Friday, December 28, 2007

Shamrock Run and SIGCSE 2008

Susan Rodger and I, along with the entire steering committee and people from the City of Portland, OR have been working to put together SIGCSE 2008, and some of these efforts have been chronicled here in the Blog -- we also strongly encourage activities in conjunction with this conference -- hey, we'll all be together in a wonderful city, and we should get the most out of the time there!

In this vein, Owen Astrachan of Duke University has found a benefit race || run || fun walk on the Sunday morning right after the conference concludes. Known as the Shamrock Run, it provides another way to see Portland, to exercise and to support a noble cause.

To encourage participation, provide a sense of team (and save a few dollars :-), Owen recommends signing-up using the following team name and "leader":

name of the group: sigcse
leader of the group: owen

Use lowercase letters only: sigcse and owen

I have received permission from my boss* to run (actually, jog carefully :-). So please consider joining a few other SIGCSE people, even if just to cheer on the runners, perhaps we can all meet at the finish line for a photo (maybe the starting line would be a better idea). Thanks to Owen for getting the word out.

And please keep you eyes and mind open to other ideas to bring to our attention that might help make SIGCSE 2008 a memorable and successful event.
* my lovely wife Ellen

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sex, Computing and Achievement

So, I came across this article in Scientific American entitled, "Sex, Math and Scientific Achievement," with the subtitle, "Why do men dominate the fields of science, engineering and mathematics?"

First, I am glad to have been directed to the article by the ACM TechNews Service (that I wish would direct other computing professionals to SIGCSE 2008 -- hint, hint :-). Second, I am happy that the topic does directly address the Symposium theme regarding both diversity and accessibility, as well as (cap)abilities in the larger sense. And finally, I am glad they used "Sex" in the title so I could use it with some cover, and hopefully get more attention to the Symposium ;-). Not controversial enough -- sorry :-(.

I plan to re-read this substantive article, but the quick/incomplete summary goes like this:
  • women talk gooder and are better at ... I think it's something about remembering
  • men are better with what they can see, move and measure (perhaps a diagram would help, see right)
  • intervention studies are still in their infancy but suggest both sexes can benefit from targeted training to improve their skill set
This final observation pertains most directly to the goals of the Symposium.

It seems that the motivation for this work involved a certain former Harvard president and his comments in 2005 at a small conference on economics. One of my favorites quotes from the article talked about the belief that differences between the skill sets for each sex are "mutable," and thus education matters:

Indeed, if training and experience did not make a difference in the development of our academic skills, universities such as Harvard would be accepting tuition from students under false pretenses.

There are some interesting observations about girls and boys where they are equally skilled on average but not "equally distributed" (my quotes) in mathematical ability. There are many other observations, including my other favorite quote:

Of course, even if you’re smart, you might not want to be a scientist.

Please note that I am pulling some items that caught my eye, but there are very many important points to discuss; for example, stereotypical bias in hiring and evaluation. I urge all SIGCSE 2008 attendees to find time to review, and I invite you to a conversation at one of the few coffee shops in Portland, my schedule permitting -- I am sure Susan Rodger will cover for me ....

Thursday, December 6, 2007

December Announcements

In case you missed these SIGCSE 2008 announcements from Dec 3 .. compliments of Susan Rodger.

1. SIGCSE online program is now available!

PDFs of papers, panels, special sessions, workshops, Bofs and Posters
are now all available on the SIGCSE 2008 website.

Click on "Attendees" and then "Program at a Glance".

2. Paper Registration is available, online registration coming...

On the "Attendees" page, a paper registration form is available (pdf).
Online registration should be available soon.

Note the Early registration deadline is February 12! Rates are same as SIGCSE 2007 rates!

3. Online Registration for "CS Kids 4 Fun" care open - deadline Jan 10!

New this year we are offering onsite childcare/camp, "CS Kids 4 Fun",
for kids ages 6 months-12 years. We have contracted with "Kiddie Corp"
to provide the onsite daycare and will be using student volunteers to
do the CS activities (Alice, Scratch, CS Unplugged, etc.)

Contact if you have questions/comments.

4. Student Volunteers - Registration open - Encourage students to apply

Please encourage students to apply to be student volunteers. In exchange
for a few hours of service, they get free student registration.

New this year, some of them can spend those volunteer hours to
do fun CS activities with the older kids in our onsite
"CS Kids 4 Fun" daycare/camp.

5. Hotels - Comparisons and Why you should register in our SIGCSE block

We have three hotels listed on our web site and ask that you register
through our website or call and give the ACM Code listed for each hotel
to get the SIGCSE rate specified on our web pages.

Why should you register in the SIGCSE block instead of searching for
another rate through another provider?

Because the conference benefits by filling up our block at this rate (keeping overall costs low so we can keep registration as low as possible! -- J.D.).
We have several types of rates from $129/night to $96/night. Also consider the Roommate Database (link on our Attendees page) to find a roommate to cut costs.

6. Sign up for a Workshop on Wed, Fri or Sat evenings.

Consider signing up for one of our 38 offered workshops.
All workshop descriptions are available in the online program, and from the Attendees Page.
Workshop fees are the same rate as SIGCSE 2007!

7. Many Pre-conference events on Wednesday, March 12 -

Before making your plane reservations, consider coming Tuesday night
to take advantage of one of the pre-workshops during the day on
Wednesday, March 12.

See the SIGCSE 2008 home page for more information on
Wednesday pre-workshops.

a. Microsoft Pre-workshop on CS1/2 on XBOX console

TITLE: Developing CS1/2 Programming Assignments on the XBOX 360 Console

INSTRUCTOR: Prof. Kelvin Sung, Associate Professor, Computing and
Software, Systems University of Washington (Bothell)

This workshop is all day Wednesday til 5pm.

b. BlueJay/Greenfoot half-day pre-workshop

This workshop is for both beginners and experienced and will
be presented by the Bluejay and Greenfoot teams.

