Truth Values: What Mathematics Can Teach Us About the CS Gender Imbalance

Tonight we took a group of Bard students to Vassar to see the play Truth Values by Gioia De Cari. The one-woman-show depicts her “Romp Through M.I.T.’s Male Math Maze.” It was a funny, touching account of the strange world of mathematics research and graduate education — first encounters with the research kind. The play made me reflect on my own experience in graduate school managing incoming expectations with sober, if foreign, realities.

Truth Values also pointed to a few lessons we computer scientists might heed. I would like to highlight a stark contrast between the reality of computer science education and research and that of mathematics. The gender imbalance in computer science is awful, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. This makes it hard to tease out exactly why this imbalance exists. The story with mathematics education is different. And that just might provide computing educators some insight.

Continue reading Truth Values: What Mathematics Can Teach Us About the CS Gender Imbalance

MOOCS & The Virtues of an Educator (not a Programmer)

Like many, my complaint with the MOOC isn’t the MOOC itself, but the surrounding hype. My complaint is simpler than the eminent devaluation of teaching in terms of personal and public investment thanks to the MOOC marketing (as Bogost has argued and others have provided evidence). My primary complaint with the hype is the hubris.

The MOOC hype grossly underestimates the computational difficulty of teaching.

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Computing is a Liberal Art

“… the computer is being used to program the child. In my vision,
the child programs the computer and in doing so, both acquires a
sense of mastery over a piece of the most modern and powerful
technology and establishes an intimate contact with some of the
deepest ideas from science, from mathematics, and from the art of
intellectual model building”

— Seymour Papert in “Mindstorms: Children, Computers, And Powerful Ideas”

Computing is a Liberal Art is my personal blog on computing, robotics, liberal arts education, and various other things. Why? Students studying the liberal arts and sciences need lucrative, creative career opportunities. The tech industry needs a more diverse, creative work force. Moreover, it is imperative that all citizens have a role in shaping tomorrow’s technology, not just the technologists — assuring all citizens are programming rather than being programmed.

As computation plays a larger role in our professional, personal, and civic lives, thinking and communicating algorithmically has become as important as literacy in any other sense. And although being skilled at a particular computer application is often a prerequisite, it isn’t the whole story. As Papert (a mathematician, computer scientist, and student of Piaget) remarked concerning the potential of computing, “a revolution in ideas that is no more reducible to technologies than physics and molecular biology are reducible to the technological tools used in the laboratories or poetry to the printing press.” Being truly computationally literate means one can begin to think using the symbols and ideas of computation to solve problems or make art in new ways.

Some related takes on computing & the liberal arts: