to do for ourselves.  Unfortunately, most of us don’t know how to speak to these machines  And, even those of us who do are usually barred from doing so by device interfaces that are intended to be friendly but in fact tie our hands.

We seem to be on the verge of an explosion of new opportunities.  There are new software systems being created, more ways to teach people about programming, and many many more new devices that we wish we could talk to in a systematic way.  The purpose of this blog is to raise awareness of developments, both new and old, that bear on the question of end-user programming.

via Scratchable Devices Blog | End-user programming for household devices.

February 11, 2013 at 1:09 am 1 comment

Essay calling for digital skills to be added to liberal arts disciplines

An interesting piece, which argues that proficiency with computing is an important part of a modern liberal arts education.  The argument is a modern and updated version of the argument that Alan Perlis made back in 1961. The specific computing literacies being described go beyond computational thinkingit’s explicitly about being able to make with computing.  Steve Jobs’ made a similar famous claim that computer science is a liberal art.

Students who graduate with a degree in liberal arts should understand the basic canon of our civilization as well as their place in the world, sure, but they also need to understand how to explore and communicate their ideas through visual communication, data manipulation, and even making a website or native mobile app. If they can’t, they’ll just understand the global context of their own unemployment.

via Essay calling for new skills to be added to liberal arts disciplines | Inside Higher Ed.

October 30, 2012 at 9:34 am 4 comments

UK CS degrees rising while secondary school CS testing drops: Result is too little computing literacy

Fascinating blog post and analysis from Neil Brown.  The UK secondary school top test in CS (consider it like the US Advanced Placement Exam) is the A-level.  Fewer people are taking the CS A-levels in the UK, but more people are applying for degrees in CS and more people are entering the CS degree program.  That means that fewer people are seeing CS in high school, while there’s still rising interest in the degree. What’s the cost of fewer people studying CS at the secondary school level?  Less breadth, fewer people who know CS but don’t go into CS, fewer people who are computing literate for their careers and daily lives.  That’s not a good thing.

A-Level Computing looks like it’s on the verge of dying out. This is not good news for the discipline as a whole — even though our degree numbers seem to be doing fine in spite of the A-Level decline, ultimately it would be good to see computing strong at all stages of the educational system. As it stands we face a sort of polarisation: those with computing degrees know computing, but almost no-one without a computing degree will have done any computing. (Compare to maths, where lots of students have maths A-Level, despite not doing a maths degree.)

via Computing A-Level Statistics | Academic Computing.

September 4, 2012 at 9:08 am 2 comments

Disappointing Support for new NRC Framework for Science Standards from P21

I received the below statement via email, and I found it somewhat disappointing.  Wholehearted support for the NRC Science Standards even though they ignore computing?  From companies like Intel and Cisco?  I had not heard of P21 previously, and wonder what if there’s any connection between this group and Computing in the Core.  My guess is that there isn’t, but there probably should be.

