Monday, March 10, 2014

Back from SIGCSE 2014

I attended SIGCSE 2014 in Atlanta last week. It's the fifth Symposium in the past six years I've been able to attend. There were over 1200 attendees (mainly computer science educators) at the Symposium this year.

Getting females engaged in computing remained a huge focus as usual. Interestingly enough, I would gauge that close to 50% of the conference participants were females (education is generally not short on females). There was also a big emphasis on getting computing into K-12. Hadi Partovi of code.org (you know, the Hour of Code guys) gave a keynote one morning on this topic which really pumped up the audience.

Big Data and Data Science seemed to be two important and related topics that received quite a lot of attention. Scanning the conference program, there were two papers on Data Science, and two posters and two papers about Big Data. I'm surprised no one offered a workshop on either topic.

One topic that seemed less important was mobile programming. There was one paper on using Android projects in CS1, and a workshop on App Inventor, but this topic is not nearly as hot as it was a few years ago when I offered an Android workshop to a packed room of CS educators in Dallas. I think it's because mobile programming is so ubiquitous today.

On Friday evening I manned a poster entitled Resources for Teaching Web Science to Computer Science Undergraduates by Michael Nelson and myself. (You can find the resources here.) I was somewhat surprised that only two of the twenty or so individuals I spoke to that evening knew anything about web science. One individual had been teaching a similar course but didn't know it could be called "web science". It was nice to see a lot of interest in the topic.

The next morning was my favorite session: Nifty Assignments. But this time I was one of the presenters! I introduced Schelling's Model of Segregation using some history of the Little Rock Nine as back-drop. The other presentations were pretty fantastic.

One thing I love about SIGCSE is being immersed into new ideas that I will use to make my teaching better. The thing I don't like is the feeling that I'm not teaching as well as some of my peers! Equally good motivation to keep on improving.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Tom Brady can be funny too!

This is a huge weekend in the NFL. The AFC Championship features the Denver Broncos (my favorite team) and the New England Patriots, headed by Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, respectively.

Manning is an incredible QB. But he's also very talented when it comes to comedy. I would argue he is one of the best comedic commercial actors in the NFL. Almost everyone has seen his MasterCard commercials. He's also made satirical movie commercials, appeared on SNL, and has some skits with his brother Eli that have gone viral like Football on Your Phone and Football Cops. It's hard not to like a guy that is so talented and hilarious at the same time.

Brady is of course also an incredible QB with three Super Bowl wins to back it up. But where Manning gets all the love, Brady is the most disliked QB in the NFL. I've never been a Brady fan either; I've always thought he was full of himself.

These past few months, however, I've come to like Brady just a little bit more. OK, he was my fantasy team QB which helps some. But Brady also stared in a couple of hilarious commercials for Under Armour over the past couple of years that I just saw recently. The first is Tom Brady's Wicked Accent which features an angry Brady smacking a stand-up cutout of himself. The follow-up is Tom Brady's Best Friend where he apologizes for his behavior in the first commercial and then loses his temper once again. He's also pretty hilarious when searching for someone to high-five.

Manning is still on top when it comes to comedy. But Brady should have at least a little of our comedic respect.

DISCLAIMER: If the Broncos lose this weekend, I may delete this blog post out of disgust for Brady.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A new semester begins

The Spring 2014 semester has begun. The cold and lifeless campus is now full of energy and life. I'm teaching four courses: Programming 2, Internet Development 1, Internet Development 2, and Android Application Development. Most every course in our department is over capacity which reminds of me of how it was in the late 1990s. Hopefully we won't end up crashing like we did in the early 2000s.

As we begin a new year, there is unfortunately some sadness. Just a few days ago, one of our undergraduates was killed in an auto accident while heading back to school. Kailey Massey was just 20, and she apparently ran into the back of an 18-wheeler on I-30. There will be a memorial service for her on Wednesday in chapel.

This comes on the heals of another student's death. Harding grad student Lauren Bump, age 24, was murdered in a San Antonio park near her home over the winter break. There was a memorial service for her on Sunday.

President McLarty did a great job addressing these two tragic events in chapel yesterday morning. Both of these girls had a genuine love for God and let it show in their lives (see Lauren's last blog post entitled Success). They will truly be missed.

Friday, December 27, 2013

End of 2013

My family and I wish you a merry Christmas
and a happy New Year!


But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people." - Luke 2:10

I consider myself to be a very blessed man to have a wife who loves me, two growing boys who give me much joy, friends and family who encourage me, and a career teaching computer science to eager college students. Whether these blessings continue this coming year or not, my hope is that God will be glorified in 2014 even more so than this year. Goodbye, 2013.

Friday, September 27, 2013

President McLarty's First 120 Days

Harding's fifth president, Dr. Bruce McLarty, took the reins from Dr. David Burks on June 1, 2013. He's been in office now for almost four months, and so far I believe he's done a fantastic job. Because Harding so rarely changes presidents, I thought it would be helpful to briefly summarize some of the more notable events in the transition from Burks to McLarty.

The picture below shows Dr. Burks handing over the office key to Dr. McLarty on the last day of Burks' presidency. I grabbed this pic from Dr. McLarty's Twitter feed. Yes, our new president is an avid tweeter.

For those of you reading this blog who don't know much about Dr. McLarty, he is a Harding graduate who was once a missionary in Africa and a preacher at the College Church of Christ which is located near Harding University. Eight years ago Dr. McLarty moved into academia, filling the role of vice president for spiritual life and later dean of the College of Bible and Ministry. He was named Dr. Burks' successor in November of last year. Dr. McLarty discusses the process of becoming president, his legacy and more in this online interview.

