Computing Education

In Bits and Behavior. More on Medium.

A screenshot of the RESPECT Whova landing page, showing navigation and overview text.
A screenshot of the RESPECT Whova landing page, showing navigation and overview text.
The Whova landing page, which kept things simple.

There are of computing education conferences—far more than I’m used to in other academic fields. There’s the (big) SIGCSE Technical Symposium, the (rigorous) International Computing Education Research conference, the (European) Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education (ITiCSE), the (Finnish) Koli Calling, the (originally German) Workshop in Primary and Secondary Computing Education, the Australasian Computing Education Conference, the (Asian) CompEd, the (North American) CSTA Conference, and I’m sure many others I’ve forgotten. …


A screenshot of the Pathable platform landing page, showing the SIGSE 2021 logo.
A screenshot of the Pathable platform landing page, showing the SIGSE 2021 logo.
The header of the virtual conference website. Credit: Amy J. Ko

A year ago, I was on a train, traveling to Portland, Oregon, wearing a very uncomfortable N95 mask. The train car was mostly empty; out of the corner of my eye, I could see the couple on the other side of the train. They peered at me every once in a while, maybe because of the mask, maybe because of my loud typing, or maybe because of my vaguely non-passing, recently out trans face and body. Little had shut down for COVID-19 yet, but most of my students, collaborators, and colleagues had canceled their trip to SIGCSE 2020. Many had…


A photograph of the Data Feminism jacket cover, showing the title “Data Feminism”, authors Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren F. Klein, and a backdrop of hundreds of data visualizations.
A photograph of the Data Feminism jacket cover, showing the title “Data Feminism”, authors Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren F. Klein, and a backdrop of hundreds of data visualizations.
Not too many books about oppression have this exciting a cover. Credit: Amy J. Ko

When I first learned to code in middle school in the 1990's, was the last thing on my mind. Code, for me, was about experiences: games, animations, and interactive stories, guided by hidden logic, to entertain my friends and I between classes or on the bus ride home. While all of these things had data, whether game art my friends had made in Microsoft Paint, or illustrations I’d painstakingly plotted pixel by pixel on my TI-82, or the dialog of my fan fiction text adventures, none of them felt like data. They were that I’d created to express…


Early this month, I got to serve as session chair for Dr. Sue Sentance’s keynote speech at the CSEdGrad Virtual Conference. This conference is part of a larger effort by the organization to grow and develop the community of computer science education researchers.

Dr. Sentance gave a talk on professional development for CS educators and her work with the Raspberry Pi Foundation, England’s National Centre for Computing Education, and King’s College London make her the perfect expert…


A photograph of a display showing a slide titled “Critical Computing Education”, with an iPad hovering above showing Zoom.
A photograph of a display showing a slide titled “Critical Computing Education”, with an iPad hovering above showing Zoom.
This is what an invited talk looks like now.

For researchers like myself, one of the major disruptions from the pandemic has been the loss of travel. Most years, I would fly more than 50,000 miles a year, attending 4–5 conferences to share research and network, visiting universities to give invited talks and meet new faculty, and also spending a good amount of time at the National Science Foundation, evaluate proposals by my colleagues. This travel would take me all over the world, including Europe, Asia, Australasia, and sometimes South America and Africa. I’ve always tried to make the most of this incredible privilege to roam, learning about the…


A photo of a Black Lives Matter protest showing a row of police on the left and a row of protested on the right
A photo of a Black Lives Matter protest showing a row of police on the left and a row of protested on the right
Photo by Koshu Kunii on Unsplash

I am no expert at managing conflict. For most of my life, I’ve avoided it, and when I find myself immersed in it, I get scared, anxious, overwhelmed, and consumed by it. At best, I’m unconstructive and at worst, I’m combative and destructive. The only thing that saves me is that I’m usually self aware enough to know I’m doing these things that I can pull myself out of the situation.

Unfortunately, avoiding conflict is no way to make change. Our long unjust history in this country has shown that change doesn’t come from everybody avoiding their disagreements. We have…


A figure from Benji Xie’s 2019 paper “A Theory of Instruction for Introductory Programming Skills”, which has formed the basis for much of our work on the grant in the past 3 years.

Ever since I started writing proposals to government research foundations—primarily the National Science Foundation (NSF)—I’ve felt a strong civic responsibility to be as public as possible about what I’ve done with the money. NSF itself builds in some of this in its requirements, asking investigators to write short 500 word project outcome statements, which appear on its websites. But that format always seemed so limited and formal, preventing me from telling the full story behind a grant. To supplement this, I started blogging about grants that have ended, both as a way of telling this backstory, but also as a…


A photograph of the cherry blossoms in the University of Washington quad.
A photograph of the cherry blossoms in the University of Washington quad.
“University of Washington Cherry Blossoms by Michael Matti” by Michael Matti is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Most people know the story by now. George Floyd was at a convenience store and allegedly used a counterfeit $20 bill. The store owner, following store policy, called the police. The police came, interrogated Floyd, and then police officer Derek Chauvin wrestled Floyd to the ground and knelt on his neck for 8 minutes while Floyd repeatedly expressed that he could not breathe. Floyd called for his mother, got quiet, and then died. The other officers did nothing, local protests ensued, and what is likely the largest protest against police violence in U.S. …


A Discord screenshot showing attendees introducing themselves.
A Discord screenshot showing attendees introducing themselves.
ICER attendees introduce themselves in #general (names blurred).

I’ve been attending the ACM International Computing Education Research conference since 2013, when it was in San Diego. I’d published there before, but San Diego was the first time I could carve out a week in August to network with computing education researchers. While the…


Imagine if you told somebody who had never programmed before to “go learn it on the internet.” How would that happen? They might search on the internet “how to code.” And maybe they watch some YouTube videos that provide some instruction but don’t provide practice. Or maybe they go to a site like Codecademy and try to follow along, but get frustrated because they want to explore instead of follow some predefined path. Except for those with immense…

Bits and Behavior

Computing + learning + design + justice

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