Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Project: Possibility

So, before a family tragedy in Aug 2008, I was scheduled to teach a course on software engineering with accessibility as one of the guiding themes/goals. My thought was similar to curb cuts (see many other posts); use the extremes to get students (and SW developers) to think about how their application can be used by everyone possible.

Well, sounds like I'm not alone; USC has a program called Project: Possibility (perhaps a take on the old Mission: Impossible), a quick NY Times read provides a nice overview (the old large diskette in the graphic needs updating, though they use people first language better than the Times :-) -- and I look forward to developing and offering my accessible software engineering course in the near future.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Obama and computing education ...

Tha ACM has made a pitch to promote computing education as a core component, see "ACM Urges Obama to Include Computer Science as a Core Component of Science and Math Education; Statement Emphasizes Critical Role of Computer Science as 21st Century Skill," with the full report here -- there seems to be some push for a more rigorous treatment at the K-12 level, stay tuned.
PS: W3C upgrades accessibility standards

Thursday, December 4, 2008

OSSD and gender ...

Just a quick handoff to Mark Guzdial's post about the underrepresentation (1.5%) of developers in open source projects -- bye.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

This is what I Mean ...

There are many stories about researchers working continuously to make computing and technology more accessible, especially for people with disabilities. It is great when a tool like a computer (or a ramp) can make living a bit easier for someone with a disability.

However, my point for the theme for SIGCSE 2008 is to show that research to help people with all types of mobility, visual, auditory, psychological and other issues better use IT can actually benefit everyone -- true inclusive computing. (BTW, we have a ramp at my house that helps with the wheelchair and when I need to bring in groceries or firewood. :-)

We always ask our students to think of the general as well as the special/corner cases when developing algorithms and programs -- at Haverford we have been using Test-Suite-Driven-Design (TSDD), related to TDD, in our CS1/CS2 courses as a way to get students to think as deeply as possible before coding. It is analogous to the call of "diversity through accessibility."

I am relatively new to this area, as I was reminded by this article that outlines the work of Rich Ladner (photo left) at U Washington. There are many others as well, and I sometimes feel that there work is seen by an unnecessarily small segment of the computing research population and educators. Their work can inform all.

I really like the final quote of the article:
"I don't see barriers," Ladner said. "I see opportunities."

And I realize this notion has been captured previously by others with such metaphors as "curb cuts." Please feel welcome to share others -- JD

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

NY Times reminds about women in computing issues

So, what is it with women and computing, and why don't games work? Are they not "fun enough?"

A recent article in the NY Times appears to address this ongoing question,as have many others (including SIGCSE 2008). Mark Guzdial addressed this recently on his blog (with some interesting comments).

Not that I want to start trouble, but I really believe we should monitor such issues of diversity as they indicate barriers to education may exist -- note, I wrote "may exist." There is a difference between correlation and causality (I know you already know, just a reminder, ya' know :-).

Mark is also correct about the limits of our statements about effectiveness of any tool or pedagogy.

What I like most about the article and one of the comments from Mark's post is that it is OKfor women (actually anyone) to not select computing as long as it is a fair, barrier-free choice (i.e., it's all about accessibility). Instead of starting with diversity, we should be using it as the indicator that something might be wrong with access, but not a conclusion. Also, by focusing on access, we are not only addressing diversity (i.e., access for the under-represented), by also trying to find ways to deliver education to all -- and thus true diversity.

And what's the thing with games? Instead of looking for a silver bullet in teaching, games appear to be a viable alternative for many students. Perhaps we should be looking to increase the toolkit for educators, as well as the guidance on the context to effectively use each tool.

Often the best way to teach is to provide examples; here is an article with a set of role models for women on the web -- Marissa Mayer is featured here as well.

Friday, October 10, 2008

CCSCE 2008; curb cuts

I am presently in the lobby of the hotel in Frederick, MD after a wonderful day of "computational discussing" at the CCSC Eastern Conference hosted by the beautiful Hood College campus (and I know beautiful, I get to work at Haverford) -- the opening keynote was provided by Catherine C. McGeoch of Amherst College (I was late, but I heard great things), and tomorrow I get to hear Thomas Murtagh of Williams College talk about CS1 with a networking theme -- I was honored to be sandwiched between two presentations and many wonderful presentations (and many students!) to provide an introduction to what I have named "computational singing" (tip of the hat to Jeannette Wing of CMU/NSF) after the banquet tonight. Tom Cortina played a great foil with a broken guitar :-). I am really happy to see good friends and make new connections.
The other news I received from Mark Guzdial's Amazon Blog (and the SIGCSE 2009 blog is great also, I get so much information about computing education and SIGCSE planning -- there a hotel with a train this year !) -- when I have been using the term "accessibility" I could have used "curb cut principle" which I have heard before from Blaise Liffick -- it involves using adaptive tech to help everyone (i.e., a diverse population!) -- I think the article supports the theme from SIGCSE 2008, and invite you to read about it as well.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Making a Case for Diversity in STEM Fields

I know there is ongoing debate about where computing falls in the academy (science, engineering, business, math, other) ... I do think it is an easy case to make that computing falls across disciplines in the STEM fields.

So I am handing off to a recent article about the motivations to consider diversity in STEM fields (including computing), summarizing here:
  1. First, we must clearly articulate the educational case for diversity, showing how students and society benefit from it.
  2. Second, we need to think more holistically about diversity in STEM.
  3. Third, we must acknowledge that stereotypes still matter, and that they affect perceptions of quality and expectations for performance.
Be warned, there is some pretty contentious debate in the comments at the end (but we should all be open to debate :-).

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

News from GHC via Mark ...

It's been a large break from blogging here, and I only have time for a quick report; basically, I refer you to a post by my friend Mark Guzdial about more challenges for mid-level professional in IT who are also women, and other news from Grace Hopper currently underway (so go here for more timely reports)


Also, a quick serious note -- and it does connect to SIGCSE 2008 -- my family is presently recovering from two major events, one planned, one not -- my daughter Eva is recovering from a spinal fusion procedure; you may have met her at SIGCSE 2008, she has red hair and severe CP (and depends on a wheelchair) -- she used to have a 110 degree curve in her spine from scoliosis, but now is adjusting to seeing the world from her (previously unused) headrest -- photo here.