One of Dr. McLarty's first acts was to make some modest changes to the presidential cabinet. Dr. Jim Carr moved from executive VP to senior VP, and Dr. David Collins moved up to executive VP. Dr. Dan Williams was hired to fill Dr. McLarty's position as vice president for church relations, Floyd Daniel was retiring soon, and the other cabinet members were to continue with their current roles. Overall, it was a seamless continuation from the previous administration.

Summer graduation was probably Dr. McLarty's first large-scale ceremony to preside over, and he did something that many of the faculty had been secretly longing for for years: He nixed the singing of "Climb Every Mountain". Yes, the song that has traditionally been sung at the conclusion of every graduation ceremony since I can remember was finally put in its resting place.

On the first day of chapel, Dr. McLarty established a good rapport with the students by asking them what they did during the summer and using some well-placed humor, like asking Dr. Burks to spell camaraderie.

Dr. McLarty focused the first week of chapel on why Harding was unlike most universities, requiring the entire student body to attend daily chapel: "Chapel is about worship, community building, and confession." I noticed that many of the students "got it" and have put away their phones and books this semester to focus on God during chapel.

The first day of chapel Dr. McLarty also made the student body swear that if any of them ever thought they wanted to leave Harding, they'd first stop by his office and talk with him about it. Something tells me our retention levels are going to start increasing if the students will actually take him up on his offer.

We're six weeks into the fall semester, and so far it is business as usual. I imagine Dr. McLarty is still getting up-to-speed on being president, but so far the transition has been quite seamless.

I'll close with the Presidential Inauguration ceremony which occurred last Friday, Sept 20. Afternoon classes were cancelled so everyone could attend the ceremony on what was, unfortunately, a very rainy day. There were hundreds of guests on campus for the event. Some of them were representatives from other universities, like John deSteiguer, President of Oklahoma Christian University, who I chatted with briefly. The faculty were all part of the ceremony, and some served as delegates from their alma maters (I represented Old Dominion University).

You can watch the 2.5 hour ceremony online. My favorite part is the singing of The Battle Hymn of the Republic by the Harding chorus, choir, and orchestra. Look for it at minute 42 and stick around until the finale which was quite powerful.

I took the photo below which shows the former presidents Dr. Burks and Dr. Ganus placing the presidential medallion over Dr. McLary's head.

After the ceremony, the entire crowd moved to the Harding cafeteria for hors devours. It was a time of celebration as we welcomed our new president.

Monday, July 29, 2013

JCDL 2013 wrap-up

Last week I attended JCDL 2013 in Indianapolis along with Harding students Keith Enlow, Monica Yarbrough, and Daniel Sebastian. It's been four years since the last time I attended the conference, and it was great to see a lot of old friends. Below are friends from my days at Old Dominion University: Johan Bollen (now at Indiana Univ), Michael Nelson (still at ODU), and Martin Klein (now at LANL).

For a very thorough summary of the conference, see Justin Brunelle's blog post. There's some nice pictures here of the hotel and other events. Below I am going to highlight the work that my students and I presented. By the way, the Harding students who attended with me were the youngest attendees at the conference. This was a great experience for them, getting to interact with graduate students and researchers at their first academic conference.

The first day of the conference I presented a short paper that I co-authored with Richard Schneider entitled First Steps in Archiving the Mobile Web: Automated Discovery of Mobile Websites. This was work that Richard did as an undergraduate student in the summer of 2012 in which we try to automatically detect the URL for mobile sites so they can be archived.

The next evening Daniel Sebastian shared his poster Semi-Automated Rediscovery of Lost YouTube Music Videos. Daniel built a Firefox add-on called Volitrax last summer which helps Firefox automatically relocate music videos in YouTube when they are removed.


I manned Heather Tweedy's poster: A Memento Web Browser for iOS. Heather completed the iOS Memento Browser last summer, and I recently completed a new version for Android. The browser allows you to see web pages as they used to look using Memento underneath the hood.


After the conference concluded, we attended the Web Archiving and Digital Libraries Workshop (WADL 2013) which was organized by Ed Fox. There were about 20 of us in attendance, and with this smaller group we were able to have a lot of discussion about the work each of us was doing with web archives.

I gave an introduction into the problem of archiving the mobile web, and Monica followed with her work this summer on building a web service that others could use to find mobile websites. Keith concluded our joint talk with his work on getting Heritrix to archive some mobile sites. Our slides are below.


I really had a great time in Indianapolis. One unique thing I did there was to visit the Star Wars exhibit at the Indiana State Museum. They had all original costumes and models from the movies. It was a really cool exhibit for a Star Wars fan. I just wish my boys could have been there to see it!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Harding campus transformation

Harding is undergoing an extensive physical transformation this summer. When the students return in the fall, things will look quite different. I took a few pictures around campus this morning which I've posted below.

On the east side of campus, the home which housed the former President has just been renovated for Bruce and Ann McLarty, Harding's new President and First Lady.


Moving further west we have the new softball field which is being prepared for Harding's new collegiate women's softball team. The stadium is the first thing you'll see when you drive into Harding's south entrance.


Just a hundred yards further west the new Health Sciences Building is nearing completion. They just started work on the parking lot a few days ago.


Further down the street you can see construction continues on Legacy Park. This is one of my favorite parts of campus because the architecture is beautiful, and it has a vibrant feel to it. The second picture shows the West Married Apartments which are days from being knocked down to make room for the second phase of construction.


Finally, some new construction next to Pizza Hut (south-west corner of campus). You'll never believe what is being built. Could it be a cool new place to hang out? A trendy new restaurant or coffee shop? No, it's another bank. Because 5000 banks within a two mile radius just isn't enough.


Looking forward to seeing all our students again next month!