Posts tagged ‘curriculum’

Stanford is NOT switching from Java to JavaScript: I was mistaken

Last April, I wrote a blog post saying that Stanford was abandoning Java for JavaScript in their intro course (see post here).  The post was initiated by an article in the Stanford Daily. The post caused quite an uproar, way more than I expected. More than one Stanford faculty member reached out to me about it.  In particular, Marty Stepp told me that I was definitely wrong, that Stanford would mostly be teaching Java in a year. I promised that if I was wrong a year later, I would write another post correcting my first post.

It’s been a year, and I was wrong. Stanford is NOT abandoning Java for JavaScript.

I’m glad I was wrong, but it has nothing to do with Java or JavaScript.

I heard about the possible switch to JavaScript several months before from a Stanford faculty member.  When I saw the Stanford Daily article, I thought it was okay to talk about it. Marty told me at the time that I was wrong, and that the article was ill informed.  Still another Stanford faculty member wrote me about the tensions over this issue.

A lesson I learned from Mike Lach and others involved in the NGSS roll out is that all curricular decisions are political decisions.  A framework might be based on scientific expertise, but what is actually taught is about choice and vision — different opinions of how we interpret where we are now and what we want in the future.  If you haven’t heard about the politics of curricular choices before, I highly recommend Schoolhouse Politics.

I am not at Stanford, so I don’t know how curricular decisions have been made and were made here. I based my post on talking with some Stanford faculty and reading the Stanford Daily article.  I predicted that the forces pushing for JavaScript would end up changing the curriculum. They didn’t (or haven’t so far).  The Stanford lecturers are excellent, and they are the ones actually teaching those classes. I’m glad that they get to continue teaching the classes the way that they think is most valuable.

Below is what Marty wrote me about the courses at Stanford, and a link to the Stanford course offerings, showing that Stanford is still primarily a Java house:

This calendar year our CS1 Java course is still quite clearly the dominant course. Nick Parlante is also teaching two smaller experimental offerings of a Python class in our winter and spring quarters. There may be another experimental JavaScript and/or Python course on the books for fall, but it certainly will not be the main class; the CS1 in Java will continue to be so throughout all of the next academic year. Currently no plan is under way to change that, though we certainly are open to evolving our courses in the long term like any other school would be. I would like to note that the state of intro at Stanford is exactly as was described to you by myself and others 10 months ago.

http://explorecourses.stanford.edu/search?q=cs%20106a&view=catalog&academicYear&catalog&page=2&filter-coursestatus-Active=on&collapse

February 19, 2018 at 7:00 am 2 comments

Keeping the Machinery in Computing Education: Back to the Future in the Definition of CS

I’ve been excited to see this paper finally come out in CACM. Richard Connor, Quintin Cutts, and Judy Robertson are leaders in the Scotland CAS effort. Their new curriculum re-emphasizes the “computer” in computer science and computational thinking. I have bold-faced my favorite sentence in the quote below. I like how this emphasis reflects the original definition of computer science: “Computer science is the study of computers and all the phenomena surrounding them.”

We do not think there can be “computer science” without a computer. Some efforts at deep thinking about computing education seem to sidestep the fact that there is technology at the core of this subject, and an important technology at that. Computer science practitioners are concerned with making and using these powerful, general-purpose engines. To achieve this, computational thinking is essential, however, so is a deep understanding of machines and languages, and how these are used to create artifacts. In our opinion, efforts to make computer science entirely about “computational thinking” in the absence of “computers” are mistaken.

As academics, we were invited to help develop a new curriculum for computer science in Scottish schools covering ages 3–15. We proposed a single coherent discipline of computer science running from this early start through to tertiary education and beyond, similar to disciplines such as mathematics. Pupils take time to develop deep principles in those disciplines, and with appropriate support the majority of pupils make good progress. From our background in CS education research, we saw an opportunity for all children to learn valuable foundations in computing as well, no matter how far they progressed ultimately.

Source: Keeping the Machinery in Computing Education | November 2017 | Communications of the ACM

November 20, 2017 at 7:00 am 3 comments

Survey to inform the next round of Computing Curricula

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the IEEE Computer Society (IEEE-CS) with support from other organizations are producing a new curricular report titled, “Computing Curricula 2020: An Overview Report” (CC2020) in an effort to retain global currency in the computing curricula guidelines.  We reach out to you because we value your opinion in this effort. We invite you to participate in this project by responding to a brief survey found at the URL
 
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/W6W76LB
 
where you can provide your comments by responding to the survey prompts.  The survey should take between 3 and 5 minutes, we do apologize for any cross postings
 
Thank you in advance for your time and valuable contributions to this project.
 
—The CC2020 Task Force

May 22, 2017 at 7:00 am Leave a comment

We have to teach where the students are: Response to “How We Teach Should Be Independent Of Who We Are Teaching”

Valerie Barr has great insights into computing education, especially with regards to diversity (e.g., see the blog post last CS Ed Week about alternative ways to view data about diversity in computing).  I like what she has to say in her most recent Blog@CACM blog post, but I think the title is somewhat misleading.

“How we teach should be independent of who we are teaching” is clearly not true.  No one would argue for teaching Linux kernel developing via all day long bootcamps in C to middle school students.  Few people use CS Unplugged with machine learning graduate students. What Valerie is explicitly addressing in her blog post is an issue called essentialism.

