Tuesday, December 29, 2009

CACM Feb 2009

An article in the Feb 2009 just hit my eyes, authored by Maria Klawe (SIGCSE 2005 keynote) et. al., it revisits the access to computing education for women that was covered in a 1995 piece by the authors -- I got access from here, tough the full reference is below -- and Happy New 2010!

Klawe, M., Whitney, T., and Simard, C. 2009. Women in computing---take 2. Commun. ACM 52, 2 (Feb. 2009), 68-76. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1461928.1461947

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lab and lounge space matters

A recent study at the University of Washington indicates that work space matters in terms of engaging women in computer science and engineering. How many of your lab spaces look like the photo to the right?

So it is OK for our Department to have a nice pizza party as long as they clean up well.

Other ideas? Feng shui anyone? Seriously, I certainly looked into this when arranging the desk in my office, but not in the CS Teaching lab -- I plan to over break.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Paul Samuelson Dies ...

Yes, he was an economist, not a computer scientist, but in this blog about diversity and accessibility, I could not help note one of his more lucid and sharp observations:

When women began complaining about career and salary inequities, for example, [Pf. Samuelson] said in their defense, “Women are men without money.”

It might be abstractly phrased "... without access."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

CS Education Week

Well, hope you did not miss it, for the first time the Congress has recognized the importance of education/preparation for computer science in the US, some links below:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Testing the accessibility of Web 2.0

from the University of Southampton: ECS researchers have begun a trial of browser and USB (Universal Serial Bus) pen drive applications to assist with the accessibility of Web 2.0 services. more ...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Accessibility is more than technology

I am using this space to "rant" a bit about the technically sophisticated but "content and organizationally-challenged" website for the Social Security Administration -- and since the term "accessibility" is on the blog, I'm going for it.

The SSA website is accessible -- in fact, more accessible than most -- with options for users with vision impairments (larger text), Spanish language, and alternatives including phone. Even high-contrast (black text on white) with color used to support navigation.

The big, embarrassing issue is content organization. I have a simple question: "Are my kids eligible for survivor benefits?" The question is even found on this page, and it appears that I need to apply. But when you get to that link, there's nothing about survivor benefits. I did not expect a direct answer on a website since my one child is a survivor and has a disability.

So I tried the phone system, with a speaker phone so I could do some work while waiting on hold. Not only did I wait, but the system -- not a person -- hung up on me -- twice.

My father worked for the Social Security Administration, and now I realize the value of his work. The sad part is that his job could have been more productive if he had computing tools that should exist but did not in his day.

I suspect that the existence of an "accessible website" has convinced the SSA that they do not need as many feet on the ground -- but are they wrong. In this case, a poor tool is worse than no tool since it seems I cannot connect, using 20th century technology (i.e., phone), with someone like my father for help.

Thanks for letting me vent a bit.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Not even engineering

A recently completed study from the National Research Council's National Academy of Engineering (NAE) characterizes the extent and nature of initiatives to teach engineering to K-12 students in the United States. That's great, but similar efforts should be addressed regarding computing.

From the article:

"And with this increased focus, some education experts say momentum is building for more recognition of the "T" and "E" in STEM--technology and engineering, two subjects often overlooked."

I see that engineering and technology may have a point, but at least they are in the acronym (i.e., there is no "C" in the acronym "STEM", though there is computing throughout STEM disciplines) -- perhaps we should come up with another acronym, like "CEMTS" that put computing into the name -- I am open to other suggestions.

Oh, and this make the "diversity through accessibility" blog due to another observation:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) estimates that although women earned more than 50 percent of all science and engineering bachelor's degrees in 2006, they earned only about 20 percent of degrees in engineering, computer science, and physics."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Women in Science, "in the House"

Washington, DC: Today the House of Representatives' Committee on Science and Technology's Subcommittee on Research and Science Education convened a session on the underrepresentation of Women in Science, specifically the STEM disciplines (including computing, though there is yet to be the letter 'C' in the acronym :-) -- readers will know most of the content, let's hope Congress gets the message as well.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Can't Rise, We're Stuck

Two reports to read that (apparently) complement (eh, perhaps "amplify" is better) each other regarding computing, science, education and technology, especially among underrepresented groups. I discovered these two report from a recent article by Richard Tapia of Rice University that the ACM Tech News directed to me.