This half-day workshop is 1-5pm on Wednesday.

c. Pre-Workshop on Data Depository for Computing-Education Research

This full day workshop is being presented by Kate Sanders, Brad
Richards, and Jan Mostrom, and runs from 9am-6pm (with dinner 6-7).

d. Roundtable for Department Chairs (PDF download)

Register for this event in the SIGCSE registration. This is an all day event.

e. Doctoral Consortium

The Doctoral Consortium for PhD students continues. This is an all day event. Registration is closed.

Again, we hope to see many of you in Portland in March!

Susan and JD

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

ACM creates Education Policy Committee

More news today, and more topics for discussion at SIGCSE 2008 -- the ACM announced today a new committee to explore ways "to improve opportunities for quality education in computing and computer science." This announcement coincided (on purpose) with an announcement of the results of the 2006 Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA).

Well, just when I thought I had enough to keep abreast about in computing education -- fortunately, the first public appearance of the ACM EPC* will be a panel discussion at SIGCSE 2008, entitled "An Open Dialogue Concerning the State of Education Policy in Computer Science," with the session moderated by Robert B. Schnabel (photo left), Dean of the Indiana University School of Informatics and recently appointed Chair of the ACM EPC. By the way, as symposium chair I call "dibbs" on the doorway between this panel session and "Nifty Assignments" ;-).

From my quick read, the goals of the EPC overlap substantially with SIGCSE and other organization like CSTA, CCSC and SIGITE. Personally (but in a professional way), I applaud this effort as many of us at the undergraduate and graduate level believe (albeit mostly anecdotally) that many of the issues that arise involving enrollments occur outside of the university, and with the right support we could all benefit from a more coordinated approach.

On the other hand, there is the old saw that when there's a problem perceived, form another committee ... :-( -- the EPC will only be able to make real impact with some informed discussion and support to implement the recommendations (sounds familiar to me).

Just another reason to meet us all in Portland in March for SIGCSE 2008.

* just a warning, our campus uses EPC for its Educational Policy Committee and I already have enough confusion in my life :-)

A Fine Pair of Fellows ...

The ACM has just announced its list of 2007 ACM Fellows, and two names stand out for computing education in general, and for SIGCSE 2008, particularly the keynotes (see below).

Eric Roberts of Stanford University (photo left) has served the SIGCSE community for many years, spearheading such important (and gi-normous*) projects as Computing Curricula 2001 and the ACM Java Task Force (with my co-chair Susan Rodger). Eric received the 2003 SIGCSE Award in Reno, Nevada (where I recall his keynote did address diversity issues in computing education). Rumor has it that Eric taught a computing course for non-majors at Stanford that included Marissa Mayer, one of the SIGCSE 2008 keynotes -- clearly, Eric made the course more than accessible.

SIGCSE 2008 treasurer Scott Grissom told me about a game played at a past SIGCSE where each person names the most famous person who knows you by name -- Eric purportedly started with Bill Gates of Microsoft (yes, the "of Microsoft" part is unnecessary, but ...), but then added Condoleezza Rice of Stanford and "other stuff" -- when it was his turn to name a famous person who knows him, Scott wisely chose Eric Roberts.

The second new ACM Fellow connected (directly) to SIGCSE 2008 is none other than Randy Pausch of CMU (photo right). You can visit previous posts here or here or here to get Randy's background and his bittersweet, very emotional story. Randy will provide the opening keynote address at SIGCSE 2008; we are hoping this keynote is provided in person. Just to be complete, Randy has received the 2008 SIGCSE Award and the 2007 Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award as well.

On behalf of SIGCSE, well done to both Fellows.

* so big a project I had to squeeze "gigantic" and "enormous" into one adjective :-)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Child Care / Kid Camps announced ...

child careFinally! We (mostly Susan and Pam, see below) have been exploring an on site child care center and kid camp for SIGCSE 2008 for a few weeks (it was noted on the conference homepage and attendees page) -- details below in Susan's announcement to the SIGCSE listserv, but I am excited at extending the notion of a "SIGCSE Family" to be more inclusive than it already is -- also, I should emphasize that "on site" really means "on site"; the camp will be on the same level of the OCC as the meetings and exhibits (but secluded enough to not disturb meetings ;-).

New at SIGCSE 2008 this year, we are in the process of finalizing details for onsite childcare and kid CS camp during the conference, for ages 6 months-12 years (contact us if there is interest in kids older).

DEADLINE for applications: January 10, 2008!

We need to have at least 12 kids signed up by January 10 to guarantee this program. If there is low enrollment, then we may need to cancel.

Here are some of the details for what we are planning. More details and online applications will be available in the next few weeks.

We are contracting with a professional provider who provides onsite care at conferences. (similar to Kids Chi Camp at SIGCHI or the childcare at Grace Hopper). The daycare/kid's camp will be one of the meeting rooms at the convention center, but will be transformed into a fun place for kids.

Younger kids will participate in drama, play, and arts and crafts type activities. As part of the care, older kids can participate in our CS kids activities. We are investigating activities such as CS Unplugged, Scratch, Alice, etc. Student Volunteers will help with the CS activities.

Daycare provider ratios will be 1:2 for kids ages 6 months-11 months, 1:3 for kids 1 to 2 years old, and 1:5 for ages 3-12. Student volunteers for the CS activities will be additional helpers and are not included in this ratio.

