Computer science education for social good

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Conference Proceeding

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Computation and algorithmic thinking have become essential components for solving problems in many different fields. As such, computer scientists are intimately involved in finding solutions to some of the most pressing social, economic, and scientific problems of our day. Yet students' perception of computing reflects the longstanding myths and stereotypes perpetuated in popular media. One often cited study of STEM oriented high school students describes students' perception of the computing discipline(s) as boring, tedious and irrelevant[6, 12]. Though CS educators cannot change popular media, they do have an ideal opportunity to change student misconceptions in the introductory computing curriculum. An introductory curriculum can reinforce student held myths or work to dismantle them. Which does the typical curriculum do? Buckley, in a 2009 CACM Viewpoint column[1], complained that introductory computing students, based on the unscientific examination of the textbooks in his office, are seemingly obsessed with animals (e.g. counting ducks, separating cows from horses), games (e.g. Tetris, Checkers), and food (e.g. donut counting, lemonade stands). He concludes with empathy for the student exposed to such motivating examples who quits CS and goes on to study something important. This special session will present the work of the ITiCSE 2012 working group "A Framework for Enhancing the Social Good in Computing Education: A Values Approach." The working group's report[4] makes a case for the merits of Computer Science Education for Social Good (CSG-Ed) projects from an early stage in the computing curriculum. The working group considered the background of computing for the social good, motivated the work, proposed a categorisation, and provided an illustrative set of exemplar case study projects intended for CS educators to adopt in their own institutions. In particular this special session will: Provide definition of a CSG-Ed activity or programming project. Motivate the inclusion of CSG-Ed projets in the computing curriculum in general and in the introductory courses in particular. Present subjective evidence as to why this approach is not more widespread in the introductory curriculum and present strategies to overcome the perceived barriers for adoption. Describe in appropriate detail 6 exemplar examples of introductory CSG-Ed programming projects. A tenet of CSG-Ed proponents is that for any non-theoretical computer science domain, topic, or even task, one should be able to articulate a useful CSG-Ed assignment. The balance of the special session will be a challenge to this position. The panelists will open the discussion to the audience, fielding introductory computing concepts and proposing a CSG-Ed assignment for each.

Publication Name

SIGCSE 2013 - Proceedings of the 44th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education

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