Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Social Computing Abounds at ACM Education Council Mtg.

It seemed that social issues in computing were popping up all over the place in the ACM Education Council meeting (see the last post for a first pass at sharing some of the meeting). This is no doubt a reflection of the tumultuous issues for computing education in general. Here are some additional, not-comprehensive, unusual items that jumped out at me during the meeting (which ended yesterday).

K-12 education is in the spotlight. It permeated many many of our discussions. If this is all new to you, here is something for you: check out these 2 contrasting spots recently aired by the PBS News Hour in the US - in the first spot, the Gates Foundation's latest push for more formalized teacher assessment, and in the second spot former Deputy Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch spoke about why she has changed her position on teacher accountability. Here is the surprise for me: I was told in a side conversation that the Gates Foundation does not address, nor have an interest in addressing, the issue of computing education in K-12.  

Why would Bill and Melinda Gates not be interested in supporting computing education in K-12? Puzzling, if true.

On the other hand, we learned more about recent exposure for the Computer Science Education Act, which is bringing much needed attention to computing in K-12. Go Team!

In the "arg!" department, someone suggested that undergraduate education is becoming commoditized and that the university brand is moving to graduate education. Once you start thinking about that notion, the implications are unpleasant (what would the term "college" mean?). This also gets back to the contentious question about whether or not students are "clients" (what is the purpose and function of a college instructor?).

Another view from a participant, heard while traveling on the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) was that online skills development is "education", and "training" is...well, I got lost at this point and couldn't quite figure out what my colleague was driving at.  I told you in the last post that there was difference of opinion as to the definition of "education" vs. "training"! Also heard on the BART: the purpose of undergraduate education should be skills development and any breadth acquired is secondary. There wasn't time to sort all this out, because shortly thereafter I had to hop off at my airport terminal (which turned out to be the wrong terminal, but that's another story).

How about some uplifting, if still somewhat controversial, ideas that came my way?

Social and professional issues (SPI) are becoming central to conversations of computing curricula. This is fantastic. I was in a subgroup discussing the Information Assurance and Security part of the Strawman Draft of CS2013 and the conversation about SPI inclusion was not whether it should be there or not (as in years past) nor whether SPI should be taught outside of computing departments (as in years past) but to what extent SPI curricular guidelines should be a separate section of  CS2013 cross referenced by IAS, vs. an included part of IAS.

(FYI, in case you haven't reviewed the Strawman Draft, there is an SPI section, and there are also inclusions of SPI items in the other content sections)

If you have an opinion on this or other computing curricular issues, the CS2013 Strawman Draft open comment period is open for a short while longer.

Finally, I learned something pretty cool. Guess what the iTiCSE best paper award went to last year? The recipient was "Beyond Good and Evil Impacts: Rethinking the Social Issues Components in Our Computing Curricula" by Randy Connolly. If you have access to the ACM Digital Library I highly recommend you read this paper. It is meaty, thought provoking, and extremely well written.

This is all great progress! Social and professional issues are becoming mainstream curricular conversation.

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