In this issue of News from the SIGs, we introduce a new reporter, Ginger Alford, chair of the ACM SIGGRAPH Education Committee. Ginger's article introduces the ACM SIGGRAPH Education Committee, and challenges us to join in the quest for interdisciplinary learning. But first, we have a report from SIGCSE Chair, Amber Settle, with an overview of the SIGCSE conferences scheduled for the year.

From our SIGCSE reporter and SIGCSE chair, Amber Settle

The start of a new calendar year brings with it a sense of excitement and renewal, and one of the things I'm looking forward to in 2017 is attending SIGCSE conferences. As you read this, the 2017 Symposium (March 8–11) is likely taking place in Seattle, Washington, USA. As the largest SIGCSE conference, the Symposium offers a multitude of ways for both practitioners and researchers to come together, discuss their work, learn about new approaches to computing education, and network with energetic and enthusiastic colleagues. While a large conference can be intimidating, especially to newcomers, the Symposium offers many smaller events like the birds-of-a-feather sessions which help you to connect with people who share common interests. If you're not attending the Symposium in 2017, I hope that you'll add it to your calendar for February 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

The next SIGCSE conference in 2017 is ITiCSE, which will be back in Europe and specifically in Bologna, Italy, July 1–5. ITiCSE is a smaller conference but also offers a mix of work for researchers and practitioners as well as opportunities for networking. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the ITiCSE conference is participating in a working group, in which a small group of people develop and write a longer article. A first draft of the article is due by the end of the conference and is published as a part of the proceedings later in the year. Working with a group of people over the months leading up to the conference and then intensely over the week of the conference can lead to great collaborations and even lasting friendships. Also, not to be missed is the ITiCSE excursion where you can learn about the host country and socialize with conference attendees.

The last of the SIGCSE conferences taking place in 2017 is ICER. Computing education researchers will gather in Tacoma, Washington, USA, August 18–20, to discuss their work, hear about the diverse research projects of other attendees, and brainstorm ideas for new collaborations. With its single-track format and roundtable discussions, the atmosphere at ICER engages participants with presenters and with each other. Events before and after ICER allow people with ideas for research to develop them more fully. The doctoral consortium, supported by the SIGCSE Board, offers students a chance to get in-depth feedback about their dissertation research and takes place on August 17th. On August 20th and 21st all computing education researchers are welcome at the Work-in-Progress Workshop where participants and organizers assist in developing ideas.

Whether you're meeting people who have done interesting work you want to know more about, people who have novel ideas on directions for your work, people with whom you will later start collaborations, or people who are just enjoyable companions during lunch, dinner, or breaks, the opportunity to network is one of the best things our conferences offer.

One of the events I enjoyed most at ICER in 2016 was the dinner at the Melbourne Zoo. In the picture, you can see Judy Sheard, the conference chair, preparing to introduce an activity she designed for the dinner. In the activity, each table was given a page with pictures of notable people in computing and asked to name as many people as possible. Gathering with your table and trying to name the people pictured on the sheet was great fun, but even more enjoyable was the message that the activity brought home. Computing is all about the people. The course of computing was changed in some significant way by each person on that page (except for the distractor Sir John Monash), and it was a delight seeing the faces of the names we know so well.

The activity also made me think about how much value being able to meet people at the SIGCSE conferences brings. Whether you're meeting people who have done interesting work you want to know more about, people who have novel ideas on directions for your work, people with whom you will later start collaborations, or people who are just enjoyable companions during lunch, dinner, or breaks, the opportunity to network is one of the best things our conferences offer. So, take advantage of the workshops, sessions, posters, and especially the social events scheduled at each of the SIGCSE conferences. I'm confident that you'll walk away happy that you did.

From our SIGGRAPH reporter and Chair of the SIGGRAPH Education Committee, Ginger Alford

SIGGRAPH is the ACM SIG on Graphics and Interactive Techniques, broadly encompassing the elements of hardware, software and human elements of information representation and rendering. Since its founding in the 1960's, the community has embraced creativity, interdisciplinary collaboration and strong industry interaction. The community has grown to include sponsorship of two major annual conferences, SIGGRAPH and SIGGRAPH ASIA, and year-round activities by several standing committees devoted to such things as supporting a digital arts community, providing student services, sponsoring specialized conferences, creating local chapters and more.

