Archive for February, 2011

Call for papers: ACM SIGCSE ICER 2011

Call for papers


Providence, Rhode Island, USA, August 8-9, 2011

Computing education research is the study of how people come to understand computational processes and devices, and how to improve that understanding. As computation becomes ubiquitous in our world, understanding of computing in order to design, structure, maintain, and utilize these technologies becomes increasingly important–both for the technology professional, but also for the technologically literate citizen. The study of how the understanding of computation develops, and how to improve that understanding, is critically important for the technology-dependent societies in which we live.

The International Computing Education Research (ICER) Workshop aims at gathering high-quality contributions to the computing education research discipline. Papers for the ICER workshop will be peer-reviewed. For the first time this year, ICER will accept papers in two different categories. They are:

Research papers. 8 pages. As in the past, research papers should include:

A clear theoretical basis, building on existing literature in computing education, computer science, and other related disciplines.

A strong empirical basis, drawing on relevant research methods. Papers that re-interpret and explain others’ empirical results are welcome.

An explication of the paper’s impact on, and contribution to, existing knowledge about computing education.

Discussion papers.

6 pages. Work in progress, or dissemination and discussion of new ideas in Computing Education Research. Discussion papers fail to meet one or more of the criteria for research papers, but have the potential to become exemplary ICER papers if given the opportunity to be presented to and discussed by the community.

All papers should follow the ACM SIGCSE formatting guidelines. Templates for submissions can be found at the ACM SIG Proceedings website. LaTeX users should use option #2 (tighter alternate style) when formatting their document.

Authors may find it helpful to read the review form before finalizing their papers.

Submission deadline: 20 April 2011

Re-submission deadline: 27 April 2011 (*)

Notification of acceptance: 1 June 2011

Deadline for final version: 13 June 2011

via Call for papers – ICER Conferences.

February 28, 2011 at 2:01 pm Leave a comment

Call for Participation for Second C^3 Conference

Saturday was the first C^3 Conference. It was a great pleasure to sit in the audience and see a parade of good speakers from Georgia walk up to talk about their efforts to improve computing education! We had about 30 high school and university teachers stay in an auditorium on a gorgeous Atlanta Saturday (70F in February!), to talk about their teaching practice.

We’re planning on one more C^3 Conference for 2011. Call for participation is below.

Georgia Tech and Southern Poly have organized an event called the C3 Conference (Computing Commons Collaboration Conference) for both high school computing teachers and undergraduate computing faculty to meet, present, share ideas, and discuss topics of interest on teaching introductory computer science courses. You are now invited to participate in the second mini-conference of this event at Georgia Tech on April 16, 2011 (1-5:30 pm). There is NO COST to attend this conference. The deadline for submitting one-page proposals are Tuesday, March 15, and the deadline for registration is Friday, April 8.
You can find more information in the Call for Participation below. Please feel free to pass this message on to anyone who might be interested.
Call for Participation for the C3 Conference
The C3 Conference (Computing Commons Collaboration Conference) is a new format of the Disciplinary Commons for Computing Educators (DCCE) (, dedicated to gathering local computing educators, including both undergraduate computing faculty and high school computing teachers, to share their best practices of, and building scholarship in, teaching introductory Computer Science. This event is also intended to provide opportunities for collaboration and communication among the participants. The conference is designed to create a forum where local computing educators are able to meet, present, share ideas, and discuss topics of interest about teaching computer science courses.
This event includes two mini-conferences with invited speakers, selected presentations with discussion, and poster sessions focusing on a variety of topics that are of interest to both undergraduate college faculty and high school teachers. The first conference was in February at SPSU and the second is in April at Georgia Tech.
We are inviting you to participate in the second mini conference to be held on April 16, 2011, from 1pm – 5:30 pm at Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA.
We invite your participation in one or more of the following three ways:
1) Call for Abstracts for Presentation and Discussion
Submit a 1-2 page proposal abstract on a specific topic for a 45-minute discussion session. Topics should be relevant to college faculty and high school teachers who teach computing courses, in the broadest sense of the term. Suggested topics include, but are not limited to, the following:
· 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 its 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, a demonstration, materials you use in class, ideas/topics you are developing, or anything that you want to display to encourage discussion or collaboration with participants. During the conference, participants will have the opportunity to browse the posters (which may be posters, videos, handouts, etc.) while enjoying refreshments during breaks between the presentation sessions. No formal presentation of the poster material is required other than the desire to talk to others about your practice, idea, or ongoing work in the field of computing education.
3) Attendance
Please mark the April 16th date on your calendar for attendance. There is no cost for attending this conference. The experience will be priceless. Come and enjoy a half day of collaborating with others who are also passionate about teaching computing and sharing the joy, beauty, and awe of the discipline.
This Call for Participation is for those who would like to submit a paper or poster and for those who would like to attend but will not be presenting or submitting a poster.
1.) If you would like to submit a paper or poster for the second mini-conference, the deadline is Tuesday, March 15, 2011. Please email your proposal abstract with the following information to Lijun Ni at
  • Your name, school name, e-mail address, mailing address, and phone number
  • The session for which you are submitting the proposal abstract – discussion session or poster?
  • Your proposal abstract with title, presenter(s), and a short description of your presentation or poster. If you are submitting a proposal for a presentation, be sure to include a description of your objectives and a short summary of the content of your presentation along with ways of involving the audience in the discussion.
2.) If you would like to register for this conference, please fill out the registration form at the conference website: Please register for attendance by Friday, April 8, 2011.
If you have questions 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),

