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:

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

Monday, January 7, 2008

As the new year begins ...

... so we on the SIGCSE 2008 steering committee get ready for such landmark events as the opening of conference registration, our first CS 4 Fun Kids' Camp onsite, more news about our keynotes (e.g., Randy Pausch will appear briefly in the next Star Trek Movie), ...

Some news stories for those interested in computing education and in our theme(s) -- it has been reported that the NSF Launches Mentoring Program for Minority Students via the EL Alliance at Rice University; more information available here.

Also, THE Journal has a quick story about Scratch -- I should try this application, I have seen a few talks at past SIGCSEs, and I'd like to compare it to the other applications like media computation and Alice.

Stay tuned for more news, and please check the website as well for details about the Symposium and about Portland -- I just like the included photo with the Oregon Convention Center in the foreground.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

CS Kids 4 Fun Schedule set ...

SIGCSE 2008 will not only host the technical symposium for computing education, but will also be a neat place to be a kid -- Pam Cutter has organized a great set of activities for children 6 months - 12 years old, many involve computers (Alice, Scratch), some computing (CS unplugged) and others just fun (scavenger hunt). Here's Pam's announcement from today, with a few links that you should check.

Kids attending
CS Kids 4 Fun are welcome to attend the SIGCSE Reception on Thursday evening (as long as the parent(s) have paid for the reception!).

As we have noted before, this is the first time such a program has been tried at SIGCSE, and we plan to bring 2 kids each! -- Susan and J.D.

Are your kids as interested in CS as you are? Do they like to play around with computers? Do they hate it when you go on fun trips without them? Bring them to CS Kids 4 Fun at SIGCSE 2008 this March! Even if they're not computer geniuses, CS Kids 4 Fun promises to be a lot of fun for them.

We have contracted with Kiddie Corp to provide the onsite daycare for kids ages 6 months-12 years and will be using student volunteers to help with a variety of CS activities, including Scratch, Alice, and CS Unplugged. All the details may be found at Registration for CS Kids 4 Fun is now open! Hurry - advance registration ends January 10 and we must have at least 12 children registered by that time in order to run the program.

Contact if you have questions/comments.