"Making Contact" is the theme of SIGCSE 2010 (aka the 41st Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education) which takes place at the Midwest Airlines Center in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from March 10 to March 13.
The theme resonated agreeably with me upon my arrival at the Midwest Airlines Center on the afternoon of March 10. Within a minute of entering the convention center, I met Microsoft’s Alfred Thompson for the first time. I’d never met Alfred face to face, but felt as though I "knew" him as I’ve followed him on Twitter for the last several months (when it comes to tweeting, he’s a very active and, alas, charming) and exchanged a handful of pleasant emails with him last year when I added his CS education blog, Computer Science Teacher—Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson, to the Communications of the ACM blogroll.
More than 1,100 persons are attending SIGCSE 2010, so plenty of contacts will be made. Today isn’t the first full day of the conference—for that we’ll have to wait for tomorrow—but there’s already lots of attendees milling around on-site, and the overall feeling—plenty of animated conversations, pleasant smiles, and budding activity—bodes well for the next several days.
For me, a CS conference is only as good as its selection of keynote speeches, and SIGCSE 2010 offers a formidable cast of keynotes, including a Nobel Prize winner.
Sally Fincher of Kent University will present the March 11 keynote on "Useful Sharing." She promises to "explore some of the ways educators share details of their practice and of how they find out 'what works' from others. This exploration will also examine some barriers and inhibitors to successful exchange and some thoughts on the importance of representations of practice; this is how we represent our teaching to ourselves, to each other and for posterity."
Carl Wieman, who won the Nobel Prize for physics in 2001, will present the March 12 keynote address. His theme is "Science Education for the 21st Century: Using the Insights of Science to Teach/Learn Science." Wieman will talk about "the failures of traditional educational practices, even as used by 'very good' teachers, and the successes of some new practices and technology that characterize this more effective approach, and how these results are highly consistent with findings from cognitive science."
I didn’t know very much about Wieman until earlier this week when I started doing research in advance of the conference, but Wieman’s a very interesting, different type of individual. For a first-person account of his childhood in rural Oregon and his challenging path to success in academia, you should read this autobiographical entry.
Lastly, Michael Wrinn of Intel will present the March 13 keynote, which is titled "Suddenly, All Computing is Parallel: Seizing Opportunity Amid the Clamour." (Is it just me or does this sound like the title of an avant-garde play?) Wrinn will talk about how models of parallel computing are evolving and a number of approaches that have been tried in academia and industry. He’ll examine some of the academia/industry collaborations underway and discuss industrial best practices, academic pertinence, and the pace of adoption for parallel education.
While technically not a keynote speech, Peter Denning of the Naval Postgraduate School will present a special guest speech at a first timer’s lunch on March 11. His theme: "What is computation?"
Ahh, I can’t wait for tomorrow’s activities.
Jack Rosenberger is senior editor, news, of Communications of the ACM.