Posts tagged ‘public policy’

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

Bootstrap computer science in Physics, as well as Algebra

This is a really cool announcement.  I believe that computing helps with all kinds of STEM learning, and admire the work at Northwestern on Agent Based Learning in STEM, Project GUTS, and Bootstrap.  It’s particularly important for getting CS into schools, since so few schools will have dedicated CS teachers for many years yet (as described here for Georgia). I’m excited to see that Bootstrap will be moving into Physics as well as Algebra.

Bootstrap, one of the nation’s leading computer science literacy programs, co-directed by Brown CS faculty members Shriram Krishnamurthi and Kathi Fisler (adjunct), continues to extend its reach. Bootstrap has just announced a partnership to use its approach to building systems to teach modeling in physics, an important component of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). This project is a collaboration with STEMTeachersNYC, the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the American Modeling Teachers Association.

Source: CS Blog: Bootstrap Announces A New STEM Education Model That Combines Computing, Modeling, And Physics

May 18, 2016 at 7:45 am 9 comments

Factors that Increase Students’ Interest in Becoming a Middle or High School Computing Teacher

These are the right sort of questions to be asking, and then using when creating real programs.  How would we get more undergraduate computing majors to consider teaching?  We can’t do much about salary.  Free tuition and student loan forgiveness are feasible and could result in many more teachers (and are being explored by ECEP states).

CERP asked undergraduate computing majors what would increase their interest in becoming a middle or high school computing teacher. As seen in the above graphic, financial incentive in the form of a higher teaching salary, free tuition for teacher training, and forgiven student loans were the top factors increasing students’ interest in becoming a middle or high school computing teacher. These findings provide insights into how to generate more computing educators for the K-12 school system, which is becoming increasingly important, given recent efforts to promote widespread K-12 computing education.

Source: Factors that Increase Students’ Interest in Becoming a Middle or High School Computing Teacher – CRN

May 11, 2016 at 7:45 am 6 comments

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