Posts tagged ‘K-12’

Desperate need for more expertise in computing, across sectors

The argument below for more computing education is a bit different from the most common one.  Yes, industry needs more computer scientists and engineers, so we need to draw more people into those fields.  Starting in high school (and earlier) is important because students are getting turned off to computing careers as early as middle school (see Yardi & Bruckman, ICER 2007), so we need to give them a chance to see real computing earlier so that they can give it a fair consideration.

But this piece in Education Week (thanks to John Pane for pointing it out to me!) is also arguing that “all sectors” are “demanding more and more expertise in computing.”  Even if you’re not going to become a professional software developer, your field is going to need you to know more about computing. We should do this in K-12, then.  This is really an argument for computing for everyone.  Yes!

“The demand by industry is far greater than supply. Its not just Google and Microsoft. Its all sectors: health care, transportation, manufacturing. Every sector is demanding more and more expertise in computing.” Private companies say they are developing programs to mentor students and sustain interest in computer science and engineering.

via Education Week: Educators, Innovators Call for Earlier Introduction to Computer Science.

February 29, 2012 at 7:18 am 8 comments

A conference on primary and secondary computing education research

Interesting — a computing education research conference in Germany, explicitly focused on pre-college computing education.

CFP: The 7th Workshop in Primary and Secondary Computing Education
WiPSCE 2012
November 8-9, 2012, Hamburg, Germany

We invite you to submit a paper for the 7th Workshop in Primary and
Secondary Computing Education (WiPSCE) and join us in Hamburg, Germany,
in November 2012.
Research in primary and secondary computing education is a young field
with strong ties to national educational systems. Nevertheless, its
theories, methods, and results are internationally applicable and of
interest to both researchers and practitioners in this field. WiPSCE has
its roots in a long-running workshop of the German computing education
community and now – based on this ten year tradition – aims at improving
the exchange of research and practice relevant to teaching and learning
in primary and secondary computing education, teacher training, and
related research.
The 2012 workshop will be located in the exciting city of Hamburg –
Germany’s so-called “Gateway to the World”. It is organized by the
University of Hamburg in collaboration with the University of Potsdam.

WiPSCE is the workshop of the special interest group in Secondary
Computing Education of the German Association of Informatics (GI) and
originates from the German “Workshop der GI-Fachgruppe Didaktik der
Informatik”. WiPSCE aims to publish high quality research that is
theoretically and empirically anchored and involves innovative teaching
and learning approaches in primary and secondary computing education.
WiPSCE is a single track workshop with research, practice, and systems
presentations as well as keynote speeches. The workshop language is
English. The workshop is known for its moderate size and lively
discussions, consequently a limited number of submissions will be accepted.

Original submissions in all areas related to primary and secondary
computing education are invited. Topics of interest include, but are not
limited to:
* Learning: attitudes, beliefs, motivation, misconceptions, learning
difficulties, student engagement with educational technology (e.g.
visualization), conceptualization of computing
* Teaching: teaching approaches, teaching methods, teaching with
educational technology
* Content: curricular aspects, learning standards, tools, didactical
approaches, context relevant teaching, assessment
* Institutional aspects: establishing and enhancing computing education,
professional development

“Grand Challenges in Primary and Secondary Computing Education”

What are the grand challenges in primary and secondary education within
the next decade? Which issues will unfold, persist or dominate in the
near future? Which research questions need to be addressed? Which
obstacles need to be overcome?
Well explained analyses, theories, and opinions are highly welcome for
this special session at WiPSCE 2012.

Submissions are invited for the following categories:
Full Paper (6-12 pages)
Full papers are expected to meet one of the two categories:
* Empirical Research Paper: Unpublished, original, theoretically
anchored research relevant to the topics of the workshop. Empirical
research papers are expected to be of high quality and present novel
arguments, syntheses, results, methods or tools.
* Theoretical and Philosophical Research Paper: Unpublished, original,
theoretically anchored research which includes dissemination and
discussion of new ideas, theoretical analyses, or the proposition of an
original theory relevant to the topics of the workshop.