Daycare will be provided during the main sessions from
  • Thursday, March 13 8am-1pm, 1pm-6pm (whole, half day options)
  • Friday, March 14 8am-1pm, 1pm-6pm (whole, half day options)
  • Saturday, March 15 8-4pm
This care will be subsidized and you pay for a whole or half session at the rate of
  • $6/hr for ages 3-12, and
  • $7/hr for ages 6 months-2yr.
We hope to send out more information when our application goes online.

CONTACT: Pam Cutter,, will be our Childcare/Camp Arrangements contact. Please contact her if you have any questions, ideas, or concerns.

We hope this subsidized daycare/camp will make SIGCSE more accessible to our attendees. We both hope to bring our kids to SIGCSE 2008 to participate in this new experience for kids.
Susan and JD

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Accessibility in the News today ...

Accessibility involving computing has been quite a topic in the news today. I will just highlight a few noteworthy examples here, not all of which involve education but can be argued provide the potential to increase the diversity of the user population of computing (hint: diversity and accessibility are connected by more than the theme of SIGCSE 2008 :-).
Providing a low-cost computing device to make information and the Internet more accessible -- who could argue with that? Well, apparently, there is competition in this area.

I am not an economist, so I am not going to comment on the relative merits of such competition. But as a teacher, I think the discussion itself has merit in computing education, especially when we read about the anticipated high demand for computer science people (or "High-demand employment requires high-caliber education") and the benefits such access can provide to all, including those in developing countries (yes, there are consequences too, which is why the discussion is non-trivial).

And clearly accessibility is not limited to those with mobility, vision or hearing issues either. I would be happy to be involved with a SIGCSE conference that facilitated discussion(s) on access around the world, the issues that arise across cultures and political systems, legality, social impact -- hey, I work at a liberal arts college, and I believe computing has much to offer these discussions.

Still, the resources (time, space, energy, pages) at a SIGCSE conference are limited, no matter how many "threads of discussion" are processing. I look forward to learning about initiatives to provide low-cost computing around the globe, and SIGCSE 2008 can be one of the places where I learn more about this topic.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Villanova in the Fall …

Last Friday, computing educators in the Greater Philadelphia Area, also known as the Delaware Valley, gathered at the Conference Center at Villanova University just west of Philadelphia, PA USA (hey, blogs are international :-). Our hosts, Boots Cassel of VU and Manuel Perez-Quinones of VT, used funding from their NSF-CPATH grant to arrange this meeting. All participants submitted background information, current projects and future endeavors from which a tentative agenda was gleaned.

We all met on a crisp autumn day (the colors were astounding!), and immediately got down to work over breakfast. After a sequence of substantial introductions, the floor was open for discussion. We talked about perceptions, priorities, goals, practicalities, diversity and motivations involved in computing education. Other efforts from other disciplines were noted (including Eric Mazur’s work in concept physics at Harvard).

Before we knew it, it was lunchtime -- more food, and more conversation. The afternoon went by as rapidly as the morning, though Boots was able to at least list and reminder everyone of the agenda items. We discussed discovery learning, virtual worlds and robotics, kinesthetic learning and PBSL, whatever came into the stream of the discussion among motivated people. I then realized that our hosts were also demonstrating some of these forms of learning in practice that day: we held loosely to an agenda, we facilitated and provided with surroundings conducive to activity, and then set off to explore. We had lived the ideal, and I was renewed once again, looking forward to returning to Haverford to see if I could implement some of these strategies.

I recall feeling that I was experiencing one of my favorite parts of the SIGCSE conference; namely, the ongoing discussion towards a set of goals, some immediate, some longer term. I believe that this meeting was made more effective because the majority of participants were “SIGCSE regulars” – and the rest of the people were constantly reminded that they should attend SIGCSE soon. I was able to distribute about 30-40 roses as reminders of the City of Portland, OR, home of SIGCSE 2008. I look forward to progress reports and more lively chat (in the real world :-) in a few months at the Oregon Convention Center.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

NCWIT report from Seattle

This Blog post is contributed by my esteemed co-chair Susan Rodger -- it took me a few days to post it into this Blog, but I do believe it is worth the brief wait -- the goals of NCWIT line up well with those of SIGCSE in general, and SIGCSE 2008 in particular -- Enjoy, J.D.

I just got back from my first NCWIT meeting held in Seattle, Washington. NCWIT stands for National Center for Women & Information Technology. They have been meeting since May 2005, and Duke has been a member, but this is my first time in attending. There were 200-300 people attending, all dedicated to increasing interest in IT.

As I saw at the meeting, NCWIT has been very active in producing many products to attract women to IT. For example, they have created Program-in-a-Box programs to provide all the materials you need for a presentation on a topic such as outreach. The "box" is actually just online resources, easily accessible.

An example is "Outreach-In-A-Box: Discovering IT"

This box has lots of materials to help provide you with an outreach presentation to a middle school including sample letters to introduce yourself to the school, activites you can do with kids, presentation slides, and a tech brochure.

The NCWIT meeting had a practices workshop for all the attendees that was held at Microsoft and included two Keynote speakers. Curt Coffman, the author of the best-seller First Break All the Rules gave a very lively talk on attracting and engaging talented people with many great suggestions. The second keynote speaker was Evelynn Hammonds from Harvard who spoke about rationale for diversity in science and technology.

NCWIT has several alliances, Academic, K-12, Workforce and Entreprenurial. As part of the meeting the individual alliances meet. Duke is a member of the Acadmic Alliance. This alliance met to discuss issues on recruiting, curriculum, and climate.

As part of every NCWIT meeting, there is an awards ceremony for recognizing young women at the high-school level for their computing-related achievements and interests. On the second day of NCWIT, the awards ceremony was held at the University of Washington.