The first is Rising above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future (or, RAGS), mandated by Congress and facilitated and published by the National Academies (2007). The goal of the report is noble; to best prepare the US citizens to leverage such things as conceptual understanding and technology to increase our standard of living. Cool. The problem is that we are way behind in not only leading the world in innovations, but even filling the expected wave of skilled careers that are expected. Uncool.

Well, to "fix" this problem, one considers the low hanging fruit. We have lots of people in computing of a certain, dare I say, overrepresented demographic -- people like me. Fortunately this is not a new call (e.g., SIGCSE 2008 :-). So onto the people presently underrepresented, that should provide a rich source of competent and capable talent.

Sadly, the answer appears to be no, as indicated in the second book, Stuck in the Shallow End: Education, Race, and Computing, by Jane Margolis. It seems that simple, tried-and-true teaching techniques (e.g., noticing and encouraging achievement, mentoring) are not as popular for these underrepresented groups as well might expect. Here is an interview with Jane Margolis as well.

My intent with "diversity through accessibility" is to ensure that if we provide means for students to excel, then a more diverse groups will likely emerge. These reports suggest the complement; there are still too many unintentional obstacles that keep students stuck.

Well, two more books to read this summer.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

SoftHum & HFOSS

Hello from the ground floor of the Rush Building at Drexel University where I am part of the NSF-sponsored workshop to explore Open Source Software for Humanity, unofficially abbreviated to SoftHum. After just finishing introductions, we hope to explore how to utilize open source projects in our respective curricula to engage and deepen the understanding and appreciation of software development for our students.

So, the morning involved lots of presentations from the team leaders (Greg and Heidi), as well as a few participants such as Cliff Kussmaul at Muhlenberg (interesting approach, sort of like "backing into" teaching software development), Greg DeKoenigsberg of Red Hat and Frank Hecker of the Mozilla Foundation. We then had a group exercise (no surprise at a SE workshop :-) on teaching and learning exercises & activities for OSS.

Lunch was great, the some summary of the group work, presentations more participants, and onto Ralph Morelli discussing the HFOSS project -- I really am interested in Sahana and working with POSIT on Google Android.

Next Darius Jayazeri (not sure if this is the right spelling) presented OpenMRS.


Day 2: There is an interesting debate arising about what puts the "F" in HFOSS, and what would not be HFOSS, politics, perspective, even "political agnosticism." This discussion has a few sides as I see it:
  • Humanitarian is clearly the application of FOSS for the classics of disaster management, conflict issues and poverty in developing countries (i.e., paternalistic)
  • Humanitarian also includes education, even locally (i.e., own bootstraps)
  • Humanitarian is all application, so what if the military argue that their work saves more lives than are lost (i.e., greater good)
  • Humanitarian is really not applicable to software, as it is a tool and thus "morally neutral."
Libertarian flavor of software was then mentioned, interesting point. Discussion then turned to the concept, attributed to Dave Humphrey, that students should be "productively lost." Heidi and Greg added the technical presentation, including templates and grading rubrics.

Now it's panel time: Greg, Darius, Frank, Clif and Heidi fielded questions and discussed how they teach their courses using HFOSS.

For details, please check back later -- JD

Friday, June 5, 2009

NYTimes: Women and Science

So, now there is a new article from the NY Times that discusses the apparent improvement in science opportunities for women at major research universities; that is good news, we need all the help we can get. Still, there remains unequal access to certain opportunities (such as salary). Another report suggests that the performance gap between girls and boys in math is decreasing "to the vanishing point." Still more good news.

My big issue with this NAS report is that the panel surveyed six disciplines, including math and physics and engineering, but excluded computer science. And the fight for visibility continues ....

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

XO in the next CACM

Heads-up -- it seems that the XO (image right), the accessible-by-design (and low-cost) product of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) group, is featured in an article in the June 2009 issue of the Communications of the ACM where vision is juxtaposed with reality. The next generation XO is featured in the image below-left.

Please read when the article you can, but I came away with the sense that while the output and in-place numbers of XOs in the developing world are each less than promised, the shake-up in the PC industry to respond to the "threat" of losing potential market share has certainly had impact -- again, IMHO -- JD

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Evidence of Gender Gap in HS Students

There is a new report from a NSF study by the ACM and the WGBH Educational Foundation has found evidence supporting the perceived gender gap in interest in computing as a career/profession among high school students -- from the ACM press release:

The gender gap extended to computer science as a potential career choice as well as a field of study. From a selection of 15 possible careers, computer science came in fourth among the respondents, with 46 percent rating it “very good” or “good.” However, while 67 percent of all boys rated computer science highly as a career choice, only nine percent of girls rated it “very good” and 17 percent rated it “good.”