Short Paper (3-4 pages)
Short papers are expected to present unpublished, original work in
progress related to empirical or theoretical research relevant to the
topics of the workshop.

Practical or Working Group Report (6-12 pages)
Reports are expected to present unpublished, original on-going work
undertaken by larger groups as part of long-term, cooperative research

Demo/Poster Abstract (2 pages)
Demo/Poster abstracts should present emerging ideas for future research,
teaching practice, or tools.
Submissions are required to follow the standard ACM two-column format
with a 9-point font. The review process will be double-blind, so authors
are requested not to include their names and affiliations when
submitting and to cite their prior work appropriately. Detailed
submission information is available at

To ensure selection of high quality contributions, submissions for Full
Papers are reviewed by at least three members of the international
Program Committee. Short Paper submissions and Demo/Poster Abstracts are
reviewed by at least two members of the Program Committee. The WiPSCE
Program Committee takes pride in considering submissions thoroughly and
providing constructive feedback.
All accepted contributions will be available as electronic
pre-proceedings prior to the workshop. The papers from the workshop will
be indexed and are planned to be available through the ACM Digital
Library (approval pending). A printed volume of the proceedings can be
ordered after the workshop.
At least one author must register and present accepted papers in order
for the paper to be included in the workshop proceedings.

Submission deadline: June 11, 2012
Re-submission deadline (*): June 24, 2012
Notification of acceptance: August 30, 2012

Submission of revised manuscripts: October 1, 2012
Early Registration deadline: October 15, 2012

Registration and Welcome reception:
Evening of November 7, 2012
Workshop: November 8-9, 2012

(*) We offer a re-submission slack. This means that title and abstract
of papers must be submitted by the June 11 deadline, but it will be
possible to upload the full versions of papers until June 24. Paper
abstracts that are not submitted by the June 11 deadline will not be

Maria Knobelsdorf (University of Potsdam, Germany)
Ralf Romeike (University of Potsdam, Germany)

Michal Armoni (Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel)
Tim Bell (University of Canterbury, New Zealand)
Roger Boyle (University of Leeds, UK)
Torsten Brinda (University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany)
Michael E. Caspersen (University of Aarhus, Denmark)
Paul Curzon (Queen Mary University of London, UK)
Ira Diethelm (University of Oldenburg, Germany)
Judith Gal-Ezer (The Open University of Israel, Israel)
Mark Guzdial (Georgia Institute of Technology, USA)
Peter Hubwieser (University of Technology, Munich, Germany)
Michael Kölling (University of Kent, UK)
Yifat Ben-David Kolikant (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel)
Johannes Magenheim (University of Paderborn, Germany)
Ulrik Schroeder (RWTH Aachen University, Germany)
Carsten Schulte (Freie Universität Berlin, Germany)
Peer Stechert (RBZ Technik Kiel, Germany)
Chris Stephenson (CSTA, USA)
Jan Vahrenhold (Technical University Dortmund, Germany)

Detlef Rick (University of Hamburg, Germany)
Axel Schmolitzky (University of Hamburg, Germany)

For more information please visit the WiPSCE website
or contact
Maria Knobelsdorf (,
Ralf Romeike (, or
Detlef Rick (

January 19, 2012 at 8:56 am 1 comment

The Royal Society wants every UK Child to learn Computing

The Royal Society’s report on “Computing in Schools” was released yesterday, and it makes broad and significant recommendations.  Much of the report is focused on preparing teachers for a rigorous computer science curriculum, and on creating an infrastructure in schools where computing is available and maintained. The report is frank and honest about the challenges of implementing a rigorous computer science curriculum in schools.

I am most excited for what the report recommends about the curriculum.  The overall goal is “Every child should have the opportunity to learn Computing at school.”  The specifics include:

  • Every child should be expected to be ‘digitally literate’ by the end of compulsory education, in the same way that every child is expected to be able to read and write.
  • Every child should have the opportunity to learn concepts and principles from Computing (including Computer Science and Information Technology) from the beginning of primary education onwards, and by age 14 should be able to choose to study towards a recognised qualification in these areas.

