Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Happy birthday, Ethan!

My son is 2 today! He's becoming a big boy, and I'm very proud of him.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Enrollment in computer science is finally increasing

Good news: A survey by the Computing Research Association shows that enrollment in computer science courses in the 2007-2008 academic year was up 6.2%, the first increase since the dot-com bust six years ago. The number of new undergraduates majoring in CS is up 9.5%.

Bad news: Women still only receive 11.8% of CS degrees.

So why are enrollments increasing? Fear of the bad economy? The coolness of the iPhone?

We haven't yet seen an increase here at Harding, but I'm betting we will soon.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Web in a box

The Internet Archive and Sun Microsystems have just announced the launching of a new data center that stores IA's entire web archive and serves the Wayback Machine. According to Brewster Kahle:
This 3 Petabyte (3 million gigabyte) datacenter will handle the 500 requests per second as it takes over the full Wayback load.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Workshop on Innovation in Digital Preservation (InDP 2009)

In conjunction with JCDL 2009, Andreas Rauber and I will be hosting the first workshop on Innovation in Digital Preservation (InDP 2009). We are soliciting full and short research papers as well as position papers. Read more about the workshop below and on the workshop website.

Digital Preservation (DP) research is often driven by traditional needs and approaches to solve the challenges arising. This is partially due to the rather traditional settings in which the challenges of obsolescence of digital objects have first been identified and dealt with, as well as partially due to the high levels of quality and auditability that these mostly very professional settings require.

But increasingly we are facing non-traditional DP challenges, ranging from non-traditional data collection (such as the Web, especially Web 2.0) to non-traditional institutions and actors, such as SMEs or private/home users. Additionally, non-traditional approaches to maintain digital objects, such as retargetable binary code or self-aware objects are gaining momentum.

This full-day workshop aims to provide a forum where researchers can share and discuss the latest innovations in DP by non-traditional methods. Topics include but are not limited to:

  • Personal archiving and personal information management
  • Archiving Web 1.0, 2.0, and Deep Web
  • Innovative approaches to preservation actions
  • Self-aware objects
  • Archiving solutions for small institutions
  • Binary retargetable code
  • Disaster recovery
  • Theoretical models of information preservation
  • Value of information and forgetting
  • Preserving electronic art

InDP 2009 will be held in conjunction with the ACM/IEEE-CS Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (JCDL) in Austin, Texas on June 19, 2009.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Map of Science

This past summer I worked with the Digital Library Research and Prototyping Team at LANL. One of the projects they were working on, a "map of science", was just featured on the Wired Science Blog. The graph below is based on a massive collection of scholarly usage data (click on the image to get a more detailed look at it). Basically, the graph shows how users accessing scholarly work in one field (e.g., Cognitive Science) may also access work in another related field (e.g., Sports Medicine).

You can find more information about this work in:

Clickstream Data Yields High-Resolution Maps of Science by Johan Bollen, Herbert Van de Sompel, Aric Hagberg, Luis Bettencourt, Ryan Chute, Marko A. Rodriguez, Lyudmila Balakireva. Public Library of Science ONE, March 11, 2009.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Harding and the Economy

An article just published in the Christian Chronicle reports how the economy is affecting Harding University and some of our other sister institutions. Cascade College is closing their doors at the end of the spring semester (see the screen shot from their website below). Pepperdine University is eliminating 50 full- and part-time staff members as well as men's track and the women's swimming and diving program.

Things at Harding aren't quite as dim. The endowment is down, but no staff or faculty jobs are being cut. What the CC didn't note is that next year's enrollment numbers look really good. There is a budget freeze, and it's been rumored we will not receive any pay raises next year, but there's nothing to loose sleep over.

In general, post-secondary education is usually a winner in tough economic times. Individuals out of work will re-tool to make themselves more competitive. Some states are even putting more money into higher education, realizing the positive, long-term economic impact it can have.

At $423 a credit hour, Harding is not cheap, but it is less expensive than many private universities and many state universities. That's going to help us weather the storm.

Everyone is going to need to tighten their belts a little, but Lord willing, Harding is going to emerge from this economic downturn intact. I pray the same is true for our sister institutions.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Back from SIGCSE 2009

Scott and I returned to Searcy yesterday after attending the morning paper presentations. We both agreed that this was one of the better academic conferences we had attended.

As I mentioned before, collaborative learning was a huge theme at SIGCSE. Some of the big curriculum pushes included game programming, robotics, and parallel programming. A number of the presentations stressed how introducing games, graphics, and robotics in CS1 would probably help in retention and expanding interest to CS minorities (mostly women). However, many of the presentations also failed to show conclusive evidence that this was true. In fact one of the presenters admitted that he spent so much time discussing peripheral concepts in regards to game programming that there was no time left to teach some of the core concepts.

Ideally, I think it would be very worthwhile for our department to offer intro to programming courses that use either robotics, graphics, or games in their approach. Then incoming freshmen could pick the course that most interested them. Certainly it would be a good recruitment tool. The only problem is we don't have enough majors or teachers to offer so many courses. I may at least try to mix in more of these attention getters in my CS1 course next fall.

Something else I heard repeatedly was how we should be using Python in CS1. I can certainly see some benefits of doing so, but there's a number of benefits to teaching C++ first. One presentation showed that using Python in CS1 was no better than using C++ at preparing students for CS2. Until we see some solid research showing that Python is in fact better at increasing retention, I think we should stay where we are.

Next year's SIGCSE is in Milwaukee where the average high is 34 F this time of the year. Brr.

Friday, March 06, 2009

I'm at SIGCSE 2009

My spring break started a little early this year. Scott Ragsdale and I drove down to Chattanooga, TN, on Wed for SIGCSE 2009. This is the first time I’ve attended the conference, and so far I’ve been very impressed, both with the conference and with Chattanooga.

SIGCSE brings together computer science educators from around the globe to share and discuss the latest in computing education. There are around 1200 participants this year and numerous talks and workshops to choose from.

On Wed night Scott and I attended a workshop entitled Engaging Student Learning Through Virtual World Programming. It was mainly about introducing the world of Second Life. We created avatars and then learned how to navigate the virtual world, create objects, and use the Linden Language scripting language. I wasn’t very impressed with Second Life... it felt like a very dysfunctional, overly sexualized place that I didn’t want to be in for very long (although flying is kinda fun). It’s hard for me to imagine my students liking it much either.

Today’s favorite buzz word was “collaborative learning”. Most presenters felt obliged to use it at least twice in their talk. Despite the overuse, I was quite convinced that students do learn more effectively when they are teaching each other. I’m also convinced that I need to make some changes to my intro to programming classes that makes better use of this fact.

At one of the sessions, I learned how I will not be able to teach iPhone development to my GUI students next fall. I was hoping to teach Objective C and iPhone programming in the final five weeks of the course, but the learning curve is just too steep to teach effectively in a 5 week period, especially when compared with Windows Mobile programming.

I’m too exhausted to list everything I saw today, but it was very worthwhile. And tonight’s reception at the Tennessee Aquarium was fantastic.

(This entry was written Thurs night.)