If you are not a member of NCWIT, consider joining one of the alliances. They have two meetings a year and have created an enormous amount of resources for diversity in the pipeline at all levels.

NCWIT will be attending SIGCSE 2008, so stop by and talk to NCWIT representatives to find out more about the NCWIT meetings and alliances.

-- Susan

Sunday, November 4, 2007

2008 SIGCSE Awards Announced

Just last week we discovered the names of the 2008 SIGCSE Awards, and I am proud to be chair of the conference where these awards will be presented.

Randy's photoThe SIGCSE Award is presented to the person who has made a substantial and lasting impact on computing education. Randy Pausch (photo left), a name most recently posted here in this Blog, is the 2008 recipient for his contributions, especially the Alice virtual world environment for introducing many potential computing students to the wonderful world of programming. And in Alice, it can be as wonderful, rich, visual and musical a world as the creativity of the student can provide.

For example, I have used Alice in a CS0 course at Haverford, and been surprised at the range of students that are engaged by this tool. If you have Alice installed (Windows or Windows; Linux is a challenge ;-), you're invited to download and hear Charles Babbage sing Karaoke (13 Mb) by one of my CS majors (yes, he started in CS0 and switched to CS1, ...).

The 2008 recipient of the SIGCSE Award for Lifetime Service is Dennis J. Frailey (photo right) of Raytheon and of Southern Methodist University. Dennis has also made many contributions to SIGCSE, but I have seen his ideas shared during discussions of the "math-thinking" discussion group hosted by Doug Baldwin and championed by people like Peter Henderson.

On behalf of the SIGCSE 2008 steering committee, our sincere congratulations, we are now even more excited about the upcoming symposium in Portland.

I do recommend checking here and at the SIGCSE 2008 website, there is much preparation underway, and with the BOF/poster deadlines tomorrow, there will likely be more than I have time for (nicely ending with a split infinitive & a preposition ;-).

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

CDC Hosts Academic Workshop

No, not the Centers for Disease Control, this is the Coalition to Diversify Computing (and a more appropriate group for this Blog :-) -- CDC is a group that works to promote diversity across many dimensions in computing; a group that we hope will participate at SIGCSE 2008.

Their next project is a workshop -- in their words: "The goal of the workshop is to mentor underrepresented assistant- and associate-level faculty and senior doctoral students about the tenure and promotion processes in academia."

The workshop takes place at the end of Nov into Dec 2007 in Texas, but the deadline to apply is close, Nov 9, 2007 -- start there, end up in Portland in March 2008!

-- Details:
Friday, November 30, 2007 - Sunday, December 2, 2007
Hilton Hotel in College Station, Texas
Deadline for Participant Applications - Friday, November 9, 2007
Contact Valerie Taylor,

Monday, October 29, 2007

Doctoral Consortium: replanting the garden

Hey, I like the title, esp. when I recall the metaphor of "eating our seed corn" a few years ago during the dot-com boom -- the annual SIGCSE Doctoral Consortium always gets rave reviews from both participants and discussants, and the deadline for application is just a week away, click here for more information, and/or contact Josh and Donald directly.

From Josh, the aims of the Doctoral Consortium are:
  • To offer a friendly forum for students to discuss their work and receive constructive feedback so as to advance each student's research.
  • To provide relevant information on issues important to doctoral candidates.
  • To nurture a community of researchers in computing education.
The Consortium is designed for students currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program. The Consortium allows participants to interact with established university researchers in computing education (the discussants) and with other PhD students, and to reflect -- through short activities, information sessions, and discussions -- on the process and lessons of research and life in academia.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Rambling home from PDX again ...

The initial post to this blog was made two months ago from the lovely Portland, Oregon airport (PDX), also the site of this post. The program committee for SIGCSE 2008 has been working hard to put together a comprehensive set of paper presentations, panels, special sessions and workshops to address the important issues in computing education from around the world. There are still some logistics to resolve, but we are optimistic that the schedule will be made public by the end of October 2007 (as planned). Again, I am amazed (for the 4th time) with how many people contribute submissions, reviews and sheer energy in processing these materials, persisting through many tough decisions as the schedule is never long enough to include all the material we really want to include.

So, while sitting in PDX (with great free wireless -- hear that PHL???), I discovered that President Bush proclaimed October 2007 as National Disability Employment Awareness Month -- I read through the White House press release, and I know that the President was too busy to compose it himself, but most of the proclamation seems reasonable -- I certainly agree that "It is important that we continue to expand on these opportunities [ADA] for Americans with disabilities by eliminating the barriers and false perceptions that hinder them from joining the workforce."

Who could argue with that goal? What I would like to concentrate on are the actual means to realize true accessibility, and since my expertise lies in computing education, I'll start there. Computing traditionally starts its approach to accessibility with assistive technology and HCI; these are important approaches, and have benefited many people with disabilities.

I would like to suggest that these approaches are not enough, and there are many computing educators who realize this point as well. I would argue that we need to actively seek expertise from learning researchers, colleagues, and especially from the students themselves. I would not be surprised to find that many of the obstacles encountered by students with disabilities are less physical/structural and more process/culture/incorrect assumptions.

And this is important work -- Jan Cuny (University of Oregon, photo left) has stated in a NYTimes article that also featured one of the keynote speakers for SIGCSE 2008, Ed Lazowska (and I'm paraphrasing, please forgive ...) that we need to discover more students with potential in computing from not just the traditional areas or there will be shortages of prepared professionals (i.e., we need to reach women, minorities, and those with disabilities) -- if only there was a conference that addressed this -- well, there are a few, including SIGCSE 2008, but also ASSETS, ITiCSE 2007, ....

