Playing Telephone with Karlstrom Award Announcements

April 7, 2011 at 9:43 am 3 comments

The press releases, announcements, and notes of congratulations on our ACM Karlstrom Award have been wonderful!  Stepping back and watching it happen, it’s interesting (to me, at least) how the story changes with different story-tellers.  It’s like the game of telephone, where one person whispers something to the first person, who whispers it to the second, and so on, until it is completely unlike the original version.  I wouldn’t say that the Karlstrom award story is “completely unlike” the original, and none of the changes are malicious in any way. But I think the stories reflect the story-teller.

You have seen the original ACM citation — we are receiving the award for our work on Media Computation, which led to “Georgia Computes!” (and our general efforts in contextualized computing education).  The College of Computing had its own press release which did mention Media Computation, but downplayed it.

Our Dean, Zvi Galil, sent out this wonderful note yesterday morning:

Hello everyone,

Today we will announce some GREAT news: Mark Guzdial and Barbara Ericson will be honored with the ACM Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award, the first time ACM has given this award to a pair rather a single individual. This national award enhances Georgia Tech’s position at the forefront of computing education.

You’re all well aware of the tremendous success of Georgia Computes! in drawing primary and secondary students from around the state into computing. Other states have emulated this program, but we’ve got both the original and the brains behind it. Earlier this year Mark & Barb shared in the 2011 Faculty Outstanding Service Award, so there’s no telling what they will win next.

Congratulations Mark & Barb! Excellent work.


It’s a lovely email, which also mentions our Institute Service Award (for our work in Georgia Computes! across the state).  It’s notable for our new Dean (started in June) to be highlighting education and service accomplishments — I believe it shows where his values lie.  It’s also interesting for saying nothing about Media Computation. Everything he’s saying is correct.  He’s just not mentioned why we got the award.  It’s emphasizing an angle on the story that highlights what is most visible for the College, and which emphasizes the role that Georgia Tech plays in the state.

If the award were for “Georgia Computes!” then there are many more players.  Barb and I are PI’s with Amy Bruckman.  Tom McKlin has been our external evaluator throughout, and as important evaluation is in these efforts, he’s almost been a co-PI (except that we need him to have his own agenda, his own company, and his own guaranteed funding stream, to give him his claim to being “external.”)  Wayne Summers at Columbus State is a co-PI on the extension, as we seek to deepen “Georgia Computes!” activities around the state.  Finally, from a broader ACM perspective, any story of the impact of “Georgia Computes!” would have to include Jan Cuny, our NSF program manager who funded the Alliance and whose vision for broadening participation has had a fundamental impact on every alliance.

Next, here’s the Atlanta-Journal Constitution piece in yesterday’s news, who got the College’s press release early:

We were really excited to see this one, since this is our hometown paper.  (Our daughter got a text yesterday, “Your Dad was in the paper!” She replied, “My Dad AND my Mom!”  “Really? Your Mom is Barb Ericson?”  Perhaps the reader missed the “husband-and-wife” part?)  This version has a lot of errors, but I suspect that the reporter was simplifying, rather than getting it wrong or misunderstanding.  In this version, we got the award for Georgia Computes, which is important for a Georgia paper.  ACM in this version is now making a national teaching award — which it isn’t, it’s international.  (Though I think too few of the Karlstrom awardees are from outside the United States –I know some truly outstanding educators that should be on that list from Europe, Israel, and Australasia.)  And Barbara is now a Professor.  I get that it’s hard for people to understand that there are Research Scientists who are at a University but aren’t Professors.  I suspect that the reporter is spelling out an easier-to-understand story.

The President of Georgia Tech wrote us a great congratulatory note (first time we’ve ever received email from him), addressed to “Professor Ericson and Professor Guzdial.”  (I think that means Barb has a new title!)  He phrased his note like Zvi’s, congratulating us on the accomplishments “especially Georgia Computes!”  It’s clear that he got his version of the story from both the AJC article and Zvi’s note.

Both Barb and I are thrilled by the recognition and the award!  Stepping back to look at this as a researcher and an educator, it’s interesting to see who tells what stories, and how the story gets changed, and why (at least, to guess why).

Entry filed under: Uncategorized. Tags: , .

Guzdial and Ericson win ACM Karlstrom Award Girls-only computer class hits refresh on IT’s geeky-male image – The Globe and Mail

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bijan Parsia  |  April 7, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Woohoo! Congrats to you both! Well deserved.

  • 2. Janet Kolodner  |  April 9, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    Very nice!! Congratulations.


  • 3. Mark Guzdial  |  April 11, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    Thanks, Bijan and Janet!


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