Archive for October 26, 2010

Call for Participation: Computing Commons Collaboration Conference

Georgia Tech and Southern Poly (SPSU) are organizing an event for both high school computing teachers and undergraduate computing faculty to meet, present, share ideas and discuss topics of interest about their teaching in introductory CS.  This event includes two mini-conferences with invited talks, selected presentations with discussion and poster sessions in spring 2011. There is no cost for attending the conferences, presenting a talk, or submitting a poster.

We are currently inviting you to submit a proposal for presentations and posters. Both high school computing teachers and undergraduate computing faculty are welcome to present by submitting a 1-page proposal. The deadline for submission for the first mini-conference is Nov 30th, 2010.
You can find more information in the call for participation below:

Call for Participation for the C3 Conference
The C3 Conference (Computing Commons Collaboration Conference) is a new format of the NSF-sponsored Disciplinary Commons for Computing Educators (DCCE) (, dedicated to gathering local computing educators including both undergraduate computing faculty and high school computing teachers to share best practices of and building scholarship of teaching in introductory Computer Science. This event is also intended to provide opportunities for collaboration and communication among our participants. We would like to create a forum where local computing educators are able to meet, present, share ideas and discuss topics of interest about their teaching.
This event includes two mini-conferences with invited talks, selected presentations with discussion and poster sessions, focusing on a variety of topics that are of interest to both undergraduate faculty and high school teachers:
Part I February 26, 2011 1pm – 5:30 pm at Southern Polytechnic State University, Marietta, GA
Part II April 16th, 1 – 5:30 pm at Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA
We invite your participation in the following three ways:
1) Call for Abstracts for Presentation and Discussion
We ask you to submit a 1-2 page proposal abstract on a specific topic for a 45-minute discussion session Topics should be relevant to faculty and high school teachers who teach computing courses, in the broadest sense of the term. Suggested topics, but not meant to be inclusive, are:
· Models of CS 1 curriculum: how introductory computing courses are organized in different schools
· Topics for advanced independent study
· Resources to engage students in computing
· How to handle varying levels of student abilities (differentiated instruction)
· Non-traditional activities for learning computing
· Methods of grading programs and assignments
· How to handle collaboration on assignments (and cheating)
· First week of class techniques and exercises to build community for students
· Web-based educational tools and/or tools for distance education
Discussion abstracts need not be research based and can be experiential only, e.g., a classroom experience, teaching technique, curricular initiative, etc. Proposals should include the authors’ viewpoint and experience and how discussion and interaction will be encouraged. Abstracts will be selected in terms of the significance and relevance of the topic as well as means of encouraging discussion and interaction among participants.
2) Call for Posters
Poster proposals should be no more than 1 page and represent a best practice, demonstration, materials, ideas, or anything that you want additional feedback or collaborators. During the conference, participants will have the opportunity to browse the posters (which may be posters, videos, handouts, etc.) while enjoying refreshments. No formal presentation of the poster material is required other than the desire to talk to others about your practice, idea, or work.
3) Attendance
Please mark the above dates on your calendar for attendance. There is no cost for attending. The experience will be priceless in a half day of collaborating with others who are also passionate about teaching computing to share the joy, beauty, and awe of the discipline.
The deadline for submission for the first mini-conference is Nov 30th, 2010. Please email your proposal abstract with the following information to Lijun Ni at lijun@cc.gatech:

  • Your name, school name, e-mail address, a mailing address, and phone number
  • Which session are you submitting for, discussion session or poster?
  • Your proposal abstract with title, presenter(s) and the proposal for your presentation or poster. The proposal should include description of the objectives and content of your presentation and ways of involving the audience in the discussion.

If you have any question about this event, please contact any of the following conference chairs:
Briana Morrison (Computing Faculty, SPSU),
Pat Roth (Computing Faculty, SPSU),
Ria Galanos (Computer Science Teacher, Centennial HS),
Mark Guzdial (Computing Professor, Georgia Tech),
Lijun Ni (CS education Ph.D Student, Georgia Tech),

October 26, 2010 at 12:04 pm Leave a comment

Those SIGCSE Reviewers say the darnedest things!

SIGCSE Symposium 2011 acceptances and rejections came out this last weekend.  I’m thrilled with how our group did.  We submitted three papers: Allison’s on her dissertation work, Lijun’s on our community support for CS teachers, and Davide Fossati’s on his interview study of CS instructors. All three were accepted.  Barb and I submitted two workshops — both were accepted. I was on two panels or special sessions — both were accepted.  Cool!

And yet, I’m annoyed.  I’m annoyed because I’m concerned with raising the quality of work at the SIGCSE conferences. We can only do that with reviewers who recognize good quality work, and we still have reviewers in the pool who don’t understand science.

Davide Fossati interviewed 14 post-secondary CS instructors at 3 different institutions, asking them to tell him stories about when they changed something in their classes, and how they decided if it was successful or not.  Each instructor gave at least one story of success and one of failure.  Davide used appropriate qualitative analysis techniques to draw out themes and commonalities from these stories.  In my horribly biased opinion, it’s good work that tells us something that we didn’t know about the decision-making process of CS instructors.  It’s not comprehensive, but you can’t do a comprehensive study without first knowing what you’re looking for.  That’s what Davide did.  We don’t claim that the reasoning we saw represents all instructors.  However, the reasoning we saw really does exist, and the reasoning we saw repeatedly, represents processes that are not unique to a single institution or instructor.  That’s important to know.

One reviewer completely hated the paper. “I don’t believe that interviewing 14 Computer Science instructors from three different institutions sets the appropriate framework for drawing conclusions that are statistically valid and meaningful.” The reviewer and we do agree on the goal — it’s about arriving at “meaning,” drawing conclusions that mean something.  But one can arriving at “meaningful” without being nationwide or worldwide or even statistically significant.  “The paper as it stands is not ready for publication, in my opinion, for the reasons cited above. The paper has the look and feel of a pilot study that will be used to design the actual statistically-based study.”  The “actual” study?!?

The definition of “good science” is not “used statistics!” I do believe in the use of statistics. Statistics are important for testing generalizability and for checking that you’re not fooling yourself.  They are really important in science.  But science is also about seeing what’s there, before you try to measure it or even try to explain it.  Cataloging biological specimens is an important part of science.  Asking people why they do what they do is the first step to understanding why they do it.  If we want teachers to make better decisions, let’s first figure out how they’re making decisions now.

Our papers don’t always get accepted to SIGCSE conferences.  Only half of our ICER 2010 submissions were accepted.  When the reviews are fair and well-informed, you learn something even from the rejections.  ICER reviews have been really, really good.

This review points out the roadblocks to getting good work published at the SIGCSE Symposium, disseminated to a wider audience, and informing (and hopefully, improving) a community.  Reviewers like this allow for the publication of meaningless work that has a good p value, and inhibit meaningful work that tells us something new that we didn’t know before.

To return to my original point: I’m thrilled.  Davide’s paper did get accepted, so the process of multiple reviews and a meta-reviewer (7 reviewers total!) corrected for the statistics-obsessed reviewer.  The system worked.  Nonetheless, it’s important, as a community, to continue to have conversations about what is good quality work and what we should be looking for in a review.  In my opinion, we need reviewers who understand the value of publishing work that uses statistics when it’s important for the claim, and doesn’t use statistics when it’s not important for the claim.


October 26, 2010 at 11:52 am 8 comments

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