Archive for the 'Computer Science' Category

SSTiC 2014: Mark Guzdial on CS Education 3

July 14, 2014

CS Education research

Bias: US learning scientist with mostly CS degrees

1960-1970s: LOGO
1990s?: empirical worked killed LOGO
xxxx?: MIMS? Multi-institution something studies

The two cultures and the scientific revolution (CP Snow)

Computers and the world of the future
Snow: scientists and decision making
Perlis: The computer in the university
Study of process and should be ubiquitous

Elias responds: do we really need programming

2007 Economist Business by the numbers

We’re controlled by algorithms we don’t understand

Earliest attempt, BASIC in 1964

1968-1980: Logo

1984: Pea & Kurland killed Logo (perhaps not appropriately)

1990: Palumbo meta-review; no correlation between problem solving and programming

1987: Sharon Carver Dissertation

Cog model

Some evidence that programming helps student learn science and math (Idit Harel Caperton)

Yasmin Kafai replicated

1972: Dynabooks; Personal Dynamic Media; meta-medium

Squeak 1995 to Etoys to Scratch

1986: Andrea diSessa and Hal Abelson aim to support computational literacy (blend of Smalltalk and Logo ideas; Boxer)

1984: Lewis Johnson “Proust” (semantic error checker based on Rainfall Problem)

1988: Studying the Novice Programmer

1990: Jim Spohrer’s “Marcel”

Cognitive model of a student programmer


John Anderson and Cognitive Tutors (Lisp and Pascal tutors)

Geometry tutor as well

Kafai tested in schools and it was a disaster (totally alien and conflict with other media)

Cog tutors work (for writing code; but nothing about debugging or design)

Are graphical languages better than textual

Petre and Green’s bottom line: every syntax highlights and obscures different pools of knowledge

1991 Petre and Green: Textual languages were easier to read

1993 Moher

2004 Moskal, Lurie, & Cooper starting wig Alice improved retention and performance

2009 Hundhuasen

Does algo viz help

2002 Hundhausen, Douglas, Stasko. Meta analysis

Not really

Building helps; not watching

Multiple symbol system hard on beginners

1993: Hundhausen: Observation-based is the way to go

2001: Kehoe, Stasko, and Taylor: viz students work longer

Not much CSED in 1990s

Sally Fincher Bootstrapping model

Weird problem: all papers rejected from biggest CSEd conference (more about teachers talking together)

John Pane 2002

Commonsense computing



discipline based education domains

No univocal evidence for success predictors

The computer boys take over — Nathan Ensmenger

What skills do CS teachers need?

Read and comment on code (but not write much)

Measure of PCK (Pedagogical Content Knowledge): Sadler et al

Knowing content

Knowing what students will get wrong

Few women and members of minority groups in CS: Western world phenomenon

Stuck in the Shallow End, Jane Margolis

Peak in 1983 (40%) now 12%

How do we teach everyone computing

Raymond Lister on development path for programming

Is teaching computing more like mathematics or more like science?

Inquiry based learning?

SSTiC 2014: Mark Guzdial on CS Education 2

July 8, 2014

There was no way I was going to blog David Johnson’s lecture on the travelling salesman problem (loads of cool empirical work): Subject is hard and David talks really fast 😉

But here’s Mark part 2!

(We had a nice chat during lunch in which we poked at various things such as teaching how to teach CS esp to PhD students; various worries about peer instruction (some results show that showing the answer histograms between clicking and discussion doesn’t do a thing!; etc.)

This session is about education psych (in general).

Models of teaching: surprise, cs teachers generally don’t see themselves as nurturing or engaged in social reform.

Three common models: developmental, transmission, and apprenticeship.

Brown and Cocking 2000: How People Learn

Cognitivist Theories: learning = sense making

Not transmission.

Assimilation or accommodation. Accommodation requires new definition.

Models of memory


Make sense by creating connections between things we know and creating predictive mental models

Accommodation is hard

Easier to treat conflicting info as special case or ignore it as book knowledge

Whitehead: brittle knowledge

Lecture can work if students are trying to make sense

Test driven learning

Talent is overrated (motivation is most everything)

Duuuude! Gladwell? 10,000 hours?

Type decorations are hard to learn!

Transfer is hard (ie from situation to situation)

Marsha Lin.

Reflection: “Where would I use this next?”

Could either remember meta cognitive strategies or could recognize when a metacog strat (in general) would be helpful, but couldn’t remember what they were.

John Anderson, Rules of the Mind.

Students bind programming learning closely to syntax.