OK, I feel better now -- SIGCSE 2008 is only a few months away -- I look forward to again discussing and reflecting on these and other issues involving computing education -- the program schedule, registration and hotel reservations should be open soon, so return here or visit the virtual home of SIGCSE 2008 so that you can visit the real home of the Symposium next March.

Now to return to my real home (miles to go before I sleep ...).

Monday, October 15, 2007

An Invitation to SIGCSE 2008 ...

The planning committee for SIGCSE 2008 are busy, well, planning, so I will be brief -- kudos to Paul Tymann for the Roommate Database to match attendees and share expenses (and thus increase attendance) -- more kudos to Tammy VanDeGrift for the excellent Hotel, Shopping and Restaurant Map where you can interact and plan your conference.

Congrats also to my co-chair Susan Rodger, whose educational tool JFLAP was celebrated as a finalist for the Premier Award at the recent Frontiers in Education Conference. Susan has the slides and a demo at her JFLAP site.

More "shout-outs" to Jeliot 3, also a finalist for the Premier Award at FIE 2007; clearly computing is producing useful tools for engineering education.

Below is the text from our invitation sent to the SIGCSE listserv today.


We are pleased to provide you with information about the SIGCSE 2008
conference to be held in Portland, Oregon: March 12-15, 2008.

Ten highlights here on information about SIGCSE 2008 including
how it may be different than years past and why you should head to
SIGCSE in the northwest this year!

More details on these items are below.

1) Call for Posters and Bofs: Deadline November 5
2) Registration rates - same as 2007!
3) Conference hotel - free metro ride from convention center
4) Events in the Conference Hotel
5) Three Keynote Speakers: Mayer, Lazowska and SIGCSE Award Winner
6) Saving trees - CD instead of paper proceedings
7) Come early for the pre-conference events
8) Stay late for a workshop! Portland TrailBlazers! Cirque du Soleil!
9) Find a roommate - available now
10) Portland is great! No sales tax, wine country, nice restaurants!

Here are more details.

1) Call for Posters and Bofs: Deadline November 5

There is still a chance to submit. See details at:

2) Registration rates - same as 2007!

We've managed to keep the registration rates the same as 2007.
Registration rates are posted on the attendees page:

Registration will be available in November.

3) Conference hotel - free metro ride from convention center

The conference hotel, the Hilton Portland and Executive Towers,
will be in downtown Portland. The Oregon Convention Center
is across the river. There is a free metro (called MAX) that you can
take one block from the Hilton and it drops you off right in front
of the convention center.

Two other hotels, Inn at the Convention Center and the Red Lion,
will be available near the convention center.

Hotel registration should be available soon on the conference site.

4) Events in the conference hotel

The Birds of a Feather and the Thursday night SIGCSE Reception will
be held at the Conference Hotel, The Portland Hilton and Executive
Towers. All other events will be held at the Oregon Convention Center.

5) Three Keynote Speakers: Mayer, Lazowska and SIGCSE Award Winner

We have three keynote speakers lined up. The SIGCSE Award Winner (to
be determined) will speak on Thursday. Marissa Mayer, Vice President
of Search Products and User Experience, at Google will speak on Friday
morning. Ed Lazowska, the Bill and Melinda Gates Chair in Computer
Science and Engineering at the University of Washington will speak at
the Saturday Luncheon.

6) Saving trees - CD instead of paper proceedings

We will be saving trees and issuing CD proceedings instead of paper.
You can pre-order a paper proceedings for $35. Please register
early to guarantee availability of paper, as we will limit the printing
of paper proceedings.

7) Come early for the pre-conference events

There will be a Doctoral Consortium and Roundtable for Department
Chairs during the day on the Wednesday before SIGCSE. There may be other
pre-conference events scheduled on this date.

And as usual, there will be SIGCSE Wednesday night workshops starting
at 7pm.

8) Stay late for a workshop! Portland TrailBlazers! Cirque du Soleil!

Saturday workshops will be scheduled from 4-7pm.

Saturday night you could watch the Portland Trailblazers play at 7pm (you
can walk across the street to the arena after attending a workshop!) or
catch a Cirque du Soleil show.

9) Find a roommate - available now

If you would like to find a roommate, Paul Tymann has graciously
provided the Roommate Database again this year. Please check it out
now on the attendees page.

10) Portland is great! No sales tax, wine country, nice restaurants!

That's right, stay and shop, there is no sales tax in Oregon. Also
check out a winery and try some of the many nice restaurants. We have
included a google map on the attendees page that shows the conference
hotels, the convention center and many recommended restaurants.

Plus there's Powell's Books, including
Powell's Technical Books, 33 NW Park, Portland - (503) 228-4651.

And we have ordered sunny weather!

Susan Rodger and J.D. Dougherty
SIGCSE 2008 Symposium Chairs,

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Rommate Database: share costs, new friends

Paul Tymann, Chair Emertius and all around good guy, has again made a roommate matching service available for SIGCSE 2008. This service should help with costs, and to stay at the conference hotel (which I can state is a beautiful hotel). Moreover, it might be a chance to make a new acquaintance, a new story at SIGCSE. Thanks, Paul.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Not just a Computing Education Issue ...

Tonight I attended a lecture by our new provost, Linda Bell, a successful economics professor whose current interests involve the gender gap in executive compensation. I do not want to share the salary and compensation numbers I saw in the talk, only that issues about diversity (part of the SIGCSE 2008 theme) is not limited to our field. What I found interesting was Linda's methodology, her use of rigorous statistics (thanks goodness for Statistics Bootcamp!) and deep exploration of the question, led to some interesting results (summarized here).

