Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Computer science education: why does it suck so much and what if it didn’t? | Ashley Gavin | TEDxNYU

science education before i start i should probably tell you what computer
sciences because a lot of you probably heard the term computer science and
you're like oh no please don't talk about that that sounds boring that
sounds technical on but it's actually not really that bad
so I'm just going to tell you what computer science is all about so to me
my definition of computer science is that it's a medium for problem solving
and self-expression
so much the same way an artist when she goes to paint something she thinks about
what she want to paint then translates that idea how will come out and paint
paint brushes
uh computer scientist does the same thing except they use the computer to
build that product but let's talk about the cool parts about computer science if
you major in computer science you can go and work for one of these companies now
one of the great some great things about these companies you get free food free
laundry for haircuts are very well paid and everyone thinks that you're a genius
you tell your friends you work there they think wow you must be really really
another great thing about computer sciences when you major in computer
science you come out making a lot of money computer science and computer
engineering are two out of the three top paying majors in college
so if money is important to you that's something that you can get out of it if
you're more into what matters in life happiness
computer scientists are second in terms of job satisfaction in this country
um first is professors so me as a computer science teacher on
obviously the happiest of everyone on and these guys have a lot to be happy
about I think more than that there is job security
more than 1 million jobs in computer science are going to go unfilled and
just so that you understand what a large number that is there are only going to
be about 8 million college graduates over the next few years so by 2020 1.4
million jobs in your science will open up we're not going to fill the vast
majority of those jobs on also
that's the founder of google Larry Page and his girlfriend
i justwe really way too good looking for this guy
so young men if you're interested in women computer science might be for you
another great thing about computer science as a teacher
everything that team
Rangers love is because of computer science video games as a product of
computer science
wikipedia so that they can write their papers as a product of computer science
this selfie is a product of computer science kim kardashian wouldn't have a
career without the computer scientist that came up with the selfie
yet despite this no one takes it and I when I say no one I really mean
absolutely no one
if we look at all the jobs the new jobs in maths and sciences that are going to
emerge over the next few years sixty percent of them are going to be in
computer science
all the other sciences and maths combined physics biology chemistry won't
add up to the number of jobs just computer science alone
and yet only two percent of all math and science majors are pursuing computer
science as a major over for our just under 400,000 students took up the AP
History test last year these are high school students the advanced placement
exam less than 40,000 took the computer science exam
that's a route that's ten percent and all that really small number only
fifteen percent of those students is embarrassing
fifteen percent or women and embarrassing eight percent are students
of color
why why I just spouted the amazingness of computer science maybe some of you
will want go and take your first computer science course but why is no
one taking computer science
there are lots of reasons a lot of people say that it's the culture and yes
the culture is a problem
most people when you think of a computer scientist you think of a nerd in a
basement coding all by himself you picture the matrix you picture these
guys not necessarily people you want to hang out with although i'm sure they're
very nice
this is another shot of a computer science department that won a grant to
fund computer science education and they put this on their website and I imagine
this is probably their most diverse class like this is the one that they are
bragging about culture matters a lot
but I actually think that teaching matters more and I think we can do more
more quickly by changing the approach of teaching computer science so i'm going
to do informal completely unscientific poll on when asked you guys to questions
and I want you guys to answer them
so the first question is
is what most influence your choice of field so if you're in college this is
your major what you think you're going to major and if you have a job this is
your job
the field that you work in I want you to think about these two which was the most
influential on your choice number one you saw it on TV or in the media and you
thought it looked cool or number two you tried it and you enjoyed it
so who's in camp number one at one person who's in camp number two
yes imagine that you tried the thing that you are going to do for the rest
your life probably you enjoyed it
now the next question I had a basic elementary understanding of my field
prior to college and i don't mean that you necessarily have a lot of knowledge
about it
you kind of knew what you were getting into when you signed up for that
introductory course when you get to college
how many of you grow up is that true the vast majority of people
yeah I'm i replicated this on facebook and I i found the same results in an
equally unqualified on scientific way but it makes a lot of sense that we do
the things that we like and we are familiar with them but his teachers were
not doing this we actually suck at this we suck at teaching computer science and
by we i don't mean me I mean the United States i'm actually really qualified and
that's why I'm standing up here but we reinforce those cultural stereotypes
that i was talking about we alienate students and we keep them on informed
about what computer science actually is so the primary middle school level there
is no computer science and a lot of people would make the argument
why would a three-year-old need to know what computer sciences but very young
children are familiar with other Sciences they're familiar with biology
they go to the doctor they talk about these things that being a doctor is a
field that they can see themselves in
but there's no computer science curriculum at the middle school and high
school arts are the middle school in the primary school level
so when you reach middle school and you're going through puberty and you're
thinking about your future as an adult and you don't know what computer
sciences that's not something that you're going to picture for yourself in