February 28, 2011 at 7:45 am Leave a comment

Urgent: Please share your teaching change stories

I blogged a few weeks ago about Sally Fincher’s project to gather teaching practice change stories.  There’s a deadline on the project of next Friday.  Please visit soon and tell her about how you change your practice at Thanks!

February 25, 2011 at 11:21 am 1 comment

The university of the future

A bunch of University Presidents (is that the right collective noun for a group of University Presidents? A herd? A coven? A flock?) gathered recently to talk about the University of the Future.  I found Georgia Tech’s president’s comments pretty interesting.  I’m not sure that the 25 year view really works for a strategic plan — how can we know what’s going to be valuable in 25 years, and if we don’t know, how can that inform our strategies today?  I buy the importance of flexibility (see previous post on sociology and drop-outs), but I think he overstates the importance of technology today.  Yes, students have expectations of even more technology — what’s the cost of not meeting those expectations, and what’s the cost of encouraging a focus on an oral culture (as Alan has pointed out)?  His story in the below about Georgia Tech using social media to continue classes during our ice storm week is unfortunately false– we were told that faculty could not hold classes or other learning activities (e.g., on Facebook, or via video on Sakai or YouTube) when campus was closed because campus was closed and students should not be expected to engage in those activities. (Similarly, we’ve told that we can make up classes (in evenings or weekends), but we cannot mandate students attend. So what’s the point then of “making up”…?) In any case, I do think that we have an interesting mandate to explore the role of technology in extending and expanding the concept of university.

Peterson also talked about how technology is changing the way we live our lives and run our universities. He said Georgia Tech is now developing a 25-year strategic plan. He acknowledges that it’s pretty tough to imagine what educational life will be like in 25 years. But when we look back 25 years, we can clearly see what the exercise is valuable. It was roughly 25 years ago when the first PC was available commercially. Now we’re texting billions of messages a day around the world. The world is largely transformed in 25 years.

“We must ask what has and what will continue to distinguish our graduates from other graduates around the world,” he said. “We can’t look two, three or five years ahead; we need to look 25 or 30 years ahead.” Universities need to make plans to meet the needs of future students being born today.

Universities have to re-evaluate the way they teach the digital generation, he argued. Young people see technology as part of their everyday lives; the expect a continuation and expansion of this at university.

And technological capabilities can come in pretty handy beyond the daily routine of a university. When a rare winter storm forced Georgia Tech to close down for three days, professors used Facebook, email and Skype to deliver their lectures and stay on schedule.

Peterson said universities also have to adopt a more flexible approach to education. He envisions a model of undergraduates working with a committee of faculty to choose their individual course path leading to a degree; younger students enjoying the kind of flexibility currently afforded to graduate students.

via Think Canada – Pensez Canada The university of the future |.

February 25, 2011 at 9:55 am Leave a comment

Pagination is better than scrolling for digital texts

This is an interesting argument that I hadn’t met previously: Pagination is better for long digital texts because it’s easier for sustained reading.  What are the implications for reading source code?  Is pagination (and perhaps formatting via something like Knuth’s WEB) better than a scroll bar?

Let’s put it under the umbrella term ‘scrollable’. Scrollable content works very well for two or three screenfuls of content, because it lets you adjust, pixel by pixel or line by line, to your changing context. You can say “I want this thing on the screen, and this nearby thing on the screen at the same time”, which is often useful — particularly if the content has varied elements like buttons and links and images as well as text. That is to say, scrollable content generally works very well for web pages.

But for anything of real length, it is seriously hard work. It’s important to realise what you’re doing when you’re scrolling. You’re gazing at the line you were reading as you draw it up the screen, to near the top. When it gets to the top, you can continue reading. You do this very quickly, so it doesn’t really register as hard work. Except that it changes your behaviour — because a misfire sucks. A misfire occurs when you scroll too far too rapidly, and the line you were reading disappears off the top of the screen. In this case, you have to scroll in the other direction and try to recognise your line — but how well do you remember it? Not necessarily by sight, so immediately you have to start reading again, just to find where you were.

