Faculty talk: Barbara Ericson

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Ehrlicher Room, 3100 North Quad

Making Computing Education Accessible to Everyone, from 4th grade to Undergraduate Students

The speaker has provided this abstract of her talk:

I have been on the front line in the international efforts to give all students the chance to learn computer science since 2004.  My efforts have increased the quantity and quality of secondary computing teachers and the quantity and diversity of computing students.  I worked toward those goals through teacher professional development, summer camps, weekend workshops with youth serving organizations, competitions, curriculum development, and research. 

In my talk, I will focus on three of my efforts towards giving everyone access to computing education. As a yardstick for progress towards accessibility for all, I have been gathering the Advanced Placement Computer Science A exam data for each state for several years and disaggregating that data by race and gender. The trends suggest that it will likely be many years before we can offer rigorous computer science classes to all high school students.
My most impactful efforts to improve accessibility are a replicable and financially sustainable summer camp model, and the free interactive ebooks that teach computer science using evidence-based methods.  The summer camp model has been instantiated across the country with measurably high effectiveness.  Hundreds of high school computer science teachers and thousands of their students are using the ebooks.
Finally, I have been inventing new methods for teaching computing that reduce cognitive load and increase learning efficiency. In my dissertation work, I have been focusing on a particular type of practice problem called Parsons problems and developing adaptable forms that keep learners in their Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).  In my talk, I will present evidence about the effectiveness of  adaptable Parsons problems.

Speaker Bio:

Barbara Ericson is a senior research scientist at Georgia Tech and a PhD candidate in Human Centered Computing. She is passionate about making high-quality computing education available to all interested students, from fourth grade (about 10 years old) through undergraduate.  She directed the Institute for Computing Education to improve computing education statewide as part of Project "Georgia Computes!" 

Her efforts to improve the quality and quantity of secondary computing teachers reached almost 40% of high schools in Georgia and have served as a model for professional development efforts around the country. Her summer camp model has been replicated nationally, resulting in sustainable and effective informal computing education. She created Project Rise Up and Sisters Rise Up to help under-represented students succeed in their Advanced Placement Computer Science courses and on the exams.

For the last five years, she has been one of the leads of the Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP) NSF Alliance, which has helped sixteen states and Puerto Rico improve their computing education efforts and policies. She has been a research scientist at General Motors Research Labs, Bell Communication Research, and The Institute for Paper Science and Technology. She holds two patents for her work in case-based reasoning.

With her collaborator and husband, Dr. Mark Guzdial, she won the 2010 Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Computing Educator Award. She won the 2012 A. Richard Newton Educator Award for her efforts to attract more females to computing.