Computing Research Policy Blog

The Computing Research Association (or CRA) has been involved in shaping public policy of relevance to computing research for more than two decades. More recently the CRA Government Affairs program has enhanced its efforts to help the members of the computing research community contribute to the public debate knowledgeably and effectively.

Last PCAST Meeting of 2012 Focuses on NITRD and Education

Today was the last PCAST meeting of 2012 and it focused on computing and STEM education. The meeting opened with the NITRD study update report from David Shaw, Susan Graham, and Peter Lee. The update was more of a review of the recommendations from the 2010 report. Graham went quickly through each recommendation from the 2010 report and gave a concise summary of what has happened and what still needs to be done. For instance, in the area of big data, an area called out for focus in the 2010 report, has led to a government initiative but privacy has not been addressed because “it’s important to everyone but it’s no one’s mission.” The NITRD update was unanimously passed by PCAST.

The rest of the meeting was devoted to STEM education – first with a panel on massively open online courses (MOOCs) and then two speakers on STEM education. Four speakers discussed their experience with MOOCs and how they fit in the education system. Sebastian Thrun, CEO of Udacity, spoke to the growing popularity of MOOCs and their ability to innovate in the education space. Daphne Koller, co-founder of Coursera, spoke to the three piers of MOOCs – content, assessment, and interaction. Koller noted that because of the sheer amount of data coming out of MOOCs, it allows for more quantitative assessments of learning than are possible with standard classes. Anant Agarwal, president of edX, spoke to the fact that the concepts incorporated in MOOCs are not new but that MOOCs offer new delivery options and implementation. Frank DiGiovanni, director of Training Readiness and Strategy at the Department of Defense, discussed the use of MOOCs by the Veterans Administration in bringing returning veterans’ skills up to speed for the civilian workforce and a DARPA program called “Education Dominance” that allows high school students to use digital tutors to learn computing skills. The CCC will be holding a visioning activity regarding MOOCs called Multidisciplinary Research for Online Education in February.

The final speakers spoke to the changing nature of STEM education programs. Linda Rosen, CEO of Change the Equation, talked about STEMtistics, data that Change the Equation uses to measure and advise on STEM education. She also pointed out that only one out of five households have a student who is in an outside STEM program such as Girl Scouts or FIRST. Mark Rosenberg, president of Florida International University, discussed the movement from lecture halls to “learning laboratories”. He noted that the best thing about education is that one size doesn’t fit all and that we need to continue our commitment to allowing students access to learning in whatever way works best for them.

The full webcast will be available here soon.

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