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The 2022 SIGCSE Technical Symposium (#1185)

Topics/tags: Academia, disjoint

This past week, I attended the 2022 ACM SIGCSE Technical Symposium in Computer Science Education. Or is that redundant? After all, SIGCSE stands for Special Interest Group in Computer Science Education [1]. Anyway, the SIGCSE TS is a large, annual conference on CS education, traditionally one of the best venues for hearing and presenting research in CS ed. Two years ago, I was at a hotel in Portland [3], waiting to attend the first day of the 2020 Technical Symposium when the Governor shut down the state [4]. The 2021 TS was online. But the 2022 TS was back in person. Well, it was hybrid, but you could be there in person.

Wow. That was too much intro. It’s probably a bad sign. But I want to get things down before I forget, so I’ll be editing less than normal [5]. As the tags suggest, this musing will be disjoint.

In short: I got to attend a conference. I got to attend a conference in person. It was freakin’ awesome. There was so much I appreciated about the conference. It was wonderful to see old friends and to make a few new ones; SIGCSE is my professional community and there are many people I know and care about who attend. (It’s also nice to know that many of them care about me, too.)

The program was also wonderful. A few years ago, I was feeling a bit burned out on the SIGCSE TS. But I found myself once again excited to attend sessions and to learn new things. It helped that the keynotes were spectacular. On the first day, we had Dr. Barbara Liskov, who invented many key aspects of modern programming languages. Liskov spoke about the role of history. I was sad that she was a remote speaker, but it was also great to see her speak from her kitchen. On the second day, we had Dr. Barbara Ericson, who has made a huge difference in K-12 CS education and in diversifying the field. Just listening to her made me want to start new projects. And on day three, we had Dr. Shaundra B. Daily, who helped us think about other issues of diversity and inclusion in computing.

I managed to make it to a variety of sessions on ways we help CS majors develop a sense of responsible computing and how we assess whether they have developed that sense. The sessions included a pre-conference meeting, a birds-of-a-feather conversation, and a panel on responsible computing and computing for social good in CS2 (aka Data Structures and Algorithms) [6]. I learned a lot from multiple conversations with Kathi Fisler of Brown [7]. I particularly appreciated Kathi’s comment that We need to have majors who do a risks analysis as naturally as they do a runtime analysis [8]. I also made it to a pre-conference session on accessibility where I got to chat with the legendary Amy Ko.

At the post-conference dinner, someone asked me what the best part of the conference was and what the worst part was. Seeing people was definitely the best part. The keynotes were a close second. Having lots of people applaud my question at the third keynote was also nice [9]. I struggled more to think of things I didn’t like. I eventually came up with two. There was a lot of sound bleed between rooms, which I struggle with because of my hearing issues. Because some talks were hybrid, slides were smaller than normal (the screen also showed camera feeds), which made them hard to read. But those were comparatively minor. And the sound bleed is inevitable at most conference venues.

What else? There was so much, it’s hard to remember it all. Here are the notes I put together for my departmental colleagues. Some are directly about the program. Others are more indirectly about the program.

  • As I’ve said before, I think we need to revise our goals for our graduates. That was re-emphasized at the conference when we were asked to look at our program goals and how they addressed ethics and responsible computing. Our current statement does not include such goals (except for nonmajors) and should.

  • Kathi Fisler has some nice stuff about incorporating social responsibility in CS2. The material is available at The Social Threat Modeling section there has an instrument that some of us would find useful.

  • The CS2022 [10] draft material is at It seems like things are in rapid transition. In the big discussion, there was a lot of push for a smaller core. And it sounds like the leaders agreed.

  • As I mentioned, I was happy to see desirable professional dispositions in the new CS2022 material. And I was happier to hear someone as data oriented as a Google data engineer (the one in charge of the Software Design Knowledge Unit) suggest that there are important things we want our students to achieve that we nonetheless should not asses [12].

  • Beyond social responsibility across the curriculum (and how we assess it), I was most inspired to think about the role of Parsons Problems (Barbara Erickson’s keynote inspired that) and about more ways to do interactive stuff online. (Barb’s talk also encouraged me to look at Runestone for that.)