The SIGGRAPH Education Committee participates in a variety of activities year-round such as sponsoring the annual SPACETIME student contest, overseeing outreach and mentoring at the Annual Conference, organizing workshops, and creating opportunities for networking and community building. The committee recently identified some priority areas to best serve our diverse community—curriculum development for cross-disciplinary programs, including virtual reality, and creation of a repository of peer-reviewed classroom-ready teaching materials, that can both acknowledge the scholarly contribution of such work and be distributed without fee for classroom use.

A specific example of such a repository is cGEMS (Computer Graphics Education Materials Source). The SIGGRAPH Education Committee and the Eurographics Education Board are launching cGEMS in 2017. This is a peer-reviewed repository of education publications including classroom materials. This will be a valuable service and, for contributors, a way to be recognized for the work and scholarship that goes into preparing useful materials in a pedagogically sound way. Another valuable resource is SIGGRAPH University, which provides recorded versions of popular courses from the Annual SIGGRAPH Conference delivered by experts in the field and made available for free. We continue to work to make resources from past conferences easier to access for educators seeking quality reference material. This is particularly of interest in virtual reality, which is enjoying a resurgence of recent activity while having a long history of research within SIGGRAPH.

SIGGRAPH members include artists, architects, designers, engineers, physicists, psychophysicists and … oh, computer scientists and are not only interested in computer graphics. Many members defy traditional academic boundaries. As the current chair of the SIGGRAPH Education Committee, I marvel at the ease with which artists and engineers mingle in this community while pondering the task ahead—how to forge education programs that capture a way of thinking across disciplines and to support educators in this endeavor. Thinking across disciplines is more than simply collecting a set of courses from different programs together. It is about transforming student learning in a way that requires merging those disciplines in pursuit of a cohesive goal. Students need to learn the thinking and practice in one discipline that will guide choices and impose constraints in another. Human endeavor does not fit so neatly in academic departments yet we should educate students, evaluate instruction, and assess outcomes in a discipline-blended way.

But it's not easy. Let's talk.

Formal education has traditionally been organized along discipline boundaries for institutional convenience. But that poses some challenges in an interdisciplinary world. It's something the SIGGRAPH community of educators has been struggling with for some time. In the larger context of current computer science education trends, with increasing interest in STEM + C Partnerships and CS + X degree programs emerging alongside the longstanding urgent calls to broaden the number of people with computing skills, it's time for a larger conversation.

The ACM SIGGRAPH Education Committee is committed to considering these questions seriously, with the hope of finding practices and instruments that can be easily adapted for cross-disciplinary programs more generally. We invite a conversation among the entire ACM community to consider what this means when computer science is one of the component fields of an interdisciplinary study. We want to identify and address issues such as

  • what comprises exemplary interdisciplinary work for both a single course and for a program of study,
  • how to effectively assess student work,
  • how to value the scholarly contribution and impact of a faculty member who may hold appointments in multiple departments,
  • what new administrative funding, staffing and promotion obstacles are introduced, and
  • how to leverage our knowledge and share our tools as a computing education community to ease adoption of computing science as a component in other fields.

How can we start this conversation to share our collective experiences about computer science as a component of a interdisciplinary degree? We hope to intentionally setup cross-SIG conversations, perhaps as Birds of a Feather or panel discussions at various conferences. Toward this end, we are setting up a framework to support these conversations at the SIGGRAPH 2017 conference in Los Angeles next summer and planning an Education Forum at the conference for in depth discussions on focused topics. We also will coordinate with other education groups, such as Leonardo Education and Art Forum and ASIFA Animation Educators.

Conversations such as these will help us grow and learn as a community of practice, and have profound influences on our students for years to come.

Interested educators are encourage to send questions and thoughts to [email protected] or go to for more information. Subscribe to our listserv at Watch for information about the upcoming Annual Conference at


Ellen L. Walker
Professor of Computer Science
Hiram College
11715 Garfield Road
Hiram, OH 44234 USA
[email protected]

Amber Settle
School of Computing
College of Computing and Digital Media
DePaul University
Chicago, IL 60604 USA
[email protected]

Ginger Alford
Chair, SIGGRAPH Education Committee, Director of Computer Sciences
Trinity Valley School
7500 Dutch Branch Rd
Fort Worth, TX 76132
[email protected]

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