Tag Archives: research

Reducing the load: ways to support novice programmers

Post Syndicated from Sue Sentance original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/research-seminar-cognitive-load-subgoal-labels/

What’s your experience of learning to program? Have you given up and thought it just wasn’t for you? This has been the case for many people — and it’s the focus of a lot of research. Now that teaching programming is in the curriculum in many countries around the world, it’s even more important that we understand what we can do to make learning to program accessible and achievable for all students.

What is cognitive load for learners?

In education, one of the problems thought to cause students difficulty with learning anything — not just programming — is cognitive load. Cognitive load, a concept introduced in the 1980s by John Sweller, has received a lot of attention in the last few years. It is based on the idea that our working memory (the part of our memory that processes what we are currently doing) can only deal with a limited amount of information at any one time. For example, you can imagine that when you are just starting to learn to program, there is an awful lot going on in your working memory, and this can make the task of assimilating it all very challenging; selection, loops, arrays, and objects are all tricky concepts that you need to get to grips with. Cognitive load is a stress on a learner’s working memory, reducing their ability to process and learn new information.

Dr Briana Morrison (University of Nebraska-Omaha)

Finding ways of teaching programming that reduce cognitive load is really key for all of us engaged in computing education, so we were delighted to welcome Dr Briana Morrison (University of Nebraska-Omaha) as the speaker at our latest research seminar. Briana’s talk was titled ‘Using subgoal Labels to Reduce Cognitive Load in Introductory Programming’.

The thrust of Briana’s and her colleagues’ research is that, as educators, we can design instructional experiences around computer programming so that they minimise cognitive load. Using worked examples with subgoal labels is one approach that has been shown to help a lot with this. 

Subgoal labels help students memorise and generalise

Think back to the way you may have learned mathematics: in maths, worked examples are often used to demonstrate how to solve a problem step by step. The same can be done when teaching programming. For example, if we want to write a loop in Python, the teacher can show us a step-by-step approach using an example, and we can then apply this approach to our own task. Sounds reasonable, right?

What subgoal labels add is that, rather than just calling the steps of the worked example ‘Step 1’, ‘Step 2’, etc., the teacher uses memorable labels. For example, a subgoal label might be ‘define and initialise variables’. Such labels not only help us to remember, but more importantly, they help us to generalise the teacher’s example and grasp how to use it for many other applications.

Subgoal labels help students perform better

In her talk, Briana gave us examples of subgoal labels in use and explained how to write subgoal labels, as well as how to work with subject experts to find the best subgoal labels for a particular programming construct or area of teaching. She also shared with us some very impressive results from her team’s research examining the impact of this teaching approach. 

Screenshot of Dr Briana Morrison's research seminar talk

Briana and her colleagues have carried out robust studies comparing students who were taught using subgoals with students who weren’t. The study she discussed in the seminar involved 307 students; students in the group that learned with worked examples containing subgoal labels gave more complete answers to questions, and showed that they could understand the programming constructs at a higher level, than students who learned with worked examples that didn’t contain the subgoal labels. The study also found that the impact of subgoal labels was even more marked for students in at-risk groups (i.e. students at risk of performing badly or of dropping out).

It seems that this teaching approach works really well. The study’s participants were students in introductory computer science classes at university, so it would be interesting to see whether these results can be replicated at school level, where arguably cognitive load is even more of an issue.

Briana’s seminar was very well received, with attendees asking lots of questions about the details of the research and how it could be replicated. Her talk even included some audience participation, which got us all tapping our heads and rubbing our bellies!

Screenshot of Dr Briana Morrison's research seminar talk

Very helpfully, Briana shared a list of resources related to subgoal labels, which you can access via her talk slides on our seminars page.

You can also read more about the background and practical application of cognitive load theory and worked examples including subgoal labels in the Pedagogy Quick Read series we’re producing as part of our work in the National Centre of Computing Education.

Next up in our series

If you missed the seminar, you can find Briana’s presentation slides on our seminars page, where we’ll also soon upload a recording of her talk.

In our next seminar on Tuesday 14 July at 17:00–18:00 BST / 12:00–13:00 EDT / 9:00–10:00 PDT / 18:00–19:00 CEST, we’ll welcome Maria Zapata, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid, who will be talking about computational thinking and how we can assess the computational thinking skills of very young children. To join the seminar, simply sign up with your name and email address and we’ll email you the link and instructions. If you attended Briana’s seminar, the link remains the same.

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Volunteer your Raspberry Pi to IBM’s World Community Grid

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/ibm-world-community-grid/

IBM’s World Community Grid is working with scientists at Scripps Research on computational experiments to help find potential COVID-19 treatments. Anyone with a Raspberry Pi and an internet connection can help.

Why is finding potential treatments for COVID-19 so important?

Scientists all over the globe are working hard to create a vaccine that could help prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, this process is likely to take many months — or possibly even years.

In the meantime, scientists are also searching for potential treatments for the symptoms of COVID-19. A project called OpenPandemics – COVID-19 is one such effort. The project is led by researchers in the Forli Lab at Scripps Research, who are enlisting the help of World Community Grid volunteers.

What is World Community Grid and how does it work? 

World Community Grid is an IBM social responsibility initiative that supports humanitarian scientific research. 

Image text reads: Accelerate research with no investment of time or money. When you become a World Community Grid volunteer, you donate your device's spare computing power to help scientists solve the world's biggest problems in health and sustainability.

As a World Community Grid volunteer, you download a secure software program to your Raspberry Pi, macOS or Windows computer, or Android device. This software program (called BOINC) is used to run World Community Grid projects, and is compatible with the Raspberry Pi OS and most other operating systems. Then, when your device is not using its full power, it automatically runs a simulated experiment in the background that will help predict the effectiveness of a particular chemical compound as a possible treatment for COVID-19. Finally, your device automatically returns the results of the completed simulation and requests the next simulation.

Over the course of the project, volunteers’ devices will run millions of simulations of small molecules interacting with portions of the virus that causes COVID-19. This is a process known as molecular docking, which is the study of how two or more molecules fit together. When a simulated chemical compound fits, or ‘docks’, with a simulation of part of the virus that causes COVID-19, that interaction may point to a potential treatment for the disease.

An image of a calendar with the text: Get results that matter. As a World Community Grid volunteer, your device does research calculations when it's idle, so just by using it as. you do every dat you can help scientists get results in months instead of decades. With your help, they can identify the most important areas to study in the lab, bringing them one step closer to discoveries that save lives and address global problems.

World Community Grid combines the results from your device along with millions of results from other volunteers all over the world and sends them to the Scripps Research team for analysis. While this process doesn’t happen overnight, it accelerates dramatically what would otherwise take many years, or might even be impossible.

OpenPandemics – COVID-19 is the first World Community Grid project to harness the power of Raspberry Pi devices, but the World Community Grid technical team is already working to make other projects available for Raspberry Pi very soon.

Getting ready for future pandemics

Scientists have learned from past outbreaks that pandemics caused by newly emerging pathogens may become more and more common. That’s why OpenPandemics – COVID-19 was designed to be rapidly deployed to fight future diseases, ideally before they reach a critical stage.

