Wednesday, February 27, 2013

SIGCSE - CS2013 Sustainability Preview

The SIGCSE conference is fast approaching - next week in fact. Everyone I know seems to be scrambling to prepare something for the conference. We will convene in Denver for several days of learning and sharing. For my part, I will be taking part in a panel about the new Social Issues and Professional Practice recommendations for the undergraduate computer science curriculum (CS2013).

My part on the panel will focus on ideas for integrating Sustainability into computing classes. The dynamic of the conversation has shifted in the past few years away from polarization about whether this is relevant or not to "how do I do it?". Herein lies the challenge, the opportunity and the excitingness (I know, not a word) of the whole thing.

What I intend to emphasize in my very short 10 minutes, is that it isn't that alien. We aren't talking about adding a whole lot of content to otherwise crammed classes. In fact, I hope to make the point that if you are already teaching computing, you have most of what you need to teach your students to be sustainable practitioners. There is a logical place for Sustainability in an algorithms class, an architecture class, an AI class, a software engineering class, a graphics class.

My sense is that one of the biggest stumbling blocks for computing faculty who feel unsure of  themselves in this arena is not realizing that this situation is in many ways little different than any other pedagogical challenge. Computing educators are always working to keep on top of the latest technical advances, the latest tips and tricks, the latest exciting contexts and applications. Our community is great at leaping with both feet into creative thinking about pedagogy. Sustainability may at first sound like something unlike what you already do - but this isn't really so.

My gut instinct tells me that Sustainability provides one of the most exciting opportunities for adding both breadth and depth to our programs that has come along in a long time. There are opportunities for demonstrating the relevance of our field to students who care about what they can do to make a difference. There are opportunities for teaching our students to naturally incorporate ethical thinking and behavior into their practice no matter what type of job they ultimately take. There are opportunities for making exciting linkages with colleagues in other fields which can do nothing but help our overall image and impact in and out of the academy.

How am I going to fit all this into 10 minutes? We'll see. Quite the challenge. Join me and my panel colleagues at SIGCSE and we can keep talking about it.

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