The SIGCSE conferences and community work to foster better education in computing. The community is composed mostly of computer scientists dedicated to improving teaching. Much of the conference consists of practical experiences in the classroom (even the non-traditional classroom), but I am becoming more motivated to explore issues in CS education with a similar approach, and hoping that can inform our community. Pie in the sky, but why not try?

I am pleased to explore diversity issues statistically, anecdotally, economically, computationally, ... you get the picture. As I listen to talks and read articles, I feel better knowing that our community does not struggle alone.

One interesting concept from Pf. Bell's lecture I learned -- in certain economic theory, discrimination may exist, but should not persist as it takes away from profits in the long run (I am certainly paraphrasing). There is some analogy to computing education and student performance, please help me fill in the gaps.

P.S.: I thought to find a cite for some of the economics I was describing above, so I started at Google and already found this post within five minutes after the initial post -- kinda freaked me out :-S

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Rising Portland Dining Scene ...

Well, whadda ya know (as they say in Brooklyn) -- in a few past posts I have commented on the magnificent city of Portland, host of SIGCSE 2008 -- well, the New York Times just printed a piece on the excellent dining that has emerged in the last five years in Portland, Oregon.

Titled "In Portland, a Golden Age of Dining and Drinking," the article discusses some of the dining opportunities, and how they came about. There is even a slide show of some of the restaurants and dishes.

POVA also maintains a web resource called "Portland, Oregon Dining: Food, Wine and Beer" -- you can search restaurants by type and get an overview that include wine and beer experiences.

Read both to discover how "Portland is a free spirit" -- then start making plans to submit a BOF or a poster by Nov 5, 2007, or simply attend SIGCSE 2008 and see for yourself.

++ added Feb 3 2008

I just discovered this other NYTimes piece about the wine country, and how to use a bicycle to make the tour in the Portland, Oregon region -- thanks, Erica!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"Discrimination against women and minorities ...."

The title of the post is taken from the opening of a news story entitled, "U.S. faces competitive disadvantage from lack of women in tech jobs." I was made aware of the story from the ACM News Service (a convenient feature, I have found). It seems to be the latest in a series of articles that chronicles the issue of diversity in computer science and information technology.

You should read the full quote of Robert Birgeneau, chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley. He explicitly starts with "discrimination" as the problem. That's a serious charge made by a person with credentials.

I teach CS, and have for about 16 years at the undergraduate level. I "know" I do not discriminate (as far as one can tell about one's self -- more about that later). In fact, I have worked hard to become more sensitive to the impact and consequences of certain practices and assumptions. I read Fisher and Margolis' Unlocking the Clubhouse. I have participated in many conversations about diversity in CS and in other places. So it stings to read about discrimination in something so important to me, especially when I believe it does not belong there.

The reality (IMHB)* is that there is some impediment to balance and diversity in computing as it is realized today. I am not an expert in diversity studies, but I have spoken with quite a few professionals (many at SIGCSE conferences past) who have given me "food for thought."

There are certainly many ongoing efforts underway to address diversity in computing and information technology; examples include the CRA-W, the Grace Hopper Conference, and the ACM-W committee. There are many more, and not all address issues for women in computing (please feel invited to share them here).

I am happy that SIGCSE 2008 will (hopefully) provide another venue for dialogue and learning about issues related to diversity in computing education. There are many reasons to promote diversity (e.g., smaller numbers of professionals), but I am most motivated by fairness. I know there is no Hippocratic Oath for CS educators, but I believe we should "do no harm," and that includes barriers for disenfranchised populations.

I also realize that I probably -- almost definitely -- have fallen into habits in my teaching that are not effective for certain people, and I hope to renew my commitment to teaching at SIGCSE 2008. Feel free to join me on my virtual soapbox, or help me get to a better place.
* In My Humble Blog

Friday, September 21, 2007

Pausch ahead of Pitt ...

There are certain media stories that never seem to disappear, and the more we want them to go away, the less likely they do -- well, finally a story that is worth the bandwidth.

This morning, Randy Pausch appeared on Good Morning America (ABC) to go into some of the realities of his situation (see previous post, the WSJ article, or the Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette story) -- at the ABC website you can watch his appearance (about nine minutes after a brief commercial). Excerpts from the lecture are in a previous post, and the lecture itself is at the WSJ and all over YouTube.

Randy's work on Alice and other projects in virtual reality, imagineering, etc ... have been chronicled in many places -- I just wanted to note that he is a fine ambassador for the field of computing, and the lecture and follow-up appearances really brought the human element to the surface -- computation may be an abstract topic, but computing (and CS education) is certainly a human enterprise.

And just for the record, my co-chair Susan Rodger noted that as of 9:45 am, there were more comments about Randy's appearance on GMA than Brad Pitt's (still true as of 10:00 am!) -- finally, a proper use of media.


Postscript: Later that night, Randy was named "Person of the Week" this week by ABC News, and I also found too many posts on the topic to list here.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

ACM Membership via SIGCSE ...

Well, I am not even going to try to match the topic in my previous post, but I will express my thanks to my co-chair Susan Rodger for letting me know about Randy's lecture, and to Barbara Boucher Owens for posting the link to excerpts of the lecture at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette.

Today I received a note that ACM is working to increase membership, and I thought, "what a great (and I believe effective) way to introduce the ACM to a potential member by inviting them to a SIGCSE conference." I have attended a few other conferences, and have always found SIGCSE the most engaging, immediately useful, relevant (we all have some experience with computing education), and fun.

So, please help the ACM and consider who you might invite to attend SIGCSE, perhaps for the first time, as a way to introduce ACM membership.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Randy Pausch: A Lecture You Must See ...