Given the lack of specialist teachers, we recommend that only the teaching of digital literacy is made statutory at this point. However, the long-term aim should be to move to a
situation where there are sufficient specialist teachers to enable all young people to study
Information Technology and Computer Science at school. Accordingly, the Government should put in place an action plan to achieve this.

“Statutory” courses (and the report goes into some detail about what “statutory” means and why they make that recommendation)! Computing for everyone!  Think about what you could do in science, mathematics, and business classes if you could assume that everyone knew something about computer science from age 14.  Maybe Seymour Papert’s vision of computing being used to create a “Mathland” could finally be realized in the UK.  Think about how higher education computer science would change if you could assume several years of introductory computer science already.  Here in the US? Well, we’ll always have drills and drafting tables.

January 13, 2012 at 8:15 am 8 comments

This is CS in K-12: Career & Technical Education

Computer science in most states in K-12 is classified as “Career and Technical Education” (according to the Running on Empty report).  “Maybe that’s okay. Computing is important for many careers,” say some who hear this tidbit.  Maybe they don’t realize what “Career and Technical Education” is.

I’m now on a mailing list for career and technical education.  (CS in Georgia is in Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education.)  Yesterday, I got a catalog from a company that specializes in career and technical education.  Here’s what it looks like.  The people who pick the drills for your local high school may also be the ones who pick what programming languages are taught (if any). Computer science is in shop class.  There’s nothing wrong with shop class.  I’m not convinced that the preparation that makes you great at picking drills also makes you great at picking attributes of CS classes.

January 13, 2012 at 7:24 am 4 comments

New curriculum for CS in UK Schools

I have heard a rumor that the UK “Computing in Schools” report is coming out tomorrow. The commentary is starting today.  The below quote on what’s going to be in the new curriculum is quite striking — that’s a dramatic CS curriculum!  The BBC report calls the new curriculum “open source” (what is an “open source curriculum”? A curriculum that uses open source tools?), and does raise the issue (my paraphrase), “Great, now you have a significant curriculum — who’s going to teach it?!?”

“Instead of children bored out of their minds being taught how to use Word or Excel by bored teachers, we could have 11-year-olds able to write simple 2D computer animations,” he said.

Computer games entrepreneur Ian Livingstone, an adviser to Mr Gove, envisages a new curriculum that could have 16-year-olds creating their own apps for smartphones and 18-year-olds able to write their own simple programming language.

via BBC News – School ICT to be replaced by computer science programme.

January 11, 2012 at 8:21 am 2 comments

CS Education Act introduced into Congress

Exciting to hear that CS education is getting this kind of attention. I’d love to actually see what’s in the bill.  Anybody know how to find the text?

To reverse these troubling trends and prepare Americans for jobs in this high-wage, high-growth field, the Computer Science Education Act will:

  • Ensure computer science offerings are an integral part of the curriculum;
  • Develop state computer science standards, curriculum, and assessments;
  • Improve access to underserved populations;
  • Create professional development and teacher certification initiatives, including computer science teacher preparation programs in higher education;
  • Form a commission on computer science education to bring states together to address the computer science teacher certification crisis; and,
  • Establish an independent, rigorous evaluation of state efforts with reporting back to Congress and the administration.

via Robert P. Casey Jr. | United States Senator for Pennsylvania: Newsroom – Press Releases.

September 23, 2011 at 8:58 am 8 comments

New Danish Computing Curriculum for Schools: Guest post from Michael Caspersen

Michael Caspersen of Aarhus Unversity just told me about the new computing curriculum that he’s been working on for Danish schools.  The links below are all in Danish, but he sent me an English summary:

The new subject is being tested for a three year period, and we expect it eventually to replace all of the current six IT subjects. The existing IT subjects each represent a specific and rather narrow view on computing, they are all elective, and they have (almost) no students.  I think there are three main reasons why there are so few students in the six “old” IT subjects: the nature of the subjects, curriculum structure, and (lack of) teacher competence.