Details in the full report (PDF).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Accessing the Future conference

It seems the IEEE is teaming up with IBM to sponsor a conference on accessibility that include not only computing and technology, but universal design standards, patient-centered collaborative care, online workplaces and communities, travel and transportation issues, and related topics.

The Accessing the Future conference is schedule for July 20-21, 2009 in Boston, perhaps we can connect with other disciplines to improve accessibility -- perhaps, read here for some overview.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ada Lovelace Day 2009

Well, today is Ada Lovelace Day, arguably the first programmer, certainly one of the first to appreciate the potential of algorithms -- I was able to note her contributions briefly in my song about the World of Computing, complete lyrics and recording here:

... Ada Lovelace understood
That Babbage's machine was good ...

Anyway, we were all asked by Barbara Boucher Owens, current president of SIGCSE and role model for women in computing in her own right, to post a blog entry about a role model for women in computing.

That's easy -- especially when I think back on the success, and the skill and effort needed, for SIGCSE 2008, my choice for Ada Lovelace Mentor would be Susan Rodger, Professor of the Practice of Computer Science at Duke University (photo right).

Susan and I co-chaired SIGCSE 2008, so I have worked with her often remotely but consistently throughout 2007 and the start of 2008. Her "pleasant persistence" resulted in many contributions to SIGCSE 2008, including new corporate supporters, a day care center/kid's camp, conference bags, and even SIGCSE cookies.

Susan's contributions to computing education are many, including
Personally, Susan possesses the temperament and drive needed by anyone to succeed in any profession, yet is very approachable and willing to mentor.

Thanks for the chance to promote my former co-chair's (and current friend) accomplishments for Ada Lovelace Day, as well as embarrass her I'm sure :-) -- JD

Friday, March 20, 2009

Enrollments up, but ...

Wow, here's a NY Times article that notes the recent trends in computing enrollments show some positive news, increasing -- there are some observations about reasons, including Eric Roberts point about the receding competition from the financial industry.

But it was not all good news, especially considering the mission of this blog; from the article:

The study, which for the first time included data from schools of information, indicated that diversity in computer science programs continued to remain poor. For example, the fraction of bachelor’s degrees awarded to women remained steady at 11.8 percent in 2008.

Our work continues.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

... onto SIGCSE 2009

Well, it's now officially been a year (actually just less :-) since SIGCSE 2008, and I am hopeful that the NE weather will cooperate so I can attend SIGCSE 2009 this coming week -- I am assuming that the steering committee people are already en route if not already there.

SIGCSE 2009 has a neat theme/play on words, "engaging CS education" which is always a goal(s) -- I also hope that diversity and accessibility are included in there too, and hope discussions continue in that vein as well.

Finally, a quick look at how assistive technologies can be made that help all students, not just the ones with disabilities (the term I mentally substitute as I read their story every time I see the phrase "disabled") -- accessibility is one of the main reasons I support courses with online materials (as well as backup when people lose paper or files) -- see you in Chattanooga! -- JD

Monday, February 23, 2009

Glass Ceiling in IT still ...

... just a quick handoff, JD

Analysis: Women in IT still hit glass ceiling
Despite a positive outlook on their careers, the latest research has shown the glass ceiling for women in IT has not yet broken.
By Miya Knights, 19 Feb 2009

Monday, January 26, 2009

2009 Richard Tapia Conference

Registration Open for 2009 Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in
Computing Conference

Portland, Oregon, USA--Registration is now open for the 2009 Richard
Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference. The
conference brings together diverse leading researchers from around
the world to present their work on state-of-the-art research in the
field of computing. The 2009 event, the fifth in the series, will
take place April 1-4, 2009 at the Portland Oregon Marriott Downtown

Early bird registration, with discounted registration fees, closes on
March 1, 2009. March 1 is also the date by which hotel reservations
should be confirmed. Registration information can be found at

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Something about Obama ...

Well, I had to contribute something during the week of MLK and the Obama Inauguration -- not much as time is pressed -- let's hope access and diverse "trickle down" (sorry, could not help the reference) to education in computing, perhaps as described in this NY Times article on "Geek Chic."