VL/HCC 2015 Keynote: Requirements for a Computing Literate Society

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Transcript of VL/HCC 2015 Keynote: Requirements for a Computing Literate Society

Contexts in Computer Science Education

Requirements for a Computing-Literate SocietyMark GuzdialSchool of Interactive Computing

1I argue that our audience is not just CS specialists or majors. The demand and need is greater elsewhere.

The Two Cultures

2Why is this a problem? We may not be talking to them right. There is more than one audience for what we have to offer.Most of them dont look like us. Some people reject science: Denialists. Global warming? Vaccines? There are no learning styles. Psychological Science in the Public Interest

StoryI. Our Job: The first computer scientists set the goal to achieve a Computing-Literate Society.

II. Challenges to Achieving a Computing-Literate Society

Access and Diversity

Inverse Lake Wobegon Effect

Unanswered research questions of policymakers

III. Inventing New Kinds of Computing Education

Story #1: Contextualized Computing Education.

Story #2: Understanding the Needs of High School CS Teachers.

3The challenge of computer science isnt enrollment,its in meeting the demand.

Papert, Logo, DiSessa, Boxer

1961 MIT Sloan School Symposium

5Why might they want to join us?In Dream Machines, biography of J.C.R. Licklider.Other speakers include Vannevar Bush, Herbert A. Simon, Marvin L. Minsky, J. C. R. Licklider, Jay W. Forrester, Grace M. Hopper, Claude E. Shannon, John G. Kemeny, Gene M. Amdahl.

Learn Programming to Re-Think Process EverywhereAlan Perlis argued that computer science should be part of a liberal education.Explicitly, he argued that all students should learn to program.Why?Because Computer Science is the study of process.Automated execution of process changes everythingIncluding how we think about things we already know

6Talked about the economics department at Carnegie Tech (at that time). Talk about rethinking Calculus.

Elias: Does it have to be programming?Licklider: Peter, I think the first apes who tried to talk with one another decided that learning language was a dreadful boreBut some people write poetry in the language we speak.

Perlis: The purpose of a course in programming is to teach people how to construct and analyze processesA course in programming is concerned with abstraction: the abstraction of constructing, analyzing, and describing processesThe point is to make the students construct complex processes out of simpler ones.A properly designed programming course will develop these abilities better than any other course.7

If the computers, together with sufficiently ingenious languages and programming systems, are capable of doing everything that Professor Perlis describesand I believe they are (and more)then they should be ingenious enough to do it without the human symbiote being obliged to perform the mechanical chores which are a huge part of current programming effort, and which are a large part of what must now be taught in the introductory course that he proposes.


A handful of people, having no relation to the will of society, having no communication with the rest of society, will be taking decisions in secret which are going to affect our lives in the deepest sense.The Power and Fear of AlgorithmsThe Economist (Sept., 2007) spoke to the algorithms that control us, yet we dont understand.Credit Ratings, Adjustable Rate Mortgages, Search Rankings

C.P. Snow foresaw this in 1961.Those who dont understand algorithms, cant understand how the decisions are made.


II. ChallengesAccess and Diversity: We arent reaching everyone.

Inverse Lake Wobegon Effect: We think we know more than we do

Public policy-makers are asking unanswered research questions

Computing education in USby-the-numbers10~25,000 high schools in the United States.2,525 AP Computer Science teachers in the United States.

American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) founded in 1930.NCTM founded in 1920Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) founded in 2005.


High School Participation in AP STEM Disciplines Chris Stephenson, CSTA, 2010In 2014, 38K exam-takers

11EXPLAIN: AP is the only national CS course. CS in US AP. But its not more than a magnitude greater. Its a closeGraph shows # of students taking the various STEM AP tests since 1997. CS is the sad red line at the bottom. Note that even the relatively new AP courses statistics and environmental sciences are doing much better than us.