But the other adjustment we are all making involves the sudden death of Eva's mom and my wife Ellen, also an attendee at SIGCSE 2008 -- Ellen was not only Eva's mom, but her primary caregiver, nurse and advocate -- we are receiving much support that I am working hard to make as effective as possible, but I will not be posting too much for awhile.

I know, we also lost Randy Pausch this summer, so it's been tough (and support from community even more important).

Monday, July 28, 2008

Evidence from Science

Today I saw a report in Science Magazine online that a recent study, funded by the NSF, using data from NCLB scores has shown that "... for grades 2 to 11, the general population no longer shows a gender difference in math skills, consistent with the gender similarities hypothesis." *

It basically looks at the scores and finds no statistical evidence that gender implies a significant difference in math performance. There was some slightly greater male variability in scores that remains unexplained, but the data seem to indicate that young women do perform comparably with young men.

I also feel that this evidence supports this blog, that what we really need to increase access to the knowledge, and diversity will be a result (as will a greater range of contributions, more happy people, better products, wisdom, ...). The challenge is to understand different ways in which people learn, handle information, and other issues that can impact the realization of potential.

It's the main reason to attend SIGCSE, to see what works and learn from what did not work.
* Janet S. Hyde, Sara M. Lindberg, Marcia C. Linn, Amy B. Ellis, Caroline C. Williams. Gender Similarities Characterize Math Performance. Science 25 (July 2008) Vol. 321. no. 5888, pp. 494 - 495

Friday, July 25, 2008

Thanks, Randy ...

Today is the day we all knew was approaching, hoping it would recursively wait until tomorrow in the same way Groundhog Day worked -- Randy Pausch (photo left), CMU professor and 2008 SIGCSE Award winner, died overnight from complications due to pancreatic cancer. He has been a very impressive character in computing, and a fantastic representative for all of us in computing and education, especially after the wonderful and inspiring "Last Lecture" talk last Fall 2007 and book.

More impressively, Randy contributed significantly in many ways, from the Alice project at both UVA and CMU, to "forcing by sheer will" the bridges between computing and art/entertainment (hence the SIGCSE 2008 talk by Dennis Cosgrove, and the Randy Pausch's Memorial Footbridge at CMU).

I met Randy at a few SIGCSEs, but I had my deepest conversation (about 60 seconds, he was really energetic) in 2003 at Reno, he was wearing the Mad Hatter hat from "Alice in Wonderland." He was preparing for the conference Alice Tea Party, showing how to engage novice programmers with storytelling and immediate feedback (e.g., "hey, the arm flew off the body, now that's feedback!"). I am sad today, but look forward to seeing him in the next Star Trek film, that will also be bittersweet.

Alice will continue to develop and is a wonderful legacy (I just used it again myself in the spring for a cs0 course and a summer outreach workshop for K-12 teachers). Thoughts and prayers to his family in this tough time, and thanks Randy.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Darwin would need CS today ...

I thought it was a funny, telling note I read today about how much of Darwin's work, which was very impressive for his day, would need to be augmented:

If we were to go back in a time machine and fetch [Darwin] to the present day, he’d find much of evolutionary biology unintelligible — at least until he’d had time to study genetics, statistics and computer science. O. Judson, NY Times

Just more evidence of the ever increasing role that computing plays in scientific (and other) inquiry -- now if we can only learn to speak the same language ... but that will have to wait for another post!

Title IX and (Computing) Science

With a blog like this, I had to read the latest NY Times article on the possibility of applying Title IX to science. This federal law is intended to ensure a equal playing field for professionals, both women and men, and has been applied most often (and most prominently) in college sports. I understand that this law, and its implementation in sports, is still controversial but has provided more athletic opportunities for women than in the past. I am not here to debate this as applied to sports.

However, applying Title IX to science seems, on the surface, to be a potential response to diversity issues on gender, especially in computing sciences. Still, it feels "forced" if choices are no longer choices but mandated options.

The NY Times article cites research that I find worthy of further consideration. One reports discusses that women who enjoy manipulating objects and machines were just as likely to pursue computing/IT as men who feel this way.

It is this last observation that I want to note here -- I have always felt my role as an educator was less about retention than discovery -- retention has this implicit notion (perhaps undeservedly) of persuasion against one's actual wishes for the good of the discipline; on the other hand, discovery works first to uncover these individual wishes, and then nurture all students (women or men) to achieve their aspirations in a unfolding process of learning, adjusting and (hopefully) succeeding (i.e., make computing accessible). In this way, people work in careers that are more likely to be meaningful, successful, and thus contribute.

I stipulate that teaching in this ideal way is far more difficult that mandating equality through law and measuring it through counting; again, most worthwhile things are more challenging to achieve.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Tongue-Drive; accessibile SW helps all

I just had to stop all I was doing and alert subscribers/readers to this neat example of "thinking outside of the box" -- a group at Georgia Tech has developed a way for people who use wheelchairs to navigate with their tongues, but instead of voice commands, they use magnets and muscle -- details at this article.

Personally, I am more impressed at the potential -- there are many people with many impairments, so use of the tongue becomes a viable option, and not just for wheelchairs. If the (software) system is design properly (abstraction, modularity, ...), one should be able to use it as input to other devices (computer, PDA, house, ...). I hope to explore these issues in my initial offering this fall of a course on software development for accessibility -- stay tuned.

I also stumbled across (thanks, ACM Tech News) an article that found (surprise?) that "Mobile users make same mistakes as disabled PC users," suggesting that "special software" to make a mobile device for a person with a mobility issue/disability may actually help all mobile users. I have found that this is more often that case than not, a direct, clear, "user-centric" focus on design can help all, and we expect this type of "thinking in the extremes" in general design with hopes that students develop solutions that work for a diverse a group of users as possible -- one definition of "accessibility" -- now do you see the connection between access and diversity? (sorry, just hopped off soapbox ;-) -- JD

Thursday, June 26, 2008

UK: Equalities Bill permits "positive discrimination"

Well, it appears issues of access and diversity are not limited to US (I kinda suspected that :-) -- a story at BBC online (another story here) tells of an effort by Equality Minister Harriet Harman (photo right) "... to allow firms to discriminate in favour of female and ethnic minority job candidates." It also introduced the term"positive discrimination" to me, not that discrimination is good, but the active, direct use of discrimination to induce/produce whatever demographic outcome is the goal of the project. Feels like making a right from two (or more) wrongs, maybe even justifying means with ends (OK, I am now out of metaphors).

