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CACM Reports: Finding the Fun in Computer Science Education

December Issue Reports on Efforts to Redesign CS Curriculum to Prepare Today’s Students and Effectively Integrate Computer Games to Attract More CS Students

The Association for Computing Machinery
Advancing Computing as a Science & Profession

Contact: Virginia Gold

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NEW YORK, NY, November 23 , 2009 – Students are feeling the “joy of computing” at the University of Southern California’s GamePipe Laboratory since the school’s computer science department modified its program to incorporate game-development courses, reports the Lab’s director Michael Zyda in the December Communications of the ACM (CACM).  Citing the overlooked transition from information age to conceptual age signaled by the dot-com crash, he urges CS educators to focus on the “big idea or big concept” before presenting classes on how to build the concept and with what technologies.  The USC approach is complemented by the University of Washington, Bothell’s ongoing efforts to integrate computer video games into existing traditional CS courses. Professor Kelvin Sung discusses introductory and elective courses, and offers guidelines to ensure higher success rates in engaging students in CS. 

            Communications, the flagship publication of ACM, offers readers access to this generation’s most significant leaders and innovators in computing and information technology, and is available online in digital format.

             Former chief scientist of the Israeli government Orna Berry and Yigal Grayeff, a former journalist, survey the successes of the Israeli government’s R&D policy to build a high-tech sector that has become an engine of economic growth.  To sustain this success in the face of the global economic slowdown and the weakening of critical structural components, the authors, now associated with Gemini Israel Funds, advocate government-industry collaboration.  They cite increased assistance to companies in reducing the costs of R&D projects and increased local institutional investment through loosening of prohibitive regulation and via the provision of tax incentives as well as expanding the higher education budget to recruit and retain faculty members and researchers.           

            In an article on the profession of Information Technology, Peter J. Denning and Peter A. Freeman propose a unique paradigm for computing to counter the negative effects of the debate about whether computing should be characterized as engineering, science, or math.  Declaring these labels contentious and confusing, they focus on information processes, which distinguish computing from the other disciplines.  They conclude that “computational thinking” is an apt paradigm that describes not only a way of thinking but a system of practice, and they urge further discussion of this issue. 

            Researchers from the University of Tokyo present their efforts to create Plushie, an interactive system that allows non-professional users to design their own original plush toys with concurrent modeling and simulation phases that makes the design process more efficient.  In an accompanying technical perspective, the University of Washington’s James A. Landay, a founder of its Design:Use:Build (DUB) Center, notes that these plush toys share many of the important characteristics of other complex design objects.  He concludes that this work is important for the future not only of computing but of production as well. 

            Other December Communications articles:

  • Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) Executive Director Chris Stephenson calls the next year a pivotal time for K-12 computer science.  Pointing to the slow but significant changes achieved by CSTA to establish model curriculum guidelines, partner with colleges and universities for professional development workshops, create and distribute careers-in-computing resources, and provide for more skilled teachers  in the classroom, Stephenson urges continued focus on the coming challenges.
  • Technology writer Alex Wright previews a new generation of browsers that may finally herald the long-awaited convergence of the Web and operating systems.  He cites as evidence the development of Web standards, such as HTML5 to add richer capabilities and features; and new technologies like Microsoft’s Xax and Google’s Native client that make browsers and their applications as powerful as desktop applications.
  • In the first of a new column series on broadening participation, Richard Ladner underscores the importance of increasing the number of women, Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanics, and persons with disabilities in the computing field at all levels.  The son of deaf parents, he distinguishes "broadening participation" from "diversity," which he says is a much narrower definition, noting that the computing field needs to expand its population from its continuing reliance on a few demographic groups.  Ladner chairs the ACM Special Interest Group on Algorithms and Computing Theory (SIGACT).
  • At BLOG@CACM, Jeannette M. Wing writes about the negative effects of deadline-driven research and Mark Guzdial discusses the role of computer science faculty in fostering inequality.           

            For more information on Communications of the ACM, click on


About ACM

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.  

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