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 :-)