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Conference for Computer Science Educators

SIGCSE 2013I wanted to share with you some things I learned at ACM’s SIGCSE conference. I have never been to this conference before – nor any conference for Computer Science Education. (I have attended many teachers’ conferences, and many computer science conferences, but never a computer science teachers’ conference!) 1300 people attended, from all over the world, even though ACM is an American organization. Most attendees teach at Universities, though there were also some from industry. I didn’t meet anyone who also teaches at a community college.

There were a number of short talks, and I will highlight those here. In a later post I will discuss MOOCs, which were a big topic here.

1) “Creating Effective Student Groups”
Tyson Henry from CSU Chico developed a website that assists instructors in dividing students up into teams for projects. The instructor defines and weights various factors that she believe are important in making up teams, and the site then surveys students to get relevant information from them. Then the software divides students into teams based on the student characteristics that the instructor deemed important. It is usable but still in development, and can be found here:

2) “Source Code Control in the Classroom”
I attended a workshop and a short talk on this subject. The consensus is that all programming students should be storing their source code in the cloud. It is not easy, but worth the trouble. Especially for students working in teams, source code control definitely simplifies the sharing of code. Google Code is easiest but keeps all student code public, which is illegal and encourages academic dishonesty. CVS is also popular but it doesn’t have the sharing functionality and it only works with CVS. GitHub is the collaborative source code control system that is free, works with the other source code control systems, and can be made private.

3) “Teaching the Security Mindset”
Vahab Pournaghshband from UCLA has created a few simple assignments for a beginning programming class that get students thinking about security. Checking login and passwords allows students to practice if/else, loops, and the use of an API. Another speaker on this topic widened the goal to include “creating robust software” , which is software that behaves as expected and doesn’t crash.

4) “Nifty Assignments”
This was a panel of CS1 instructors who would like to share their assignments that have been particularly successful with students. Apparently they have this panel every year at this conference, and they can be found at

Please let me know if you have any questions, or comments!

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