the future at the high school level it's a little bit better but still fairly
abysmal only fifty percent of states offer computer science course as a
credit that goes towards your graduation
what 16 year old is taking a course that does not count towards her graduation
the kids that i showed you in the first couple slides right not normal high
school kids and the problem is that even those that are teaching computer science
we're not really sure if they're teaching real computer science and by
what i am what i mean by that is a lot of schools teach things like Facebook
privacy settings Microsoft Word and they claim that those are computer science
schools they came but web design is computer science which actually isn't
the only is solved subset of these schools are actually teaching real
computer science and within those only the top math and science students are
allowed to take it and most that and a lot of them probably don't even know
what it is
and by the way computer science isn't math and computer science / math will be
called math it's called computer science and it's called that for a reason so
just you know a little bit more about me I majored in computer science and got
honors in computer science of school called bryn mawr college then I went on
to work as an engineer a national security lab at MIT and right now I
teach some college level computer science at wesleyan university
you're like wow she sounds pretty smart
she must be really good at math and science nope no very bad
so let's look at my transcript from high school here
I failed biology and had to argue my way out of summer school and I got straight
season these and other maths and Sciences my overall GPA was not great
arm yet i was able to go into computer science and I was really good at it and
I didn't even take math later on in life i still have never even taken precalc
most of you probably have much higher math skills and me
then we take all those kids we put him in a room and we show them this on their
first day of class now let's imagine that you round up there somehow
you're not a top math or science student or even if you are you've never heard of
computer science and you're surrounded by the most competitive kids in your
school and then the teacher puts this on the projector this little monstrosity
how many of you might feel intimidated
yeah because it's terrifying
I've been coding for 10 years I still find this terrifying
and just so you know a lot of this isn't pertinent information
many of these things you students
don't learn for a few months my colleagues in computer science
some of them still don't know what that word means and it hasn't affected their
job performance
why are we doing this we need more engineers and yet we're pushing these
kids out and trying to make this seem like it's an elite club for only the
smartest people in the country
computer science is not about numbers or random symbols not even really about
code it's about problem solving and making really really cool things
that's what I mean when I say that it's a medium so I put together a focus on
that medium in education that I think will work better than the way we're
currently teaching computer science
so the first part of my philosophy is project-based learning computer science
is the only subject we're on day one you can walk into class and in 45 minutes
you can program a video game
no other class can do that so why wouldn't you do that right
that's something that everyone is going to enjoy but the great thing about using
project-based learning is that again computer science is not about coding
it's about problem solving and i'll give you an example of what I mean let's say
student actually wants to build video game like Mario where no little guy runs
across the screen and jumps up on platforms and sort of jumps on bad guys
the first thing that you have to figure out is the steps that make that possible
how do I make this person jump when they reach the top how do i make them come
back down
what if something bumps into them along the way these are all considerations
that you have to think about you don't code them first you think about them
first then you think one of the one of the worst case scenarios like what's the
scenario that I haven't thought about yet
how do i test the solution to make sure that it works that's all problem solving
skills that applied far beyond computer science and when you do project-based
learning you can do that in your classroom
another great thing about project-based learning is that computer science
doesn't exist in a vacuum it you can't do computer science for the sake of
doing computer science you have to apply it to another field that's why it was
so when a student says well I don't really think i'm interested in that
that doesn't really matter what are you interested in and let's apply computer
science to it so I do a lot of robotics work a lot of generative art a lot of
video game
music medicine things like this and that really brings in kids that thought they
weren't interested in computer science
another great thing about computer science is that you can share it with
the world
so how many of you are like a humanities or social science major
yeah so quite a few of you have you ever written a paper and told a friend about
it and your friend was like well I want to read that paper and they actually
read it like they actually printed it out you handed it to them they ready to
give it back to you
one one person through the first I've ever met
the great thing about computer science is if you make an appt it's on your
phone and all of your friends are going to be playing it by the end of the day
we're going to share with their friends going to look at this school thing that
my friend made that gives you pride that makes you feel empowered and that
sharing the love of computer science and maybe those kids are thinking I want to
do something like this
relevancy is also super important because people think computer science is
really really hard and it's not a lot of things that are in the app store right
now you could probably make by the end of your first computer science class
so my students they actually built the iphone game 2048 which was number one in
the app store for a while they built in four days so by the end of this
they're thinking what else can i make what else can I get in the app store and
all this leads up to a feeling of empowerment they feel that they have the
skills no matter what the problem is they can go and put those skills towards
fixing that problem
they use computer science a way to express their ideas and it's not about
numbers and symbols on the screen does this work
it's all rainbows and fairies and unicorns actually but can I do this in
my classroom and will work
yes definitely so we did this at girls who code where I was the founding
