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 ;-).