I am also concerned about providing such a legal tool for whatever reason, I suspect it can be used retroactively to justify bad/improper decisions/actions. For example, might I be able to hire another person of type x over other candidates that would produce a more accepted diversity and justify this choice with logic like, "our company deals with people of type x so ...." Perhaps not the best example, but it seems like legislating a policy that needs to be induced with some incentive (like profit or efficiency or access).

Still, it is my understanding that colleges do this all the time to ensure diversity across the student population, affirmative action exists ... I suppose the goal is substantially easier to agree upon that the means to get there (sounds like vacation planning).

Friday, June 20, 2008

Higher Education in Africa

Just quickly handing off to a post by Ian Foster (photo right) about a report on higher education in Africa, with one of the conclusions (?) that low enrollments are less about demand (see later in the post about students paying for internet access with a high percentage of their available income) and more about "access," and that higher education enrollment level strongly correlates with national income.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Dear Abby; Hispanic Education

Well, whaddya know, even "Dear Abby" is working to help promote technical education, you're welcome to check one of her recent articles -- thanks to Marty Wolf for the heads-up (now, that would be an interesting special session at a SIGCSE conference :-).

The program involved does try to target "... [r]eturning veterans, people with disabilities, youth-at-risk and dislocated workers interested in participating in the program ..." -- hey, we can use all the help and access we can get.

This just in ...

The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans is proud to announce a Summit on Education Reform and Hispanic Education Attainment that will be held on Thursday, September 11, 2008 in Washington, DC. Please mark your calendars and plan on attending this substantive event in our nation's capital. More specific details on the summit and a registration form will be forthcoming soon. Please make plans to attend the White House Initiative summit on September 11.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Shooting CS in the foot ..

So, the theme for SIGCSE 2008, Diversity through Accessibility (and this continuing blog) served the conference well, helping to bring out experts in two related camps and hope they talk, connect, and explore. Well, I just logged in this morning, and this post (warning: this "joke" may offend; it did me) from a blog I subscribe to appeared and just threw me -- I think most of the "people of SIGCSE" would be stunned as well, but this is just a reminder of how such issues of culture and (mis)perception can have lasting and negative impact. This type of comment hurts both access and diversity.

Perhaps some may read and think that I am making a mountain out of a molehill -- in fact, I am trying to turn this molehill/mountain into a level playing field.


Addendum: for more evidence of the impact of such "bad form", see this recent article on the observation that about 52% of women in IT leave the field, many citing "sexual harassment" and other demeaning treatment/attitudes (63% reported) -- yikes :-(

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Accessibility in the Clouds

So, as many of you hopefully were successful at seeing old friends and making new ones at SIGCSE 2008, I was busy in the back room keeping the whole thing going ("Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain ...") -- that's why we have co-chairs, so while Susan Rodger would provide "cover", I was able to meet some interesting people as well -- too many to list here, but that's why I return each year to this conference.

One group involves how to teach students for large-scale (actually, growing in scale), data intensive computing as realized on the Internet today -- with a background in HPSC and dependable computing (actually, performability, just to test your spell-checker), I am professionally interested in how to get students (esp. at a small college) to think big; or better yet, to experience big.

Long story short, I am pleased to say that others are interested too, so to have such a discussion I help orchestrate a workshop on DISC, or Data-Intensive Scalable Computing -- it's happening fast, this July 16-18 at the University of Washington -- so do not delay, visit this link to apply.

I was moved to put this announcement for the workshop as I read this article about how politics may impact "cloud computing," the media buzz term for DISC -- they note that global politics may impact OLPC efforts to reach certain populations -- well, it is part of society, but I do not have to like it (so in response, I am working on a song "When Science Meets Society," check later to see if I make enough progress to post the song :-).

Monday, May 19, 2008

ITiCSE 2008 registration opens

If you enjoyed SIGCSE 2008 (or past ones), then consider attending ITiCSE 2008 (and future ones too), this year in Madrid, Spain -- Cary Laxer invites all to register and attend what is loosely described as a smaller European conference on computing and education, with neat opportunities like working groups -- sponsored by SIGCSE, I have always heard great things (and enjoyed my ITiCSE trip!).

I personally cannot attend as I am hosting CSESI 2008, an outreach project here at Haverford, funded by HHMI, to provide a forum to explore computing in K-12 education. Unless you have a good reason like this, I strongly urge you to get to Spain, oh what you'll gain :-)

Friday, May 16, 2008

OLPC and MS for (more) accessibility ...

Hey, there's a Microsoft deal that is more relevant than the popular one involving Yahoo! (though who knows how that will play out) -- no, I am referring to the announcement of the Microsoft and One Laptop Per Child program to put Windows on the XO -- this will add a few bucks to the final cost, but low cost is one of the driving forces for this project (cost can be a barrier to access, and thus to potential diversity) -- from a quick read of the NY Times article, it seems again that politics and culture (and "profit") are all involved (understandably so) and it appears that OLPC may have learned from other experiences -- stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

So, What Is It About Girls and IT?

The title of this post is taken directly from an article in the Financial Times that describes the known gap in gender and IT -- specifically, that women use IT, and that girls feel IT is "cool" somewhere in the 90% range (the details are in the article, do not trust my memory only) -- so, why?

Shame they missed SIGCSE 2008, maybe they could have come down with us in the trenches of teaching computing and see some of the realities we all see. Another shame is that women may be adding a set of skills presently underrepresented, and needed (see Mark Guzdial's blog post about "computing + X").

I still think it is about access in the most general (perhaps most ideal) sense of the word -- looking at the research in so many other fields about the differences between men and women, we need to think differently, think about flexibility, adaptability, all the good HCI stuff -- do that for a decade or two, and perhaps things will change a bit (I will certainly be changed in that I will be looking to use those retirement funds :-).