P21’s statement on new framework for
voluntary Next Generation Science Standards
Washington, D.C. – June 5, 2012 – The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, P21, the leading national organization advocating for 21st century readiness for every student believes the National Research Council’s new framework for science standards offers an exciting new vision for 21st century teaching and learning.
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills commends the National Research Council for its Leadership States and partners developing the Next Generation Science Standards. P21 recognizes that the fields of science and engineering represent not just leading sources for economic advancement, but serve as dynamic platforms for pursuing new knowledge that can lead to a love of learning and support the development of the 4Cs – creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking. This conceptual framework can begin to reshape what students need to know and be able to do in order to cultivate 21st century leaders in science and citizenship. 
P21 particularly recognizes the conceptual shifts in the NGSS as well as the inclusion of the science and engineering practices in this new approach to standards development. 
The conceptual shifts emphasize real world interconnections in science, interdisciplinary integration across core subjects, and conceptual coherence from kindergarten through 12th grade, each of which aligns with P21’s approach to 21st century teaching and learning. More importantly, they emphasize not just the acquisition, but the application of content. P21 is pleased to see the NRC and the Leadership States embrace these shifts as each one is critical to preparing students for life and careers in the 21st century.
The eight science and engineering practices also directly align with elements of the P21 Framework. From asking questions and defining problems to using models, carrying out investigations, analyzing and interpreting data, designing solutions and using evidence, these practices form the essential elements of the critical thinking and problem solving components of the P21 Framework. In addition, P21 commends the NGSS for recognizing the importance of communicating information as a scientific practice.  
Collaboration and teamwork are essential for academic and career success; therefore, P21 is pleased to see that the requirement for collaboration and collaborative inquiry and investigation begin in kindergarten and extend throughout the standards.
P21 looks forward to working with the NRC, the P21 Leadership States and partners to ensure the next steps in this process of creating science standards continue to value not only content knowledge but also necessary skills for growth and success in the 21st century workplace.  
About P21: P21 is a national organization that advocates for 21st century readiness for every student. As the United States continues to compete in a global economy that demands innovation, P21 and its members provide tools and resources to help the U.S. education system keep up by fusing the 3Rs and 4Cs (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration and creativity and innovation). While leading districts and schools are already doing this, P21 advocates for local, state and federal policies that support this approach for every school.
P21 Members: Adobe Systems, Inc., American Association of School Librarians, Apple Inc., Cable in the Classroom, Cengage Learning, Cisco Systems, Inc., The College Board’s Advanced Placement Program (AP), Crayola, Dell, Inc., EdLeader21, EF Education, Education Networks of America, Ford Motor Company Fund, GlobalScholar, Goddard Systems Inc., Hewlett Packard, Intel Corporation, Knovation, KnowledgeWorks Foundation, LEGO Group, Mosaica Education, National Academy Foundation, National Education Association, Pearson, Project Management Institute Educational Foundation, The Walt Disney Company, Wireless Generation, Verizon Foundation, and VIF International Education.

June 13, 2012 at 7:35 am 3 comments

APM’s Marketplace: Why you should learn to code

I’m a listener of American Public Media’s Marketplace, and I was surprised to see that they’re getting on the “computing for everyone” bandwagon.  But arguing that Code Year will not only work (you’ll learn to code, if you give them five hours a week), but it will “be fun” may be promising more than they even Code Year promises.

Code Year’s minimum commitment is one new lesson every week. The company says that it will take a typical person about five hours to complete a lesson, so you’re looking at about an hour of training every weekday. That’s not so bad, considering that the lessons are free and the reward could be huge.

By helping you get acquainted with the primary force driving the modern economy, learning to code is becoming nearly as important as knowing how to read and write. One more thing — it’ll be fun!

via Why you should learn how to code | Marketplace from American Public Media.

March 12, 2012 at 10:30 am 1 comment

Everyone needs to understand computing, even (especially?) Congress

I appreciate Businessweek getting on the bandwagon, promoting the idea of computer science for all.  It’s particularly interesting to make that demand of our Congressional representatives — that those making laws about the Internet ought to understand the Internet.

There was no official slogan for the public pushback against perceived government meddling with the Web, but the unofficial one might have been a headline that appeared on the online magazine Motherboard: “Dear Congress, it’s no longer ok to not know how the Internet works.”

A growing number of people agree that not only should Congress understand how software is made, so should everyone. Designers, economists, doctors, and others with no direct connection to the technology world are embracing coding as a way to advance their careers, automate boring tasks, or just a means of self-improvement, a hobby like learning Spanish or doing crossword puzzles. And they have access to an expanding universe of free online coding tutorials from startups and universities such as Stanford and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Programming is becoming “a much more fundamental piece of knowledge, similar to reading or writing,” says Andy Weissman, a partner at New York’s Union Square Venures, which led a $2.5 million investment round for Codecademy, a site that teaches people basic programming skills.

via Computer Coding: Not for Geeks Only – Businessweek.

February 1, 2012 at 12:03 pm 8 comments

Guzdial off to ITICSE in Germany: Computing for Everyone, and CS Pedagogy with MediaComp

I am leaving tomorrow afternoon for Frankfurt, Germany, and from there to Darmstadt for the ACM SIGCSE ITICSE 2011 conference.  I’m giving the last day keynote talk (Wednesday), on Technology for Teaching the Rest of Us — it’s a variation on my “Computing for Everyone” talk, where I emphasize the kinds of technology we might build to help us to reach universal computational literacy.