Thanks to Brian Danielak

About 38K students took AP CS last year. Versus 281K for AP CalculusAnd women are better represented in CS as their proportion of the population than minority groups, like AA or Hispanic12

Lake Wobegon Effect

Inverse Lake Wobegon EffectWe only know the top half.

People who take CS in undergraduate are above average.People who get access to CS education are among the most privileged in society.

If your tool or approach works for the top 80% of an undergraduate class, it may not work for 60% of the total population.14

Policymakers QuestionsUS NSF Alliances to Broaden Participation in ComputingGeorgia Computes! Focus: Activities in middle and high school, with lots of teacher professional development. CAITE Focus: higher-education pathways focused on community colleges in underserved regions.Merged to provide support to US states in improving computing education: Expanded Computing Education Pathways Alliance (ECEP)

What Weve Learned: States are DiverseIn some states, the Department of Education controls everything.In other states, individual districts make most decisions, and the state Department of Education controls little.

In some: Advanced Placement is valued.In others: Advanced Placement is considered elitist. Not for our kids.

In most states, Computer Science is classified as Career and Technical Education.In some: CTE teachers are in schools, so CS can integrate with math and science.In others: CTE is in separate vocational high schools.

Issues from States: Make it a requirement?South Carolina: Requires CS for graduation, for over 30 years.But its not really CS. Should they change?Can we teach CS to everyone?

Research Questions: Can we teach CS to special needs students?

What are the challenges of teaching CS to English Language Learners (ELL)?

Over 90 courses count as CS. Only 6 include programming. Most are about office apps, Photoshop, CAD, keyboarding.17

Issues from States: Invest in K-12 and TeachersUtah: Focusing on ages 5-10 CS.Only 104 students took AP CS in 2014, only 4 female.Research Questions: How much of CS can we teach to children 5-10?Does teaching CS in early grades lead to long term improved attitudes towards CS?How is the cost difference of scaling CS in elementary school?How do teach teachers CS, without losing them to industry?

K-5 dont understand abstraction the same way as high school students. Most field studies show little use of iteration or conditionals in elementary school students programs.Wont go as deep into CS in K-5, but there are far more K-5 schools than high schools.18

Issues in States: URM Differences

Georgia Computes had significant impact on women and Hispanic AP CS exam-takers.Less impact on Black.Most states have lower AP CS participation and pass rates for Black students than Hispanic and female students.Why?

Why are the issues different for Black students? Glitch Game Testers and Project Rise Up.19

How do we meet societys need for computing education?20We need to answer the research questions of policymakers who want computing education in their states.

We need classes that show CS to be a possible career path, a rigorous domain, and a useful set of skills and knowledge.

We need teachersmore well-prepared, confident, and retained computing teachers who arent necessarily software developers

We need to find ways to help adult professionals learn computing when they discover that they need it.#1#2

Story #1: The Role of ContextFall 1999: All students at Georgia Tech must take a course in computer science.Considered part of General Education, like mathematics, social science, humanities

1999-2003: Only one course met the requirement.Shackelfords pseudocode approach in 1999Later Scheme: How to Design Programs (MIT Press)


One-class CS1: Pass (A, B, or C) vs. WDF (Withdrawal, D or F)

Success Rates in CS1 from Fall 1999 to Spring 2002 (Overall: 78%)Architecture46.7%Biology64.4%Economics53.5%History46.5%Management48.5%Public Policy47.9%

22Actually, quite good pass rates, compared to many others in CS.Across campus, these are the pits.And the women are failing or withdrawing. in greater numbers than the men.This looks like C.P. Snows Two Cultures

Contextualized Computing EducationWhats going on?Research results: Computing is tedious, boring, irrelevantSince Spring 2003, Georgia Tech teaches three introductory CS courses.Based on Margolis and Fishers alternative pathsEach course introduces computing using a context (examples, homework assignments, lecture discussion) relevant to majors.Make computing relevant by teaching it in terms of what computers are good for (from the students perspective)

23Talk about iPods and Blackberries.This is a Computer as Tool model. Were not yet at Computing as Literacy.

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