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C'est la Z

Implicit Curricula

The state got back to us the other week on our CSEd programs. Still no approval.

One of the requirements is that we have 12 graduate CS credits in our program and that in those courses these five major areas:

  • Algorithms and programming
  • Computing systems
  • Data and analysis
  • Impacts of computing
  • Networks and the internet

as described in the K12 CS Framework. Even though many of the items described in the framework fit better in an education side course NY is requiring that it's all covered in CS courses offered by a CS department. The state has more information here.

To be honest, I'm not a fan of the K12 Framework and others have also voiced their concerns about it. Ultimately I think many states will use it as a certification guide and it will open the door to substandard preservice programs that will certify teachers lacking in CS content knowledge.

Still, the programs we designed at Hunter more than covered all the required bases.

So, why did the state come back asking for clarification? Because not everything was explicit in our sample syllabi. As we all know, Syllabi are usually rather terse documents with just a couple of lines per topic, maybe also an assignment and some readings. If they contained all the richness of all the lessons they'd be volumes rather than the usual page or two. So, to provide the requested clarifications I've been spending the weekend breaking them out to show more detail.

This got me thinking about the concept of implicit items in curricula. Much of the richness of a lesson comes not from the description of the topic in the syllabus but also from related and ancillary items that aren't specifically listed - implicit items. One example I wrote about before is the Towers of Hanoi. When I teach it, on the one hand, it's a lesson about a recursive solution to a problem but on the other hand there's all sorts of other richness to the lesson. We talk about

  • Proof
  • Run time
  • Hard problems
  • Moores law and the limits f computing power
  • Alternate approaches to problems

None of which is in a typical Towers of Hanoi lesson plan nor in most text books yet to me they're the most important, interesting parts of the lesson.

Another example is when I talk about changing the data structure rather than the code when I teach search.

In our Ed proposals one such place was when we move from using an online IDE to a local development environment and discuss all sorts of ramifications another is when we create a web application in our topics class and things like authentication and security are discussed.

I spent most of this weekend going through our proposals and making sure it was clear everywhere we covered something relating to those "5 areas" of computer science.

The unfortunate thing is that of curricular material and knowledge isn't easy to collect and share with others.

I and others have written about lesson ideas on our blogs but there's no searchable, shareable, discoverable place for either basic lesson material or these rich implicit items. I wrote about EngageCS and Nifty Assignments before but they're really core lesson ideas and aren't really easy to find grab and use.

I guess the closest project moving in this direction is probably CSSplice Curriculum Materials Working Group that I found out about from Cory Bart at this past SIGCSE.

Check out the project link and if you've got a great lesson with lots of implicit learnings going on, please share it in the comments.

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