A image of a scientist using a microscope. Text reads: Your device could help search for potential treatments for COVID-19. Scientists are using World Community Grid to accelerate the search for treatments to COVIS-19. The tools and techniques the scientists develop to fight COVID-19 could be used in the future by all researchers to help more quickly find treatments for potential pandemics

To help address future pandemics, researchers need access to swift and effective tools that can be deployed very early, as soon as a threatening disease is identified. So, the researchers behind OpenPandemics – COVID-19 are creating a software infrastructure to streamline the process of finding potential treatments for other diseases. And in keeping with World Community Grid’s open data policy, they will make their findings and these tools freely available to the scientific community. 

Join a global community of science supporters

World Community Grid is thrilled to make OpenPandemics – COVID-19 available to everyone who wants to donate computing power from their Raspberry Pi. Every device can play a part in helping the search for COVID-19 treatments. Please join us!

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How we are helping you with computing teaching methods

Post Syndicated from Sue Sentance original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/how-we-are-helping-you-with-computing-teaching-methods/

One aspect of our work as part of the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE) is producing free materials for teachers about teaching methods and pedagogy in computing. I am excited to introduce these materials to you here!

Teachers are asking us about teaching methods

Computing was included in the national curriculum in England in 2014, and after this, continued professional development (CPD) initiatives became available to support teachers to feel confident in topics they had not previously studied. Much of the CPD focussed on learning about programming, algorithms, networking, and how computers work.

Instructor explaining corporate software specific to trainees in computer class. Man and women sitting at table, using desktop, pointing at monitor and talking. Training concept

More recently however, I’ve found that increasing numbers of teachers are asking for support around teaching methods, particularly for how to support students who find programming and other aspects of computing difficult. Computing is a relatively new subject, but more and more research results are showing how to best teach it.

We offer CPD with our online courses

As part of the NCCE, we produce lots of free resources to support teachers with developing knowledge and skills in all aspects of computing. The NCCE’s Computing Hubs offer remotely delivered sessions, and we produce interactive, in-depth, free online courses for teachers to take over 3 or 4 weeks. Some of these online courses are about subject knowledge, while others focus on how to teach computing, the area referred to as pedagogical content knowledge*. For example, two of our courses are Programming Pedagogy in Primary Schools and Programming Pedagogy in Secondary Schools. Our pedagogy courses draw on the expertise and experience of many computing teachers working with students right now.

We share best practices in computing pedagogy

But that’s not all! We continually share tried and tested strategies for use in the computing classroom to help teachers, and those training to teach, support students more effectively. We believe that computing is for everyone and as such, we need a variety of possible approaches to teaching each topic up our collective sleeves, to ensure accessibility for all our students.

We develop all of this material in collaboration with in-the-classroom-now, experienced teachers and other experts, also drawing upon the latest computing education research. Our aim is to give you great, practical ideas for how to engage students who may be unmotivated or switched off, and new strategies to help you support students’ understanding of more complex computing concepts.

We support you to do classroom action research

One of the findings from decades of educational research is that teacher action research in the classroom is an extremely effective form of CPD! Teacher action research means reflecting on what the barriers to learning are in your classroom, planning an intervention (often in the form of a specific change to your teaching practice), and then evaluating whether it engenders improvement. Doing this has positive impacts both on your expertise as a teacher and on your students’ learning!

To support you with action research, we’re launching a special programme for classroom action research in computing. This takes the form of an online course, facilitated by experts in the field, lasting over a six-month period. Find out more about this opportunity.

Share your experiences with us

Right now we’re in unusual times, and surviving various combinations of home learning and remote delivery with your classes may be your greatest concern. However you’re getting on, we’d love to hear from you about your classroom practice in computing. Your experience with different ways of teaching computing in the classroom will add to our collective understanding about what works for teaching students. You can share your feedback with us, or get in touch with our pedagogy team at [email protected].

Other ways to learn and stay in touch:

 

*Back in 1987, Lee Shulman wrote: “Pedagogical content knowledge represents the blending of content and pedagogy into an understanding of how particular topics, problems or issues are organised, represented, and adapted to the diverse interests and abilities of learners, and presented for instruction.”

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Mathematics and programming: exploring the links

Post Syndicated from Sue Sentance original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/research-seminar-mathematics-programming-links/

“In my vision, the child programs the computer and, in doing so, both acquires a sense of mastery over a piece of the most modern and powerful technology and establishes an intimate contact with some of the deepest ideas from science, from mathematics, and from the art of intellectual model building.” – Seymour Papert, Mindstorms: Children, Computers, And Powerful Ideas, 1980

We owe much of what we have learned about children learning to program to Seymour Papert (1928–2016), who not only was a great mathematician and computer scientist, but also an inspirational educationalist. He developed the theoretical approach to learning we now know as constructionism, which purports that learning takes place through building artefacts that have meaning and can be shared with others. Papert, together with others, developed the Logo programming language in 1967 to help children develop concepts in both mathematics and in programming. He believed that programming could give children tangible and concrete experiences to support their acquisition of mathematical concepts. Educational programming languages such as Logo were widely used in both primary and secondary education settings during the 1980s and 90s. Thus for many years the links between mathematics and programming have been evident, and we were very fortunate to be able to explore this topic with our research seminar guest speaker, Professor Dame Celia Hoyles of University College London.

Dame Celia Hoyles

Professor Dame Celia Hoyles

Dame Celia Hoyles is a huge celebrity in the world of mathematical education and programming. As well as authoring literally hundreds of academic papers on mathematics education, including on Logo programming, she has received a number of prestigious awards and honours, and has served as the Chief Advisor to the UK government on mathematics in school. For all these reasons, we were delighted to hear her present at a Raspberry Pi Foundation computing education research seminar.

Mathematics is a subject we all need to understand the basics of — it underpins much of our other learning and empowers us in daily life. Yet some mathematical concepts can seem abstract and teachers have struggled over the years to help children to understand them. Since programming includes the design, building, and debugging of artefacts, it is a great approach for make such abstract concepts come to life. It also enables the development of both computational and mathematical thinking, as Celia described in her talk.

Learning mathematics through Scratch programming

Celia and a team* at University College London developed a curriculum initiative called ScratchMaths to teach carefully selected mathematical concepts through programming (funded by the Education Endowment Foundation in 2014–2018). ScratchMaths is for use in upper primary school (age 9–11) over a two-year period.

In the first year, pupils take three computational thinking modules, and in the second year, they move to three more mathematical thinking modules. All the ScratchMaths materials were designed around a pedagogical framework called the 5Es: explore, envisage, explain, exchange, and bridge. This enables teachers to understand the structure and sequencing of the materials as they use them in the classroom:

  • Explore: Investigate, try things out yourself, debug in reaction to feedback
  • Envisage: Have a goal in mind, predict outcome of program before trying
  • Explain: Explain what you have done, articulate reasons behind your approach to others
  • Exchange: Collaborate & share, try to see a problem from another’s perspective as well as defend your own approach and compare with others
  • bridgE: Make explicit links to the mathematics curriculum

Teachers in the ScratchMaths project participated in professional development (two days per module) to enable them to understand the materials and the pedagogical approach.

At the end of the project, external evaluators measured the childrens’ learning and found a statistically significant increase in computational thinking skills after the first year, but no difference between an intervention group and a control group in the mathematical thinking outcomes in the second year (as measured by the national mathematics tests at that age).