curriculum director and I did a walk work on like assignments and teacher
training and things like things like this but my proudest accomplishment was
making this philosophy something real
because I hadn't seen it in many places and what we found was that it worked
actually better than the computer science curriculum that already exists
out there that are at our country uses in the public educational system
so what we did was the computer science AP course is supposed to prepare you for
so what we did is we took a bunch of college questions from top universities
James carnegie mellon MIT Stanford and we put them all in an exam and our
students took it at the end of the year and we compared their grades the
computer science exam so the AP students did way worse than our girls are girls
more than double the amount of days and had like a quarter of the amount of F's
and this is a pretty large sample
we're talking about 500 kids from all different backgrounds
the vast majority had never done computer science before and didn't even
identify as a future computer science major in terms of self-efficacy we did a
great job ten percent came in wanting to major in computer science and a hundred
percent left either majoring in computer science or related field
the vast majority eighty percent majoring in computer science
what if all teachers did this what if we weren't the only people doing is how
will the world change what would it look like the economic impacts are obvious
we have less of a jobs crisis pretty much anyone who wanted a job could get
one but what about building your own business what if you have another
passion that is in computer science but is related to computer science
if you're running your own business you can build your own app you don't have to
wait for technical co-founder you can just go out and do it
you want to build your website you can if you want to do marketing you can you
don't have to spend that extra cash and you can get a custom solution
my friend works at urban outfitters and she said to me I want to learn how to
code like me the Evangelist of computer science was like how is that relevant to
your job
she was like well I thought about this and really it's not about the product
anymore like we have a lot of products
the problem is finding the person who wants to buy it she's by urban
outfitters and she said rather than trying to find the product that everyone
wants to buy
why don't i just find the people that want to buy what I already have
so she can use custom computer science and do that in house and probably get a
promotion at her job
if you are interested in medicine or curing diseases and their site
you just can't do that without computer science anymore I don't know if you've
heard this but cells are
like really small and they're hard to buy hand analyzed so using computer
science you can write scripts to cure diseases and I just taught my friend how
to code so that she could try and cure for sickle cell anemia that's a problem
that she's working on
so basically I'm curing sickle cell anemia
I'm a stand-up comedian and i found that one I told jokes
I thought you know how I did really great or i did really bad and then I
hear someone else say talk about their jokes they're like I did fantastic and I
thought oh man you really suck i don't know how you thought that I realize it's
so subjective so I wrote code to analyze audience response and to build sets for
me so that my set is the best possible set for a certain amount of time and I'm
I'm funny I can't prove it but I am I think this is the way that computer
science can change your life in the way that you feel as an individual not just
in your job or in school but have you ever woken up and had an idea or using a
piece of technology like I we should do this and then what happens it just
floats away gone forever
the everyone invented DVR before they invented DVR and we had to wait a whole
bunch of years for computer scientists to come up with that idea and actually
implement it
the computer science is about taking ideas and making them realities
that's what it's about so these are some quotes from my students and the way that
computer science impacted their lives
digital wesleyan was one of the most valuable experiences of my life
I learned so much and I feel far more empowered to make a difference than
this was not a Habitat for Humanity trip we didn't spend 10 days and like a cave
together bonding this was computer science that made him feel like he could
go out into the world and do whatever he wanted to do that is amazing
learning to code change my perception of myself from a wisher to a doer
now i'm empowered to do the things i want and i don't have to wait for anyone
else to do them
this is a quote from a 16 year old girl
the same
girl taking that selfie following kim kardashian on Instagram said this after
taking a computer science course this is the this isn't just about even if she
never does computer science I know she's doing it every day in her life choices
she's empowered herself on this one I just put up there because if you're not
convinced by the talk it's a testimonial from one of my students
so let's go back to the root of computer science is a picture of the in yak the
first computer and what it was used for was during world war two to make
different kinds of calculations they didn't build it to make snapchat and
build it to make twitter
they built it to save lives they saw a problem and they needed a solution and
so they came up with this and just so no little fun fact all the first
programmers were all women because all the men were serving in the work
um lady Ada Lovelace
she's the first ever computer program and she actually lived during the
eighteen hundreds early to mid eighteen hundreds and she worked with a man named
Charles Babbage who invented the first idea of a computer never got made
because it was way ahead of its time and they couldn't get the funding but it's
called the analytical engine and radiator all of us thought oh my gosh i
could make stuff with this shouldn't say that i'll give you the exact quote but
she was the first programmer because she figured out that she could use this
machine to build the things that she imagined in her mind and the quote was
the analytical engine on the contrary is not merely adapted for tabulating the
results of one particular function and of no other but for developing and
tabulating any function whatever
in fact the engine may be described as being the material expression of any in
definite function of any degree of generality and complexity
any idea you have you can make it doing computer science and that's what this
innovation was about it was about expressing yourself
so rather than showing our kids this in the first day of class
let's try another approach let's ask them if you could make anything what
would you make
and that's my approach to teaching computer science
thank you