Also, I just wanted to send out thanks to the Sisters Rodger -- Sandra for taking so many photos of SIGCSE 2008, and Susan for putting the photo albums online for all to see -- if you missed the Symposium, you can venture to the albums, but be warned, it will just remind you of what a great conference it was -- and perhaps motivate you to work on your SIGCSE 2009 research/writing earlier, get funding and make travel/lodgings plans ASAP.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Last Lecture Number 1 ..

Hey, I realize he didn't even show up for his award ;-), but I still think it is OK for me to note how cool it is that Randy Pausch continues to make CS and computing education "cool." I just saw that the audio book of his "Last Lecture" is number one on iTunes today, as well as at amazon.com -- I saw the lecture, but have yet to read the book.

Not sure where is best to purchase, but here Randy's page with some links, as well as video of his testimony before Congress (i.e., where he was in lieu of SIGCSE 2008, so he was busy, and rarely do I get a video absence note :-).

Friday, April 4, 2008

Wed, Apr 9, 2008, 10 pm EDT, ...

... please do not even try to call or email, I rarely turn off the mobile phone (ask Susan Rodger :-), but this coming WED you're just wasting your time -- I was "there" (watching the webcast, thanks CMU) for the original lecture, the one that I was preparing to joke was really not the last lecture since Randy would be speaking at SIGCSE 2008, which really has been the last lecture since Randy was unable to attend and receive the 2008 SIGCSE Award and the deserved applause and compliments from Susan Rodger and me and ....

From Vicki Alstrum, to the SIGCSE community and beyond, we'll be together again this Wednesday, if only to see what Randy comes up with this time -- JD

I noticed a promotion just a moment ago about a Diane Sawyer special on ABC that will be of special interest to our community. This hour-long special, "The Last Lecture: A Love Lecture for Your Life", is about Randy Pausch, who won this year's SIGCSE Award for Outstanding Contributions to Computer Science Education.

It airs in this Wednesday, April 9, at 10pm EDT, 9pm CDT. I did a quick search and found two links that preview the special:

-- Vicki

Anne Applin added that Randy is schedule the following morning on GMA -- JD

PS: and welcome to Mary Alessini of Intel who I met at SIGCSE 2008, and has jumped right into the community with a blog at Intel SW College, with a nice post about Randy's special this WED also.

Autism/Asperger's and Us ...

Yes, SIGCSE 2008 is over, but I do want to continue this conversations, especially about diversity and accessibility in computing education -- which bring me to this recent CW article on Asperger's Syndrome in the IT industry, an interesting piece that does a decent job interviewing a few representatives in industry, and few experts (including Temple Grandin, a name I recognize as I read one of her books on Thinking in Pictures).

Again, most people I have met would like to "do the right thing," but the right thing is often hard and sometimes not as profitable. Still, there appears to be some evidence that doing the right thing for people in IT with high-functioning autism (HFA) or Asperger's Syndrome (Asp) might be quite profitable and the right thing. For example, one could envision an effective manager who recognizes and accommodates a person with HFA/Asp and assigns important work where that person is proficient, as well as a non-HFA/Asp buddy or other accommodation(s) to help with social interactions, feedback and meetings. If anything, I see a risk of exploitation of the person with HFA/Asp, isolating in the name of "helping." Maybe I am an alarmist here, but I am OK with that label until persuaded otherwise :-).

I am happy that there was one note that HFA/Asp may be more difference that disability; consider that people with HFA/Asp tend to need clear guidance and respond to direct feedback, work well independently (sometimes only alone), and are "honest to a fault" which is really an oxymoron if you think about it. As a manager (and I am more professor than executive), I would embrace the trade-off of honesty and clarity for someone who does not get irony or jokes; heck, there are plenty of people from all walks of life who do not understand my humor.

So, how does this inform education in computing? I think there are three areas to start:
  1. recognizing and providing effective accommodation for students with HFA/Asp, like all students with learning issues -- hopefully SIGCSE 2008 started or continued some discussion in this area
  2. cultivating the required capabilities of the "other students" (i.e., non-HFA/Asp) to recognize, communicate with and interact effectively with people with HFA/Asp
  3. providing the needed supports for educators by administration, by professional societies (like SIGCSE, SIGACCESS, others ...) and by the "community at large"
I want to conclude that accommodations can be both the right thing and the most effective thing to do -- they are just not always the easiest or cheapest in the short-term -- but hopefully readers of this blog understand that greedy solutions are sometimes the exact wrong thing to do :-).


I do want to explicitly note that Mark Guzdial (photo right) has risen to the challenge of not only running SIGCSE 2009 (with Sue Fitzgerald), but to continue with a SIGCSE 2009 Blog to discuss issues relating to the conference and computing education -- or, as their theme implies, "engaging computer science education" -- I have already subscribed to that blog, it's another resource to help me get the most out of SIGCSE.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Second Best Reason to Not Attend SIGCSE 2008

OK, it's been some time since the Symposium came to a close, and my family and I returned to the East Coast -- but there is still many miles before I sleep. Still, I sleep the sleep of the just, since SIGCSE 2008 was just great. Too many people to thank here.

Instead, I turn to the second best reason I heard from a SIGCSE colleague who did not attend SIGCSE 2008 -- if you have been paying attention, you'll recall the story of me as Brian Cashman, Yankee Stadium, and a marriage proposal (if not, click here). As you can now see from the beautiful photo right, Jen and Jeff did get married, but not in Portland; instead, they chose Easter Island.

We'll look to sharing stories of receptions, meetings, dancing and other events at SIGCSE 2009 in Chattanooga next spring!

* BTW, Click here for the best reason I heard to miss SIGCSE 2008

Friday, March 7, 2008

A Big Brick Wall ...

Well, today it became official, after some speculation after the recent "Games Cruise in CS Education" sponsored by Microsoft ... many who have read here before know the story of Randy Pausch and his "encounter" with a brick wall called cancer (visit here to get Randy's thoughts about this encounter) -- after many weeks of decent news, the brick wall made its presence known; Randy will not be able to deliver his keynote (and SIGCSE Award speech) next Thursday in Portland as we all hoped. I will not even try to guess what it must be like, but suggest you check Randy's Last Lecture for some clues.

However, I would like to think about the brick wall that has been now discovered for SIGCSE 2008 (Note: this is by no means a comparison to the situation for Randy and his family, but I do think Randy would be OK with me viewing this as a wall). Some great people are handling this dynamic situation directly and indirectly, and I feel strongly that this will just be another time for the SIGCSE community to shine.