Celia discussed a number of reasons for these findings. She also drew out the positive perspective that children in the trial learned two subjects at the same time without any detriment to their learning of mathematics. Covering two subjects and drawing the links between them without detriment to the core learning is potentially a benefit to schools who need to fit many subjects into their teaching day.

Much more information about the programme and the materials, which are freely available for use, can be found on the ScratchMaths project’s website, and you can also read a research paper describing the project.

As at all our research seminars, participants had many questions for our speaker. Although the project was designed for primary education, where it’s more common to learn subjects together across the curriculum, several questions revolved around the project’s suitability for secondary school. It’s interesting to reflect on how a programme like ScratchMaths might work at secondary level.

Should computing be taught in conjunction or separately?

Teaching programming through mathematics, or vice versa, is established practice in some countries. One example comes from Sweden, where computing and programming is taught across different subject areas, including mathematics: “through teaching pupils should be given opportunities to develop knowledge in using digital tools and programming to explore problems and mathematical concepts, make calculations and to present and interpret data”. In England, conversely, we have a discrete computing curriculum, and an educational system that separates subjects out so that it is often difficult for children to see overlap and contiguity. However, having the focus on computing as a discrete subject gives enormous benefits too, as Celia outlined at the beginning of her talk, and it opens up the potential to give children an in-depth understanding of the whole subject area over their school careers. In an ideal world, perhaps we would teach programming in conjunction with a range of subjects, thus providing the concrete realisation of abstract concepts, while also having discrete computing and computer science in the curriculum.

Woman teacher and female students at a computer

In our current context of a global pandemic, we are continually seeing the importance of computing applications, for example computer modelling and simulation used in the analysis of data. This talk highlighted the importance of learning computing per se, as well as the mathematics one can learn through integrating these two subjects.

Celia is a member of the National Centre of Computing Education (NCCE) Academic Board, made up of academics and experts who support the teaching and learning elements of the NCCE, and we enjoy our continued work with her in this capacity. Through the NCCE, the Raspberry Pi Foundation is reaching thousands of children and educators with free computing resources, online courses, and advanced-level computer science materials. Our networks of Code Clubs and CoderDojos also give children the space and freedom to experiment and play with programming and digital making in a way that is concordant with a constructionist approach.

Next up in our seminar series

If you missed the seminar, you can find Celia’s presentation slides and a recording of her talk on our research seminars page.

In our next seminar on Tuesday 16 June at 17:00–18:00 BST / 12:00–13:00 EDT / 9:00–10:00 PDT / 18:00–19:00 CEST, we’ll welcome Jane Waite, Teaching Fellow at Queen Mary University of London. Jane will be sharing insights about Semantic Waves and unplugged computing. To join the seminar, simply sign up with your name and email address and we’ll email you the link and instructions. If you attended Celia’s seminar, the link remains the same.

 

*The ScratchMaths team are :

  • Professor Dame Celia Hoyles (Mathematics) & Professor Richard Noss (Mathematics) UCL Knowledge Lab
  • Professor Ivan Kalas, (Computing) Comenius University, Bratislava, Slovakia
  • Dr Laura Benton (Computing) & Piers Saunders, (Mathematics) UCL Knowledge Lab
  • Professor Dave Pratt (Mathematics) UCL Institute of Education

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Learning AI at school — a peek into the black box

Post Syndicated from Sue Sentance original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/research-seminar-learning-ai-at-school/

“In the near future, perhaps sooner than we think, virtually everyone will need a basic understanding of the technologies that underpin machine learning and artificial intelligence.” — from the 2018 Informatics Europe & EUACM report about machine learning

As the quote above highlights, AI and machine learning (ML) are increasingly affecting society and will continue to change the landscape of work and leisure — with a huge impact on young people in the early stages of their education.

But how are we preparing our young people for this future? What skills do they need, and how do we teach them these skills? This was the topic of last week’s online research seminar at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, with our guest speaker Juan David Rodríguez Garcia. Juan’s doctoral studies around AI in school complement his work at the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training in Spain.

Juan David Rodríguez Garcia

Juan’s LearningML tool for young people

Juan started his presentation by sharing numerous current examples of AI and machine learning, which young people can easily relate to and be excited to engage with, and which will bring up ethical questions that we need to be discussing with them.

Of course, it’s not enough for learners to be aware of AI applications. While machine learning is a complex field of study, we need to consider what aspects of it we can make accessible to young people to enable them to learn about the concepts, practices, and skills underlying it. During his talk Juan demonstrated a tool called LearningML, which he has developed as a practical introduction to AI for young people.

Screenshot of a demo of Juan David Rodríguez Garcia's LearningML tool

Juan demonstrates image recognition with his LearningML tool

LearningML takes inspiration from some of the other in-development tools around machine learning for children, such as Machine Learning for Kids, and it is available in one integrated platform. Juan gave an enticing demo of the tool, showing how to use visual image data (lots of pictures of Juan with hats, glasses on, etc.) to train and test a model. He then demonstrated how to use Scratch programming to also test the model and apply it to new data. The seminar audience was very positive about the LearningML, and of course we’d like it translated into English!

Juan’s talk generated many questions from the audience, from technical questions to the key question of the way we use the tool to introduce children to bias in AI. Seminar participants also highlighted opportunities to bring machine learning to other school subjects such as science.

AI in schools — what and how to teach

Machine learning demonstrates that computers can learn from data. This is just one of the five big ideas in AI that the AI4K12 group has identified for teaching AI in school in order to frame this broad domain:

  1. Perception: Computers perceive the world using sensors
  2. Representation & reasoning: Agents maintain models/representations of the world and use them for reasoning
  3. Learning: Computers can learn from data
  4. Natural interaction: Making agents interact comfortably with humans is a substantial challenge for AI developers
  5. Societal impact: AI applications can impact society in both positive and negative ways

One general concern I have is that in our teaching of computing in school (if we touch on AI at all), we may only focus on the fifth of the ‘big AI ideas’: the implications of AI for society. Being able to understand the ethical, economic, and societal implications of AI as this technology advances is indeed crucial. However, the principles and skills underpinning AI are also important, and how we introduce these at an age-appropriate level remains a significant question.

Illustration of AI, Image by Seanbatty from Pixabay

There are some great resources for developing a general understanding of AI principles, including unplugged activities from Computer Science For Fun. Yet there’s a large gap between understanding what AI is and has the potential to do, and actually developing the highly mathematical skills to program models. It’s not an easy issue to solve, but Juan’s tool goes a little way towards this. At the Raspberry Pi Foundation, we’re also developing resources to bridge this educational gap, including new online projects building on our existing machine learning projects, and an online course. Watch this space!

AI in the school curriculum and workforce

All in all, we seem to be a long way off introducing AI into the school curriculum. Looking around the world, in the USA, Hong Kong, and Australia there have been moves to introduce AI into K-12 education through pilot initiatives, and hopefully more will follow. In England, with a computing curriculum that was written in 2013, there is no requirement to teach any AI or machine learning, or even to focus much on data.

Let’s hope England doesn’t get left too far behind, as there is a massive AI skills shortage, with millions of workers needing to be retrained in the next few years. Moreover, a recent House of Lords report outlines that introducing all young people to this area of computing also has the potential to improve diversity in the workforce — something we should all be striving towards.

