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."