The motivated student is easy to teach. You facilitate learning and get out of the way. It’s much more challenging to teach the student who is less motivated, or who needs knowledge to support their main interest. Think of the graphics designer who chooses to learn scripting to make their job easier, but doesn’t want to learn to “program” and whose many (simple) mistakes cost valuable time. Think of the secondary-school business teacher who wants to teach computer science, but who doesn’t want to learn to be a professional programmer. The number of people who need some knowledge of a domain may be much greater than those who need expertise in that domain. Providing learning opportunities tailored to the needs and interests of the learner, potentially motivating that interest where necessary, is a great and important challenge in an increasingly technological society. My talk will describe characteristics of these challenges and suggest where computing technologies and computing education research insights may provide solutions.

On Wednesday, afternoon I’m driving to Aachen University with Ulrik Schroeder, who is giving the opening keynote for ITICSE.  Ulrik has asked me to speak on Thursday about innovative CS pedagogy, and I’ve decided to give one of my favorite overview MediaComp lectures, on how most of CS can be accessed through a context like CS and talk about results at Georgia Tech, UCSD, U Ill-Chicago, and Gainesville College: Using Digital Media to Motivate Learning about Computer Science. I plan to use some pedagogical techniques that I want to emphasize: Live coding and peer instruction (with thanks.

Today’s students live in a world filled with digital media, from listening to music in digital form, viewing YouTube videos, and sharing digital photographs. If we teach computer science in terms of only numbers and words, we seem old-fashioned and out-of-touch. Our students understand computing as being primarily about digital media. In this talk, I will present tools and technique for teaching computer science through manipulation and creation of digital media. I will present some research results showing the effectiveness of these techniques at improving student engagement and retention.

I’ll be back on Friday July 1.  I’m running the Peachtree 10K road race on the Fourth of July — I’ve had a number each of the last three years, but keep injuring myself just before, so I have my fingers crossed that I’m going to make it!  On July 5, Barb and I are speaking at the Tennessee Tech University event, TTU-Tapestry.

In case I don’t have time to write blog posts next week, I already have a week and half’s worth stored up.  But I don’t know what my connectivity is going to be like until July 6.  Please excuse some ebbs in the ComputingEd flow.

June 24, 2011 at 11:34 am 2 comments

Show Me The Code

One of our graduating seniors shared the below blog post with me, and I shared it with all the faculty who teach the lower division courses in Georgia Tech’s College of Computing.  Andrew makes the strong statement in his blog post: “Students shouldn’t be able to graduate with a Computer Science degree from Georgia Tech without being able to read and write production quality code.”

My sense is that most of the faculty who have responded agree with Andrew.  Our students should know how to read significant code (e.g., walking through the whole Linux kernel in OS course).  One of our professors talked about the value of watching his own code be rewritten by a professional, expert programmer — it was stunning how much better the code got.  We could teach more about reading production code at the University, but I’m not sure that we could teach enough about writing production code at the University.  As Bjarne Stroustrup pointed out, faculty don’t build much these days.  Programming well has much in common with craft and art, and it’s not something that the University does well.

If the University could not teach reading and writing production code well, where should students learn it?  One answer is, “On the job.”  Craft is often taught as an apprenticeship.  I worry that the computing industry has given up on its professional development responsibilities.  We talk about people being lifelong learners.  Is that entirely an individual responsibility?  When I was at Bell Labs and Bellcore, there were dozens of classes that I could (and did!) take. Where has that gone?  Is everyone a contractor these days, or does industry have a responsibility to develop its human resources?

My research interest is more in the computing that everyone needs, and in that sense, I agree with Andrew, but without the word “production.”  I fear that we focus too much on having students write code, and not enough time reading code examples.  Worked examples are a powerful approach to learning that we simply make too little use of in computer science. We emphasize so much that computer science is about “problem-solving” that we only make students solve problems, as opposed to reading solutions and learning to learn from reading.  I’m preparing my CE21 proposal now, and spending a lot of time learning what educational psychologists know about how to write examples that students learn transferable knowledge from — research that we pretty much ignore in computing education.

Literacy is about being able to write and read.

As I come closer and closer to graduation, I’m looking back at the Georgia Tech Computer Science program, the things it did well and not so well.

One piece I feel is missing in the curriculum is having students read good, high quality code.  We’re asked to code alone and code in groups, code in labs and code in dorms, code on paper and code in IDEs.