We look forward to hearing more from Juan and his colleagues as this important work continues.

Next up in our seminar series

If you missed the seminar, you can find Juan’s presentation slides and a recording of his talk on our seminars page.

In our next seminar on Tuesday 2 June at 17:00–18:00 BST / 12:00–13:00 EDT / 9:00–10:00 PDT / 18:00–19:00 CEST, we’ll welcome Dame Celia Hoyles, Professor of Mathematics Education at University College London. Celia will be sharing insights from her research into programming and mathematics. To join the seminar, simply sign up with your name and email address and we’ll email the link and instructions. If you attended Juan’s seminar, the link remains the same.

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Making the best of it: online learning and remote teaching

Post Syndicated from Sue Sentance original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/research-seminar-online-learning-remote-teaching/

As many educators across the world are currently faced with implementing some form of remote teaching during school closures, we thought this topic was ideal for the very first of our seminar series about computing education research.

Image by Mudassar Iqbal from Pixabay

Research into online learning and remote teaching

At the Raspberry Pi Foundation, we are hosting a free online seminar every second Tuesday to explore a wide variety of topics in the area of digital and computing education. Last Tuesday we were delighted to welcome Dr Lauren Margulieux, Assistant Professor of Learning Sciences at Georgia State University, USA. She shared her findings about different remote teaching approaches and practical tips for educators in the current crisis.

Lauren’s research interests are in educational technology and online learning, particularly for computing education. She focuses on designing instructions in a way that supports online students who do not necessarily have immediate access to a teacher or instructor to ask questions or overcome problem-solving impasses.

A vocabulary for online and blended learning

In non-pandemic situations, online instruction comes in many forms to serve many purposes, both in higher education and in K-12 (primary and secondary school). Much research has been carried out in how online learning can be used for successful learning outcomes, and in particular, how it can be blended with face-to-face (hybrid learning) to maximise the impact of both contexts.

In her seminar talk, Lauren helped us to understand the different ways in which online learning can take place, by sharing with us vocabulary to better describe different ways of learning with and through technology.

Lauren presented a taxonomy for classifying types of online and blended teaching and learning in two dimensions (shown in the image below). These are delivery type (technology or instructor), and whether content is received by learners, or actually being applied in the learning experience.

Lauren Margulieux seminar slide showing her taxonomy for different types of mixed student instruction

In Lauren’s words: “The taxonomy represents the four things that we control as instructors. We can’t control whether our students talk to each other or email each other, or ask each other questions […], therefore this taxonomy gives us a tool for defining how we design our classes.”

This taxonomy illustrates that there are a number of different ways in which the four types of instruction — instructor-transmitted, instructor-mediated, technology-transmitted, and technology-mediated — can be combined in a learning experience that uses both online and face-to-face elements.

Using her taxonomy in an examination (meta-analysis) of 49 studies relating to computer science teaching in higher education, Lauren found a range of different ways of mixing instruction, which are shown in the graph below.

  • Lecture hybrid means that the teaching is all delivered by the teacher, partly face-to-face and partly online.
  • Practice hybrid means that the learning is done through application of content and receiving feedback, which happens partly face-to-face or synchronously and partly online or asynchronously.
  • Replacement blend refers to instruction where lecture and practice takes place in a classroom and part of both is replaced with an online element.
  • Flipped blend instruction is where the content is transmitted through the use of technology, and the application of the learning is supported through an instructor. Again, the latter element can also take place online, but it is synchronous rather than asynchronous — as is the case in our current context.
  • Supplemental blend learning refers to instruction where content is delivered face-to-face, and then practice and application of content, together with feedback, takes place online — basically the opposite of the flipped blend approach.

Lauren Margulieux seminar slide showing learning outcomes of different types of mixed student instruction

Lauren’s examination found that the flipped blend approach was most likely to demonstrate improved learning outcomes. This is a useful finding for the many schools (and universities) that are experimenting with a range of different approaches to remote teaching.

Another finding of Lauren’s study was that approaches that involve the giving of feedback promoted improved learning. This has also been found in studies of assessment for learning, most notably by Black and Wiliam. As Lauren pointed out, the implication is that the reason blended and flipped learning approaches are the most impactful is that they include face-to-face or synchronous time for the educator to discuss learning with the students, including giving feedback.

Lauren’s tips for remote teaching

Of course we currently find ourselves in the midst of school closures across the world, so our only option in these circumstances is to teach online. In her seminar talk, Lauren also included some tips from her own experience to help educators trying to support their students during the current crisis:

  • Align learning objectives, instruction, activities, assignments, and assessments.
  • Use good equipment: headphones to avoid echo and a good microphone to improve clarity and reduce background noise.
  • Be consistent in disseminating information, as there is a higher barrier to asking questions.
  • Highlight important points verbally and visually.
  • Create ways for students to talk with each other, through discussions, breakout rooms, opportunities to talk when you aren’t present, etc.
  • Use video when possible while talking with your students.
    Give feedback frequently, even if only very brief.

Although Lauren’s experience is primarily from higher education (post-18), this advice is also useful for K-12 educators.

What about digital equity and inclusion?

All our seminars include an opportunity to break out into small discussion groups, followed by an opportunity to ask questions of the speaker. We had an animated follow-up discussion with Lauren, with many questions focused on issues of representation and inclusion. Some questions related to the digital divide and how we could support learners who didn’t have access to the technology they need. There were also questions from breakout groups about the participation of groups that are typically under-represented in computing education in online learning experiences, and accessibility for those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). While there is more work needed in this area, there’s also no one-size-fits-all approach to working with students with special needs, whether that’s due to SEND or to material resources (e.g. access to technology). What works for one student based on their needs might be entirely ineffective for others. Overall, the group concluded that there was a need for much more research in these areas, particularly at K-12 level.

Much anxiety has been expressed in the media, and more formally through bodies such as the World Economic Forum and UNESCO, about the potential long-lasting educational impact of the current period of school closures on disadvantaged students and communities. Research into the most inclusive way of supporting students through remote teaching will help here, as will the efforts of governments, charities, and philanthropists to provide access to technology to learners in need.

At the Raspberry Pi Foundation, we offer lots of free resources for students, educators, and parents to help them engage with computing education during the current school closures and beyond.

How should the education community move forward?

Lauren’s seminar made it clear to me that she was able to draw on decades of research studies into online and hybrid learning, and that we should take lessons from these before jumping to conclusions about the future. In both higher education (tertiary, university) and K-12 (primary, secondary) education contexts, we do not yet know the educational impact of the teaching experiments we have found ourselves engaging in at short notice. As Charles Hodges and colleagues wrote recently in Educause, what we are currently engaging in can only really be described as emergency remote teaching, which stands in stark contrast to planned online learning that is designed much more carefully with pedagogy, assessment, and equity in mind. We should ensure we learn lessons from the online learning research community rather than making it up as we go along.

