Friday, August 24, 2012

Professional Communication & Sustainability in the CS Curriculum?

You still have a few weeks left to comment on the Computer Science Curricula 2013 (CS2013) Strawman Draft (which can be found here). If you haven't looked at it yet and have any interest in providing input on the next stage of joint ACM/IEEE curricular recommendations now is the time. Sure, there will be another version (Ironman Draft) to comment on, but things are in their most formative stage right now and there are interesting items in the Social and Professional Practice Knowledge Area.

Technical Communication Snafu
Some of what you will find in this section include Professional Ethics, Intellectual Property, Privacy and Civil Liberties. Also included are two of my favorites, and not because some people have surprisingly strong opinions on them: Professional Communication (p. 169) and Sustainability (p. 170).

Professional Communication has to do with, well, you might guess: writing, making presentations, human to human interaction, and collaboration (for starters). Critical soft skills that employers often say are so important. In my former role as a faculty member and in my current participation on the ACM Education Council I have heard this need brought up so many times; it seems as if no one could possibly dispute the importance of including communication skills in curricular guidelines for any computing program. Nevertheless, the issue is more complex than at first seems because some people believe these particular skills do not belong in the computing curriculum at all; some people believe they should be taught outside computing departments; some people think they should be required and some people think they should be optional.

Sustainability. Oh la la (I still have one foot in France). When I was part of the ITiCSE 2008 Working Group on Sustainability and Computing, I learned firsthand how controversial this topic can be. The strength of the flames from some of my colleagues in computing education was enough to stand my hair on end as if I had sprayed it with tight-hold super gel. One anonymous survey respondent talked about not wanting to have sustainability shoved down his throat. With multiple exclamation points (!!!!!) and underlines. On the other hand, there were colleagues who practically hugged the working group members for "finally" bringing this topic into a serious discussion forum. Thank you, thank you, some said, for encouraging us to think about the environmental effects of our professional work.

Do you have an opinion about Professional Communication or Sustainability in the computer science curriculum? Yes, no, not sure... You have until September 15 to submit comments on any aspect of the Strawman Draft. If you have been meaning to do so and haven't, now is the time.

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