The 43rd ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education.
The sparsity of posts this week was because I was attending SIGCSE 2012. I love this symposium; attending it is one of the real joys of each year. I thought I might share a few observations.
There are two main professional organizations for Computer Science: the IEEE Computer Society and the ACM. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer Society is somewhat general in its scope. The Association for Computing Machinery Despite the use of “Machinery” in its name, the ACM is mostly focused on software, theory, and computer science; hardware, system administration, and other surrounding fields are more the domain of the Computer Society. is much more focused, with active sub-communities called Special Interest Groups (SIGs) built around many areas within computing.
The ACM Special Interest Group of Computer Science Education (SIGCSE, generally pronounced “sig see”) is mostly composed of high school and college computing teachers. Each year SIGCSE sponsors three conferences, the largest of which is the symposium I attended this week.
SIGCSE is a four-day-long collection of paper presentations, panels, and workshops. When I first attended I assumed it would be like other conferences I had attended, a way of getting a technical paper to pad the curriculum vitae and a grant-covered trip to hang out with friends and build networks in the bargin. Instead I found a richly collaborative environment with presenters in the distinct minority. The entire program is designed to be helpful: talks are long enough to share more than mere summaries with ample time for questions, unscheduled time is frequent enough to build connections and share more than contact information, etc.
I go to SIGCSE to present my work, but if a SIGCSE arises where I have no work to present I would still go. In addition to learning too many interesting ideas to internalize, there is a feeling of energy and vigor throughout the meeting. Everyone there not only knows we have far to few computer-proficient people They also all know that being able to use a few pre-packaged programs is woefully inadequate. Everyone should be able to program. Many should understand basic computer science as well. ; they have also devoted much of their time, passion, and energy to fixing that. It is impossible to describe the palpable positive emotional energy that comes from bringing together a thousand people accustomed to standing alone against a tide of opposition. I feel like I could ride the energy of that meeting through a solid year to negativity and setbacks without losing hope.
I had started to write a summary of a few of the intellectual discoveries I made during the symposium, but I realize they are too many to put in depth in this post and too interesting to deserve a less detailed mention. Thus, I’ve added them to my ever-growing list of topics to address at a later time.