  •  The first reason is that the subjects are not adressing what the students in general are interested in (the subjects represent very specific and rather narrow views on computing, e.g. programming).
  •  The second reason is structure.  The curent IT subjects are electives, and the current organization of the high school curriculum is unfavorable to small elective subjects — particularly if they don’t qualify for studies at university (or in higher ed in general).
  •  There is also a third reason.  Because the six “old” IT subjects are unpopular, they are seldom offered (lack of critical mass).  This means that (1) the field is unattractive for people with a computing background (you can’t teach the subject regularly), and (2) there is no need for recruiting new teachers.  Consequently, teachers in the field are relatively old, has little or no background in computing, and are generally not in a position to renew and revitalise the subject.  A perfect recipe for a death spiral.

We have aimed at identifying a core set of topics that characterize computing and that can be approached from different perspectives.  The seven topics are:

  1. Importance of computing and influence on human behaviour
  2. The architecture of IT systems
  3. Representation and manipulation of data
  4. Programming
  5. Modeling and structuring of data, processes and systems
  6. Interaction design
  7. Innovation

I am aware that there are many possible interpretations of the topics mentioned above.  Below I have tried to sketch our interpretation which I hope also motivates the inclusion of each topic — in case you are interested.


1. Importance of computing and influence on human behaviour

To truly understand and appreciate the importance of computing in modern society, the pupils must be presented to a portfolio of important and for the students relevant systems and innovations (e.g. facebook, iTunes, GPS-based navigation systems, email, health care systems, etc.) — systems that the students know and can relate to.  The design of an IT systems has strong consequences for the people, organisations, and sociale systems who use it.  Designers do not only design the system but also use patterns and workflows that unfold through the use of the system.  The purpose is to make the pupils aware of the interplay between design of a system and the use patterns which the system intentionally or unintentionally generates.

Pupils should be able to

– give examples of the impact of IT systems on human behaviour

– analyse and assess the importance and implications of IT systems and how they impact human behaviour

– apply user-oriented techniques for construction or modification of IT systems

2. The Architecture of IT Systems (three-tier model)

The majority of IT systems are structured according to the so-called three-tier model consisting of a presentation tier, a logic tier, and a data tier.  The model is relevant partly because it provides a general framework for understanding a very large class of IT systems, their components, and the interplay between these, and partly because the model is useful for qualified use of concrete systems, e.g. the Office package, Photoshop, iTunes, Facebook andgeneral types of systems, e.g. simulation tools, accounting systems, content management systems, mobile technology, and computer games.

Pupils should be able to

– describe principles for the architecture of IT systems

– apply specific architectures for construction of simpel IT products and adjustment of existing IT systems

3. Representation and manipulation of data

In order to understand the basic characteristics of the computer, the pupils must understand and work with representation and manipulation of data. The main point is that data need to be digitised in order to be represented in a computer and manipulated by programs.  The purpose with this topic is that the pupils gain concrete experience with (and hence understanding of) representation and manipulation of data including the fact that digitising often results in loss of information.  The other side of the coin is that digitising and manipuation makes it possible to create new data.  IT security is another important issue which must be addressed.

Pupils should be able to

– describe the representation of selected types of data (e.g. images, sound, text, etc.) and construct IT products (programs) that make simple manipulations of data

– integrate various types of data in simple IT products and extend functionality of existing IT systems by adding new types of data

4. Programming

Computers are indeed very simple machines that gain their power through scale.  The defining characteristics of the computer is it’s programmability and universality.  Programming comes in many forms, but common to these is the principle of defining and hence automating computations which can be executed again and again with arbitrary data and data sets.

Pupils should be able to

– identify basics tructures in programming languages, construct IT products (simple programs) and adjust existing programs

– apply programming technologies for development of IT products and adjustment of existing IT systems

5. Modeling and structuring of data, processes and systems

The purpose with this topic is to provide insight into modeling where data, processes and systems are described at an abstract level where design alternatives and properties can be evaluated and choices and desicions can be made.