Today many writers are reflecting on the educational climate we find ourselves in and on how it will impact educational policy and decision-making in the future. For example, an article from the Brookings Institution suggests that the experiences of home teaching and learning that we’ve had in the last couple of months may lead to both an increased use of online tools at home, an increase in home schooling, and a move towards competency-based learning. An article by Jo Johnson (President’s Professorial Fellow at King’s College London) on the impact of the pandemic on higher education, suggests that traditional universities will suffer financially due to a loss of income from international students less likely to travel to universities in the UK, USA, and Australia, but that the crisis will accelerate take-up of online, distance-learning, and blended courses for far-sighted and well-organised institutions that are ready to embrace this opportunity, in sum broadening participation and reducing elitism. We all need to be ready and open to the ways in which online and hybrid learning may change the academic world as we know it.

Next up in our seminar series

If you missed this seminar, you can find Lauren’s presentation slides and a recording of her talk on our seminars page.

Next Tuesday, 19 May at 17:00–18:00 BST, we will welcome Juan David Rodríguez from the Instituto Nacional de Tecnologías Educativas y de Formación del Profesorado (INTEF) in Spain. His seminar talk will be about learning AI at school, and about a new tool called LearningML. To join the seminar, simply sign up with your name and email address and we’ll email the link and instructions. If you attended Lauren’s seminar, the link remains the same.

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Cambridge Computing Education Research Symposium – recap of our online event

Post Syndicated from Sue Sentance original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/online-research-symposium-recap/

On Wednesday, we hosted the first-ever Cambridge Computing Education Research Symposium online. Research in computing education, particularly in school and for young people, is a young field compared to maths and science education, and we do not have much in terms of theoretical foundations. It is not a field that has received a lot of funding, so we cannot yet look to large-scale, longitudinal, empirical studies for evidence. Therefore, further research on how best to teach, learn, and assess computing is desperately needed. We also need to investigate ways of inspiring and motivating all young people in an area which is increasingly important for their future.

That’s why at the Raspberry Pi Foundationwe have made research a key part of our new strategy, and that’s why we worked with the University of Cambridge to hold this event.

Moving the symposium online

This was to be our first large-scale research event, held jointly with the University of Cambridge Department of Computer Science and Technology. Of course, current circumstances made it necessary for us to turn the symposium from a face-to-face into an online event at short notice.

Screengrab from the Cambridge Computing Education Research Symposium 2020 online event

An enthusiastic team took on the challenge, and we were delighted with how well the way the day went! You can see what participants shared throughout the day on Twitter.

Keynote presentation

Our keynote speaker was Dr Natalie Rusk of MIT and the Scratch Foundation, who shared her passion for digital creativity using Scratch.

Dr Natalie Rusk from the MIT Media Lab

We were excited to see images from early versions of Scratch and how it had developed over the years. Plus, Natalie revealed the cat blocks that were available on 1 April only — I had completely forgotten the day of the symposium was April Fools’ Day! The focus of Natalie’s presentation was on creativity, invention, tinkering, and the development of ideas over time, and she explored case studies of two ‘Scratchers’ who took a very different approach to working in the Scratch community on projects. The talk was well received by all.

Screengrab from the Cambridge Computing Education Research Symposium 2020 online event

Paper presentations

We heard from researchers from a range of institutions on topics under these themes:

  • Working with teachers on computing education research
  • Assessment tools and techniques
  • Perceptions and attitudes about computing
  • Theoretical frameworks used for computing education

Highlights for me were Ethel Tshukudu’s analysis of the way students transfer from one programming language to another, in which she draws on semantic transfer theory; and Paul Curzon’s application of Karl Maton’s semantic wave theory (taken from linguistics) to computing education.

The symposium’s focus was computing for young people, and much of the research presented was directly grounded in work with teachers and students in learning situations. Lynne Blair shared an interesting study highlighting female participation in A level computer science classes, which found the feeling of a lack of belonging among young women, a finding that echoes existing research around computing education and gender. Fenia Aivaloglou from the University of Leiden, Netherlands, considered the barriers faced by learners and teachers in extra-curricular code clubs, and Alison Twiner and Jo Shillingworth from the University of Cambridge shared a study on engaging young people in work-related computing projects.

We also heard how tools for supporting learners are developing, for example machine learning techniques to process natural language answers to questions on the free online learning platforms Isaac Computer Science and Isaac Physics.

Poster presentations

For the poster sessions, we divided into separate sessions so that the poster presenters could display and discuss their posters with a smaller group of people. This enabled more in-depth discussion about the topic being presented, which participants appreciated at this large online event. The 11 posters covered a wide range of topics from data visualisations in robotics to data-driven dance.

Screengrab from the Cambridge Computing Education Research Symposium 2020 online event

We showcased some of our own work on progression mapping with learning graphs for the NCCE Resource Repository; the Isaac Computer Science A level content platform; and our research into online learning with our free online courses for teachers.

Running an online symposium — what is it like?

From having successfully hosted this event online, we learned many lessons that we want to put into practice in future online events being offered by the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

There’s a plethora of tools available, and they all have their pros and cons (we used Google Meet). It’s my view that the tool is less important than the preparation needed for a large-scale online event, which is significant! The organising team hosted technical run-throughs with all presenters in the two days before the event, and instigated a ‘green room’ for all presenters to check their setups again five to ten minutes before their speaking slot. This helped to avoid a whole myriad of potential technical difficulties.

Screengrab from the Cambridge Computing Education Research Symposium 2020 online event

I’m so grateful to the great team at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, who worked behind the scenes all day to make sure that the participants and presenters got the most out of the event!

Stay in touch!

  • On the Research Symposium web page, you can now download the symposium’s abstract booklet. We will shortly be sharing recordings of the symposium’s presentations and files of slides and posters there as well.
  • When we moved the symposium online, we postponed two pre-symposium events: a workshop on gender balance, and a workshop on research-to-practice; we’re hoping to hold these as in-person events in the autumn.
  • Meanwhile, we are planning a series of online seminars, set to start on Tuesday 21 April at 17:00 BST and continue throughout the summer at two-week intervals.

If you’re interested in receiving a regular update about these and other research activities of ours, sign up to our newsletter.

We look forward to building a community of researchers and to sharing more of our work with you over the coming years.

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FluSense takes on COVID-19 with Raspberry Pi

Post Syndicated from Ashley Whittaker original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/flusense-takes-on-covid-19-with-raspberry-pi/

Raspberry Pi devices are often used by scientists, especially in biology to capture and analyse data, and a particularly striking – and sobering – project has made the news this week. Researchers at UMass Amherst have created FluSense, a dictionary-sized piece of equipment comprising a cheap microphone array, a thermal sensor, an Intel Movidius 2 neural computing engine, and a Raspberry Pi. FluSense monitors crowd sounds to forecast outbreaks of viral respiratory disease like seasonal flu; naturally, the headlines about their work have focused on its potential relevance to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A photo of Forsad Al Hossain and Tauhidur Rahman with the FluSense device alongside a logo from the Amherst University of Massachusetts

Forsad Al Hossain and Tauhidur Rahman with the FluSense device. Image courtesy of the University of Massachusetts Amherst

The device can distinguish coughing from other sounds. When cough data is combined with information about the size of the crowd in a location, it can provide an index predicting how many people are likely to be experiencing flu symptoms.

