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Perceptions of Foundational Knowledge by CS students - WCCCE 2012

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Perceptions of Foundational Knowledge by CS students - WCCCE 2012

  1. 1. Perceptions of Foundational Knowledge by CS Students Katharine Blanchard & Michael Soltys McMaster University May 4, 2012 Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 Title - 1/30
  2. 2. At McMaster our enrollment is very good → not easy to get in our program → full capacity in 1st and 2nd year But . . . → CS attrition rates as high as 30% We are in the faculty of engineering (PEng) There is a push to make CS more “relevant” → replace theory with more programming Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 Intro - 2/30
  3. 3. Guzdial & Soloway: “Nintendo Generation” views CS as creating media. Beaubouef & Mason: the problem of high attrition and the need of math Knuth: “CS = problem solving” Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 Intro - 3/30
  4. 4. Each generation of students is different, shaped by: Family/cultural tradition High school experiences Economic factors Societal pressures World headlines Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 Students - 4/30
  5. 5. Possible reasons for student attrition: Juggle school and a job Limited time management skills Misconceptions on entering the program Poor math skills & poor problem solving skills Poorly designed CS1 lab courses Lack of practice / feedback Grad student teachers . . . Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 Students - 5/30
  6. 6. Time management skills David Allen’s, Getting things done Stephen Covey’s, 7 Habits Plus, working with a team, starting early, documenting, . . . Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 Habits - 6/30
  7. 7. Diagnosis of high attrition: What we teach is often impractical → computability, Turing machines, algorithms, . . . Students “know” they won’t find a job with what we teach Students intensely dislike theory Solution: → more Java programming → more systems → less theory Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 Diagnosis - 7/30
  8. 8. Problem is viewed as: The Nintendo generation is taught CS by a generation of faculty that views CS as applied mathematics. For Nintendo generation CS = Facebook, Warcraft, Internet, . . . For faculty CS = floating point arithmetic, . . . → need to make curriculum au courant. Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 Diagnosis - 8/30
  9. 9. Guzdial & Soloway: Fight the “Hello, World” approach to CS Instead: Xerox PARC “Dynabook” → learn CS by creating media → sound synthesis with “Squeak” Teach “old concepts” with “new media” Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 Solutions - 9/30
  10. 10. We ask the question: is it true that our students are theory averse? We surveyed 100 students at McMaster and found that: 75% are satisfied or very satisfied with learning theoretical/foundational material 65% agree or strongly agree that theoretical content is very relevant to their field of study (CS, SE, mechatronics, embedded systems) Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 Our study - 10/30
  11. 11. Satisfaction by intended career path Full study: http://goo.gl/56n9B Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 Our study - 11/30
  12. 12. True we examined seniors; but . . . Reges, Back to basics in CS1 and CS2, SIGCSE 2006. Study from University of Washington, CS majors. New approach that emphasizes problem solving → increased student satisfaction (other things: replaced “objects early” with “traditional procedural approach”) Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 Our study - 12/30
  13. 13. The 3/4 satisfaction & approval of theory was admittedly a surprise. The 1/4 unhappy students: Teaching failure “Mercenary reasons” or just plain poor students “Legacy prejudice” “Customer mentality” Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 Ideas - 13/30
  14. 14. The instructor can make the material more: Interesting Relevant Motivated Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 Ideas - 14/30
  15. 15. Interesting: An alphabet is a finite, non-empty set of distinct symbols, denoted usually by Σ. e.g., Σ = {0, 1} (binary alphabet) Σ = {a, b, c, . . . , z} (lower-case letters alphabet) A string, also called word, is a finite ordered sequence of symbols chosen from some alphabet. e.g., 010011101011 |w| denotes the length of the string w. e.g., |010011101011| = 12 The empty string, ε, |ε| = 0, is in any Σ by default. Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 Interesting - 15/30