  • Barbara Liskov’s talk inspired me to think more about the role of history in the CS curriculum.

  • I talked to the GitHub folks about how we can achieve pseudonymous use of GitHub [14].

  • I had a nice talk with the folks from Ed (yet another discussion forum, this one with integrated code evaluation and some nice templating). David Malan also recommended it in a technology we can’t live without talk. I plan to look at it more.

  • I attended a session about the Google Tech Writing courses. They have a forthcoming course on writing for accessibility which seems interesting. I also liked that they reinforce think about your audience. I’ll be looking forward to ways to use those materials.

Amazingly, that only scratches the surface. I talked to colleagues at other institutions about a possible joint research project. I found myself inspired to move forward on some others. I reflected on how I can contribute to CS2022 (and was asked whether I would contribute). I thought a lot about how to teach better. I also built a large list of things to read, do, reflect on, and more.

Still, the best part was being able to be in person with this amazing community.

I am so very thankful to the Symposium co-chairs, Maureen Doyle and Larry Merkle, to the Program co-chairs, Brian Dorn, Judithe Sheard, and Leen-Kiat Soh, and to the hybrid chair, Kristin Stephens-Martinez, and to everyone else involved in putting on such a wonderful conference in such complicated times.

I’m also thankful to the sponsors, who help keep the conference affordable and who provide technologies and texts [15] that we rely on. (I also like the swag that I get to share with my students, assistants, and family.)

I look forward to SIGCSE TS 2023 in Toronto and SIGCSE TS 2024 back in Portland!

Postscript: I’m sure that Kristin Stephens-Martinez and Mark Guzdial, among others, will have much better summaries of the conference in their ’blogs or other reporting.

Postscript: I also appreciate that the TS was in Providence, RI, which meant that I got to see Eldest Son and one of my best friends from college.

[1] And for those who are confused by the latecomer with the same initials, ACM stands for Association for Computing Machinery [2].

[2] The ACM permits humans, too.

[3] Oregon.

[4] I had also hoped to catch a ’Blazers game, since the arena was only two blocks from the hotel. That was a fail, too. If I recall correctly, the ’Blazers were one of the first teams to have a player infected.

[5] Yes, I realize that’s hard to envision.

[6] Grinnell’s version of CS2 was once CSC-152 and is now CSC-207. Like many institutions, we’ve added a CS1.5 (CSC-161).

[7] Among other things, Kathi is a driving force in the Bootstrap project, which is doing amazing things at getting computational thinking into the K-12 curriculum.

[8] Paraphrased.

[9] I asked one of my common questions.

Most companies, even companies that claim to be committed to equity, expect to see students who spend significant time on computing outside their normal class work. But I have students who need to work twenty or more hours per week and don’t have time for extracurricular computing projects. How do we get these companies to understand that their criteria promote inequity?

The question was particularly relevant because Dr. Daily noted that one of her graduate professors told her that she should not have any interests outside of engineering.

[10] CS2022 is the once-a-decade effort to put together curricular recommendations for computer science programs. It is sponsored by the ACM, the IEEE, and AAAI. I’ll let you guess what the acronyms mean. Grinnell was one of only a few exemplars listed in the 2013 version [11].

[11] Gathering and writing information on our program and getting it into a usable form (as well as designing that usable form) took a significant amount of Henry Walker’s and my time one summer, and also involved a lot of contributions by our department colleagues.

[12] Long-time readers know that I worry that assessment steers us to easily measurable outcomes, rather than more important outcomes that are difficult or expensive to measure.

[14] ITS has said that we can only use GitHub in our classes if we provide students with accounts that obscure their identity. The problems are (a) faculty can’t create GitHub accounts for students and (b) the GitHub terms of service indicate that one should not create multiple accounts for themselves. Fortunately, Grinnell’s FERPA officer helped me work out an intermediate solution.

[15] It was nice to see the new CLRS. But it was sad to see that Tom and company have not renamed The Master Theorem.

Version 1.0 of 2022-03-07.