Computing Profession

SIGCSE Day 2 Highlights

The logo of SIGCSE 2015.
The logo of SIGCSE 2015.

The second full day of SIGCSE 2015 kicked off with a welcome from Program Chairs Jodi Timms (Baldwin Wallace University) and Carl Alphonce (University of Buffalo), who announced that SIGCSE 2016 will ­be held March 2-5, 2016 in Memphis, TN. The theme for next year is Engage, Energize, Empower! They also presented the Best Paper award to authors Latulipe, Long, and Seminario from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Mark Allen Weiss was presented the 2015 SIGCSE Outstanding Contribution to Computer Science Education Award. He then delivered a very entertaining keynote on Data Structures Courses: Past, Present, and Future. It began with a look back at the keynote given by the first recipient of the Outstanding Contribution to Computer Science Education Award in 1981, William Atchinson, which included such insights as "computer science education is the in thing" and that departments were struggling with budget and enrollment issues. This led to the first of 10 lessons learned: the more things change, the more they stay the same. This included the fact that there have been several keynotes, including the first and the current that included the theme of "Past, Present, and Future." Another lesson learned by Weiss: figure out the talk before writing the abstract. Hence the real title of the talk became "Random Thoughts on CS Education Issues from Personal Experiences." Other lessons included: you can sit in the back and still get involved; you have to play the cards you're dealt, and the difference between a good lecture and a great lecture is 10 minutes. The audience greatly appreciated the light-heartedness of the talk.

The rest of the day was filled with talks, panels, and special sessions. Overheard today was this telling quote: "SIGCSE is a community of practice where we share knowledge. The paper presentations are what's important today, but the hallway conversations are what's the next big thing."

The hot topics at this year's symposium have to be flipped classrooms, Advanced Placement (AP) CS Principles, Security, and Big Data. Almost every time-block has at least one presentation on one (if not more) of these topics. The Flipped Classroom panel on Thursday had approximately 150 people attending; it was standing room only. Because AP CS Principles is to be "live" next year, many educators are trying to learn what has happened in the pilots and how student learning will be assessed on the new AP exam. Also, because AP CS Principles contains a Big Data component as well as the growth of Data Science, Big Data — what to do with it, how to teach it — is a popular topic. And everyone wants to know how to incorporate teaching students about security throughout their curriculum.

SIGCSE is a thriving, dedicated community of educators who enjoy renewing friendships each year. When asked why someone should attend SIGCSE, one of the most frequently stated reasons is for the social aspect: reconnecting with friends. Learning about what others are doing in their classrooms, the latest tools created to help educators, or research into teaching a specific content topic or classroom management re-energizes you to finish out the semester. Everyone leaves with at least one "nugget" to use in their own classroom. Interacting with high school teachers, researchers, and industry sponsors provides the unique experience that is SIGCSE.

Up tomorrow: The final day, which includes Nifty Assignments.

Briana B. Morrison is assistant professor of software engineering at Southern Polytechnic State University, and publicity/social media chair of SIGCSE 2015.

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