It was successfully tested in in four health clinic waiting rooms, and now, PhD student Forsad Al Hossain and his adviser, assistant professor Tauhidur Rahman, plan to roll FluSense out in other large spaces to capture data on a larger scale and strengthen the device’s capabilities. Privacy concerns are mitigated by heavy encryption, and Al Hossain and Rahman explain that the emphasis is on aggregating data, not identifying sickness in any single patient.

The researchers believe the secret to FluSense’s success lies in how much of the processing work is done locally, via the neural computing engine and Raspberry Pi: “Symptom information is sent wirelessly to the lab for collation, of course, but the heavy lifting is accomplished at the edge.”

A bird's-eye view of the components inside the Flu Sense device

Image courtesy of the University of Massachusetts Amherst

FluSense offers a different set of advantages to other tools, such as the extremely popular self-reporting app developed by researchers at Kings College Hospital in London, UK, together with startup Zoe. Approaches like this rely on the public to sign up, and that’s likely to skew the data they gather, because people in some demographic groups are more likely than others to be motivated and able to participate. FluSense can be installed to capture data passively from groups across the entire population. This could be particularly helpful to underprivileged groups who are less likely to have access to healthcare.

Makers, engineers, and scientists across the world are rising to the challenge of tackling COVID-19. One notable initiative is the Montreal General Hospital Foundation’s challenge to quickly design a low-cost, easy to use ventilator which can be built locally to serve patients, with a prize of CAD $200,000 on offer. The winning designs will be made available to download for free.

There is, of course, loads of chatter on the Raspberry Pi forum about the role computing has in beating the virus. We particularly liked this PSA letting you know how to free up some of your unused processing power for those researching treatments.

screenshot of the hand washer being built from a video on instagram

Screenshot via @deeplocal on Instagram

And to end on a cheering note, we *heart* this project from @deeplocal on Instagram. They’ve created a Raspberry Pi-powered soap dispenser which will play 20 seconds of your favourite song to keep you at the sink and make sure you’re washing your hands for long enough to properly protect yourself.

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Attend our Cambridge Computing Education Research Symposium

Post Syndicated from Sue Sentance original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/cambridge-computing-education-research-symposium-2020/

Are you an academic, researcher, student, or educator who is interested in computing education research? Then come and join us in Cambridge, UK on 1 April 2020 for discussion and networking at our first-ever research symposium.

Dr Natalie Rusk from the MIT Media Lab is our keynote speaker

Dr Natalie Rusk from the MIT Media Lab is our keynote speaker

Join our symposium

At the Raspberry Pi Foundation, we carry out research that deepens our understanding of how young people learn about computing and digital making and helps to increase the impact of our work and advance the field of computing education.

As part of our research work, we are launching the Cambridge Computing Education Research Symposium, a new one-day symposium hosted jointly by us and the University of Cambridge.

The theme of the symposium is school-level computing education, both formal and non-formal. The symposium will offer an opportunity for researchers and educators to share their work, meet others with similar interests, and build collaborative projects and networks.

University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory

The William Gates Building in Cambridge houses the Department of Computer Science and Technology (Computer Laboratory) and will be the symposium venue

The symposium will take place on 1 April 2020 at the Department of Computer Science and Technology. The day will include a range of talks and a poster session, as well as a keynote speech from Dr Natalie Rusk, Research Scientist at the MIT Media Laboratory and one of the creators of the Scratch programming language.

Registration for the symposium is now open: book your place today!

Pre-symposium workshops and networking

When you register to attend, you’ll also have the chance to sign up for one of two parallel workshops taking place on 31 March 2020 at the Raspberry Pi Foundation office in Cambridge.

Workshop 1 concerns the topic of gender balance in computing, while in workshop 2, we’ll consider what research-in-practice looks like in the computing classroom.

The workshops will draw on the experiences of everyone who is participating, and they’ll provide a forum for innovative ideas and new opportunities for collaboration to emerge.

You’re also invited to join us on the evening of 31 March for an informal networking event over food and drink at the Raspberry Pi Foundation office — a great chance to meet, mingle, and make connections ahead of the symposium day.

Register for the symposium to secure your place at these events! We look forward to meeting you there.

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‘Gender Balance in Computing’ research project launch

Post Syndicated from Sue Sentance original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/gender-balance-in-computing-research-project-launch/

I am excited to reveal that a consortium of partners has been awarded £2.4 million for a new research project to investigate how to engage more girls in computing, as part of our work with the National Centre for Computing Education. The award comes at a crucial time in computing education, after research by the University of Roehampton and the Royal Society recently found that only 20% of computing candidates for GCSE and 10% for A level Computer Science were girls.

The project will investigate ways to make computing more inclusive.

The project

‘Gender Balance in Computing’ is a collaboration between the consortium of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, STEM Learning, BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, and the Behavioural Insights Team. Our partners, Apps for Good and WISE, will also be working on the project. Trials will run from 2019–2022 in Key Stages 1–4, and more than 15,000 students and 550 schools will be involved. It will be the largest national research effort to tackle this issue to date!

Our research around gender balance has many synergies with the work of the wider National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE) programme, which also focuses on pedagogy and widening participation. We will also be working with NCCE Computing Hubs when planning and implementing the trials.

How it will work

‘Gender Balance in Computing’ will develop and roll out several projects that aim to increase the number of girls choosing to study a computing subject at GCSE and A level. The consortium has already identified some of the possible reasons why a large percentage of girls don’t consider computing as the right choice for further study and potential careers. These include: feeling that they don’t belong in the subject; not being sufficiently encouraged; and feeling that computing is not relevant to them. We will go on to research and pilot a series of new interventions, with each focusing on addressing a different barrier to girls’ participation.

We will also trial initiatives such as more inclusive pedagogical approaches to teaching computing to facilitate self-efficacy, and relating informal learning opportunities, which are often popular with girls, to computing as an academic subject or career choice.

Signposting the links between informal and formal learning is one of the interventions that will be trialled.

Introducing our partners

WISE works to increase the participation, contribution, and success of women in the UK’s scientific, technology, and engineering (STEM) workforce. Since 1984, they have supported young women into careers in STEM, and are committed to raising aspirations and awareness for girls in school to help them achieve their full potential. In the past three years, their programmes have inspired more than 13,500 girls.

The Behavioural Insights Team have worked with governments, local authorities, businesses and charities to tackle major policy problems. They generate and apply behavioural insights to inform policy and improve public services.

Apps for Good has impacted more than 130,000 young people in 1500 schools and colleges across the UK since their foundation in 2010. They are committed to improving diversity within the tech sector, engaging schools within deprived and challenging contexts, and enthusing girls to pursue a pathway in computing; in 2018, 56% of students participating in an Apps for Good programme were female.

“A young person’s location, background, or gender should never be a barrier to their future success. Apps for Good empowers young people to change their world through technology, and we have a strong track record of engaging girls in computing. We are excited to be a part of this important work to create, test, and scale solutions to inspire more girls to pursue technology in education. We look forward to helping to build a more diverse talent pool of future tech creators.” Sophie Ball & Natalie Moore, Co-Managing Directors, Apps for Good

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has a strong track record for inclusion through our informal learning programmes: out of the 375,000 children who attended a Code Club or a CoderDojo in 2018, 140,000 (37%) were girls. This disparity between the gender balance in informal learning and the imbalance in formal learning is one of the things our new research project will be investigating.