I have very little experience with brick walls in the direct sense, but even the little experience I do have has demonstrated to me the opportunity for a group to come together, to galvanize bonds and forge news ones. I once heard that adversity does not promote character as much as expose it. I suppose we'll see.

Also, below is the message sent out to the SIGCSE list today, with the news and other information that may be useful to SIGCSE 2008 attendees. Further bulletins will also be posted here and the SIGCSE 2008 Symposium web site, so stay tuned.

Here are just a few last minute updates and reminders for SIGCSE 2008 in Portland, Oregon next week. Up to the minute news will be added to the website and blog.

1) Our Keynote Speaker Randy Pausch is unable to travel cross-country to Portland, due to health issues. Dennis Cosgrove, Project Scientist, and Wanda Dann, Director of the Alice Project, will give a Keynote address on Thursday morning highlighting Randy's contributions to Computer Science Education, including rare footage videos of Randy's work.

2) Getting between the Hilton and other downtown hotels and the Oregon Convention Center.

From the Hilton, walk two blocks to Pioneer Square and take the MAX Rail RED or BLUE eastbound to the Convention Center. MAX drops you off right in front of the convention center.

3) Online registration is closed. You can still register onsite. Registration is at the Oregon Convention Center. Hours are:
  • Wed. Mar 12 3pm-9:30pm
  • Thu. Mar 13 7:30am-4pm
  • Fri. Mar 14 7:30am-5pm
  • Sat. Mar 15 8am-3:30pm
4) The program is available online here:


There are many extra events listed on our web page that are not part of the program:


5) CD Proceedings are included with your registration. There will be a few paper proceedings available at on-site registration for $35 each if you have not prepaid for one.

6) You can still sign up on-site for one of the 35 workshops being offered.

7) There will be free wireless at the convention center Wednesday-Saturday during the conference and extra conference events. Information on how to access the wireless will be in your registration packet. **

We look forward to greeting you in sunny* Portland, Oregon next week.

Susan Rodger and J.D. Dougherty
SIGCSE 2008 Symposium Chairs
rodger@cs.duke.edu, jd@cs.haverford.edu

* We did put in an order for sunny weather, but I think ACM forgot to pay that bill... maybe they will still pay it in time....

** JD Note: wireless in the OCC is included in your registration fee; Portland does have wireless through most of the city, I have had decent experience with it downtown (near Hilton), weather permitting.

YAEA: Yet Another Extra Activity ...

In keeping with the theme of the Symposium, we are happy to provide a venue for people interested in accessible computing for developing countries (like OLPC, see below) to a FRI meeting at lunchtime -- again, hopefully diversity is one of the results of these projects (there are other, see ClassmatePC) -- JD


We invite folks curious about the XO computer and the One Laptop Per Child initiative to join several of us next week at SIGCSE. This is an opportunity for SIGCSE Technical Symposium attendees with projects currently underway on the XO platform to make connections and share stories.

XO/OLPC Shared Experiences
Friday, March 14
Room B111

The One Laptop Per Child initiative (http://www.laptop.org/) has created an exciting buzz following its introduction in 2007. In this special event, folks will share experiences with the XO computer thus far. We expect to have at least one XO computer on hand. Among the folks who plan to participate:
  • Suzanne Buchele, a Fullbright Scholar and Lecturer at Ashesi University in Ghana, who can share first-hand accounts of OLPC on the ground in that country. Suzanne is on both the implementation team and advisory team for OLPC Ghana.
  • Jill Dimond, a PhD student at Georgia Tech, who is using the XO as the context (i.e., target platform and audience) for Girl Scouts at summer camp to build IM clients. The work is being done using Revolution (http://www.runrev.com) to create an authoring tool for the Girl Scouts; Revolution can produce OLPC executables.
  • Joe Bergin of Pace University has been porting Karel (python version) to the OLPC and has a running, although not very successful, version.
  • Vicki Almstrum of The University of Texas at Austin is supervising a distributed team of senior capstone students (5 in Austin, 5 at Amrita University in India) who are creating two projects that target the OLPC. She is also advising GirlStart, a non-profit organization
  • in Austin, TX, in their IT Girls project, where high school girls are using python to develop educational games for the XO platform.

Monday, March 3, 2008

CS4HS Events at SIGCSE 2008

Thanks in advance to Tom Cortina (photo right) for organizing the Birds-of-a-Feather sessions at SIGCSE 2008, especially coordinating the transit from the OCC to the Hilton Thursday evening (surely one of the largest CS Unplugged Activities to demonstrate issues in concurrent, asynchronous and distributed processing with autonomous agents :-) -- as a small token of thanks, I am happy to post this announcement about CS4HS, one of Tom's (and CMU's) outreach projects for K-12 computing education (and one of our "extra activities") -- JD

If you're going to be at SIGCSE 2008 in Portland, and you're interested in developing a summer workshop for high school teachers that focuses on the broader areas of computer science beyond computer programming skills, there are several events planned at SIGCSE involving CS4HS, an initiative to give high school teachers (and K-8 computing teachers) material that they can use in their classes to expose their students to the world of computer science beyond Java programming and computer applications. Meet with faculty and staff that have implemented CS4HS workshops and think about starting a workshop at your university or college.

Friday, March 14
Special Session: The Expansion of CS4HS: An Outreach Program for High School Teachers
4:00-5:15PM, B113-114
Hear about planning, implementation and lessons learned from the three CS4HS 2007 workshop leaders at Carnegie Mellon, University of Washington, and UCLA, and discuss how to start your own workshop.

Saturday, March 15
CS4HS Open Meeting
2:45-3:45PM, B119
Planning is underway for 2008. Join us to learn what you need to do to start your own workshop for 2008 or 2009.

CS4HS workshops in 2006 and 2007 have been funded in part by a generous donation from Google. CS4HS workshops also have the support of the Computer Science Teachers Association.

