Posts tagged ‘public policy’

New ISTE Standards emphasize computational thinking with a better definition

ISTE has just released their ed-tech-influenced standards for students for 2016, and they include computational thinking — with a better definition than the more traditional ones.  It’s not about changing how students think.  It’s about giving students the tools to solve problems with technology.  I liked the frequent use of the term “algorithmic thinking” to emphasize the connections to the history of the ideas.  This definition doesn’t get to systems and processes (for example), but it’s more realistic than the broad transferable thinking skills claim.

CT-ISTE

Students develop and employ strategies for understanding and solving problems in ways that leverage the power of technological methods to develop and test solutions.

Source: For Students 2016

August 12, 2016 at 7:53 am 4 comments

US States Move toward CS Ed: MA, CA, and the challenge of local control

I review for the WIPSCE conference (an international conference on K-12 computing), and found a phrase in one of the papers I was reviewing about computing education now being mandatory in the United States.  Well, not really — kinda, sorta, in someplaces.  It may be hard for educators outside the US to understand the decentralized nature of computing education in the US.  The individual 50 states control primary and secondary school education by law, and some of those states (notably, California, Massachusetts, and Nebraska) are “local-control” — the state itself decides to shift almost all of the education decision-making to the individual school districts (easily a hundred in a small state, multiple hundreds in large ones).

Recently the National Association of State Boards of Education has come out with a policy update about CS education in the states.  Useful — except for the local control states, where the state boards of education don’t really have that much power.

While educators and parents recognize computer science as a key skill for career readiness, only five states have adopted learning standards in this area. Tides are changing, however, as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) recognizes with its call on states to provide a “well-rounded education” for students, to include computer science standards. This NASBE Policy Update outlines what states need to consider as they develop computer science standards and improve instruction, highlighting several promising state efforts already under way.

Source: NASBE – States Move toward Computer Science Standards

How do local control states implement reforms like computing education? In California, they’re trying to pass legislation to create an advisory board about integrating CS into education. It’s all about advice and recommendation — the state can’t make the districts do much.

California legislators are reviewing a bill that would create an advisory board to integrate computer science into education.The Assembly legislation would create a 23-person panel overseen by the state Superintendent that would deliver recommendations by September 2017 on how to improve computer science education, and establish curriculum standards for grades K-12.The panel would comprise teachers, administrators and professors across K-12 and higher education, as well as representatives from government, parent associations and student advocacy organizations. The bill is backed by Microsoft and Code.org.

Source: California legislators push computer science education bill

Massachusetts has just come out with their new state standards. I haven’t gone through them all, but from what I’ve seen (and knowing people who helped build it), I believe that they’re really high-quality. But they’re just voluntary. The districts have to be coaxed into adopting them.

Massachusetts public schools may start using new digital literacy and computer science standards as soon as this fall. The state board of elementary and secondary education unanimously approved the standards, which are voluntary, at its monthly meeting Tuesday.”Today’s vote recognizes the importance of digital literacy and computer science to modern life, work and learning,” board chairman Paul Sagan said in a statement. “These standards will help our students think about problem solving in new ways and introduce them to valuable skills they will need in today’s economy.”

Source: Mass. Has New K-12 Standards For Digital Literacy, Computer Science | WBUR News

August 1, 2016 at 7:57 am Leave a comment

Japan plans to make programming mandatory at schools as a step to foster creativity: What if it doesn’t work?

Japan is planning to make programming mandatory in all their schools because it will help their children to think logically and creatively.  Except, we don’t have evidence that it does.  We know a little about how to use programming as a medium for developing thinking skills, but I know of no efforts to make it replicable and scalable. I don’t know of anyone using programming in order to improve creativity. I know of no evidence that learning to program improves creativity.

This is a nation-size gamble.  I’m interested in how Japan goes about this — they face the same challenges as NYC does in their initiative, at an even larger scale.

It is essential that computer programming to be taught in schools will lead to improving children’s ability to think logically and creatively.

Source: Plan to make programming mandatory at schools a step to foster creativity – The Japan News

July 8, 2016 at 7:26 am 7 comments

Hillary Clinton proposes to continue Obama’s CS for All Initiative #CS4All

It’s just plans and campaign promises, but it’s nice to see.

Invest in Computer Science and STEM Education by:

  • Providing Every Student in America an Opportunity to Learn Computer Science:  To build on the President Obama’s “Computer Science Education for All” initiative, Hillary will launch the next generation of Investing in Innovation (“i3”) grants, double investment in the program, and establish a 50% set-aside for CS Education.

  • Engaging the Private Sector to Train up to 50,000 Computer Science Teachers:  Hillary will launch an initiative to expand the pool of computer science teachers—both through recruiting new teachers into the field, and through helping current teachers in other subjects gain additional training.

  • Encouraging Local STEM Education Investments:  Hillary’s Department of Education will support states and districts in developing innovative schools that prioritize STEM, implementing “makerspaces,” and build public-private partnerships.