Beyond this, even if you have startling accuracy, still you are doing a lot of work, because your eyes must track your current line as it animates across the screen. For sustained reading, this quickly gets physically tiring.

Pagination works for long text, not because it has a real-world analogy to printed books or whatever, but because it maximises your interface: you read the entire screenful of text, then with a single command, you request an entirely new screenful of text. There’s very little wastage of attention or effort. You can safely blink as you turn.

via if:book: a defense of pagination.

February 24, 2011 at 8:06 am 4 comments

HCI and Computational Thinking are Ideological Foes

A colleague of mine sent me a link to the iConference 2011 website, suggesting that I should consider attending and submitting papers to future instantiations. It looks like an interesting conference, with lots of research in human-computer interaction and computer-supported collaborative work. There was very little about learning. There was a session on Scratch, focused on “end-user programming,” not on learning about computing.

I started to wonder: Have human-computer interaction research and computational thinking become ideological opposites? By “computational thinking” I mean “that knowledge about computing that goes beyond application use and that is useful in any discipline.” Or as Jeanette Wing described it, “Computational thinking builds on the power and limits of computing processes, whether they are executed by a human or by a machine.” Notice that she points out the limits. Limits suggest things that the computer can’t do, and if you’re going to think about them, you have to be aware of them. They must be visible to you. If Computational Thinking involves, for example, understanding the power and limits of digital representations, and how those serve as metaphors in thinking about other problems, then those representations have to be visible.

Let’s contrast that with Don Norman’s call for the Invisible Computer. Or Mark Weiser’s call for the “highest ideal is to make a computer so imbedded, so fitting, so natural, that we use it without even thinking about it.” Or any number of user-interface design books that tell us that the goal of user-centered design is for the user to focus on the task and make the computer become “invisible.”

Michael Mateas has talked about this in his discussion of a published dialog between Alan Perlis and Peter Elias. Elias claims, like Norman and Weiser, that one day “undergraduates will face the console with such a natural keyboard and such a natural language that there will be very little left, if anything, to the teaching of programming.” Michael responds, “The problem with this vision is that programming is really about describing processes, describing complex flows of cause and effect, and given that it takes work to describe processes, programming will always involve work, never achieving this frictionless ideal.”

The invisible-computer goal (that not all in HCI share, but I think it’s the predominant goal) aims to create a task-oriented interface for anything that a human will want to do with a computer. No matter what the task, the ad promises: “There’s an app for that!” Is that even possible? Can we really make invisible all the seams between tasks and digital representations of those tasks? Computational thinking is about engaging with what the computer can and cannot do, and explicitly thinking about it.

Computing education may be even more an ideological foe of this HCI design goal. Computing education is explicitly assuming that we can’t create an app for everything that we want to do, that some people (all professionals, in the extreme version that I subscribe to) need to know how to think about the computer in its own terms, in order to use it in new, innovative ways and (at least) to create those apps for others. It’s not clear who builds the apps in the invisible-computer world (because they would certainly need computing education), but whoever they are, they’re invisible, too.

I used to think that computing education was the far end of a continuum that started with HCI design. At some point, you can’t design away the computer, it has to become visible, and then you have to learn about it. After reviewing the iConference program, I suspect that HCI designers who believe in the invisible-computer have a goal for that never to happen. All possible tasks are covered by apps. Computing education should never be necessary except for an invisible few. Computational thinking is unnecessary, because we can make invisible all limitations.

Here’s a prediction: We won’t see a panel on “Computational Thinking” at CHI, CSCW, or iConference any time soon.

February 23, 2011 at 2:02 pm 25 comments

What’s the right format for CS Ebooks?

This Chronicle piece about a new MIT Press book released using an ebook tool called “Scalar” interested me and got me spending time exploring EBook formats, seeking an answer to the question, “If we were going to do a good CS Ebook, one in which programming experimentation could be done from within the book, what format is most promising?” Scalar is not so interesting because you can only link to fixed digital media. I found Monocle much more interesting, because the content of pages can be defined with JavaScript, and so could include simulations and even a programming environment (a Lively Kernel?). I was disappointed and intrigued by the below comment — Sophie is considered a failure, but there’s a new Sophie in development?

The fate of Scalar, which has not yet been released to the public, also remains to be seen. Mellon had backed an earlier attempt to build multimedia-authoring software, called Sophie. The first version failed, says Bob Stein, a director of the Institute for the Future of the Book, who left the Sophie project after blowing through more than $2.5-million working on it. A second version is not usable now but may end up being the “holy grail,” he says.

“The easier you try to make an authoring environment, the harder it is to build it,” says Mr. Stein. “It’s easy to build an authoring environment that requires experts to use. It’s very hard to build an authoring environment that somebody can use after reading two pages of instructions.”

via Free ‘Video Book’ From Academic Press Challenges Limits of Scholarship – Technology – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

February 23, 2011 at 8:25 am 11 comments

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