Posts tagged ‘computational media’

We can teach women to code, but that just creates another problem: Why Computational Media is so female

I suspect that the problem described in this Guardian article is exactly what’s happening with our Computational Media degree program.  The BS in CM at Georgia Tech is now 47% female, while the BS in CS is only 20% female.  CM may be perceived as front-end and CS as back-end.

But here’s the problem: the technology industry enforces a distinct gender hierarchy between front-end and back-end development. Women are typecast as front-end developers, while men work on the back end – where they generally earn significantly more money than their front-end counterparts. That’s not to say that women only work on the front end, or that men only work on the back end – far from it. But developers tell me that the stereotype is real.

The distinction between back and front wasn’t always so rigid. “In the earliest days, maybe for the first 10 years of the web, every developer had to be full-stack,” says Coraline Ada Ehmke, a Chicago-based developer who has worked on various parts of the technology stack since 1993. “There wasn’t specialization.”

Over time, however, web work professionalized. By the late 2000s, Ehmke says, the profession began to stratify, with developers who had computer science degrees (usually men) occupying the back-end roles, and self-taught coders and designers slotting into the front.

Source: We can teach women to code, but that just creates another problem | Technology | The Guardian

May 19, 2017 at 7:00 am 2 comments

Liberal arts colleges explore interdisciplinary pathways with CS: Great to see!

I’m excited by this initiative.  We need to see more CS + X kinds of programs.  Our Computational Media degree program has been a Computing + Digital Media program, and is wildly successful (see example post here).  The challenge is to engage faculty from across campus in the initiative.

Bates last September launched a similar project, called the Digital Course Design/Redesign Initiative, for faculty members interested in adding digital and computational tools or methods to existing courses. If it becomes popular among faculty members, the initiative could help realize Bates’s plans of having interdisciplinary pathways for its digital and computational studies majors. Auer, the Bates dean, acknowledged that building those pathways is “going to require deep consultation with the faculty” — as well as some new faculty members in other departments.

Source: Liberal arts colleges explore interdisciplinary pathways with computer science

April 4, 2016 at 7:58 am Leave a comment

Different is not Lite: A 2002 Argument Against Media Computation


I recently moved offices. In the process of packing and pitching, I found the above editorial from the Georgia Tech student newspaper.  Dated September 2002, it urged the faculty in the Liberal Arts, Architecture, and Management Colleges to reject the newfangled Media Computation class that was being proposed.

I had heard the argument being made in the editorial before, and continue to hear it today.  The argument is that we do our students a disservice if we don’t give them “real” computer science.  The editor cited above is arguing that all students at Georgia Tech deserve the same high-quality computer science education.  If we don’t give them the “real” thing, if liberal arts and management majors aren’t getting the same thing as CS majors, they are only getting “CS lite.”

That phrase “CS lite” gets applied to our BS in Computational Media regularly. (See the blog post where I talk about that.)  Which is funny, because all but one of the CS classes that CM majors take are the same ones that CS majors take.  Georgia Tech CS majors take many more credit hours than other majors (including CS majors at other institutions), and the CM major has enough CS courses to be ABET accredited as a computing program.  So, what’s “lite” about that?  Are other schools’ BS in CS programs “Georgia Tech CS lite” because they have fewer credit hours in CS?

Media Computation wasn’t lite. It was different.  MediaComp didn’t cover everything that the intro course for CS majors did.  But the course for CS majors didn’t cover everything that MediaComp did.  In fact, after a few years, the CS instructors complained that our CS majors didn’t know about RGB and how to implement photo effects (like how to negate an image, or how to generate grayscale from a color picture) — which non-CS majors did know!  Content on media got added to the CS majors classes.

Computational Media isn’t CS lite.  It’s CS different.  The one course that’s different between CS and CM is the required course on computer organization.  CS majors take a course based on Patt and Patel’s book.  CM majors take a course where they program a Nintendo Gameboy.  The courses are not exactly the same, but have a significant overlap.  We did a study of the two courses a few years ago and published a journal paper on it (see link here, and article is on my papers page). There was no significant difference in student learning between the two courses.  But the CM majors liked their course much more.  Now, there are projects on programming the Gameboy in the CS majors classes, too.

Different is good.  Different is where you invent new things.  Some of those new curricular ideas helped CS courses.  Some of those different ideas stayed in the CM and MediaComp courses. Those courses serve different populations and different needs. Not all of it was appropriate or useful for CS majors.

Just because there is difference doesn’t mean that it’s lite.  Do we call mechanical engineering “physics lite”?  Or chemical engineering “chemistry lite”?  I’m sure that there are people who do, but that’s disparaging to the difference and diminishes the value of exploring different combinations of subject areas.  Valuing different combinations with computing is a particularly important idea for computer science, because interdisciplinary computing degrees are the only ones where the percentage of women majors are growing (see RESPECT report here).  We should value interdisciplinary courses and programs because it’s good for our students and for diversity.  We should not disparage the CS + X perspectives as “CS lite.”

September 23, 2015 at 8:22 am 2 comments

EarSketch Workshop at SIGCSE 2015

I’m an advisor on the EarSketch project, and it’s really cool. Recommended.

Next month, the EarSketch team will be offering a workshop at SIGCSE in Kansas City. This is a great opportunity to learn more about EarSketch, get hands on experience with the curriculum and environment, and learn how to use EarSketch in your classroom. This year’s workshop will also offer advice on integrating EarSketch into Computer Science Principles courses, though the workshop is of relevance to anyone teaching an introductory computing course.

For more information about SIGCSE, visit
To register for the workshop, please visit
Please contact Jason Freeman ( with any questions.