Schniderman: second programming language is harder than first (learning computation!)

Novices vs experts

Experts see patterns while novices see surface features

Experts know big ideas while novices can’t distinguish details from the main proposition

Teaching people how to learn (in abstracto) has failed

Sociocognitive theories of learning

Students want to become part of a community of practice

Legitimate peripheral participation (start at edges and move to the center)

(“Situated learning: legitimate peripheral participation”)

Expectancy-value theory

Eccles (1983) model of achievement-related choices

Dweck’s work on mindset

Fixed mindset vs growth mindset


Stereotype threat

Learning CS is hard

Rainfall problem (see Venable, Tan, and Lister, 2009)

Design of language makes a different!

Jim Spoor(?) built cognitive model for it

Proust (semantic debugging of rainfall problem)

Mike McCracken “Build a calculator”

Allison Tew (language independent validated test of intro CS knowledge)

MediaComp results are AMAZING.

Teaching computer arch on a gameboy: learning the same, but higher student liking of comp arch.

SSTiC 2014: Mark Guzdial on CS education

July 8, 2014

How better to break my blogging drought than live blogging the always awesome Mark Guzdial’ lectures at SSTiC (he is, btw, worth the trip and price of admissions).

Far more people programming as part of their job than are pro programmers.

30%-50% failure/withdrawal rate in first CS course.

I asked how do we know this is bad rather than good. Mark says there’s evidence we can did better. At next slide showed AP results for calc and CS and CS sucks and is flat in comparison. That seems like strong evidence contrary.

As expected, we’re going to use media!

And there he fires up Squeak! Yay!

A whistling demo! Fun!

Mark: it needs to be bigger and you need to slow down 😉 Also, having the comparison between sounds readily available would be cool.

(Sean Bechhofer should see this!)

Calculus for digitizing sound. Someone’s theorem was critical. Fun fact about Sgt Pepper’s: they included a dog only audible sound at the end; we can hear it on the CD due to downsampling!

(Argh…connectivity killed me. Lots of cool stuff:

Peer instruction has dramatic results…in physics.

They we did a bunch of image stuff with peer instruction.)

LiveCoding: two types — demos and live algorithmic music.

Live coding is part of best practice for engaging women. Reduces fear of programming and imposter syndrome.

Spatial intelligence and learning center.

High spatial intelligence do well in CS. Low spatial intelligence goes into business and education!

Train specially low spatial intel engineering students early has great benefits with high transfer.

Kinaesthetic learning activities.

Gestures and sketches are better than premade diagrams because (from bio) incongruity between diagram and mental model inhibits learning. (Uli will love this.)

Computer science unplugged.


Using music to get the idea of linked lists.

Multimodality (channels get overloaded so use multiple channels)

Important of worked examples. 7-10 examples before doing (or slightly more complicated patterns). worked examples take a third of the time.

Apprenticeship model isn’t efficient.

Labelled subgoals in worked examples.

Amazing improvement.

Parson’s problems. Give all lines of code and drag into place.

Sabbatical reports

January 7, 2014

I’m going to start the series fresh, probably on Friday. I want to make a more sustainable and interesting format.

Sabbatical Report: Week 12 & 13

December 10, 2013

I’m back in Manchester for the week: Rafael’s viva and Samantha‘s graduation are this Friday (the second Friday the 13th of the year; the first being my birthday).

I went to my first AIMA Annual Symposium. It was interesting enough. Bigger and richer than most conference I’ve been to. I wasn’t hugely impressed by the scientific quality, but it’s hard to say from first exposure. I may have learned enough to make my next attempt at submission successful, but we’ll see.

I clearly haven’t solved my “How to achieve my sabbatical goals” problem. The blogging is just one example.

OTOH, we’re inching to a new contract between Manchester and Siemens. We’re also making some progress on the work itself. These are good things. Hopefully, I can achieve a reasonable balance between that and my other sabbatical goals in the coming months

Sabbatical Report: Week 10 & 11

November 19, 2013

So tired!

That’s my summery.

I’ve been (or am in) two new conferences for me NERFA (which I was the spouse of the attendee) and AMIA.

I’m sad that my only blog posts are sabbatical reports and they themselves are erratic and not very interesting. I shall aim to do better!

Two out of three papers were accepted for SWAT4LS: One on using SPARQL to represent Clinical Assessment Scales and one on measuring coordination in terminologies. (Earlier drafts were rejected from AIMA…I do feel the irony.)

My current paper writing is…not going well. I’m way way way behind! Sigh.

As Boxer said, “I will work harder!”