For more information about CS4HS, visit: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/cs4hs

-Tom Cortina, Carnegie Mellon University

Friday, February 29, 2008

Keynote Speakers in the News Recently

There are less than two weeks until the SIGCSE 2008 Symposium, we on the steering committee are extremely busy with preparations for the conference (attendance over 1,050 already!). There are some important deadlines this coming Saturday, March 1, 2008; in particular, conference registration rates increase about $30, students must register by then in order to volunteer (and earn their registration while connecting with the conference), and our remaining hotels (Paramount and Heathman) conference rates expire. Please, you know you want to go :-), visit our attendance link and make it happen, save some money and help us to prepare!

I have had many opportunities to note our first keynote speaker and SIGCSE Award Winner, Randy Pausch in this blog. I apologize for my delinquency in citing our two other keynote speakers, and remedy that here and now.

Marissa Mayer (photo left) will address the Symposium Friday morning. She is a Vice President of Search Products and User Experience at Google, reportedly the first woman hired there, and involved in many projects (including movie nights!). Most recently, Marissa was interviewed by the Chronicle of Higher Education about products for college students, administration and faculty.

Our luncheon speaker on Saturday is Ed Lazowska, Bill and Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington. Professor Lazowska (pumpkin right :-) has been very active with the NSF/CRA (logo lower left) and was recently interviewed by the CRA News. You might want to check out this interview as it seems to overlap some of the points he might address at SIGCSE 2008.

In fact, I would suggest the entire January issue of CRA news for Dan Reed's comments on research and education, as well as an article on a computer science major for arts and science students at the University of Virginia (note, my CS department resides in a division of natural science at a liberal arts college, go figure ;-).

PS: Happy Leap Day!

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Gender Chip Project

A few weeks ago, Susan Rodger and I were contacted by Patricia Donohue of the Gender Chip Project, asking about how they could participate, esp. given the theme for SIGCSE 2008. Sadly, the program was set (Thanks again Sue and Mark!), so we found some time during the FRI lunch break (yes, other extra activities are happening then as well, here's the full list so far, and I will try to feature others, but there's only two weeks until the Symposium!).

The Gender Chip Project is excited at being able to host an additional event from 12 noon – 1:45 pm on Friday, March 14th, coordinated with the Symposium. Victoria Bernal will be exploring how we, as technology educators, can use media to inspire dialogue and bring more women into the computer science professions. In this workshop, participants will watch short sections of THE GENDER CHIP PROJECT, the 2006 documentary story that follows a remarkable and persistent group of college women at Ohio State University as they train in engineering, the sciences and the technological fields.

Following the screening, Victoria will present and discuss ways to use the film and accompanying online toolkits and curricula to move viewers from insight to action around issues of gender equity. When presented in a range of public settings—from professional group meetings to college peer clusters and presentations for high school students — THE GENDER CHIP PROJECT provokes deep and wide-ranging conversations among women in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, and serves as a springboard to build awareness and affect change at the institutional and policy levels.

For documentary clips:

For The Gender Chip Project:

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Crossing a thousand ...

I have truly enjoyed all parts of the SIGCSE 2008 conference preparations, all the email, the logistics, working with the steering committee, the Board, exhibitors, child care, convention center, hotels, and the ACM staff -- still, it felt really good when, on February 19, 2008, we passed the 1,000 confirmed for registration mark for the Symposium.

I really do not know if we are ahead of behind last year (which was a record setter), but I was just hoping that there would be a substantial and worthwhile number of computing educators and other professionals to make the effort a success -- one just starts asking, "what if we put on a Symposium and nobody came?" -- or "if you build it, will they come?"

Well, clearly, plenty of people saw the CFP and submitted the proposals, the program was announced and the people saw and registered. We have pretty much filled four hotels, and the ACM has worked hard to arrange two more hotels (Thanks, Brooke!); namely, the Paramount and the Heathman, each with a conference rate available until the next registration deadline of March 1 (when rates increase at both the conference and the hotels!).

There is still time to register for the full program, get a nice rate at a great conference hotel, and participate in a wonderful Symposium.

Oh, and I have been tracking weather in Portland, and it does rain all the time through the winter (at least it did this past winter), but I have noticed a few more rain-free days recently; let's hope this trend continues (i.e., I'm sure the heavy stuff won't come down for some time, at least until after SIGCSE 2008 ;-).

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Speaking about Diversity ... and Accessibility

Today I began with a breakfast meeting with my friends Dave and Steven, along with Maria Klawe (photo right), president of Harvey Mudd College; we'll come back to breakfast later.

President Klawe (i.e., Maria :-) visited a Haverford course on HCI the previous night, then a course on Unix and C as well as lunch with students at Bryn Mawr College today, then an afternoon talk about the issues of gender and computing where Maria had students engaged and asking questions for 45 minutes (after the 60 minute lecture). I got the distinct impression that Maria's words had particular impact on the women in the audience, especially the students. I know I have much to learn about diversity*, but I do feel I have a better sense now than when the day began ...

.. and it began with a nice breakfast, where Maria and I had a very enlightening (for me) conversation about research in accessible computing, assistive technologies, and I discovered Brainfingers. I came for the discussion about diversity, and left with insights into accessibility. Clearly, diversity and accessibility can be connected, and that's what I learned today -- Thanks, Maria.

I look forward to the SIGCSE 2008 conference, where I can continue these conversations with all of you -- register soon, and get your hotel room, they seem to be going fast (we've virtually sold out four hotels, two more added).
* I do not believe this is an example of "impostor syndrome"

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Another Committee on Computing Education

SIGCSE 2008 is now just a month away, and we can hardly wait. In the meantime, the world of computing education continues on, adapting and re-examining issues from curriculum to the numbers of computing students in the pipeline.

I discovered today in a blog entry by Computing Research Association chair Dan Reed of Microsoft that the CRA has decided that the apparent declines in enrollments (and other issues, he has an interesting metaphor of computing education as an onion, like Shrek :-) have become important enough to address with the formation of a committee. CRA-E "... seeks to understand how the broad computing community needs to move forward in order to develop principles and philosophy underlying the computing education of the future." This committee will be led by Andries (Andy) van Dam (photo right) of Brown University (and advisor of 2008 SIGCSE award winner Randy Pausch).

This CRA-E committee seems to be similar in mission to the newly formed ACM Educational Policy Committee (EPC) discussed in a previous blog entry which will make its initial public presentation at SIGCSE 2008 as a panel session. As I stated previously, committees seem to be the bureaucratic response to a problem, but the issues are there, and any and all efforts to address these issues need to be supported (or at least heard).

