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Education letter

Computing Education Matters


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The student enrollment crisis in computer science has propelled the need to re-examine all aspects of computing education on a global scale. This disturbing drop has occurred at a time when there is a strong need to recruit more participants into the field and to engender an interest both in the discipline itself and in related innovation. For those of us in education, this downslide has been of great concern. Daunting challenges such as "transforming computing education" and "rebooting computing" (see story on page 19) are high on the agenda. ACM's Education Board and Education Council, charged with promoting computer science education in every possible way, have made enrollment a key focus of attention.

For background, the Education Board has existed within ACM for over three decades. Over the years, the Board has initiated important education activities regarding computer science curriculum developments as well as provided support and encouragement for projects such as Eric Roberts's noted work on the Java Task Force,5 Peter Denning's work on Great Principles,3 and Lillian Cassel's work on ontology.2

Over the last four years, the Board's activities were restructured and the ACM Education Council was born to bring together the educational and accreditation activities existing throughout ACM's various committees, task forces, and special interest groups. Part of the strategy for revamping the Education Board and the Education Council was to include greater industry representation. Due to this realignment, the work of the Education Board itself was reshaped with considerable emphasis on managing the work of the Education Council.

The Education Council meets about every eight months to keep members abreast of the educational concerns from industry, high-school teachers, as well as those involved in K12 education. The Education Council also keeps track of the activities of professional bodies such as the National Science Foundation and NCWIT. Moreover, a vital role for the Education Council is to adopt an international perspective in identifying the concerns in computing education and to respond by undertaking activities that will ideally have a positive impact.

Some of the recent accomplishments of the Education Board and the Education Council include:

  • The completion of a major undertaking in curriculum guidance in the form of the five volumes of CC2001: namely in Computer Science (2001 with an update in 2008); Information Systems (2002); Software Engineering (2004); Computer Engineering (2004); and Information Technology (2009). The board also finalized an Overview Report (2006) on this project (see ACM Educational Activities1).
  • Producing and distributing approximately one million copies of a brochure promoting the many positive images of computing to middle- and high-school students.4 The brochure and accompanying Web site were designed, with support from the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), to increase the visibility of computer science in an encouraging way to a young audience.
  • Supporting ACM's Journal of Educational Resources in Computing (JERIC) as it transformed into Transactions on Computing Education, with a first issue due this month.
  • Creating a comprehensive chart of all the educational activities and initiatives within ACM and making it widely available.
  • Supporting an initial computing education summit in China as well as a number of European conferences under the auspices of Informatics Education Europe.

Together, ACM's Education Board and Education Council have established an effective pattern of activities and accomplishments among their many programs and initiatives. Their primary activities of curricular guidance will continue and even expand. Working closely with CSTA and K12 is vital to move educational initiatives in the upward direction. Above all, the Education Board must continue to ensure there is an international perspective and a leadership dimension to its activities. All of these programs and more will be summarized twice a year in inroads, the quarterly publication from ACM's special interest group on computer science education (SIGCSE).

While successes have been many, there are still many challenges ahead for the education community. Projects and initiatives designed to reverse declining enrollment in computing disciplines must proliferate and prevail if we are to succeed in stemming the enrollment downturn. One potential catalyst for the cause will be the adoption of new technological developments (for example, involving multi-core processors, IBM's racetrack memory, and vastly enhanced levels of interconnectivity) that are poised to transform the computing community and those drawn to it. As always, ACM will be at the forefront continually revitalizing its Education Board and the Education Council and seeking new and inspiring ways to address the challenges of the day.

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References

1. ACM Educational Activities; www.acm.org/education.

2. Cassel, L. Computing Ontology; http://what.csc.villanova.edu/twiki/bin/view/Main/OntologyProject.

3. Denning, P.J. great Principles; cs.gmu.edu/pjd/gP.

4. Education Board and CSTA; computingcareers.acm.org.

5. Roberts, E. Java Task Force; jtf.acm.org.

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Author

Andrew McGettrick (andrew.mcgettrick@cis.strath.ac.uk) is a professor of computer science at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland, and chair of ACM's Education Board and Education Council.

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Footnotes

DOI: http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1498765.1498767


©2009 ACM  0001-0782/09/0400  $5.00

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