Speaker Series 2020

Simon Peyton-Jones

Principal ResearcherMicrosoft Research

Computer Science Meets Education, at Scale

The UK is in the throes of a wholesale reform of school (K-12) education in computing, one that establishes computer science as a foundational discipline that all children learn from primary school onwards, just as they do maths and natural science. It’s pretty exciting: I will sketch the context and describe our progress.

But I will focus on one particularly exciting development: Project Quantum. So-called “diagnostic questions” are multiple choice questions that promote learning (rather than measurement). But it’s hard to know which ones work well, and which don’t. In partnership with an ed-tech startup (Eedi) we now have hundreds of millions of data points and are beginning to apply both statistics (Rasch analysis) and machine learning (variational autoencoders) to distilling insights from this data.

I fell in love with functional programming when I was 20, and I am still in love today. I helped design Haskell, and I spend a lot of time on GHC, Haskell's most widely-used compiler (including inside GitHub).

I got involved in education because I was dissatisfied with the computing education my children experienced. It has turned out to be much more rewarding than I expected, and I hope to share some of that excitement in my talk.