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

AccessComputing Mini-Grant ...

Just a quick note here, I received a notice of a mini-grant funding opportunity that seems very relevant to the theme of SIGCSE 2008 -- thanks to Jane Prey for the notice, and good luck to all -- JD


Due March 14: Mini Grants for Computing Events

Since February 2006, the Alliance for Access to Computing Careers (AccessComputing) has contributed funds to support computing-related activities, training, and experiential learning opportunities nationwide. Ultimately, our goal is to increase the number of people with disabilities successfully pursuing computing careers.

I'm hoping to receive proposals for up to $4000 of funding for direct expenses for AccessComputing activities for students with disabilities in 2008. Proposals should be submitted by March 14, 2008. The application format is included at the end of this message.

Consider seeking funding to support:

(1) an existing computing event in order to attract/involve students with disabilities (check with your computing/engineering department and see if they already have something going on that you could develop a mini-program for students with disabilities; for example, we have exhibits, speakers, and other activities regarding disability issues as part of our more
general UW Engineering Open House) or

(2) a stand-alone new event to attract and support students with disabilities in computing fields.

Would you like to submit a proposal?
Just put it in the following format and submit it to sherylb@u.washington.edu by March 14, 2008.

AccessComputing Mini-grant Event Proposal

Event Title:
Event Date(s):
Event Location:
Event Director:

Event Objective(s) and Outcome(s)
How will your event promote the interest, participation, and/or success of individuals with disabilities in computing careers?

Event Description
How will your event accomplish these objectives (including draft agenda and expected number of participants)?
Event Budget
For what expenses do you request funding from the AccessComputing Alliance? (for example, travel expenses for a speaker, refreshments for
participants, facility rental, printed materials; we do not cover salaries
of regular staff; we may cover a student salary if that student has a
disability; note that if your proposal is approved, AccessComputing staff
will arrange to cover expenses directly [e.g., airfare for a guest speaker] rather than provide grant funds for you to disperse)

Event Management, Support Staff, and Timeline
Who will do what and when to publicize the event, implement the activity, and evaluate the results?

Event Evaluation
How will you know you have accomplished the objectives (for example, evaluation forms, observations, interviews), especially documenting increased interest and/or pursuit of computing on the part of students with disabilities?

Sunday, February 3, 2008

February made me shiver ...

... from one of my favorite songs (and yes, I know all the words _and_ chords) -- SIGCSE 2008 registration is proceeding smoothly (or at least the registration team is handling all the details very well). The main reason to register early is price (save $30-50); also note that SIGCSE membership ($25/year) saves $60 on the registration fee. I also ask you to consider "opting-in" during the registration process so that some of our supporters can be in touch, it's not much to ask considering their substantial contributions (some for decades, some we welcome for the first time).

And please look to encourage students to register and volunteer, and to contact our student volunteer chairs, Dan Garcia and Jeff Forbes -- it's a great deal on price and a fantastic opportunity.

Another reason to register early is to help us in our counts (and estimates of trends) for such things as meals, breaks, and proceedings (and if you really want a paper copy!). Less waste means more funds for the conference and for other SIGCSE projects. Early registration closes Feb 12 ...

... just around the time that the conference hotels will expect attendees to have made their reservations. We were hopeful that the lodgings would be suitable, but we were very surprised at how quickly the Red Lion and the Inn at the Convention Center filled. There are still rooms available at the final conference hotel, the Portland Hilton, and ACM has helped us to add a fourth, the Benson Hotel. Please take time soon to make these reservations so you can have the lodgings that work for you for the Symposium, _and_ we can see if we need to get started on yet another hotel -- a nice problem to have :-).

I also have to let you know that members of the program committee are very busy putting final approval on many of the materials you expect to have available (proceedings, advanced program, website, workshops). It is much work done by dedicated people.

Furthermore, I have to compliment them on the content of the Symposium again, I am still discovering how many great papers and other presentations we have, and how many really addressed the theme. I found myself constantly needing to stop reading for understanding and just get the stuff proofread! I thought we would have some papers on gender issues and a few on teaching students who have disabilities; rather, we have papers on culture, global issues, cross-country perspectives, even service learning projects near and far.
Happy Groundhog's Day!
Also, as we all prepare to travel to Portland, I just want to note this previous post about the restaurants, and that I just discovered another article about the wine country via bicycle.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Brief Discussion on Safety in Portland

Hello from Virginia, just outside of Washington, DC -- and not much warmer than Philadelphia in January :-).

The SIGCSE 2008 team has been quite busy now that registration is open and the conference is just weeks away. Tony Clear, our International Liaison, noted that all visitors to the conference would benefit from information about safety and security in Portland around the Oregon Convention Center and the conference hotels. Yeah, a bit uncomfortable to think about, until you consider the alternative ....

So, Tammy VanDeGrift, our Local Arrangements Chair, provided some guidance that I'll share here -- this is not to replace such things as awareness, traveling in groups, and commonsense.


Here are the "safe" places near downtown and the convention center:

: Close to the hotel is safe
The waterfront is safe (park along the river for walking/jogging)

Shopping district is safe (near Pioneer Place)

Pearl District is safe (lots of condos, cafes, restaurants, the "newest" yuppie part of downtown)

Convention Center: Close to convention center is safe
Near Lloyd Center (shopping mall) is safe during mall hours (closes at 9 PM)

Along Broadway and Weidler Streets is safe during shopping hours (until 9 PM)

Less safe areas (at night)
MLK Blvd, Williams, Vancouver Streets (north of convention center)

East side of river (near OMSI)
Chinatown (downtown), lots of homeless shelters nearby - may not be unsafe, but pan-handling could be distracting

Under the Burnside Bridge (homeless camps at night)

Gresham (along MAX stops, but this town is a suburb and I doubt anyone would venture out here)

Portland is generally a safe place, with very few incidents. I have never felt uncomfortable walking around at night downtown, but I would suggest that people walk with at least one other person


For the record, Susan and I have visited Portland without incident -- we walked across the Burnside Bridge one evening and did pass a number of homeless, so we will just take the MAX or walk another bridge in the future.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Why is it still (mostly) a dream?