  16. 16. Since long ago “markings” have been used to store & process information. The following pictures are from the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Washington D.C. Engraved ocher plaque Blombos Cave, South Africa 77,000–75,000 years old Ishango bone Congo, 25,000–20,000 years old leg bone from a baboon; 3 rows of tally marks, to add or multiply (?) Reindeer antler with tally marks La Madeleine, France 17,000–11,500 years old Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 Interesting - 16/30
  17. 17. About 8,000 years ago, humans were using symbols to represent words and concepts. True forms of writing developed over the next few thousand years. Cylinder seals were rolled across wet clay tablets to produce raised designs cylinder seal in lapis lazuli, Assyrian culture, Babylon, Iraq, 4,100–3,600 years ago Cuneiform symbols stood for concepts and later for sounds and syllables cuneiform clay tablet, Chakma, Chalush, near Babylon, Iraq, 4,000–2,600 years ago Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 Interesting - 17/30
  18. 18. Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 Interesting - 18/30
  19. 19. John von Neumann Hungarian-American, 1903–1957 von Neumann machine Manhattan project Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 Interesting - 19/30
  20. 20. Alan Turing English, 1912–1954 Bletchley Park, Britain’s codebreaking centre during WWII Enigma machine Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 Interesting - 20/30
  21. 21. Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 Interesting - 21/30
  22. 22. Relevant: Bellman-Ford vs Dijkstra as routing algorithms RIP - Routing Internet Protocol (RFC 2453) vs OSPF - Open Shortest Path First (RFC 2328) Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 Relevant - 22/30
  23. 23. In 2010, 28,833 Terabytes of data were transmitted over the CANARIE Network, a 50% increase from the year before. That’s equivalent to: 5,689,951 hours of CD quality audio the images collected by 642 Hubble Telescopes 20 times the annual residential Internet traffic in Canada Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 Relevant - 23/30
  24. 24. Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 Relevant - 24/30
  25. 25. Virgin Islands — huge data hub Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 Relevant - 25/30
  26. 26. Two functions of routing protocols: 1. They compute the set of shortest paths. 2. Respond to network failure & topology changes by continually updating routing information. Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 Relevant - 26/30
  27. 27. Example Of Distance-Vector Update Destination Distance Route Net 1 Net 2 Net 4 Net 17 Net 24 Net 30 Net 42 0 0 8 5 6 2 2 direct direct Router L Router M Router J Router Q Router J Destination Distance Net 1 Net 4 Net 17 Net 21 Net 24 Net 30 Net 42 2 3 6 4 5 10 3 (a) (b) (a) is existing routing table (b) incoming update (marked items cause change) Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 Relevant - 27/30
  28. 28. Motivation: Why prove correctness of algorithms? As far as the fundamental science is concerned, we still certainly do not know how to prove programs correct. We need a lot of steady progress in this area, which one can foresee, and a lot of breakthroughs where people suddenly find there’s a simple way to do something that everybody hitherto has thought to be far too difficult C.A.R. Hoare Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 Motivated - 28/30
  29. 29. Software engineers know many examples of things going terribly wrong because of program errors; their particular favorites are the following two The blackout in the American North-East during the summer of 2003 The Ariane 5, flight 501, the maiden flight of the rocket in June 4, 1996, ended with an explosion 40 seconds into the flight Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 Motivated - 29/30
  30. 30. Questions? ∗ ∗ ∗ References: Blanchard, Undergraduate Computer Science Students: Measuring Perception, Marketing and Satisfaction, 2011 available at http://goo.gl/56n9B Guzdial & Soloway, Teaching the Nintendo Generation to Program, Communications of the ACM, 2002 Beaubouef, Why CS students need math, SIGCSE, Vol 34, No 4, 2002. Howles, Preliminary results of a longitudinal study of computer science student trends, behaviors and preferences, Consortium of Computing Sciences in Colleges, 2007. Reges, Back to Basics in CS1 and CS2, SIGCSE 2006. Perceptions - Blanchard & Soltys May 4, 2012 - v1.1 References - 30/30

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