Pupils should be able to

– give examples of models of data, processes and systems and describe the relation between a concrete model and the relevant associated parts of an IT system

– implement selected models in a concrete IT product and adjust existing models and implement these adjustments in existing IT systems

6. Interaction design

The previous topic is primarily about models for elements of the presentation and logic tiers of the three-tier model.  This topic is about models and designprinciples for the presentation tier — the interface where users and other systems meet an IT system.  It’s the purpose that the pupils understand the premises for as well as the consequences and importance of interaction design.

Pupils should be able to

– describe and analyse selected elements of a user interface design, construct simple user interface designs and adjust existing designs

– implement selected interaction design in a concrete IT product and adjust existing designs and implement these adjustments in existing IT systems

7. Innovation

The subject treats innovation from a product as well as process perspective.  The subject takes an innovative approach to IT product development and provides a background for understanding aspects of IT product development and the interplay between IT and users/society.

Pupils should be able to

– characterise innovative development processes and sketch ideas for innovative IT products.


Brief overview (our home page, with lots of links)

More background (it-vest home page, with lots of links)

The official guidelines (Ministry of Education)

Teaching material for the new IT subject (Teacher Association, open source)

September 21, 2011 at 11:08 am 1 comment

Google’s Eric Schmidt critiques lack of CS in UK education, and what the UK is doing about it

Of course, the US system is liable for the same criticism.  But at least the UK is doing something about it.  There was just announced an effort to teach software development in UK schools, and soon-to-be released Computing in Schools report is expected to lead to more and improved computing education in UK schools.

UK teachers putting the final touches to lessons plans for the new academic year were this week hit by harsh criticism from Google Chairman Eric Schmidt.  Speaking in Edinburgh recently Schmidt had this to say about the UK educational system:

“I was flabbergasted to learn that today computer science isn’t even taught as standard in U.K. schools. Your IT curriculum focuses on teaching how to use software, but it doesn’t teach people how it’s made. It risks throwing away your great computing heritage.”

Schmidt went on to lament the growing divergence between science and arts and called on educators to “re-ignite children’s passion for science, engineering and math.”  What he was saying is that giving children the skills to merely use computers is not enough. We need creators and innovators – education should inspire children to push the boundaries of what is possible and come up with new ‘best ways’ that us adults have never even thought of.

via Teaching the innovators of tomorrow | revUp 117.

September 20, 2011 at 10:03 am 1 comment

NRC K-12 Science Framework ducks the question of computer science

The new K-12 Science Framework report from the National Research Council does mention CS, but doesn’t include it as part of the core framework.  Instead, they say the below:

Computer science and statistics are other areas of science that are not addressed here, even though they have a valid presence in K-12 education. Statistics is basically a subdiscipline of mathematical sciences, and it is addressed to some extent in the common core mathematics standards. Computer science, too, can be seen as a branch of the mathematical sciences, as well as having some elements of engineering. But, again, because this area of the curriculum has a history and a teaching corps that are generally distinct from those of the sciences, the committee has not taken this domain as part of our charge. Once again, this omission should not be interpreted to mean that computer science or statistics should be excluded from the K-12 curriculum. There are aspects of computational and statistical thinking that must be understood and applied in learning about the sciences, and we identify these aspects, along with mathematical thinking, in our discussion of science practices in Chapter 3.

This is a strange argument.  They are saying that, because CS teachers are a different set of teachers from science teachers, CS doesn’t belong in a science curricular framework.  This isn’t an argument what should be.  Explicitly, they are saying that this is the historical precedent, and they’re okay with it.

The NRC report does talk about “computational thinking” for K-9, but all the high school requirements talk about using computers, especially simulations.  In reality, there’s no real computer science in the framework.  ACM is complaining through the Education Policy Committee.  Their point is well-taken — the NRC framework is pretty significantly different from the recent PCAST report on the role of computer science in K-12 STEM education.

Although the National Research Council’s newly released Framework for K-12 Science Education provides a helpful next step in revising the existing scientific ideas and practices for all U.S. students to know by the end of high school, ACM is concerned that computing and computer science are not yet  included as a core part of the framework for mathematics and science K-12 education despite substantial input from the computing community.

