Posts tagged ‘computational media’

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 1 comment

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 Leave a 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 Leave a 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

What corporate recruiters ask about computing students: It’s situative not cognitive

I am now the Director of our Computational Media undergraduate program.  (I had the gig three years ago, and it’s circled back around on me.)  One of my jobs is to help answer the questions from the industrial recruiters, “What do your students know?”  Below are the questions that I just got from one of bigger, more well-known companies in this space.  Reminds me alot of the situative issues raised earlier in this blog.  They’re not asking what subjects or concepts, but what tools and in what contexts (e.g., Java for client vs. Java for server).

What experience will the students have with:

•       Engineering?    C, C++…

•       Mobile?   Objective C, iOS, Android…

•       Server?  Java, JBOSS, Jetty, Tomcat…

•       Networking?  MySQL/SQL/Database, TCP/IP, Unix, Linux, etc…

•       Web?  Java, C#, PHP, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Flash, ActionScript…

•       Tools?  C#…

•       Scripting?  Python, Ruby, Bash, Perl, etc…

September 8, 2011 at 9:55 am 4 comments

Call for Participation for C5 Conference

Do come to C5! You can skip my talk, since readers of this blog already know pretty much everything I’d have to say. I’m looking forward to the conference!

The 10th International Conference on Creating,
Connecting and Collaborating through Computing (C5 2012)

18-20 January 2012
Playa Vista, CA USA

Hosted by the USC Institute for Creative Technologies

Computers, networks, and other forms of technology are pervasive in our
information-based society. Unfortunately, most users of this technology use
it for passive consumption of information and entertainment. To evolve into a
true knowledge society it is critical that we transform computer-based human
activities to engage users in the active process of creating, connecting, and
collaborating together.

The C5 conference is for anyone interested in the use of computers as tools to
develop and enable user-oriented creation, connection, and collaboration
processes. Researchers, developers, educators and users come together at C5
to present new and ongoing work and to discuss future directions for creative
computing and multimedia environments. We welcome the submission of
theoretical and technical papers, practitioner/experience reports, and papers
that bridge the gap between theory and practice or that encourage inter- and
cross-disciplinary study.

=== Keynote Speakers ===

“Helping Everyone Create with Computing”
Dr. Mark Guzdial
Georgia Institute of Technology

“C2P3: Creating and Controlling Personalisation
and Privacy in Pervasive Digital Ecosystems”
Dr. Judy Kay
University of Sydney

=== Topics ===

C5 invites submissions of full papers in (but not limited to) the following

– Technology-enhanced human-computer and human-human interaction
and collaboration
– Virtual worlds and immersive environments
– Educational environments for classroom, field work and online/distance
– New technologies for literature, music and the visual arts
– Technologies for collaborative and self-empowered learning
– Multimedia authoring environments
– Gaming/entertainment platforms, virtual characters, and software
– Social networks and social networking
– Novel programming paradigms and languages for implementors
– Scripting or visual paradigms and languages for end-users
– Creating and maintaining online communities
– Tools for creating/managing online services/environments
– Distributed and collaborative working
– Social and cultural implications of new technologies

Papers should be submitted electronically in PDF format via EasyChair at:

Submissions must be written in English (the official language of the
conference) and must not exceed eight (8) pages. They should use the IEEE
10-point two-column format, templates for which are available at:

=== Proceedings ===

A preliminary version of the proceedings will be distributed during the
conference. The formal version of the proceedings will be published by the
Conference Publishing Services (CPS) and sent to authors after the conference.
For each accepted paper, at least one of the authors needs to attend the
conference and deliver the presentation; otherwise the paper will not be
included in the formal proceedings.

=== Dates ===

Submission of papers: October 7, 2011
Author notification: November 18, 2011
Camera-ready copy: December 16, 2011
Conference: January 18-20, 2012

May 19, 2011 at 8:34 am 1 comment

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