Technology Enthusiasts, Pragmatists, and Skeptics among Practitioners and Policymakers: Where Are You?

I love that this update broadens the continuum of positions – I am one who is somewhere in the middle. My position on the spectrum is constantly changing as I learn more about supporting the diverse needs of teachers and learners.

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

I wrote this post five years ago this month. In it, I mentioned two recently published books that divided advocates of and opponents to technologies in schools into two camps: enthusiasts and skeptics. For the past few months I have been thinking anew about those policymakers, pundits, and practitioners (including blogging students and parents) who write about technology. I want to broaden the familiar continuum of positions on technology in schools beyond those at either pole. I want to include a rich array of those who inhabit the middle. So here is a revised and expanded post.

In reading Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and Schooling in America (2009) by Allan Collins and Richard Halverson, they, like many other writers on technology, create a continuum of advocates and critics of technology in schools. At one end of their continuum are the “Technology Enthusiasts” and at…

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Guest Post from Shriram Krishnamurthi: Growing respect for Research around Computational Learning and Thinking

Interesting post with relevant suggestions for gaining more respect for the CSEd field in higher education. With the CompSci field growing, it is essential to get well trained and knowledgeable teachers into our departments — all the way down to the high school level (where I teach).

Computing Education Blog

Shriram and I had an email correspondence around the blog posts aboutrenaming the field and gaining respect for the study of how people learn and think about computation. He suggested a path forward that was about re-connecting to the fields that the CSEd community broke away from. I invited him to prepare a guest post that conveyed these ideas. Thanks to him for this!

Let me suggest you are probably trying to achieve two very different things here.

1. Create an actual community. There is real value to having all the interesting people from one area in one room. (This is why, despite the trouble it is to get there and back, I almost never say no to a Dagstuhl invitation.)

2. Have your students publish in venues such that, when they go out onto the job market, research universities such as yours (Georgia Tech) and mine (Brown) will…

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The CompSci Affective Filter

In the 1980s, Stephen Krashen wrote about the affective filter hypothesis. The concept of the affective filter was first proposed –according to Krashen — by Dulay and Burt in 1977 as an obstacle to language learning. In Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition (1982) Krashen identifies three categories of affective variables that relate to success in second language acquisition:

  1. Motivation. Performers with high motivation generally do better in second language acquisition(usually, but not always, “integrative”)
  2. Self-confidence. Performers with self-confidence and a good self-image tend to do better in second language acquisition.
  3. Anxiety. Low anxiety appears to be conducive to second language acquisition, whether measured as personal or classroom anxiety.

Can the Affective Filter hypothesis be applied to learning Computer Science? In the next few years, I will take a deeper look at if/how these concepts and theories — originally developed for the acquisition of a second language also apply to learning computer science and programming languages.

For those who don’t know my background, I am a computer science teacher who taught Spanish (my first language) for ten years. I have been teaching computer science since 2011. Not surprisingly, my background in second language acquisition (Spanish minor & Spanish Teaching Credential – CA) is very relevant and applicable in the teaching of Computer Science. I look forward to writing more about this research interest.

Encouraging Students with their Track Records

As a high school computer science teacher, I find myself teaching much more than just computer science in my classroom. I teach critical thinking skills, habits of mind, and recently how to balance confidence with a healthy amount of self-doubt.

After reading this article by  Kay and Shipman, and this op-ed by David Brooks, I realize that confidence is a feeling that I must continue to discuss with my students. I appreciate the question that Brooks’ identifies in his piece: “How can each of us get a better mixture of “female” self-doubt and “male” self-assertion?”

In my classroom, I have found that encouragement on its own does not help my female students; they don’t believe me. As a result, I encourage my female students, by pointing out what they have done already – what they have accomplished. This, I realize, is the strategy that worked for me.  While in college, I was in classes that were made up of mostly male students. What encouraged me to keep going was the direct feedback I got from writing a successful program and my professors telling me that I had earned one of the top scores (or the top score) on an exam. My confidence flourished in college and it continues to be my mission to help the young women I teach find that confidence earlier.

I hope that my female students feel comfortable in my computer science classroom and that they gain confidence and a healthy amount of self-assertion. I also hope to continue to help my male students reflect on their work and develop a healthy amount of self-doubt. I am always looking for great ways to encourage and support all of my students. If you have suggestions, please comment!