I am presently attending the webcast lecture by Randy Pausch of CMU. The lecture is entitled, "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams," and will cover many, many things I am sure (it's just starting now) -- Randy is starting by describing the "elephant in the room" -- Cancer -- Randy has been battling for some time now (see his cancer update page) -- so far he has challenged the audience to not talk about cancer, and to not offer pity (esp. during his push-ups :-) -- wow, he just bought a Macintosh too! I suppose anything is possible.

Alice imageRandy is a long-time SIGCSE attendee and contributor, often indirectly -- his work with the Alice virtual world environment for learning programming is a SIGCSE standard, and the Alice Tea Party becoming another.

Randy has been going through his dreams, including being like, er, meeting, Captain Kirk and his cool toys from Star Trek -- he demonstrated what looked like (and sounded like) a communicator from the original series.

Apparently, Randy also has a large and interesting collection of stuffed animals -- to convince the cynics, Randy brought out a collection of stuffed bears, very large and colorful -- he then gave them away to the audience.

Imagineering is also on Randy's list, and from a long time ago -- he showed photos of him and his family on the "Alice Ride" at Disney (foreshadowing much?) -- so many stories that Randy is sharing, and in his very engaging, unique style, please just visit the webcast yourself, I am stopping to enjoy the lecture.


I learned some interesting approaches of hardships and obstacles, including "the brick wall" -- the brick wall is there for (at least) three reasons:
  • to see how much you want it
  • to keep the others out
  • let us show our determination
... OK, I did not see the birthday cake coming, or the singing for Randy's wife Jai -- and what a cake, looks like enough to feed all 500 attendees.

It was nice seeing a few familiar faces in the "audience of physical proximity," including Don Slater, Wanda Dann, Andy van Dam and Tom Cortina (SIGCSE 2008 Birds of a Feather).

There is a nice post-lecture recognition service, stay tuned, it's worth it.

I was able to access the webcast from the CMU homepage, perhaps it will be archived there. And remember, Randy is a big believer in "head fakes," so keep you eyes and ears open as you watch.

Oh, and I was not crying -- I just got something in both eyes at the same time.


Postscript: Check the story from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Fall Season of CCSC's

Hey, I just returned from ICER, and the SIGCSE 2008 conference preparation has returned to the fore of my activities. Many thanks to Mark Guzdial, Sally Fincher and Richard Anderson for the past three years of ICER success, and to Beth Simon and Sue Fitzgerald for the pre-workshop Statistics Bootcamp.

Just a few related topics that may be of interest to SIGCSE members worldwide and in your neighborhood:
  • Regional CCSC's are coming for the Fall, check out one in your area (or go beyond your comfort zone to another region) -- I look forward to visiting CCSCE 2007 this October 12-13, 2007 at St. Joseph's College, Patchogue, NY (somewhere on Long Island near one of my students, or so I am told) -- others can be found at the CCSC website.
  • Reviewing is (hopefully) happening as I compose this post -- if you might be one of the lucky reviewers serving the symposium, please accept our thanks and return your review as specified in your email.
  • This week's most compelling story involves the wonderful workshop chair Steve Wolfman, who demonstrates the extremes to which a good computing educator will go to motivate students and engender community among a class -- check the video below:

Until next time, take care.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Man Who Came to ICER ...

There have been a few interesting notes since my last posting here. Proposals for papers, panels, special sessions and workshops closed last weekend, and we are very pleased by the perceived excitement level -- proposal counts appear to have met or exceeded the numbers from last year. We are grateful to the authors who submitted their work, and and now looking forward to putting together the actual program. However, this program strongly depends on the feedback from our global team of reviewers. Kudos to Sue Fitzgerald, Mark Guzdial, Lisa Meeden, and Steve Wolfman, as well as DB gurus Henry Walker and John Dooley for a very quick turnaround from submitting to reviewing.

After working with the program committee for a few months now, I have come to depend on each member. For example, Mark Guzdial always seems to be juggling at least four items. Case in point -- after completing last week's deadline as SIGCSE 2008 Program Chair, he then switched to ICER 2007 Workshop Chair and Host. Well, if you count, that's only three things, so I was happy to add to Mark's to-do list by "offering to stay with him and his family." My travel budget is stretched this year particularly, but I really wanted to attend ICER, especially the Statistics Bootcamp (conducted by Mark's Co-Chair, Sue Fitzgerald -- has SIGCSE Program Chair become that easy? :-).

Mark and his wife Barbara have graciously taken in the poor professor from Pennsylvania. Their daughter Katie asked me which is better, Georgia or Pennsylvania, and it was easy to answer -- Georgia, as I have never had a bad day yet there (but have had many "challenges" back home in PA).

The Statistics Bootcamp was great, David Drew for Claremont Graduate University provided a rapid and full overview of the use of statistics in computing education research. His insight and honest views of the field were very useful to hear. I suppose we can also expect a higher level of results analysis in certain journals (hint, hint, Josh!). I hope to post a few photos from dinner when I get back to Haverford. Thanks to Sue Fitzgerald and Beth Simon for making this event possible.

I am presently attending the ICER 2007 keynote by John Stasko of Georgia Tech discussing his work in algorithm animation. There are many familiar faces from SIGCSE, including my Co-Chair Susan Rodger, as well as many "SIGCSE Symposia Chair Emerti." I am sure we'll be planning and revising the planning, and then planning some more. It is work, but (mostly) a labour of love (for our international audience :-).

