CS Education

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

Hi Computing Alumni:

Hard to believe it was 10 years ago this Fall that I entered Hampshire College and had the course of my education altered by a 200-level class in Evolutionary Computation taught be Lee Spector.  From then on I focused on AI research, particularly in Genetic Programming, and Lee chaired my Div III: evolving teams of Quidditch-playing computer programs.

Since then, my career and interests have moved toward the intersection of computer science and education.  I have been working as an educator and curriculum developer in some capacity or another for the last four years, currently as an instructor with Year Up (http://www.yearup.org).  Year Up is a national nonprofit whose mission is to close the opportunity divide by providing urban young adults with technical and soft skills training, college credits, and a corporate internship.

In 2009 (at Year Up Bay Area), I developed a 24-hour programming course based on Program by Design project.  Executed as an extracurricular program, it took a small group of 18-24 year-olds who had never had a successful experience with math or CS classes from zero programming knowledge to developing games and animations in Scheme.  Several of the graduates of this course are now employed full-time at SalesForce, Mozilla and other tech companies in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Last year (at Year Up NYC) I developed a 7-week (70-hour) course in Software Quality Assurance.  This course was taught as an alternative to our existing Financial Operations and Information Technology academic tracks.  Students emerged from the course proficient in software development and SQA processes, software testing skills and strategies, and industry-standard testing tools (Bugzilla, JIRA, Selenium IDE).  Students were then placed in internships at Quality Assurance departments in leading companies (JP Morgan Chase, UBS, Deustche Bank, to name a few).  Feedback from those companies has been overwhelmingly positive.  Our students – with no college degrees or certifications, but with 70-hours of targeted, intensive training – are performing as well as or better than the college-educated entry-level testers these companies employ.

I’m really interested in continuing to explore new ideas in technology and computer science education.  In particular, I’d like to research alternatives to both the sequence and content of the traditional CS curriculum as well as how that content is delivered (college courses spread out over a semester vs. shorter, immersive courses, for example).  The nontraditional courses I took at Hampshire are one of the primary drivers of my belief that there are different and better ways of doing things in CS education.  If you share any of these interests, drop me a line!  I would love to swap stories and ideas.

Best Regards,

Raphael Crawford-Marks, F2001
raphael d0t crawfordmarks @t gmail d0t com