Hey, when your theme involves diversity, it is almost mandated that your comment in your blog on Martin Luther King Day (a new blog protocol) -- today I did not start teaching the spring term for the first time since I have worked at Haverford College, a place famous for its Quaker roots and mission of social justice -- well, better late than never, perhaps now they will work on giving us a day of reflection for Labor Day! (to all my Haver-Colleagues, I have an explanation at the end of this post.)

Tonight I watched the end of the News Hour where they broadcast some of Dr. King's speech from the Lincoln Memorial -- I had to tell my six-year old son that before he was born they used black and white film; I then realized that it was not before I was born :-(. Fighting, arguing, promoting diversity may have been "needed" in 1963, but it's 2008 -- why is it in the theme for SIGCSE 2008? I mean, it's like promoting chocolate (which we did at SIGCSE 2007; what will they have this year for SIGCSE 2009?) -- who could be against chocolate, or music, or romance, or puppies, or music for romance between puppies, ... or diversity?

Well, there are many reasons I'm sure, but what comes to mind as a computer scientist is that we also want great software, and I know why that is often hard to produce (or to teach how to produce). I have yet to meet anyone overtly against diversity; I believe I have met many people inadvertently contributing to the obstacles (and yes, including me). My favorite observation regarding diversity goes something like this:
  1. the majority of people are for equality, or equal access (i.e., diversity)
  2. the majority of people believe equality already exists
  3. the majority of people see that certain groups are not as "successful" as other groups
  4. thus they conclude (you pick .... laziness, not as competent, lack of skill)
After I heard this observation for a Haver-Colleague, I started thinking about how many times I must have been guilty of this way of thinking when a student "failed" in my course -- not all the time, maybe (hopefully) not even the majority of the time, but it is likely non-zero.

I did, as many did when diversity in computing rose into our consciousness, read Margolis and Fisher, I added more group work, I explored alternatives to "contests" -- I am presently reading "She's Such a Geek" by Newitz and Anders, and all I can think is, "How much more can I learn given my background and history?" -- and I have not even started with racial, cultural, other types of diversity to consider!

I am hoping that organizations like NCWIT, ACM-W, CRA-W, and the CDC (and others?) will be at SIGCSE 2008, and so should you! Well if you have questions, answers, passions about diversity in computing, please be sure to attend SIGCSE 2008 and really participate -- I hope I was able to convey some substance, felt like some rambling -- and that was diversity, stay tuned for accessibility (my other dream) :-).


Oh, you are welcome to view this Daily Show interview relating to issues of race and diversity in other venues; warning, sense of humor suggested before clicking.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Web Accessibility and Global Competitiveness

There are too many concurrent events happening with SIGCSE 2008 that I now find myself often stuck between the classic "fish or cut bait" -- something my brothers loved as they took their time fishing (not me, I hate fishing). Conference registration is open online, so please register soon, and consider a set of workshops, many offered to help educators get the most out of their time.

Perhaps more importantly, visit our conference hotels page and make your reservation at one of the three hotels -- it seems that rooms are going quickly at the Red Lion and the Inn at the Convention Center, and the Portland Hilton is filling as well -- the ACM and the SIGCSE 2008 chairs have been in contact with these hotels weekly, and are working to make more space (and it's still early!) -- also, the sooner we fill, the sooner we can make the case for more hotel space for the attendees.

Also, the Kids' Camp will run, which is great for the kids! Thanks to Pam Cutter for diving in the deep end and providing this service.

But back to the topic -- today I saw an announcement that multiple groups in the ACM believe, basically, that increasing awareness of the need for web accessibility is a good thing -- OK, they said "global competitiveness," a nice incentive to make the web a tool that as many people as possible could use. The stat that stood out to me was, "97 percent of Web sites [were found to be] failing some basic accessibility requirements." Seriously, I was surprised that 3% passed.

Accessible teaching in any discipline is challenging because students are so diverse; there needs range across multiple spectra. Plus, even when the needs are pretty well defined, it is hard to develop the right supports (consider the issues in SW engineering for mainstream customers; now try for someone who may not be able to convey all the details!). Same for accessible websites -- I learn more each time I attend something like SIGCSE (or ITiCSE, CCSC).

The usual suspects were in the press release: SIGACCESS, SIGCHI, SIGWEB, and even CSTA signed on. Hopefully after SIGCSE 2008 and ITiCSE 2007 the ACM will consider SIGCSE for such releases in the future.

In any event, all efforts to increase such awareness are needed, and perhaps the discussion at SIGCSE 2008 will provide even more motivation.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Symposium Registration Open

SIGCSE 2008 REGISTRATION OPEN - Kids Registration Deadline Jan 10

1) SIGCSE 2008 Registration is open! Early Registration closes Feb. 12!
2) CS Kids 4 Fun - Register by Jan 10!
3) Make your Hotel Reservation by Feb 11! Last year hotels filled early.
4) Sign up for one of our 38 workshops.
5) Consider coming early to attend a pre-conference event on Wednesday.

More details below.

We look forward to seeing you at SIGCSE 2008 on March 12-15, 2008 in Portland, Oregon -- Susan & J.D.

1) We are pleased to announce that SIGCSE 2008 registration is now open.

See the Attendees page at: http://www.cs.duke.edu/sigcse08/

Note that early registration closes Feb. 12!

2) CS Kids 4 Fun - Register by Jan 10!

We have an exciting program for kids ages 6 months-12 with a kids camp with CS activities for older kids. Contact Pam Cutter if you have questions.


You must register by Jan 10!

3) Make your Hotel reservations by Feb. 11!

There are three options for hotels. The Red Lion and the Inn at the Convention Center are beside the convention center.

The Hilton is the Conference Hotel and the location of BOFs and the Thursday night reception. The Hilton is one block from the free MAX lightrail that will drop you off in front of the convention center. The Hilton is very close to nice shops and restaurants, including Powell's

Note that hotel reservations have filled quickly at past SIGSEs, so don't delay in making your reservation.

4) Consider signing up for one of our 38 workshops! Workshops are available Wednesday and Friday evenings, and Saturday afternoon.

5) Consider arriving early to attend a pre-conference event on Wednesday.
Information on these events is on the conference home page.

Look forward to seeing you in Portland!
Susan Rodger & J.D. Dougherty