Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Computer Science Education Progress in New Hampshire

Things have been moving right along in New Hampshire. First we developed CS teacher certification (a joint effort with the department of education and a team of computer science educators). Now we have CS included in the legal definition of an adequate education as of earlier this summer. A set of CS standards, based on the CSTA Standards and K12 CS Framework have been adopted officially this week. Implementation plans are in the works. The latest announcement I received follows:

On June 18, 2018, NH House Bill 1674 was signed into law.

This bill renames our "ICT Literacy" program to "Digital Literacy," and adds Computer Science (CS) as a core K-12 subject area.

The NH Department of Education is currently working on the program rules (ED306) that will implement this law, as well as a timeline for developing CS programs.

We are looking at a two-year implementation timeline, with a target date in 2020 for districts to have programs in place.

There will be additional opportunities for educators and the broader public to provide feedback, with information posted on this group and on the Department website.

Additionally, the NH State Board of education today (August 8, 2018), voted unanimously to adopt the NH Computer Science academic standards.  Part 1 of these standards, "Context and Guidance,"  provides additional clarification about the relationship between digital literacy and computer science, how CS relates to STEM and other disciplines, and recommendations for developing or strengthening programs.  Part 2 is the grade-band standards.

The standards, and additional resources, are available here:

The policy tour slides provide a concise overview of our computer science policy efforts.

The Department of Education will continue to support implementation of these policies through federal and state grant programs, partnerships, and guidance and support.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Computer Science and Farming

One of the things I tell students is that computer science is relevant to a lot of careers that they may not think of at first. An announcement I read last week and a visit to a farm reminded me of that this past week.

The article was about a joint effort between Microsoft and the Futures Farmers of America. (Future Farmers of America, Microsoft to develop tech-based agricultural curriculum) The FFA is an amazing group that does a lot to help prepared young people for careers in farming. Modern farming is a lot more than sticking seeds in the ground and waiting for plants to be harvested. Actually it has always been a lot more than that but technology has long had an expanding role in making farming for efficient and productive.

As I said, I also visited a farm last week. The owners are friends of mine and they are working other jobs as they build up the farm. Technology is a big part of how they manage things at the farm while not living there full time. Obviously there is we-fi available throughout the a farm. There are remotely accessed cameras and a very nice weather reporting system for starters. As I toured the farm we talked about future efforts.

One thing under consideration is RFID tags on each of the trees in their apple orchards. This would allow notes to be easily taken and recorded on the condition of individual trees. Other thoughts include computer (and remotely) controlled irrigation. Being able to pay more and better attention to individual plants or parts of a farm - precision agriculture – is something that computerization makes practical.

I’ve been reading about using computers to plan grazing patterns that make for more productive pastures, robots that scan and treat individual plants at high speed, and artificial intelligence analysis of aerial photographs of crops. I think we’re on the verge of a big jump in technology use in farming with a jump in productivity and efficacy in farming. Pretty darn cool!

Friday, August 03, 2018

School is Getting Close and Teachers Are Getting Ready

Two weeks from today I return to school for teacher orientation. Students come in the next week. summerThings are getting real. While I have been thinking about school a lot ever since the end of the last school year there is a renewed sense of urgency kicking in.

I’d like to report that I have solidly worked my plan (School Year is Over, Time to Get Ready for Next Year)  but that would be an overstatement. The start of a new school year seems so far away when one school year ends. It sneaks up on you.

The other day I got access to the learning management system with my classes enabled. I uploaded a lot of the resources that I have been preparing. That helps me feel like I am closer to being ready. I’m a little behind where I wanted to be but ahead of where I was this time last summer.

So the crunch is on! I’m working on the details for the first couple of weeks of classes. I’m outlining some things I will need later. I’m used to doing some things “on the fly” by which I mean adapting projects to the interests of the particular class. It is always amazing how much difference there is from one section and another in the same year or from one year to another. I don’t want to straightjacket myself. I don’t want to be totally without plans and options though.

I should get to it. I should also prioritize school prep over blogging. See you later.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Encourage US High School Students to Apply for 2018-2019 ACM/CSTA Cutler-Bell Prize

Do you know a student working on an amazing computer science project? Maybe they need some recognition to take them to the next level. The Cutler-Bell Prize may be just what they need.