It seems like the administration and professors think this skill just magically appears with practice.  I disagree, and I think we can do better.

via Andrew Ash › Show Me The Code.

April 18, 2011 at 10:32 am 20 comments

Beth Simon on why everyone should take computing

As you might recall, Beth Simon has been teaching one of the new AP CS pilot courses.  She decided to update her course materials for the second offering, and to explicitly make an argument for why students should take this course.  She makes a really interesting case (backed up with quotes from students from the first offering) for why a general introduction to computer science is useful to all majors. I am quoting from her materials, with her permission.

What does this course offer to you?
In this course, you will gain the basic level of understanding of computers and computation that we think ALL college graduates should have – to be prepared to create the future.  Last century, competence was defined by the three Rs: reading, writing and arithmetic.  They are required to pursue a professional career in any discipline.  This is the 21st century, and it’s clear that computing is poised to permeate not only our professional work, but also our society. So think of understanding and skills of computing as a fourth ‘R’, necessary for any discipline.  After this class, you will stand out from other college graduates in your preparation to work with new technologies of the future.

Students who previously took the course described some of the following things they got out of it:

  • Confidence: “It has given me confidence that I’m able to figure things out on a computer that I never would have thought that I could do.”
  • View of Technology: “Now, every time I find myself playing a video game, I actually understand what makes it work.  That these games are not magically produced, that it takes time, skill, and sufficient funds to create these games.  I appreciate these games more than before taking this class.”
  • Analysis Skills: “Programming allows a person to think more logically, thinking in order and debugging allows the user to gain valuable problem solving skills.  Aspiring to go to law school, thinking logically is extremely important and I think this has helped.”
  • Communication Skills: “In today’s technologically-centered world, using a program like Alice gives us valuable exposure to discussing things technically with other people and explaining clearly what we are trying to do.”
  • Organizational Skills: “Through Alice, I learned to stay organized and structured in anything I do, including studying for other classes.  Although at first, thinking with several concepts at a time was very difficult, now I am more confident.”

How, exactly, are you going to accomplish this?
By learning to control the computer through a basic programming language, you will get the opportunity to develop skills that will enable you to deal with general issues on the computer – in any area.  Why do you have to “learn to program”, when you may never program again in your life?  Programming is actually the simplest manner in which to deal with a computer.  Comparably, other applications you use (Photoshop, Word, Facebook, Picasa, etc.) are much more complex.  We want you to start with a simpler model, one more in your control, to gain the basic understanding of how computers work. At the end of the term, you’ll then explore one application – Excel –  to practice applying your new knowledge in a specific context. Then, in the future, no matter what new application you use, you can apply that knowledge to figuring it out and making it work for you.

January 13, 2011 at 9:09 am 13 comments

Albion College eliminates Computer Science

Budget cuts and low enrollment have led to this:

In similar letters from Paul Tobias (Chairman, Albion College Board of Trustees) sent to the Albion faculty and the Albion family, the Board of Trustees reported that they have eliminated computer science as a major at Albion College and that Albion College may continue to offer a computer science minor. In the process, an untenured Assistant Professor has been notified his position will be discontinued after the 2010-2011 academic year. The letter to students also indicated “Students who are currently enrolled in the affected programs will receive personalized advising to enable them to accomplish their academic goals and fulfill their graduation requirements for their major in a timely manner.”

via Albion College Math/CS – News.

In other news coverage, they detail the cuts overall:

Majors in computer science and physical education and minors in dance, journalism and physical education will not be part of the college’s curriculum moving forward — a reduction strategy that will eliminate about 12 courses, said Dr. Donna Randall, the college’s president.

via MLive news: Albion College officials defend decisions.

That comparison point really hit home.  Newspapers are dying, so journalism is less valued and on the chopping block.  Okay, I get that.  Physical education is the least rigorous field of education to prepare teachers for, so if you have to chop one, that’s the least valued.  And computer science is in that group.

To me, this is a sign of the dire straits of computer science and university budgets these days.  More than that, it’s a sign that computing literacy among the general public is at an all time low.  The uproar about these decisions is that they were made by a governing board, against the wishes of the faculty.  This governing board sees computer science as being so useless, so lacking in value?  The board made this decision based on “”how do we best prepare our students for meaningful … work in the 21st century?” What do they think computer science is?

May 20, 2010 at 7:23 am 6 comments

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