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Rethinking Computer Science Education. Deepak Kumar Bryn Mawr College dkumar@brynmawr.edu. Bryn Mawr College. Bryn Mawr College. Founded in 1885 Located in suburbs of Philadelphia (97 driving miles to NJIT) 1200 Undergraduate women and 300 graduate students. New CS program (since 2001).

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rethinking computer science education
RethinkingComputer ScienceEducation

Deepak KumarBryn Mawr College

dkumar@brynmawr.edu

Bryn Mawr College

bryn mawr college
Bryn Mawr College
  • Founded in 1885
  • Located in suburbs of Philadelphia (97 driving miles to NJIT)
  • 1200 Undergraduate women and 300 graduate students.
  • New CS program (since 2001)
agenda
Agenda
  • Enrollments are down ~50% since 2000-01
  • Interest in CS has sharply declined
  • Gender gap has grown (fewer women)
  • CS Curricula have inherent and explicit biases that deter people from CS
  • The context of computing has changed
  • Current efforts to redesign curricula
  • Focus on CS1 (as an entry ramp into the curriculum)

Bryn Mawr College

crisis enrollment
Crisis: Enrollment

Enrollments in Computer Science(PhD-granting Programs)

From: CRA Taulbee Survey Report 2005-06, March 6, 2007.

Bryn Mawr College

crisis interest in cs
Crisis: Interest in CS

Freshman interest in Computer Science has been declining.

From: Low Interest in CS and CE Among Incoming Freshmen, CRA Bulletin, 2/6/2007.

Bryn Mawr College

crisis gender
Crisis: Gender

From: Computer Science Bachelor’s Degrees Granted to Women, CRA Bulletin, April 5, 2006.

Bryn Mawr College

why so few women
Why so few women?
  • Female disinterest is not genetic, nor accidental, nor inherent to computer science.
  • Largely due to three factors:
    • Early childhood gender socialization (home)
    • A combination of adolescence, peer relationships, computer game design, and secondary school social pressures
    • Female orientation towards (and concerns about) computing are different from the design of most computer science curricula

From: Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing, Margolis & Fisher, MIT Press 2002.

Bryn Mawr College

inherent explicit biases
Inherent & explicit biases…
  • In CS there is an inherent obsession for finding the most efficient procedures, or creating the fastest computers. This naturally appeals to the male stereotype.
  • CS Curricula have been designed to “invite” only those students who can survive the challenge.

Bryn Mawr College

an appeal
An Appeal?

“Whereas in the past we created obstacles to reduce the number of CS majors, today we must recruit students to have the workforce needed to meet the challenges and opportunities of information technology in this century. We should take advantage of the reduced pressures from the dip in enrollments to revamp our curriculum.”

Prof. David Patterson, President of the Association for Computing Machinery, in Communications of the ACM, March 2006.

Bryn Mawr College

exhibit a
Exhibit A

“Whereas in the past we created obstacles to reduce the number of CS majors, today we must recruit students to have the workforce needed to meet the challenges and opportunities of information technology in this century. We should take advantage of the reduced pressures from the dip in enrollments to revamp our curriculum.”

Prof. David Patterson, President of the Association for Computing Machinery, in Communications of the ACM, March 2006.

Bryn Mawr College

exhibit b
Exhibit B

A CS1 programming assignment.

Bryn Mawr College

exhibit b12
Exhibit B

Bryn Mawr College

myths
Myths?
  • CS has a nerd image
  • CS degree leads to high stress and low job prospects
  • CS has no positive impact on the world

Bryn Mawr College

slide14
But…
  • Salary.com/CNN Money Best Jobs in America reported Software Engineer as the #1 job.
  • Additionally the job of Computer/IT Analyst appears at #7.

From: Tara Kalwarski, Daphne Mosher, Janet Paskin and Donna Rosato, 50 Best jobs in America, Money Magazine, May 1, 2006.

Bryn Mawr College

just so you know
Just so you know…
  • Software Engineer
  • College Professor
  • Financial Advisor
  • Human Resources Manager
  • Physician’s Assistant
  • Market Research Analyst
  • Computer/IT Analyst
  • Real Estate Appraiser
  • Pharmacist
  • Psychologist

!!

From: Tara Kalwarski, Daphne Mosher, Janet Paskin and Donna Rosato, 50 Best jobs in America, Money Magazine, May 1, 2006.

Bryn Mawr College

back to the crisis
Back to the crisis…

“While it is true that economy has forced the issue, Computer Science curriculum has never been attractive. It is designed for the sole purpose of producing software engineers.”“We should aim for more outcomes from a Computer Science curriculum. Programming is only part of the story.”—Mark Guzdial

Bryn Mawr College

the context of computing
The context of computing

“I think there is a world market for about five

Computers.”

— Unconfirmed remark attributed to Thomas J. Watson (Chairman of the Board of International Business Machines), 1943.

“Today, there are more computers than people on your campus.”

— Deepak Kumar, 2007.

Bryn Mawr College

engaging students into cs
Engaging Students into CS
  • Attracting and retaining students into computing lies at the heart of the current crisis.
  • The issue is multi-faceted and will therefore require multi-faceted approaches and solutions.

Bryn Mawr College

overcoming barriers
Overcoming Barriers…
  • Alignment of course content to student interests to increase engagement can have a positive impact on students choosing to enter computing as a major in college.
  • Introductory computing courses serve as a gateway into the curriculum.
  • Should provide interesting and diverse range of examples and exercises.
  • Most tasks should be attainable and provide a basis for supportive and positive feedback to students.