As we continue efforts to diversify computing, we cannot afford to paint any group in a monochromatic way.  We have to embrace the richness of today’s student population by making what we teach meaningful and relevant to them.  There are women who want to geek out about hard-core tech, and there are men who care deeply about computing for the social good.  There are students of all genders and ethnic and racial backgrounds who will be happy with an old-fashioned lecture, and those who will thrive on active learning with examples drawn from a range of cultures and application areas. Many students will be motivated by knowing how the techniques and subject matter they’re learning fit into their future workplace or life goals.

Source: How We Teach Should Be Independent Of Who We Are Teaching | blog@CACM | Communications of the ACM

Here’s a definition of essentialism (from the Geek Feminism Wiki):

The concept of Essentialism states that there are innate, essential differences between men and women. That is, we are born with certain traits. This is often used as an explanation for why there are so few women in science and technology.

In contrast, the critical issue is who is in your classroom, what do they know, and what are their motivations. As How People Learn describes it:

There is a good deal of evidence that learning is enhanced when teachers pay attention to the knowledge and beliefs that learners bring to a learning task, use this knowledge as a starting point for new instruction, and monitor students’ changing conceptions as instruction proceeds.

This is hard to do. We can’t redesign every class for each new student population. What I think Valerie is admonishing us to do is to actually check and not assume certain interests and motivations because of the demographics of the students. When we were developing Media Computation, we did focus groups with students to get their feedback on our developing designs. We surveyed the students to get a sense of what they were interested in and what motivated them. Great work like Unlocking the Clubhouse suggested our starting point, but we did not assume that the majority-female class would have stereotypical responses. We checked with our student population, and we provided different kinds of media interactions to attract different kinds of students within our population.

It would be best if we could provide educational opportunities that meet each student’s needs individually. Short of that, we can design for the students who enter our classrooms, not for the stereotypes that we might expect.

October 24, 2016 at 7:36 am Leave a comment

Have We Reached a Consensus on a National CS Curriculum? I hope not

Alfred Thompson raises an important question here.  I agree with him — we haven’t reached consensus.  We also will never have a national CS curriculum in the United States, because we have a distributed education model.  It’s a state decision.  I do fear that there may be a de facto standard now.

But the bigger concern is at a higher level of abstraction: How should we make curricular decisions in CS (or anywhere else)?  I hope that we make our decisions based on empirical evidence.  I don’t see that we have the empirical evidence that any of the below classes ought to be the dominant model.

Oh boy are things up in the air in the HS CS curriculum these days. While we have some great advice from the CSTA (CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards) the implementation of those standards are still left up to individual schools/districts/states. Still it is easy to come to the conclusion from watching social media and some conferences that there is a consensus on a high school Computer Science curriculum. Today I got the following from a friend.

Is it an incorrect read or has a national consensus for CS in HS’s been achieved with a sequence of :

–ECS (Exploring Computer Science) Curriculum

–CS Principles/BJC Curriculum (Beauty and Joy of Computing)

–AP CS (JAVA [for now])

via Computer Science Teacher: Have We Reached a Consensus on a National CS Curriculum?.

July 8, 2014 at 9:02 am 2 comments

Mehran Sahami wins ACM Presidential Award for the CS2013 Curriculum Revision

This is really well-deserved. Mehran worked amazingly hard to pull a wide range of stakeholders together for the CS2013 curriculum. The ACM Presidential Award is discretionary — they only give it out if someone really deserves it. Glad to see Mehran getting this recognition!

  • For outstanding leadership of, and commitment to, the three-year ACM/IEEE-CS effort to produce CS2013  a comprehensive revision of the curricular guidelines for undergraduate programs in computer science

Mehran Sahami of Stanford University, recipient of the ACM Presidential Award for leading the revision of an innovative computer science curriculum that reflects the application of computing tools in a wide variety of disciplines. Sahami led the effort by ACM and the IEEE Computer Society to develop guidelines for undergraduate degree programs that redefine essential computing topics and set the standards for computer science education worldwide for the next decade. The report includes examples of flexible courses and curricula models for a broad range of higher education institutions worldwide.

 

via ACM Presidential Award – ACM Award.

April 24, 2014 at 9:22 am 3 comments

I don’t believe it: Early STEM Education Will Lead to More Women in IT

I don’t believe the main propositions of the article below. Not all STEM education will lead to more women discovering an interest in IT.  Putting computing as a mandatory subject in all schools will not necessarily improve motivation and engagement in CS, and it’s a long stretch to say that that will lead to more people in IT jobs.

I addressed the quote below, by Ashley Gavin, in my Blog@CACM post for this month: The Danger of Requiring CS in US K-12 Schools.

“You make it an option, the girl is not going to take it. You have to make it mandatory and start it at a young age,” says Ashley Gavin, curriculum director at Girls Who Code, a nonprofit working to expose more girls to computer science at a young age that has drawn support from leading tech firms such as Google, Microsoft and Intel.

“It’s important to start early because, most of the fields that people go into, they have exposure before they get to college. We all study English before we get to college, we all study history and … social studies before we get to college,” Gavin says. “No one has any idea what computer science is. By the time you get to college, you develop fear of things you don’t know. Therefore early exposure is really important.”

via Early STEM Education Will Lead to More Women in IT – CIO.com.

April 22, 2014 at 9:03 am 28 comments

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