Archive for November 21, 2012

CS2013 Ironman Draft Available

We are happy to announce the availability of the ACM/IEEE-CS Computer Science Curricula 2013 – Ironman v0.8 draft. The draft is available at the CS2013 website ( or directly at:

The Ironman v0.8 draft contains the complete CS2013 Body of Knowledge, fully revised based on comments from the previously released CS2013 Strawman draft. We are now calling on the computing community to submit exemplars of courses and curricula to better connect the CS2013 Body of Knowledge to real, existing approaches representing diverse and innovative ways to teach computer science.

The CS2013 Curriculum Steering Committee is seeking exemplars of courses and curricula from the broader community. This open process will better connect the CS2013 Body of Knowledge to real, existing approaches representing diverse and innovative ways to teach computer science. In computer-science terms, the topics and learning outcomes in the Body of Knowledge represent a “specification”, whereas a curriculum is an “implementation” and a course is part of a curriculum. The CS2013 Ironman v1.0 draft (the penultimate CS2013 draft) will be released in early 2013, containing an initial set of such course/curriculum exemplars.

Including exemplars as part of the CS2013 effort is a new idea not present in previous versions of the ACM/IEEE-CS Computer Science Curriculum guidelines. The steering committee believes they will provide greater value than stylized model courses that do not directly describe actual experience. Submitting an exemplar is your opportunity to present a successful approach to teaching computer science in a way that will prove useful to educators working to adopt the CS2013 guidelines.

Information on how to contribute course/curriculum exemplars is available at the CS2013 website ( or directly at:

A special session, entitled “CS 2013: Exemplar-Fest,” will be held at SIGCSE-13. This session will showcase submitted samples of CS2013 course/curriculum exemplars and provide the opportunity to engage the community in the development of additional course/curricular exemplars for CS2013. Exemplars submitted prior to December 5th can be considered for potential inclusion in this special session. The special session will be held on Friday, March 8, 2013 from 10:45am to 12:00pm.

We welcome additional comments on the CS2013 Ironman draft from the computing community. Information on how to comment on the draft is available at the CS2013 website. Comments on the Ironman draft will be addressed in the final released version of CS2013.

Warm regards,
Mehran Sahami and Steve Roach
Co-Chairs, CS2013 Steering Committee

CS2013 Steering Committee

ACM Delegation
Mehran Sahami, Chair (Stanford University)
Andrea Danyluk (Williams College)
Sally Fincher (University of Kent)
Kathleen Fisher (Tufts University)
Dan Grossman (University of Washington)
Beth Hawthorne (Union County College)
Randy Katz (UC Berkeley)
Rich LeBlanc (Seattle University)
Dave Reed (Creighton University)

IEEE-CS Delegation
Steve Roach, Chair (Univ. of Texas, El Paso)
Ernesto Cuadros-Vargas (Univ. Catolica San Pablo, Peru)
Ronald Dodge (US Military Academy)
Robert France (Colorado State University)
Amruth Kumar (Ramapo Coll. of New Jersey)
Brian Robinson (ABB Corporation)
Remzi Seker (Univ. of Arkansas, Little Rock)
Alfred Thompson (Microsoft)

November 21, 2012 at 10:18 am 2 comments

Motivating learning: Is it ever about the badges?

I’m with “Gas Stations without Pumps” in his take on the NYTimes article cited below.  Does anyone have any evidence that anyone does anything because of badges?  I understand badges as a kind of mini-certification, and unlike “Gas Stations,” I do believe that companies may find valuable having certification about smaller-than-degree skills.  We do know that companies are more carefully tuning their job searches these days, and badges may serve as verified skills tags to make it easier to do these searches.  However, I would be interested to see some evidence that people really do the activities that earn them those badges because of the badges.  I think people answer questions on Stack Overflow because they like to do it, and the badges are a certification of that.  I can’t imagine someone studying algebra or US history just to get a badge in those subjects.

In my Prototyping class, we just read the Luis von Ahn and Laura Dabbish paper on the ESPgame.  This was the game that they created where randomly-selected pairs of players are asked to “think like the other person” to come up with text labels to match what the other person writes, when both view a randomly-selected image from the Web.  It was a popular, fun game that resulted in effective labels for thousands of images on the Web.  The sentence that caught my attention was, “However, we put greater emphasis on our method being fun because of the scale of the problem that we want to solve.”  First, they never define “fun” or why the game is fun (maybe ala Malone and Lepper), but I was more taken with the notion that we use “fun” to deal with “scale.”

Fun isn’t the only way to solve problems at scale. It’s not even clear how far fun works for large-scale problems. Millions of people get fed every day on the relatively-agriculturally-barren island of Manhattan because of Adam Smith’s iron hand of capitalism, but not because it’s fun to bring food into Manhattan.  Pay works to scale solutions.  As a parent, I perform a useful purpose to our society, helping to raise the next generation of workers and citizens.  It’s not always fun, and it costs me lots of money. The rewards of being a parent are different than fun or pay, and it scales to millions of people.

People learn things for all kinds of reasons, including certification, fun, and for economic benefit (e.g., a good job).  I still remember (over 25 years since the last time that I used this knowledge) that hex A9 is “Load A immediate, LDA #” for the 6502 microprocessor, and decimal 32 (hex 20) is “Jump to subroutine, JSR.”  I have also programmed (at the machine and assembler level) the 8800, Z-80, and 6800 microprocessors, and the LSI-11 and IBM 360, too.  Why do I still remember the 6502?  Because I owned one.  Learning assembler languages was always fascinating for me, but I particularly wanted to learn the processor that I owned.  Feeling ownership of some knowledge encourages learning it.  I didn’t learn the 6502 so well because I could get points for it, nor certification, nor economic benefit.  I wanted to own that knowledge.

Bottomline: Motivation is key to learning, and we know a variety of ways to motivate students.  I don’t believe that badges do it in an effective way.

Badges are gaining currency at the same time that a growing number of elite universities have begun offering free or low-cost, noncredit courses to anyone with access to the Internet and a desire to learn. Millions of students have already signed up for massive open online courses, or MOOCs. By developing information-age credentials backed by a wide array of organizations outside the education system, creators of badge programs may be mounting the first serious competition to traditional degrees since college-going became the norm.

via Show Me Your Badge –

November 21, 2012 at 8:42 am 11 comments

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