Friday, December 31, 2021

Looking Back on Computer Science Education in 2021

I’ve never felt less prepared to write a look back on CS education than I do today. I’ve been retired from most of the year and the world has been changed a bit because of COVID. I have noticed some things have clearly happened. One is the increase in online development tools which I talked about a year ago. The other is an apparent growth in cyber security education.

I’ve also noticed some increase in virtual reality programming courses as well. How that will go is anyone’s guess. There are two barriers. One is that VR hardware is still expensive. It’s not just devices like the Oculus but also computers capable enough to support VR and its development. A lack of training is also a barrier. Most teachers seem to be learning on their own with help from documentation and videos from companies. That and some support through social media from other teachers.

The Unity Teach Community has well over 2,000 members and is very active. I highly recommend it if you are looking to get involved in teaching VR.

Online teaching and programming tools have really taken off. The courses support this sort of thing but they are far from the only option. CodeHS for example shows up a lot in social media discussions. As does Coding Rooms. And I should probably collect a list of them for a future post. Perhaps you could add your favorites as comments and help me out?

Cyber security has also seen a lot of growth. has a lot of materials and provide cyber security professional development. Social media support for teachers coming from teachers has also been growing. I recommend the Cybersecurity Educators Facebook group. Over 1,000 members and active and growing. This field is going to boom as security gets more attention all the time.

Every year I expect  the Internet of Things to take off but it never really does. The pandemic has made doing any sort of physical computing more difficult. But I keep hoping.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence didn’t seem to pick up a great deal but it is growing. AI 4 K12 has a lot of useful resources from teachers and I recommend checking them out. Most of what I see in K-12 AI is units in existing courses and not specific full courses. That’s probably best at the K-12 level. The math and coding involved in creating AI from scratch is intense. Learning how to use existing tools is both useful and age appropriate.

So progress has been made and that’s a good thing. 2022 should be interesting. Hopefully, in a good way.

Monday, December 06, 2021

Computer Science Education Week 2021

Well, its CS Ed Week again. Still no cards in the Hallmark store for it. I’ll get back to that in a moment. CS Ed Week has long been a time to introduce more students to computer science. When it started there were only small percentage of schools that offered any computer science education at all. We’ve made a lot of progress. There is still a long way to go though as even though more schools offer CS the number of students taking it are still very low.

There is no shortage of ways to introduce students to computer science during CS Ed Week. Hour of Code is probably the best known and widest platform in use. And it is a great one.Miles Berry has several activates in his blog post Five (out of twenty) things to do with a computer with more information about using Turtles one another blog post - Make a Turtle!

I never made a big deal of CS Ed Week when I was teaching for the very simple reason that the school I was teaching at required a full year (or two semesters) of computer science as a graduation requirement. Getting students to take courses was not an issue. We spent more time trying to make the course interesting, relevant, and even fun while being rigorous.

In hind sight, perhaps I missed an opportunity to have students celebrate what they were doing though.  There are some activates not involving code that we could have done. Maybe you want to try them as well.

Grace Hopper – The timing of CS Ed Week is the week that includes Grace Hopper’s birthday – December 9th. So it is a good time to talk about her and other women in computing. Women have played a huge and often underrecognized role in computing. Maybe younger students would like to make Grace Hopper birthday cards?

CSTA ran a number of contests for student for CS Ed Week some years ago. They make good activities. For example, filming a PSA video to promote computer science in general or specific courses. Posters to promote taking a CS course might be fun. In fact, have students create posters for a specific course that might be over looked. That may help fill courses that students don’t understand from a course description in a program of studies.

Speaking of programs of studies, ask students to write their own description of the course they are or have taken. You may gain insights into how students view the course that help you make the course better.

About that greeting cards, what would a CS Ed Week greeting card look like? Ask students to create some. Let’s make is have a celebratory feel!

Friday, December 03, 2021

First - Understand the Problem

Things are different for me being retired. I don’t get the blogging inspiration the way I used to. Today a post by Mike Zamansky (Work through the example!!!!!) got me thinking. I used to talk to students about problem solving and one of the things I tried to highlight was the need to understand the problem as completely as possible.

All too often students read or listen to instructions lightly and make assumptions that are not really supported by what has been presented to them. It is often tempting to skim and assume with the idea that it will save time. It works often enough, for simple enough problems, to help people to fall into the trap of thinking they are smart enough to do this always. Until it doesn’t work.

It’s hard to get students to focus on understanding the problem completely. Honestly, it can be hard for more experienced people to do this as well. The urge to jump into the coding is strong. I have been known to start coding too early myself. The more important the project/problem the more important it is to make sure you really understand the problem.

In what seems like a different life I was a developer in an operating system group. The sub team I was on was writing a new print/batch subsystem from scratch. The three of us spent weeks looking at what features should be there and how they should be set up. We spent more weeks designing the code. All before we wrote a line of code. Honestly, the groups leadership was on our case to start coding before we were done understanding and planning. Long story short, we finished on-time without having to work crazy overtime hours. Planning paid off.

It’s a story I told regularly to students over the years. It may or may not have helped but I tried.