Archive for March 8, 2010

Creation of the School of Computational Science and Engineering

Announcement from Georgia Tech today — related to an earlier blog post.

Dear Faculty, Staff & Students,

It’s my pleasure to announce the formal creation of the School of Computational Science & Engineering within the College of Computing at Georgia Tech. The new School will operate under the direction of Chair Richard Fujimoto and in close cooperation with the colleges of Engineering and Science here at Tech.

In addition to focusing on its core research areas—high performance computing, modeling and simulation, and massive data analysis—the School of CSE’s mission will include producing a new type of computational scholar. Indeed, by creating this School, we once again take a leadership role in defining the field of computing itself. As a university, we are stating clearly that CSE is an academic discipline in its own right, with a distinct body of knowledge that lies at the confluence of computing, math, science and engineering. Many of our School of CSE faculty will have joint appointments around campus, and they will continue to pursue the kind of interdisciplinary work that has come to define this School, this College and Georgia Tech.

Finally, let us all express our appreciation to former John P. Imlay Dean Rich DeMillo, who first conceived of CSE as a separate unit of the College. Rich’s foresight has (again) allowed us to stake an important intellectual claim before our peers, and the College will reap the benefits of his prescience for years to come.

Congratulations to all of the faculty, staff and administrators in CSE on this achievement. Great work!
Best regards,
Jim Foley

Interim Dean & Professor

Stephen Fleming Chair of Telecommunications

March 8, 2010 at 10:01 pm 3 comments

Exciting new paper on MediaComp with Majors and Year-Later Results

Beth Simon just let me know that her paper has just been accepted to ITICSE 2010.  She shared the submitted draft with me, and I’ve been biting my lip, wanting to talk about it here.  Now that it’s accepted, I can talk about it, while still leaving the real thunder for Beth’s paper and her presentation this summer.  For me, it’s exciting to see two year’s worth of data with CS majors, including following the students into their second year. Beth deals head-on with one of the criticisms of Media Computation (e.g., no, it’s not a tour of all-things-Java — you won’t cover as many language features as you used to) and provides the answers that really matter (e.g., you retain more students, they learn more about problem-solving, and they do really well in the next course). I’ll quote her abstract here:

Previous reports of a media computation approach to teaching programming have either focused on pre-CS1 courses or courses for non-majors. We report the adoption of a media computation context in a majors’ CS1 course at a large, selective R1 institution in the U.S. The main goal was to increase retention of majors, but do so by replacing the traditional CS1 course directly (fully preparing students for the subsequent course). In this paper we provide an experience report for instructors interested in this approach. We compare a traditional CS1 with a media computation CS1 in terms of desired student competencies (analyzed via programming assignments and exams) and find the media computation approach to focus more on problem solving and less on language issues. In comparing student success (analyzed via pass rates and retention rates one year later) we find pass rates to be statistically significantly higher with media computation both for majors and for the class as a whole. We give examples of media computation exam questions and programming assignments and share student and instructor experiences including advice for the new instructor.

March 8, 2010 at 3:03 pm 4 comments

Swiki on the iPhone!

I went poking around to figure out who did the Scratch port to the iPhone.  Not surprisingly, I found John McIntosh who built many of the early Squeak VMs.

I found that he’s also developed and selling a Wiki server for the iPhone.  When I looked at his Wiki Edit Page, I recognized Swiki syntax!  His Wiki has the asterisk delimiters that I put in the original Swiki (which Ward Cunningham, inventor of the Wiki, really didn’t like), and *phrase>URL* syntax that Jeff Rick built into his versions of the Swiki (and AniAniWeb).  I don’t know if any of John’s code includes any of our Swiki code — what’s cool for me is seeing the echoes of that original work.

March 8, 2010 at 2:27 pm 3 comments

The market can’t fix schools

Diane Ravitch’s new book received a nice writeup in the Washington Post last week.  She renounces her past interest in market-forces in education and even No Child Left Behind:

Diane Ravitch, an education historian, now renounces many of the market-oriented policies she promoted as a former federal education official with close ties to Democrats and Republicans. In large part because of her change of heart, Ravitch’s critique of the reform ideas that prevail in government, philanthropies and think tanks is reverberating in the world of education.

via Business principles won’t work for school reform, former supporter Ravitch says – washingtonpost.com.

The interview with her in this morning’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution made an interesting tie to computing education for me:

By overemphasizing test scores, No Child Left Behind sounded a death knell for arts education and anything else that wasn’t tested, she now believes. It focused too much on basic skills to the exclusion of thinking skills. It did not require that states develop well-rounded, meaningful curriculums, and rather than raise standards it lowered them.

in Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Computing education is one of those domains “not tested.”  “Not tested” in NCLB terms is “not valued,” maybe even “not existing.”  Computing education is no more important than arts education or physical education, if it’s not test-able.

While NCLB is a problem for computing education, but it’s not the deeper problem.  The real problem is establishing computing education as being real and counting — having a recognized curriculum, having standards, being tests that adequately assess knowledge in computing education.  NCLB is a system under which many things suffer.  But when it goes away, another system will take its place. Under any school system, having standards and tests helps to define and defend a domain.

March 8, 2010 at 11:43 am 3 comments


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