BTW, Barbara Boucher Owens, SIGCSE President, announced:
  • ICER 2008 will be held late September/early October (exact dates TBD) in Sydney, Australia
  • SIGCSE 2009 will be held in Chattanooga, Tennessee USA
  • ICER 2009 in Berkeley, California USA
  • ICER 2010 in Aarus, Denmark (ITiCSE 2002 was there, it's very cool!)
Day 1 of ICER 2007 (SAT) was chock full of quality computing education research reports, covering everything from how do students think to how much the perceptions of teachers impact what students learn -- and how to gauge this phenomenon. There was mention of a book about a college professor who enrolled as a freshman during a leave. Saturday evening was a dinner enjoying peers and a the Georgia Tech vs. Boston College football game (sadly for GATech ...).

Day 2 (SUN) ramped up slowly with papers involving cognitive load and its impact on teaching. Discussions at ICER follow every two presentation, and continue over meals and breaks. While they sound heated, they are never insulting (or should not be taken that way). I can say there is a very high laughter/word ratio in the entire workshop -- that's my opinion, anyway.

Until next post, remember that Posters and Birds-of-a-Feather proposals are due in early November 2007 for SIGCSE 2008.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Portland featured at CNN, NYTimes

Well, the fall term at Haverford College has started again on Labor Day (don't get me started about the implications of a bastion of social justice starting to "work" on a day to celebrate the worker). Still, work on SIGCSE 2008 is continuing and exciting.

Dan Garcia, a CS professor at UC Berkeley and a member of the Steering Committee, gave me a heads-up about a story at CNN describing Portland, host city of SIGCSE 2008 (shout-out to Dan!). Fortunately, the story is very positive, so my experiences posted previously are not unique to me (and hopefully will be positive for you too). I plan to put this link on the SIGCSE 2008 website under local arrangements.


The New York Times may have beaten me to the punch with an article entitled "In Portland, a Golden Age of Dining and Drinking."

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Take Me Out To The Ballgame ...

The SIGCSE community works in many ways, some not so "conventional" -- for example, Jeff Salvage, CS professor at Drexel University and SIGCSE attendee, asked me to participate in his recent marriage proposal to his girlfriend Jen. The plot involved a trip to Yankee Stadium in NYC where I would present myself as Brian Cashman, a member of the Yankee's Front Office. I would invite Jen, not really a Yankee's fan, to become a true member of the franchise/family and offer her a Yankee's cap (that would contain the ring) -- I am not making this up.

Well, I arrived at Yankee Stadium early on WED, August 15, and stood in line for Monument Park inside the Stadium. The line was so long that I could not make it to the actual proposal, so Jeff went ahead without me -- thanks goodness, I was a little nervous handling the ring.

So, you may be asking, did Jen accept Jeff's proposal? Or was it a long ride home to Philly? I believe the photo provide a clue :-).

Jeff (no sunglasses) and Jen, with Jamie (sunglasses) and me.

For the record, Yankees lost to the Orioles 4-3 in ten innings (I stayed for seven).

Do you have a SIGCSE adventure? Please feel encouraged to post your SIGCSE story!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Submissions Now Open

Recently, "Team SIGCSE 2008" has been working to again provide the online submission system for proposals. Special thanks go out to John Dooley and Henry Walker for changes that make it easier to generate proceedings and programs directly from materials submitted to the DB. Also, kudos to Program Chairs Sue Fitzgerald and Mark Guzdial for developing reviewer guidance in hopes of improving the entire review process, especially since each is involved in the ICER 2007 conference in Atlanta in September (also, they both have "z"'s in their last names, making it easier to compose email to them :-).

Now that we have a better sense of the space available in Portland, we are putting together the pre-conference activities. For example, the Doctoral Consortium will again provide opportunities for our future CS educators. Thanks to Josh Tenenberg and Donald Joyce for their work now and "yet to come." We hope to have other announcements of associated activities in subsequent posts.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Visiting Portland in Aug 2007

First, welcome to my Blog for SIGCSE 2008, I am very excited about the conference, and after visiting Portland, OR this week my level of enthusiasm has increased -- exponentially (bad for algorithms, good for conferences :-).

The weather in Portland was cool relative to my hometown of Haverford, outside of Philadelphia (temps in the mid-90's -- yikes). My co-chair Susan Rodger met me at the Portland Hilton, and away we went all over town, visiting the people from POVA, the Oregon Convention Center (OCC), the Hilton, The Inn at the Convention Center (guess where that's located???), and the Red Lion. I can say with confidence that Portland is ready, and very accommodating, especially to ACM conferences.

Downtown Portland is full of life, including shops, an eclectic mix of people and culture, and (of course) restaurants -- please visit the SIGCSE 2008 website, eventually Susan and I will post some of the great restaurants we "tested" for your benefit ;-).

Another great feature is public transportation in Portland -- it's only $2 from the airport to any of the hotels and the OCC on the MAX, the city's light rail. Better yet, the MAX is free once in town between any of the hotels and the OCC, as well as most of Portland. People just jump on, ride and "de-MAX" to get around. It is so successful that Portland is expanding it yet again -- fortunately the construction does not impede getting around.

Susan and I each jogged/walked the park along the Willamette River and across the bridges -- it is a nice route that people may want to try -- there are also nice shops and a harbor at the south end of the town, near the OMSI.

My final comment (for now) is that Portland is a wireless city. As it was a pleasant day today, I sat for about an hour in Pioneer Park using the public free WiFi -- you have a few ads and medium bandwidth, but certainly useful. Furthermore, the Portland Airport (PDX) is wireless, with workstations and coffee bars with power (I am "blogging" from a coffee station now).

Until next time, I encourage all to consider proposals for the conference, the first wave of submissions (papers, workshops, panels, special sessions) are due Sep 7, 2007 -- it's sooner than you think!