Every year, the ACM/CSTA Cutler-Bell Prize in High School Computing recognizes talented high school students in computer science. The intent of the program is to promote and encourage the field of computer science, as well as to empower young and aspiring learners to pursue computing challenges outside of the traditional classroom environment.

The application process involves a Challenge that focuses on having the student develop an artifact that engages modern computing technology and computer science. Judges will be looking for submissions that demonstrate ingenuity, complexity, relevancy, originality, and a desire to further computer science as a discipline. The application period closes January 5, 2019.

Up to four winners will be selected and each will be awarded a $10,000 prize, which will be administered through the financial aid department at the university the student will attend. The prizes are funded by a $1 million endowment established by David Cutler and Gordon Bell.

Detailed information, including the link to the online application, is available on the ACM/CSTA Cutler-Bell Prize in High School Computing website. Winners of the 2018-2019 Cutler-Bell Prize will be notified via email in February 2019.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Ethics, Accessibility, and Security–Condiment or Ingredient

Too often people think of ethics, accessibility, and security as condiments; something to add at the end rather than ingredients essential from the beginning.

Last night was the latest #EthicalCS Twitter chat and as usual it got me thinking. A pretty common occurrence during those chats BTW. The discussion was of course about ethics but I was thinking that people see ethics as an add on – something to tag in as a filler in a course or a later thought in a project. The same seems to be true about some other things like system security and accessibility.

These are all related in some ways. An ethical system is accessible and secure for example. More importantly, though they have to be baked into the system. They have to be considerations from the start if they are really going to be the best they can be for the most number of people.

As educators I think we have to make sure that our students learn that. Learn it by example, by discussion, and by plan.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Updated ACM Code of Ethics Released

ethics ACMThe ACM has released the latest update for the ACM Code of Ethics. It’s an interesting and important document. I wonder how many computing professionals know about and try to follow it though.

Clearly, as computing becomes more and more a part of daily life ethical practices become more and more important. As an educator I see it as my responsibility to make sure my students know about it though. The word “ethics” appears 100 times in the CS 2013 Curriculum report with specific mention of the ACM code of ethics listed as a reference and resource.

As I plan for the new school year I am thinking about how to incorporate more ethics discussion into the curriculum. I really want students to think, and think hard, about ethical issues.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Is This The Future?

Narrator: Alfred Thompson, you’ve just attended an amazing CSTA Conference. Now what?

Alfred: I’m going to Disney World!

magic bandAnd so I did. I just got home from about 5 days at DisneyWorld with my family. It was a great time  and I spent a lot less time online than usual. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t thinking about technology though. At DisneyWorld technology is everywhere. For most visitors this wrist band is the center of much of the activity.

It’s called a Magic Band and basically it is a cool container for an RFID chip. This band serves as the key to ones hotel room, a charge card, admissions to the various parks, and more. It’s not the only RFID chip one will run into though.

Fall-2015-Disney-World-Refillable-Resort-Rapid-Fill-Mugs-5-453x600Even the beverage containers also have RFID chips attached. The most obvious to may people are the refillable mugs. These mugs allow unlimited refills for a specific period of time. The dispensers only work if they read a valid RFID chip. Yes, in case you are wondering, even the paper cups have chips in them. The chips in the paper cups allow for a specific number of refills. I wish I had brought one of them home to play with. Anyone want to send me one (or more?) I really want to experiment with RFID.

So this is cool technology. The question really is, is the a utopian future or a dystopian future?

Disney uses this information to make the guest experience better. Well, that’s the theory and I suspect it is largely the case. I’m sure it helps them make money as well. No doubt it is useful to know how many refills people take. Tracking visits to the parks tells them a lot about guests interests and routines. Who knows what else they know about.

But what about outsiders using the data? Other companies? The government? What information can or does Disney provide to law enforcement and under what circumstances?

There is also the question of people with malicious intent stealing information. Not just from Disney RFID chips either. More and more credit cards and other ID cards are using RFID chips. My newest wallet is advertised as blocking RFID signals so apparently a lot of people are concerned about this sort of thing. With good reason I think.

The potential uses of RFID are both good and bad. We can use them for many things but should we? Good stuff to talk about with students. I think they need to understand this technology, how it works, and what its risks and benefits are.