Sabbatical Report: Week 9

November 5, 2013

Lots and lots happening. Unfortunately, I can’t talk much about it. Hopefully things will settle down after this week, but I’m not counting on it!

Movember has started and my stache is pathetic. So are my donations. Must start advertising.

Nanowrimo has also started. I’ve like 400 words 🙂

Paper writing is dismal as is paper reading! What’s going on!!!!

Is anything going as planned? Yes! Exercise is not bad. According to my fitbit, I walked 45.92 miles last week and hit my targets (the base level provided) every day! It’s not all the forms I mean to do, but it’s a great starting point.

Sabbatical Report: Week 7 & 8

October 29, 2013

Oops. I let Week 7’s report slide and now we’re a day after the week 8 report is due.

Sorry! More illness gyrations and the whirlwind of exciting possibilities which need lots of nurturance has gotten in the way. I have read a couple of non-fiction books (brief reviews coming). My paper writing is far behind as is my paper reading. Haven’t programmed for a while. But I think it’s fair to say that grant proposals are on track if in a weird way 🙂

As I go into the last week of shingles meds (last dribblets of prednisone) I seem to be having more vertigo (completely knocked out on Thurs night, Fri, Sat). At least, it’s sub-spinning level, but I have had two falls, one on concrete. Not fun!

Thanks to a very kind person, Tahir Kahn, I did not feel compelled to drag myself to San Francisco to give my paper at CIKM. Given the low level crap I’ve been feeling, I’m just as glad.

I seem to have just enough energy and focus and clear head time to barely stay above water. Grr!

Sabbatical Report: Week 6

October 16, 2013

“Good” start: Missing the Monday post!

Good reason: I’ve got a case of the shingles which developed over the past week culminating with a fairly raging case on Friday and a trip to the ER (after going to a Minute Clinic). There is head involvement (most of the blisters are on the left side of my scalp) with a secondary infection on my left ear. The head involvement put(s?) me at risk for sight and (more probably) hearing damage. ENT visit for tomorrow.

This killed my travel for this week (to visit Stanford) and perhaps for ISWC (which is next week). And it’s left me moving slow and trying to take it easy. While a sabbatical is not a vacation (it really isn’t! I’ve already pulled an all-nighter last week and that was with the (unknown to me) shingles!), the flexibility of the sabbatical has made this one of my all time better convalescences. Right now, in a normal term, I’d have COMP60411 running right now, which means at least a half day of lecture to prep and give, tons of coursework to design (and grade), plus 3-4 3rd year project students, plus plus plus. Obviously, my awesome colleagues (esp. Uli) would step in, but I find it really hard to 1) not worry about it and 2) not pitch in as soon as possible which is usually way too soon. (I had a mild 1.5 hour telecon today and I was beat after it.) Plus, the weather has been great and Swarthmore (and this house) are super duper lovely and comfortable. I’ve been sitting outside on the college lawn reading about medical reasoning and snoozing as my energy goes.

Last week, when I was thinking these were all “normal stuff to live with” and doing crazy things like commuting 2 hrs by train, my misery index was far far higher.

Two things prevented my from seeing medical attention sooner: 1) confusing about the symptoms (including completely failed googling) and 2) the stupid US health care system.

Toward 1: I had skin pain and sensitivity on my left arm since at least Monday (and was feeling crappy Sat and Sun). But it was hot and me and heat and my arthritis all don’t get along at all. Skin sensitivity is my standard state and skin pain is not uncommon (e.g., one of my major systems during my first arthritic flare and recurs with colds and flu). Zoe had a cold; Mom had a cold; maybe I had one. The pain got more intense and started spreading, but maybe that was just what happened. Maybe my arthritis was flaring up? Who knows! I googled for skin pain and really got a whole lot of nothing.

The second symptom were blisters. But the blisters were on my scalp. I was feeling random head skin pain (which was weird) but I’d been having that for a while too. It’s not like I could see the blisters. I thought I was having some annoying scalp acne. When it clearly went way beyond that, I thought I might be developing psoriasis. (I have psoriatic arthritis, but unlike my father and esp. my poor brother, I’ve never before developed the plaques, but there’s a first time!)

This was freaking me out. Active psoriasis plaques can be a huge fucking annoying deal and set off round after round of treatment attempts for the rest of your life. I really didn’t that, and I really didn’t want that here, in the US, on (university supplied) travel insurance with a new rheumatologist. If it were just all these things, I could probably ride it out for the next 9 months. WHICH INSANE THINKING!

