berspace, means that the world must
move decisively toward an emphasis on
improving defenses. And it’s not rocket
science; better use of strong encryption,
moving data around in the Cloud, and
increasing use of the Fog, all these can
make the situation much better.
But the most important lesson to
be learned from the hapless John Podesta is that you can’t wait for government policy to protect you. Cyberspace
is not just the world at your fingertips;
it is also a wilderness, and a dangerous
one at that. Much as major commercial
firms and governmental bodies must
improve their own cybersecurity, individuals, too, must bear responsibility
for their own security. The situation is
somewhat like that described by the historian Frederick Jackson Turner, who
thought of the U.S. as a society defined
by its long “frontier experience.” Americans were always pushing on into the
wilderness, and developed a great deal
of self-reliance when it came to sustenance and security. So it may be now in
the virtual wilderness of cyberspace.
The alternative, reliance on government, is likely to be fraught with political bickering, endless delays, and unsatisfactory results; in the world’s most
democratic countries, at least. Authoritarians, on the other hand, have quickly
adopted strong cybersecurity policies.
As Clarke and Knake see such matters,
they list North Korea as having the best
cyberdefenses in the world, with China
and Russia not far behind.
Perhaps, then, the true lesson of the
election hack kerfuffle is not to keep
making hard-to-prove charges against
President Putin, but to look more closely at how he, and others of his ilk, have
crafted their countries’ cyber defenses.
Designing the Activities
for a ‘Computing Lab’
October 17, 2016
When I was growing up, my elementary
school had a “Reading Lab,” and later,
so did my children’s elementary school.
If students were struggling with a partic-
ular reading difficulty, they could go to
the lab and get help with just those spe-
cific aspects. It didn’t matter what grade
they were in (though earlier grades were
certainly most common). Reading was
considered so important that it was
worth having special help in reading.
The book Proust and the Squid: The
Story and Science of the Reading Brain
( http://amzn.to/2kTvIyN) contains interesting insights into what reading experts do to help students overcome challenges in learning to read. For example,
learning to read with rhymes is easier
for students because they can attend to
just the initial sound and only decode
the final sound once. Reading out loud
rhyming words like “mat” and “rat” and
“sat” are easier than “cat” or “pat” (with
a hard consonant at the start) because
the initial sounds (e.g., “ma”) can be
extended (“mmmmmmaaaaaa”) while
the student works to decode the final
sound and put it all together.
Schools provide extra help in other
areas of literacy that are highly valued.
˲ At the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), we have special
help in writing. For example, if a student is having trouble organizing an
essay, instructors in a “Writing Lab”
teach techniques like using white-boards in novel ways to brainstorm and
develop an outline.
˲ I am a fan of the Math Emporium at
Virginia Tech (https://www.emporium.
vt.edu/), which is not just for remedial
math help, but does help students to
learn mathematics at a pace that works
It is becoming obvious that computing is a necessary skill for 21st-century
professionals. Expressing ideas in program code, and being able to read others’ program code, is a kind of literacy.
Even if not all universities are including
programming as part of their general
education requirements yet (http://bit.
ly/29NbjFK), our burgeoning enrollments suggest that the students see the
value of computational literacy.
We also know that some students
will struggle with computing classes.
We do not yet have evidence of challenges in learning computation akin
to dyslexia. Our research evidence so
far suggests that all students are capable of learning computing (http://bit.
ly/2cqaqcD), but differences in background and preparation will lead to
different learning challenges.
One day, we may have “Computing
Labs” where students will receive extra
help on learning critical computation-
al literacy skills. What would happen
in a remedial “Computing Lab”? It’s an
interesting thought experiment.
I predict one thing that won’t happen: students won’t just program all
the time. Learning to program by programming is a high cognitive-load activity ( http://bit.ly/2ktg8fa). Students
can learn a lot about reading and writing programs by engaging in a variety
of other learning activities.
Some of the activities that we
˲Parson’s Problems (http://bit.
ly/2jEvhGv), which are programming
problems where the solution is given
but the lines of code are scrambled on
“refrigerator magnets.” Students have
to assemble the lines into place. There
are never any syntax errors, so students
can focus on the meaning of the code.
We know that these problems have
much lower cognitive load and are use-
ful in learning ( http://bit.ly/2k TObLl).
˲ Explaining programs from one stu-
dent to another, aloud. There is a read-
ing activity called reciprocal teaching
( http://bit.ly/2ks0v8b) in which one
student reads, and the other probes
the understanding of the first student.
A similar activity could be construct-
ed for developing program under-
˲ Tracing programs by hand with pen
and pencil. We teach a variety of sketch-
based techniques to facilitate learning
and practice in mathematics and sci-
ence classes, from long division and
“borrowing/carrying” in multi-digital
arithmetic, to balancing equations in al-
gebra and chemistry and drawing free-
body diagrams in physics. Certainly,
we will need similar sketch-based tech-
niques to help students make sense of
their code and data structures, too.
The exercise of defining a “Computer
Lab” is not just speculation about a
possible future. It helps us as computing teachers to think about what else
we can do in our own classes today to
help struggling students. We need a
wide variety of teaching and learning
techniques to achieve the goal of “CS
for All” ( http://bit.ly/2kSGKas).
John Arquilla is professor of defense analysis at the U.S.
Naval Postgraduate School; the views expressed are his
alone. Mark Guzdial is Director of Contextualized Support
for Learning at the Georgia Tech College of Computing.
© 2017 ACM 0001-0782/17/4 $15.00