Workshop #20: Computer Science Principles with EarSketch
Saturday, March 7th, 2015
3 pm – 6 pm

Jason Freeman, Georgia Institute of Technology
Brian Magerko, Georgia Institute of Technology
Regis Verdin, Georgia Institute of Technology

EarSketch ( is an integrated curriculum, software toolset, audio loop library, and social sharing site that teaches computing principles through digital music composition and remixing. Attendees will learn to code in Python and/or JavaScript to place audio clips, create rhythms, and add and control effects within a multi-track digital audio workstation (DAW) environment while learning computing concepts such as variables, iteration, conditionals, strings, lists, functions, and recursion. Participants write code to make music, with a focus on popular genres such as hip hop. The agenda outlines the pedagogy of connecting musical expression to computation to broaden participation and engagement in computing; the underlying concept of thickly authentic STEAM that drives this approach; the alignment of the curriculum and learning environment with CS Principles; and basic musical concepts underlying EarSketch. The intended audience for this workshop is secondary and early post secondary CS educators. The course is of particular relevance to CS Principles teachers but also applicable to any introductory programming or computing course. No prior musical knowledge or experience is expected and no prior programming experience with Python or JavaScript is required.

February 14, 2015 at 8:18 am 1 comment

Talk at Rutgers on Dec 9: Creative Expression to Motivate Interest in Computing

If you’re in the New Jersey area on Tuesday December 9:

Library & Information Science Department Guest Lecture, open to the Rutgers Community….

Dr. Mark Guzdial and Barbara Ericson

Scholarly Communication Center at Alexander Library (4th Floor lecture hall)

Tuesday, 12/9/2014, 12-1:30pm

Title: Creative Expression to Motivate Interest in Computing

Abstract:  Efforts in the US to promote learning about computer science and computational thinking emphasize the vocational benefits.  Research on end-user programming suggests that for every professional software developer in the United States, there are four more professionals who program as part of doing their job.  Efforts in other countries (UK, Denmark, New Zealand) instead emphasize the value of computing as a rigorous discipline providing insight into our world.  We offer a third motivation: computing as a powerful medium for creative expression.  We have used computational media to motivate children to study computing, to go beyond thinking about “geeks” in computing.  We use media computation to encourage teachers and introductory students at college. The approach draws in a different audience than we normally get in computer science The BS in Computational Media at Georgia Tech is the most gender-balanced, ABET-accredited undergraduate computing degree in the United States.  We use these examples to paint a picture of  using creative expression to motivate interest in computing.


  • Mark Guzdial is a Professor in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech. He is a learning scientist who focuses on computing education research. He invented the Media Computation approach to teaching introductory computing. He serves on the ACM’s Education Council, and is on the editorial boards of the “Journal of the Learning Sciences,” “ACM Transactions on Computing Education,” and “Communications of the ACM.” With his wife and colleague, Barbara Ericson, he received the 2010 ACM Karlstrom Outstanding Educator award.  He was also the recipient of the 2012 IEEE Computer Society Undergraduate Teaching Award.
  • Barbara Ericson is the Director of Computing Outreach and a Senior Research Scientist for the College of Computing at Georgia Tech.  She has worked at Georgia Tech to increase the quantity and quality of secondary computing teachers and the quantity and diversity of computing students since 2004. She is currently also pursuing a Human-Centered Computing PhD at Georgia Tech. She has co-authored four books on Media Computation.  She was the winner of the 2012 A. Richard Newton Educator Award.  She has served on the CSTA’s Board of Directors, the Advanced Placement Computer Science Development Committee, and the NCWIT executive committee for the K-12 Alliance.

December 3, 2014 at 8:11 am 4 comments

Computational media women are retained to graduation

After my post claiming that Georgia Tech’s Computational Media program is the most gender-balanced, ABET-accredited computing undergraduate degree program in the United States, I had several people ask, “But that’s enrollment. Do the women graduate? Do they stick with the program?” My sense was that they did, but I asked our College data person, Elijah Cameron, and he sent me the below. Last year, BS in Computational Media graduates were over 40% female. Pretty good.


October 24, 2014 at 8:31 am 1 comment

Pursuing universal computing literacy: Mozilla-as-Teacher, Everyone-as-Coder

Here’s another take on the “Computing for Everyone” theme that is near and dear to me. I’ve been exploring this idea in my talks and papers, here in the blog, and all starting from our Media Computation work.  This theme starts from a different question than CS: Principles, which is asking what should everyone learn about computing.  The Mozilla-as-teacher post is suggesting why everyone should learn “coding” (here, including HTML coding, vs. programming): to make the Web better.

It’s a reasonable answer, in the sense that universal literacy makes the world of letters better.  But how does it make it better?  For me, I’m still attracted to the innovation argument: we use code as a medium to say, share, and test ideas that we can’t in other media.  That communication, sharing, and debugging of ideas leads to more and better ideas, which results in innovation — new ideas, new extensions of those ideas, new implementations of those ideas.  That’s why it’s important to strive towards near-universal computing literacy, at least with respect to knowledge workers, which is why it’s important to require computing in college.

There are other arguments, too.  Another powerful reason for universal computing literacy is that it’s about knowing the world we live in. Why do we teach students the periodic table and the difference between meiosis and mitosis?  It’s mostly not because of job skills.  It’s because people live in a world where chemistry and biology matter.  Today, we all live in a world where computing matters.  Knowing about the inherent limitations of digital representations is more important to most people’s daily lives than knowing about meiosis and mitosis.

Now, if you buy all that: How do we get there?

This has been the premise behind much of what we have done with Mozilla Drumbeat: people who make stuff on the internet are better creators and better online citizens if they know at least a little bit about the web’s basic building blocks. Even if they only learn a little HTML, the web gets better.

via Mozilla as teacher « commonspace.

September 27, 2011 at 9:14 am 6 comments

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