“Computing is by far where the greatest demand for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs is in today’s economy,” said Bobby Schnabel, Chair of  ACM’s Education Policy Committee .  ”But the major efforts by the Governors and the Academy to define what students should know for the 21st Century make little mention of the need for computer science in the core curriculum. This is a missed opportunity to expose students to a fundamental discipline that they will need for their careers as well as their lives.”

via ACM Urges Inclusion of Computer Science in K12 Core Curriculum — Association for Computing Machinery.

July 25, 2011 at 11:24 am 5 comments

Systematic Cheating Is Found in Atlanta Public Schools

How very sad.  The Atlanta Journal Constitution has been covering the Governor’s report over the last two days with front page articles that cover nearly the whole page.  Colleagues who work with Atlanta Public Schools (APS) had suggested to me that the obsessive focus on test scores might be behind the general unwillingness of APS to work with us on Georgia Computes! and Operation:Reboot.  I didn’t really understand that — why would concern over test scores prevent a district from accepting free professional development for teachers and even free former-IT workers as computing teachers?  It’s more understandable in light of the report.  The concerns over test scores changed the whole culture of the school district.  So sad for Beverly Hall, former superintendent of APS, who is being blamed for much of the culture change.

A culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation existed in the district, which led to a conspiracy of silence, he said in a prepared statement. “There will be consequences,” Mr. Deal said.That will certainly include dismissals, according to school board members and the interim superintendent, Erroll B. Davis Jr., and could possibly result in criminal charges.

via Systematic Cheating Is Found in Atlanta’s School System –

July 6, 2011 at 12:25 pm 3 comments

A Computer Science Fair without Computer Science

(Thanks to Kevin Karplus for this link.)  I agree with the author quoted below, that it is alarming that the “Computer Science Fair” he’s describing doesn’t have a single example of computer science.  However, I’m not as hung up over the lack of coding.  I can imagine some really interesting projects at the middle school level science fair level that might be about digital representation or computation without being about programming.  I’m just making these up, but here are some examples:

  • Given the same picture, is JPEG bigger than PNG, or vice versa?  Does it matter what’s in the picture? Why might the sizes differ?
  • My Senior Design students built me a gadget I’ve been wanting for awhile: A spreadsheet to picture converter.  I’ll write more about it later. I could imagine using something like that to ask, “When I ‘remove red eye,’ what actually happens to the pixels in the picture?”
  • For some activities that are like what we see computers doing (e.g., putting objects in bins, finding something in a pile, sorting numbered cards in increasing order, solving large-multi-digit arithmetic problems), can we figure out ways of doing those tasks faster with two people than with only one? (I am thinking about CS Unplugged-like activities here, but making it a science fair challenge.)
  • Using only binary (only 0’s and 1’s), can I encode text? What is the smallest number of bits I can use to encode some text so that someone else, told the encoding, could get the text back out of the bits?
I have a middle schooler at home right now.  She’s curious and smart, but so far, she’s not shown much interest in programming.  But puzzles and how-things-work questions interest her — I think she could do things like these, and would like to do them.  She enjoys the puzzles that Barb poses to her, like how high can you count with the fingers of one hand (31, if you shift to binary).  It’s computer science, but it’s not programming.

Not a single category, it would seem, for actual computer programming. No sense that computer programming involves anything more that the consumption and marketing of computer technology. No sense of the tremendous analytical skills that go into the coding that makes all the rest of this possible.

And yet another area that has been hijacked away from the most left-brained of our students.

Perhaps there’s some virtue in this contest, but could we possibly call it something other than a “Computer Science” fair?

And could we possibly have a city-wide Computer Science Fair that’s actually worthy of the name–i.e., one that showcases the work of those who do actual programming?

via Out In Left Field: The Right-Brained Computer Science Fair.

May 10, 2011 at 9:24 am 14 comments

New Draft K-12 Model CS Curriculum Available for Comment

The below announcement was posted by Dr. Chris Stephenson, Executive Director of the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), on the SIGCSE-Members list.  This is really important — the whole Running on Empty report came from a comparison of state curricula to the current model curriculum.

