Gas station without pumps

2012 June 23

Failures of the CS10K process

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 23:21
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There is an excellent discussion of the failures of the CS10K and AP CS Principles efforts to get more high schools teaching computer science in Ben Chun’s blog post: What is the CS Education ask? « And Yet It Moves.

He points out

  • Most of the discussion is happening behind an ACM paywall, where most of the people who have to implement the process have no access.
  • No plausible mechanism for reaching the goals of CS10K (10,000 high schools teaching some AP-level computer science class) has yet been described.  He’s not even addressing the problem of where the teachers will come from—there is first the problem of convincing schools that offering the courses would be valuable and convincing students that they should take them.

His writeup is more detailed, going over some of the not-that-feasible alternatives that have been proposed in California. I think that he has really nailed a couple of the major problems with the CS10K initiative.  We can’t even get campuses of the University of California to include CS courses in general education (except, sometimes, as an alternative to math). How are we going to convince high schools, which have a much more formulaic and rigid approach to curriculum design?

If you are at all interested in CS education, go read Ben’s post.  It is worth the time.

6 Comments »

  1. I totally agree. I don’t even see the point of pushing everyone into computer science in high school. Back in the dino days, when I was in high school, no one took computer science in high school. Very few schools even had access to a single computer (this was before PCs). And yet, lots of people majored in the subject in college, and VERY IMPORTANTLY, in that era there were lots of women going into computer science. At my undergrad university, women in the CS major hovered around 35 to 40% – way better than today’s dismal 10%. What if it turns out that more women would go into the computing fields if entry into computing was delayed for everyone?

    We don’t teach chemical engineering or pharmacy in high school – why computer science?

    Comment by Bonnie — 2012 June 24 @ 17:20 | Reply

    • I had a computer science class in a large public high school in 1970 (or perhaps 1969, I forget whether it was my senior year or my junior year). We learned Fortran and how to operate a keypunch machine.

      I believe that computer science is more important to more people than calculus is, and there are huge numbers of high schools teaching calculus.

      Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2012 June 24 @ 19:03 | Reply

      • You were very unusual then. I was in high school about 10 years later. We had one terminal (not a computer, just a terminal) that hooked to the mainframe at a nearby university. My school was the only school in the entire city of 300,000 to have that perk. They taught a little Basic to about 15 kids as part of a math class with that terminal. When I took my intro to CS course in 1981, at a large research university, almost no one had ever programmed before, and the course was taught with that in mind.

        BTW, there are many people in academia who would have a heart attack over your statement about calculus.

        Comment by Bonnie — 2012 June 25 @ 06:48 | Reply

        • It is true that in the early 1970s it was unusual for a high school to own its own computer (an IBM 1130) and teach computer programming, but high schools don’t have the excuse of the expense of the equipment any more.

          While calculus is an important branch of mathematics, particularly for physics, I think that a good argument could be made for programming being a more universally needed skill for academics.

          Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2012 June 25 @ 07:08 | Reply

          • Agreed. My point was simply that we were successfully attracting students, including lots more women, to computer science in an era when few ever had touched a computer before going to college. And make no mistake, attracting more into computer science is the real subtext of the efforts to get computer science into the high schools. As for calculus, the reality is that most people graduate from college without ever having taken it, either in high school or college. So perhaps neither subject is really all that important for most people.

            Comment by Bonnie — 2012 June 25 @ 08:05 | Reply

  2. […] an interesting article critiquing the NSF CS10K project, which is worth reading. (Thanks to “Gas stations without pumps” through which I first heard about Ben’s post.) i don’t agree with all of it […]

    Pingback by Ben Chun asks, “What is the CS Education ask?” « Computing Education Blog — 2012 June 24 @ 22:06 | Reply


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