Source: Hillary Clinton’s Initiative on Technology & Innovation

July 4, 2016 at 7:57 am Leave a comment

Mattel’s Game Developer Barbie is fantastic, says Casey Fiesler

Casey Fiesler and Miranda Parker did a wonderful remix of the original computer engineer Barbie (see Guardian article about that).  Great to see that Mattel did a better job the next time around, and Casey loves it.  I love the point she makes below, which echoes a concern I’ve voiced about open source software.

This is particularly important is because as much as we don’t want to suggest that girls can’t code, we also don’t want to suggest that coding is the only path to working with computers or games. Sometimes other parts of computing—like design or human-computer interaction—are delegitimized, considered less rigorous or less important. Or maybe they’re delegitimized in part because they happen to be the parts of computing where there are more women present (in other words, more inclusive), which is even worse.

Source: Mattel’s Game Developer Barbie is fantastic.

June 29, 2016 at 7:47 am 1 comment

Google-Gallup Survey now Disaggregated by States: Fascinating and confusing reading

Google has now released the results of the Gallup surveys from last year of parents, teachers, and principals about attitudes on CS disaggregated by 11 populous US states — see state reports (and methodology explanation) here.  The blog announcement about the report is here. These are fascinating to read, especially for me and my colleagues since some of these states are also ECEP states (see our recent report on activity in ECEP states).  Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Texas are doing much better than the US average in this analysis, while Ohio and North Carolina are far behind.

These are the results of a large scale survey, not an interview, or focus groups.  The advantage is that we get a lot of answers (9, 693 elementary school principals across the US). The disadvantage is that they answered these questions, without probes, follow-ups, or any “What did you mean by that?”

For example, one of the benchmark items is “CS offered > 5 years.”  My first thought was that this meant that there was CS offered in the curriculum for five grades, e.g., middle school and high school.  The actual question answered by principals was “How long has your school offered opportunities to learn computer science? (% greater than 5 years)”  So this item is about the longevity of CS ed at these particular schools that were sampled.  That’s interesting, but I’m not sure what it says about the state compared to the particular schools sampled — especially in local control states (e.g., California, Massachusetts, Nebraska) where individual districts can do anything they want.

We’re told that parents want more CS, but principals and parents mostly think that CS is computer literacy (e.g., how to use a computer).  We’re told that 64% of Michigan principals say “just as/more important” to “Do you think offering opportunities to learn CS is more important, just as important, or less important to a student’s future success than required courses like math, science, history and English?”  What does that mean, if they think that CS is keyboarding skills?  When 11% of the principals in Illinois say that demand for CS education among parents is high, does that mean that the principals think the parents think it’s keyboarding? or real CS? Is one more valuable than the other to parents, in the opinion of principals?  Maybe the principals are right, and only 11% of the parents would want CS if they knew what CS was.

Overall, recommended reading, but sometimes, it feels like reading tea leaves.

June 22, 2016 at 7:26 am 2 comments

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

The final review period is June 8-29. Do engage with the review.  Whatever comes out of this is likely to influence the standards for K-12 CS education in the United States for the next five to ten years.

I’m not so happy with the framework, but I recognize that it’s a collaborative process where no one is going to be completely happy (see previous post about the framework).  A source of difficulty for building the framework is that we are so early in CS Education in the United States. We are optimizing for the current state, at time when that state is rapidly changing.

Here’s an instance of the general problem. Last time I was at a framework meeting as an advisor, I pushed hard to include the concept of the word bit as a learning objective in the framework.  Even as quantum computing is developed, the Claude Shannon notion of a bit as a fundamental unit of information is still relevant and useful — it’s one of the foundational ideas of computing. The suggestion was vehemently rejected by the writers because current teachers fear binary.  I tried to argue that we can talk about bits (e.g., what is information, how we can store/represent bits, and how we can encode information in bits) without talking about binary, but the writers argued that teachers will perceive bits as being about binary and reject it.  I pointed out that the word bit did appear in the document, just not explained. It’s hard to talk about computing without talking about “bits.” In response, every instance of the word bit was removed from the framework document.

We have so few teachers today in schools (e.g., no state has high school CS teachers in more than even 30% of their high schools, we likely need ten times the number of current teachers in order to provide CS education to everyone in the United States), and we’re still just figuring out how to develop new CS teachers.  Should we really make decisions about the next 5-10 years based on what current teachers dislike? Especially when too few of those teachers have had significant teacher professional development? Maybe we do — we might need to keep those teachers engaged in order to grow the programs to create more teachers.

I argued in the past that it’s about consensus not vision.  It still is. The question is how much unpleasantness we can swallow and still agree on the framework.

The goals of the K-12 CS framework review process are to provide transparency into the development of the K-12 CS framework and include feedback from a diverse range of voices and stakeholders. If you haven’t already, please sign up for framework updates.Individuals and institutions are invited to be reviewers of the K-12 CS framework. Institutions, such as state/district departments of education and organizations (industry, companies, non-profits), are responsible for selecting an individual or a group to represent the institution.

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

June 10, 2016 at 8:03 am 9 comments

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