The challenge of encouraging more girls to take up computing has long been a concern, and overcoming it will be critical to ensuring that the nation’s workforce is suitably skilled to work in an increasingly digital world. I’m therefore very proud to be working with this group of excellent organisations on this important research project (and on such a scale!). Together, we have the opportunity to rigorously trial a range of evidence-informed initiatives to improve the gender balance in computing in primary and secondary schools.

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What we are learning about learning

Post Syndicated from Oliver Quinlan original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/what-we-are-learning-about-learning/

Across Code Clubs, CoderDojos, Raspberry Jams, and all our other education programmes, we’re working with hundreds of thousands of young people. They are all making different projects and learning different things while they are making. The research team at the Raspberry Pi Foundation does lots of work to help us understand what exactly these young people learn, and how the adults and peers who mentor them share their skills with them.

Coolest Projects International 2018

Senior Research Manager Oliver Quinlan chats to participants at Coolest Projects 2018

We do our research work by:

  • Visiting clubs, Dojos, and events, seeing how they run, and talking to the adults and young people involved
  • Running surveys to get feedback on how people are helping young people learn
  • Testing new approaches and resources with groups of clubs and Dojos to try different ways which might help to engage more young people or help them learn more effectively

Over the last few months, we’ve been running lots of research projects and gained some fascinating insights into how young people are engaging with digital making. As well as using these findings to shape our education work, we also publish what we find, for free, over on our research page.

How do children tackle digital making projects?

We found that making ambitious digital projects is a careful balance between ideas, technology, and skills. Using this new understanding, we will help children and the adults that support them plan a process for exploring open-ended projects.

Coolest Projects USA 2018

Coolest Projects USA 2018

For this piece of research, we interviewed children and young people at last year’s Coolest Projects International and Coolest Projects UK , asking questions about the kinds of projects they made and how they created them. We found that the challenge they face is finding a balance between three things: the ideas and problems they want to address, the technologies they have access to, and their skills. Different children approached their projects in different ways, some starting with the technology they had access to, others starting with an idea or with a problem they wanted to solve.

Achieving big ambitions with the technology you have to hand while also learning the skills you need can be tricky. We’re planning to develop more resources to help young people with this.

Coolest Projects International 2018

Research Assistant Lucia Florianova learns about Rebel Girls at Coolest Projects International 2018

We also found out a lot about the power of seeing other children’s projects, what children learn, and the confidence they develop in presenting their projects at these events. Alongside our analysis, we’ve put together some case studies of the teams we interviewed, so people can read in-depth about their projects and the stories of how they created them.

Who comes to Code Club?

In another research project, we found that Code Clubs in schools are often diverse and cater well for the communities the schools serve; Code Club is not an exclusive club, but something for everyone.

Code Club Athens

Code Clubs are run by volunteers in all sorts of schools, libraries, and other venues across the world; we know a lot about the spaces the clubs take place in and the volunteers who run them, but less about the children who choose to take part. We’ve started to explore this through structured visits to clubs in a sample of schools across the West Midlands in England, interviewing teachers about the groups of children in their club. We knew Code Clubs were reaching schools that cater for a whole range of communities, and the evidence of this project suggests that the children who attend the Code Club in those schools come from a range of backgrounds themselves.

Scouts Raspberry Pi

Photo c/o Dave Bird — thanks, Dave!

We found that in these primary schools, children were motivated to join Code Club more because the club is fun rather than because the children see themselves as people who are programmers. This is partly because adults set up Code Clubs with an emphasis on fun: although children are learning, they are not perceiving Code Club as an academic activity linked with school work. Our project also showed us how Code Clubs fit in with the other after-school clubs in schools, and that children often choose Code Club as part of a menu of after-school clubs.

Raspberry Jam

Visitors to Pi Towers Raspberry Jam get hands-on with coding

In the last few months we’ve also published insights into how Raspberry Pi Certified Educators are using their training in schools, and into how schools are using Raspberry Pi computers. You can find our reports on all of these topics over at our research page.

Thanks to all the volunteers, educators, and young people who are finding time to help us with their research. If you’re involved in any of our education programmes and want to take part in a research project, or if you are doing your own research into computing education and want to start a conversation, then reach out to us via [email protected].

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Security and Human Behavior (SHB 2018)

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/05/security_and_hu_7.html

I’m at Carnegie Mellon University, at the eleventh Workshop on Security and Human Behavior.

SHB is a small invitational gathering of people studying various aspects of the human side of security, organized each year by Alessandro Acquisti, Ross Anderson, and myself. The 50 or so people in the room include psychologists, economists, computer security researchers, sociologists, political scientists, neuroscientists, designers, lawyers, philosophers, anthropologists, business school professors, and a smattering of others. It’s not just an interdisciplinary event; most of the people here are individually interdisciplinary.

The goal is to maximize discussion and interaction. We do that by putting everyone on panels, and limiting talks to 7-10 minutes. The rest of the time is left to open discussion. Four hour-and-a-half panels per day over two days equals eight panels; six people per panel means that 48 people get to speak. We also have lunches, dinners, and receptions — all designed so people from different disciplines talk to each other.

I invariably find this to be the most intellectually stimulating conference of my year. It influences my thinking in many different, and sometimes surprising, ways.

This year’s program is here. This page lists the participants and includes links to some of their work. As he does every year, Ross Anderson is liveblogging the talks. (Ross also maintains a good webpage of psychology and security resources.)

Here are my posts on the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth SHB workshops. Follow those links to find summaries, papers, and occasionally audio recordings of the various workshops.

Next year, I’ll be hosting the event at Harvard.

Detecting Lies through Mouse Movements

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/05/detecting_lies_.html

Interesting research: “The detection of faked identity using unexpected questions and mouse dynamics,” by Merulin Monaro, Luciano Gamberini, and Guiseppe Sartori.

Abstract: The detection of faked identities is a major problem in security. Current memory-detection techniques cannot be used as they require prior knowledge of the respondent’s true identity. Here, we report a novel technique for detecting faked identities based on the use of unexpected questions that may be used to check the respondent identity without any prior autobiographical information. While truth-tellers respond automatically to unexpected questions, liars have to “build” and verify their responses. This lack of automaticity is reflected in the mouse movements used to record the responses as well as in the number of errors. Responses to unexpected questions are compared to responses to expected and control questions (i.e., questions to which a liar also must respond truthfully). Parameters that encode mouse movement were analyzed using machine learning classifiers and the results indicate that the mouse trajectories and errors on unexpected questions efficiently distinguish liars from truth-tellers. Furthermore, we showed that liars may be identified also when they are responding truthfully. Unexpected questions combined with the analysis of mouse movement may efficiently spot participants with faked identities without the need for any prior information on the examinee.

Boing Boing post.

Another Spectre-Like CPU Vulnerability

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/05/another_spectre.html

Google and Microsoft researchers have disclosed another Spectre-like CPU side-channel vulnerability, called “Speculative Store Bypass.” Like the others, the fix will slow the CPU down.

The German tech site Heise reports that more are coming.

I’m not surprised. Writing about Spectre and Meltdown in January, I predicted that we’ll be seeing a lot more of these sorts of vulnerabilities.