I am glad that the draft is available for comment and encourage everyone to review it.  I’ve read through it once, and don’t quite understand it.  Why is it part of computational thinking that all high schools know how to convert between decimal, binary, octal, and hexadecimal (page 23 and 60)?  Is it really necessary for all students to learn how to program mobile devices and write client- and server-side scripts (page 23)?  I like the bullet about representation and trade-offs on digital information, but I would have liked some specifics on what students will learn, like the kinds of error that occur.  The current draft seems tied to current technology and not to big ideas or principles. (Are most K-12 standards like this?  The AAAS standards aren’t, but maybe they are the anomaly.)

I’m planning to re-read it, because I might not have got the big picture.  I strongly encourage all of you to read and comment on it.

Since it was first released in 2003, the ACM/CSTA Model Curriculum for K-12 Computer Science has served as the national standards for pre-college computer science education. This year, CSTA formed a committee of specialists (co-chaired by Allen Tucker and Deborah Seehorn) from all educational levels to review and revise these standards.

Based on the following definition of computer science:

Computer science is the study of computers and algorithmic processes, including their principles, their hardware and software designs, their applications, and their impact on society and includes the following elements:

 • programming,

• hardware design,

• networks,

• graphics, 

• databases and information retrieval,

• computer security,

• software design,

• programming languages,

• logic,

• programming paradigms,

• translation between levels of abstraction,

• artificial intelligence,

• the limits of computation (what computers can’t do),

• applications in information technology and information systems, and

• social issues (Internet security, privacy, intellectual property, etc.).

The K-12 Computer Science Standards provide learning outcomes for students in grade K through 12. These learning outcomes are divided into three levels:

· Level 1 (grades K–6) Computer Science and Me

· Level 2 (grades 6–9) Computer Science and Community

· Level 3 (grades 9–12) Applying concepts and creating real-world solutions

o Level 3A: (grades 9 or 10) Computer Science in the Modern World

o Level 3B: (grades 10 or 11) Computer Science Principles

o Level 3C: (grades 11 or 12) Topics in Computer Science

The learning outcomes within each level are organized into the following strands:

· Computational Thinking

· Collaboration

· Computing Practice

· Computers and Communications Devices

· Community, Global, and Ethical Impacts

CSTA invites you to review and submit comments on the review draft of the new CSTA K-12 Computer Science Learning Standards: Revised 2011. A copy of the document is available for download at:

This site also provides access to an online form that will be used to collect all reader comments and suggestions. The review process will be open until June 15, 2011.

Allen Tucker

Deborah Seehorn

Chairs, CSTA Standards Task Force

April 15, 2011 at 8:21 am 7 comments

Teacher’s free-speech rights stop at the classroom door

Every American has the right to free-speech, but this court finding says that the School Board’s instruction on what to teach overrides the teacher’s right to free speech, at least in the classroom.  What does that mean for faculty?  With whom does ultimate responsibility for the college classroom lay?  Can my Dean say to teach in a certain way, and I’ll be liable if I don’t?

Teachers have no First Amendment free-speech protection for curricular decisions they make in the classroom, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday.

“Only the school board has ultimate responsibility for what goes on in the classroom, legitimately giving it a say over what teachers may (or may not) teach in the classroom,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati, said in its opinion.

via Court: No Teacher Speech Rights on Curriculum – The School Law Blog – Education Week.

January 26, 2011 at 7:23 am 4 comments

Tell the US Federal Government how to fix K-12 CS Ed

The timeline on this is really short — please pass on this call for comment!

The federal government asks for advice about education fairly regularly. But it isn’t often that it asks specifically what is needed to advance K-12 computer science education. So I was pleasantly surprised when one federal program asked some key questions about K-12 CS education . Members of our community have the opportunity [to speak up] about what they think is needed for a stronger K-12 CS education. (Comments are due by January 31.)

via Let the Feds Know Your Thoughts on K-12 Computer Science Education | blog@CACM | Communications of the ACM.

January 19, 2011 at 10:39 am 2 comments

A Joint Call for Research on Why Computer Science Education is Important for K-12

A joint blog post by Chris Stephenson of CSTA, Alfred Thompson of Microsoft, and Mark Guzdial of Georgia Tech.