On Friday, things clearly were progressing fast and weird. Zoe looked at the blisters and they didn’t match so we decided to seek treatment which didn’t mean “calling up doctors”. It meant “figuring out our insurance”. Which is pure evil. The CVS Minute Clinic would give us an appointment quick and had bounded prices, so we went. The nurse practitioner looked at me and said, “It’s probably shingles. Go to the ER. Today.” (Though she tried to avoid that because of my uncertain insurance status and apologised for sending me to appropriate treatment. She was a star. She code our visit as a “partial visit” since she was referring us to help cut our cost. She really rocked.

Toward 2: All the US system of insurance does is drive up cost, introduce unnecessary stress on patients and their families, impede and distort care decisions from EVERYONE in the system, cut people off from care, and bankrupt people. I seriously contemplated flying back to England because I knew my cost would be bounded by my ticket price.

In the NHS, I would have called NHS direct or dropped into a clinic or made a GP appointment or gone to the UK equivalent of the ER and never would I have thought about a bill. I would have aimed for the minimal intervention because who the hell wants to go to an ER. But a whole level of stress and fear about the whole experience simply would not exist. The disease was scary enough without the idea that I might impoverish my family!

Now, I have the many graces of a good job, actually pretty decent insurance, a loving and capable spouse and a super flexible job not to mention access to a car, computer, mobile phone, lovely housing, disease course is improving etc. etc. etc. etc. That is, I have it pretty damn sweet and this extra nonsense was STILL awful. I am just gutted to think about people with more severe conditions and no insurance, difficult transport, shaky job, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. What a HELL!

And what do we, as a country, get for this. One of the most expensive health care system in the world, i.e., the least bang for our medical buck.

Screw. That.

Obamacare isn’t perfect, but it’s a hell of a lot better than what we had. It gets us closer to universal coverage (and those states resisting Medicaid expansion and John Roberts of the Supreme Court should face trial for crimes against humanity for what they’ve done).

The Republican terrorist tantrum to defund Obamacare i.e., screw sick people or we BLOW UP THE WORLD and btw we’ll screw people before then to show we mean business? It’s just evil.

You, my friends and relatives who supported any Republican in recent memory are complicit in the systematic infliction of suffering on your fellow citizens while damaging your own future. I find it literally disgusting and maddening. Figure this out please. Now. Show some fucking patriotism and solidarity and plain common sense.

On the plus side of all this, I did have an interesting chat with the NP at the Minute Clinic about their electronic heath care record system and identified a key complaint that our collaboration is meant to address, so I’ve started designing experiments around it. My Siemens pals have already been in talks with them, but it was cool to get a ground level view. Maybe I can have her come in for a few tests and experiments!

Sabbatical report: Week 5 and/or 6

October 8, 2013

I think I got my numbering confused! Plus I started on different days 🙂

Yeek. Ok, I’ll do a report every Monday, and it’s about the past week, thus this about Week 5.

Things are still not fully settled. I did manage to commute out and back by public transit (I still can’t drive!) and it’s only 2.5+ hours each way! Whee!

On the plus side, I get some reading done on the train. I’m not up to posting my stats (I want to put some software together to help with that).

I did make some progress on what I’m now calling the Examinator which is software to help with the creation and moderation of electronic (and paper!) exams. Check out a screenshot.

Examinator has 4 panes: Upper left is a pane with stats about the exam; below it is a tabluler view of the questions; when selected the text of the question appears in the upper right; and below that (currently) we have the LaTeX translation.

Examinator has 4 panes: Upper left is a pane with stats about the exam; below it is a tabluler view of the questions; when selected the text of the question appears in the upper right; and below that (currently) we have the LaTeX translation.

Examinator is written in Pharo Smalltalk using the awesome Glamour toolkit. And yes, I’m too lazy to link right now.

I’ve started working on understanding what it would take to represent all clinical knowledge in a useful way. I don’t lack for ambition, but I also don’t lack for being daunted. I had a nice conversation with Marc Overage and I really hope we can push this forward together.

I’ve lined up a few more talks and visits, though there are still (I imagine) many more to come.

On a personal note, I visited my mom and nephews. We scattered Chris’s ashes in Ocean City, NJ (with a soupçon in her compost heap). These are good things.

On the downside, Zoe got a wee bit sick and me as well. She had some cold like thing and I’ve had exhaustion and various sorts of pain. Skin sensitivity of new and annoying sorts (as well as old and annoying sorts).

OTOH, we picked apples and tomatoes and raspberries. I made cake and cookies. Zoe has made pie.

How bad can it be?