Spectre and Meltdown are pretty catastrophic vulnerabilities, but they only affect the confidentiality of data. Now that they — and the research into the Intel ME vulnerability — have shown researchers where to look, more is coming — and what they’ll find will be worse than either Spectre or Meltdown.

I still predict that we’ll be seeing lots more of these in the coming months and years, as we learn more about this class of vulnerabilities.

Sending Inaudible Commands to Voice Assistants

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/05/sending_inaudib.html

Researchers have demonstrated the ability to send inaudible commands to voice assistants like Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant.

Over the last two years, researchers in China and the United States have begun demonstrating that they can send hidden commands that are undetectable to the human ear to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Inside university labs, the researchers have been able to secretly activate the artificial intelligence systems on smartphones and smart speakers, making them dial phone numbers or open websites. In the wrong hands, the technology could be used to unlock doors, wire money or buy stuff online ­– simply with music playing over the radio.

A group of students from University of California, Berkeley, and Georgetown University showed in 2016 that they could hide commands in white noise played over loudspeakers and through YouTube videos to get smart devices to turn on airplane mode or open a website.

This month, some of those Berkeley researchers published a research paper that went further, saying they could embed commands directly into recordings of music or spoken text. So while a human listener hears someone talking or an orchestra playing, Amazon’s Echo speaker might hear an instruction to add something to your shopping list.

Critical PGP Vulnerability

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/05/critical_pgp_vu.html

EFF is reporting that a critical vulnerability has been discovered in PGP and S/MIME. No details have been published yet, but one of the researchers wrote:

We’ll publish critical vulnerabilities in PGP/GPG and S/MIME email encryption on 2018-05-15 07:00 UTC. They might reveal the plaintext of encrypted emails, including encrypted emails sent in the past. There are currently no reliable fixes for the vulnerability. If you use PGP/GPG or S/MIME for very sensitive communication, you should disable it in your email client for now.

This sounds like a protocol vulnerability, but we’ll learn more tomorrow.

News articles.

Airline Ticket Fraud

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/05/airline_ticket_.html

New research: “Leaving on a jet plane: the trade in fraudulently obtained airline tickets:”

Abstract: Every day, hundreds of people fly on airline tickets that have been obtained fraudulently. This crime script analysis provides an overview of the trade in these tickets, drawing on interviews with industry and law enforcement, and an analysis of an online blackmarket. Tickets are purchased by complicit travellers or resellers from the online blackmarket. Victim travellers obtain tickets from fake travel agencies or malicious insiders. Compromised credit cards used to be the main method to purchase tickets illegitimately. However, as fraud detection systems improved, offenders displaced to other methods, including compromised loyalty point accounts, phishing, and compromised business accounts. In addition to complicit and victim travellers, fraudulently obtained tickets are used for transporting mules, and for trafficking and smuggling. This research details current prevention approaches, and identifies additional interventions, aimed at the act, the actor, and the marketplace.

Blog post.

Supply-Chain Security

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/05/supply-chain_se.html

Earlier this month, the Pentagon stopped selling phones made by the Chinese companies ZTE and Huawei on military bases because they might be used to spy on their users.

It’s a legitimate fear, and perhaps a prudent action. But it’s just one instance of the much larger issue of securing our supply chains.

All of our computerized systems are deeply international, and we have no choice but to trust the companies and governments that touch those systems. And while we can ban a few specific products, services or companies, no country can isolate itself from potential foreign interference.

In this specific case, the Pentagon is concerned that the Chinese government demanded that ZTE and Huawei add “backdoors” to their phones that could be surreptitiously turned on by government spies or cause them to fail during some future political conflict. This tampering is possible because the software in these phones is incredibly complex. It’s relatively easy for programmers to hide these capabilities, and correspondingly difficult to detect them.

This isn’t the first time the United States has taken action against foreign software suspected to contain hidden features that can be used against us. Last December, President Trump signed into law a bill banning software from the Russian company Kaspersky from being used within the US government. In 2012, the focus was on Chinese-made Internet routers. Then, the House Intelligence Committee concluded: “Based on available classified and unclassified information, Huawei and ZTE cannot be trusted to be free of foreign state influence and thus pose a security threat to the United States and to our systems.”

Nor is the United States the only country worried about these threats. In 2014, China reportedly banned antivirus products from both Kaspersky and the US company Symantec, based on similar fears. In 2017, the Indian government identified 42 smartphone apps that China subverted. Back in 1997, the Israeli company Check Point was dogged by rumors that its government added backdoors into its products; other of that country’s tech companies have been suspected of the same thing. Even al-Qaeda was concerned; ten years ago, a sympathizer released the encryption software Mujahedeen Secrets, claimed to be free of Western influence and backdoors. If a country doesn’t trust another country, then it can’t trust that country’s computer products.

But this trust isn’t limited to the country where the company is based. We have to trust the country where the software is written — and the countries where all the components are manufactured. In 2016, researchers discovered that many different models of cheap Android phones were sending information back to China. The phones might be American-made, but the software was from China. In 2016, researchers demonstrated an even more devious technique, where a backdoor could be added at the computer chip level in the factory that made the chips ­ without the knowledge of, and undetectable by, the engineers who designed the chips in the first place. Pretty much every US technology company manufactures its hardware in countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, China and Taiwan.

We also have to trust the programmers. Today’s large software programs are written by teams of hundreds of programmers scattered around the globe. Backdoors, put there by we-have-no-idea-who, have been discovered in Juniper firewalls and D-Link routers, both of which are US companies. In 2003, someone almost slipped a very clever backdoor into Linux. Think of how many countries’ citizens are writing software for Apple or Microsoft or Google.

We can go even farther down the rabbit hole. We have to trust the distribution systems for our hardware and software. Documents disclosed by Edward Snowden showed the National Security Agency installing backdoors into Cisco routers being shipped to the Syrian telephone company. There are fake apps in the Google Play store that eavesdrop on you. Russian hackers subverted the update mechanism of a popular brand of Ukrainian accounting software to spread the NotPetya malware.

In 2017, researchers demonstrated that a smartphone can be subverted by installing a malicious replacement screen.

I could go on. Supply-chain security is an incredibly complex problem. US-only design and manufacturing isn’t an option; the tech world is far too internationally interdependent for that. We can’t trust anyone, yet we have no choice but to trust everyone. Our phones, computers, software and cloud systems are touched by citizens of dozens of different countries, any one of whom could subvert them at the demand of their government. And just as Russia is penetrating the US power grid so they have that capability in the event of hostilities, many countries are almost certainly doing the same thing at the consumer level.

We don’t know whether the risk of Huawei and ZTE equipment is great enough to warrant the ban. We don’t know what classified intelligence the United States has, and what it implies. But we do know that this is just a minor fix for a much larger problem. It’s doubtful that this ban will have any real effect. Members of the military, and everyone else, can still buy the phones. They just can’t buy them on US military bases. And while the US might block the occasional merger or acquisition, or ban the occasional hardware or software product, we’re largely ignoring that larger issue. Solving it borders on somewhere between incredibly expensive and realistically impossible.

Perhaps someday, global norms and international treaties will render this sort of device-level tampering off-limits. But until then, all we can do is hope that this particular arms race doesn’t get too far out of control.

This essay previously appeared in the Washington Post.