As much as we believe and try to make the case that studying computer science is good for all students, there is a profound lack of research to actually support this contention. With the movement to data driven decision making in every area of education, our inability to advocate for more and better computer science education in K-12 is severely curtailed by our inability to support our own observations and claims.

There are some things we do know which may help us make a more effective argument for K-12 computer science education, or at least make us better K-12 computer science educators.

We know that even pre-teen students have serious misconceptions about what computer science is and that this fundamental lack of understanding makes it very difficult to engage and retain students. Research has shown us that many students believe that computer science is simply using applications well. In one study, after six weeks of learning Scratch, Alice, Pico Crickets, and similar tools, and with Mike Hewner (a PhD student in CS education at Georgia Tech) lecturing them on CS topics, students still came away with the belief (for example) that “Someone who does Photoshop really well is a great computer scientist.” They probably think that programmers work in locked window-less rooms and never shower too!

We know that *not* having a CS background can be a serious detriment in a wide variety of professions. In 2005, Mary Shaw, Chris Saffidi, and Brad Myers presented a research paper focusing on the gap between professionals who program as part of their jobs and the number of people actually trained to do this work. These researchers estimated that by 2012 there will be 3 million professional software developers and 13 million people who program as part of their jobs but aren’t software developers. Brian Dorn’s just-completed dissertation shows why this is a significant problem. In his study of graphics designers who are self-taught programmers, Dorn found that in order to understand code fragments, the designers do things like search for a variable name — not knowing that that’s completely arbitrary and not useful. One of Brian’s subjects who was working in JavaScript, for example, stumbled onto a Java web page, and spent 30 minutes poring over language details that were irrelevant for his task.

We still don’t know, however, whether learning computer science helps with anything else in the curriculum. . We have results showing that learning a visual language *does* transfer knowledge to textual programming later. Chris Hundhausen just did a careful HCI study showing that learners could get started more quickly with a visual programming language (like Scratch, Alice, or Kodu), and that parts of that knowledge did transfer to textual programming. That’s a big deal, because it says that Scratch and Alice really are useful for learning CS that will be useful later in life.

There are, however, no recent, scientifically-valid studies that show that students are able to transfer key concepts that they learn in computer science to other learning or that students who study computer science perform better on high-stakes testing in other subject areas (specifically math and science). The last major review of the research in this space (by David Palumbo in 1990) showed little evidence that programming impacted problem-solving in other domains. Neither are there recent studies (the most recent was Taylor and Mountfield in 1991) that determine whether students who study computer science in high school perform better in any area of post-secondary study including computer science. Sharon Carver’s dissertation work in 1988 showed that one *could* teach Logo so that it improved how elementary students solved problems in other areas (e.g., debugging instructions on maps), but little research has followed up on that result.

This lack of research-supported evidence is particularly troubling in light of the current discussions about the importance of “Computational Thinking”. While there is strong support for CT in many parts of the community including the National Science Foundation, without a strong and agreed-upon definition and effective assessment measures for students at various learning levels, we don’t have hard evidence there that CT is useful let alone necessary for every student.

We do know that we need to do a better job of convincing students that computer science is worth their interest and we might actually be making some progress on this front. For example, many teachers are working hard to help students see the connections between the current technologies that students are interested in (social networking, mobile applications, etc.) and the issues that they care about (the ways that medical agencies use computers to track and control epidemics or how relief agencies depend on computerized logistical systems to get the right sort of aid to the right places at the right time in an emergency). But once again, we have not established scientifically whether these connections motivate students who would not otherwise be interested in computer science.

There are some things we do know and some we can even prove scientifically but the bottom line is that we need more research. We need research that is long-term, broad reaching, and scientifically valid. We need to know what our students are learning and why it matters to them. We need to know how to help them learn better. And we need to know how to do a better job of engaging, inspiring, and retaining them. It is time for computer science education to grow up and prove its value, just as all of the other core disciplines are now having to do.

January 12, 2011 at 9:15 am 20 comments

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