SIGCSE 2024 Highlights

I’ve been back in Portland, OR this past week at SIGCSE 2024 (“back” after attempting to have SIGCSE 2020 here and getting sent home before the main symposium began).

For our fifth year running (including in March 2020!) the Committee on Computing Education in Liberal Arts Education held our pre-symposium event “Innovations and Opportunities in Liberal Arts Computing Education” on Wednesday, with 41 people attending across the full day. I love the attendees we get at this event and the community that has built up around the committee – the conversation after all of the presentations and during our discussion tables was excellent. Mark your calendars for February 26, 2025 for our sixth annual event!

A major theme that cropped up across the day was the variety of places computing is being taught in our institutions and our departments’ role/responsibility in coordinating or directing that work. There are some good examples of liberal arts schools aggregating these efforts into interesting curricular packages such as interdisciplinary minors (we had a presentation on Quinnipiac’s new Artificial Intelligence minor as one specific example). There is some interesting disagreement about the extent to which a CS program should “own” computing at an institution, and I’m thinking this could be a fun panel for next year if we can identify faculty with a good range of perspectives. This theme also came up again Thursday at the panel on “Re-making CS Departments for Generation CS” where there was also some suggestion that smaller, liberal arts programs may be better placed to come up with creative answers to this question.

I’ve also been entertained by how many times I’ve heard some variation of “here’s what we wanted to do, and here’s what institutional politics allowed us to do”. In the second half of the conference, some of this resolved into “here’s what we would do with math, and here’s what our political situation with the math department lets us do”. I left with a lot of gratitude for the very good relationship we have with our math colleagues.

With the newest ACM/IEEE standards for CS curricula now finalized as CS2023, there was also good interest in the Workbook for designing distinctive liberal arts CS curricula while using CS2023 that I’ve been working on with several of my colleagues from the Committee. Having delivered a seven-hour workshop on its content the previous week and then a three-hour workshop on it at SIGCSE, I think we’ve got a really good session designed for introducing people to the philosophy of the workbook and the major steps. The process is really designed to be carried out by a department, but everyone seems to understand why that will be valuable and I’m optimistic we’ll be seeing some adoption beyond just our limited pilots within the author group. It’s helpful that CS2023 supports the message that departments need to know their individual mission and goals as a first step in curriculum revision, and it seems like our structured process is helpful in digging into that question and relating it to specific curricular choices.

It’s also clear that more Committee guidance about the fairly large and less flexible CS Core will be helpful to the liberal arts community and other smaller schools. I had some good initial conversations in Portland and am pretty sure this will be taking up a good portion of my time this summer.

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