Bair and Marcus, 2007: Women’s Interest in IT: The Fun Factor. In Berger et al, Reconfiguring the Firewall: Recruiting Women to IT across Cultures and Continents. AK Peters, 2007.Akbulut and Looney, 2007. Inspiring Students to Pursue Computing Degrees. CACM, October 2007.

Bryn Mawr College

rethinking cs curricula
Rethinking CS Curricula
  • To attract more students to computing we need to create more on-ramps (entry points) into the curriculum.
  • Make the curriculum requirements more flexible.(GeorgiaTech’s Threads model, for example)
  • Create several CS1 courses to attract students with diverse interests in computing: web, multi-media, games, freakanomics, robotics…

Bryn Mawr College

curriculum design patterns
Curriculum Design Patterns
  • Participate in freshman seminars
  • Multiple entry-points
  • Lost of interdisciplinary electives
  • Humanizing core courses
  • Design of everyday lecture artifacts
  • Breaking rigid boundaries
  • Less is more in every course
  • Flexibility in designing a major/minor
  • Majors in emerging disciplines
  • Diversify faculty course load distribution

From: Patterns of Curriculum Design, Douglas Blank and Deepak Kumar, Informatics Curricula and Teaching Methods, Edited by Lillian Cassel and Ricardo Reis, Kluwer Academic Press, 2003.

Bryn Mawr College

slide22
IPRE

IPRE: Institute for Personal Robots in Education

Goals: To explore the use of personal robots

People: Douglas Blank, Deepak Kumar (BMC), Tucker Balch, Mark Guzdial (GaTech), Stewart Tansley (MSR)

Website: www.roboteducation.org

Partners:

Bryn Mawr College

ipre s cs1 initiative
IPRE’s CS1 Initiative
  • Use a personal robot
  • Let the needs of the curriculum drive the design of the robot, software, and text
  • Use tools that are easy to use, scale with experience
  • Create an accessible, engaging environment for new, diverse population of students
  • Computer Science ≠ programming
  • Make computing a social activity
  • Make computing a medium for creativity
  • Performances vs. competitions

Bryn Mawr College

a personal robot kit
A Personal Robot Kit
  • Color camera
  • 3 Light sensors
  • 2 IR proximity sensors
  • 2 Line sensors
  • Stall sensor
  • Speaker
  • 3 LEDs
  • 2 motors
  • Bluetooth wireless
  • Pen port
  • Myro Python Module

Bryn Mawr College

myro background
Myro: Background
  • Based on our work on Pyro: Python Robotics
  • Basic robot features are abstracted and made independent of underlying hardware and drivers.
  • Sensing: reports values in user-selected units (e.g., range: mm, cm, inches, robot).
  • Motor commands are abstracted independent of robot’s drive mechanism: translate, rotate, etc.
  • Easy to program all kinds of behaviors and control paradigms that will run on any robot.

See: Blank, Kumar, Meeden, Yanco: The Pyro Toolkit for AI and Robotics AI Magazine, Spring 2006.

Bryn Mawr College

myro features
Myro: Features
  • Simple, easy to use API even for non-programmers.
  • Seamlessly integrated with standard Python.
  • Plans to work with MSRS and .NET (will support multiple languages).
  • Design driven by curricular goals.

See: Kumar et al. Engaging Computing Students with AI and Robotics, Forthcoming in Spring 2008.

Bryn Mawr College

myro example
Myro: Example

defmain():

whileTrue:

Left, Right = getObstacles()

ifLeft:

turnRight(turnSpeed)

elifRight:

turnLeft(turnSpeed)

else:

forward(cruiseSpeed)

# Avoiding Obstacles

frommyroimport*

initialize(ask(“What port?”))

# program settings...

cruiseSpeed = 0.6

turnSpeed = 0.5

Bryn Mawr College

cs1 course contents
CS1:Course Contents
  • Chapter 1 The World of Robots
  • Chapter 2 Robots: Personal or Otherwise
  • Chapter 3 Building Brains
  • Chapter 4 Sensing the World
  • Chapter 5 Making Decisions
  • Chapter 6 Behaviors
  • Chapter 7 Control Paradigms
  • Chapter 8 Making Music
  • Chapter 9 Communication
  • Chapter 10 Artificial Intelligence
  • Chapter 11 Computing & Computation
  • Chapter 12 Applications of Robots

Bryn Mawr College

some results
Some Results…
  • Learned CS concepts through robots
  • Robots made learning experience more hands-on, tangible, and exciting
  • Most frustrating parts were dealing with robot hardware inconsistencies
  • Viewed CS as a type of logic and problem solving; requiring patience & thought
  • Discovered that CS and robots are applicable to the real world

Bryn Mawr College

some directions
Some Directions…
  • Ability to draw
  • Ability to take pictures
  • Ability to make music/tones
  • Ability to play sounds and talk
  • Ability to express
  • Ability for robot interaction
  • Ability to have a web presence

Bryn Mawr College

another cs1 assignment
Another CS1 Assignment…

Corral Exiting/Escape

Imagine a corral (an enclosed area with maze like partitions and an entrance) with a light source at the entrance (as shown in the figure to the right). Given the robot's position, can we design a behavior that will enable the robot to exit the corral?

Bryn Mawr College

comments
Comments?
  • For more information see www.roboteducation.org
  • Or e-mail: dkumar@brynmawr.edu

Bryn Mawr College