Thursday, January 24, 2019

Computer Science Standards and Frameworks

I’ve been thinking a lot about computer science standards and frameworks the last couple of days. It’s all Mark Guzdial’s fault because he posted Frameworks and Standards can be limiting and long-lasting: Alan Kay was right Following Mark’s post are (as I write this) 38 comments. Some of the longest and most thought provoking have been from Alan Kay. Yes, that Alan Kay

This was hard to read for me because I was involved in writing the Framework and invested a lot of time in it. I thought I was doing a good thing. But I can see some of the flaws with the benefit of time and an outside view from many smart people.

I was also on the CS 2013 task force so I have seen two different processes for two very different documents. I do, and always did, wish the Framework process could have been more like the CS 2013 process. I feel like the reviews between drafts of the CS 2013 were done better with solid input from many and varied outside reviewers. There were both too many and two few people involved in the  K12 CS Framework. Too many doing the actual writing and perhaps too few doing reviewing.

For an other thing, I felt like the Framework writing became a lot more about how things were said (worded) than what was said. Not that what was said wasn’t important but that politics drove the working. Perhaps that is because I joined the writing team late in the process but I still wonder if the emphasis was right.

I’m still thinking about some of the comments from Alan Kay on Mark’s post as well. Especially the section below from his comment on my comment.

I’ve always been a big enthusiast about Jerome Bruner’s idea that *for every learner you can (and need to) find an intellectually honest version of a subject they can learn if you heed their level of development”.

In order to do this, I think you really need to have a good picture and as good as possible a definition of the subject before trying to find “intellectually honest versions of it” for different kinds of learners.

This was not done for the CS Framework. If the subject were physical sciences, one would first start with top scientists to put together a workable picture of the sciences as the best people in the field see them at that time.

So how to I look at the existing framework and standards (either CSTA or as adopted by my state)? Should I write my own “standard” or more accurately named “Alfred’s list of what I think high school students should know about computer science at graduation?” It might be an interesting intellectual exercise but would it be valuable?

As a classroom teacher I don’t spend a lot of time looking at how my curriculum matches a standard or a framework. Maybe I should. My wife can tell you all the standards she is working to follow in her curriculum.

Teaching at a private high school I have more flexibility and self determination than I suspect teachers at public schools have. I have also spent a long time in the computing field as both an educator and an industry professional so I have a sort of confidence (ego perhaps) that I can decide what students need to know. Students seem to be well prepared for university, or so they tell me, so I can live with that for now.

The problem is what to specify for newer, less experienced (more modest?) teachers. The Framework was one attempt and it was well-meaning I am sure. What we need to do is not so much focus on its flaws but discuss where to go from here. And who should lead the way!

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