Welcome to the June 2023 edition of Inroads. After our last issue, with our call for new ideas and discussions, we have been planning some interesting new items and perspectives for the quarterly magazine.
We would like to introduce you to two new columnists, Drs Tamara Pearson and Pamela Leggett-Robinson who come from Atlanta, GA. Tamara is the Senior Director of Research and Programs at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) at the Constellations Center for Equity in Computing. Her work focuses on disrupting the root causes for the inequitable access, participation, and success of historically marginalized communities in computing. Pamela is the CEO and Executive Director for PLR Consulting. Pamela has more than 15 years of higher education experience which includes STEM academic and student success/support programming, strategic planning, data analytics, and program evaluation. Together they have raised significant public and private funds to develop a data hub and broaden participation in the STEM Education Research space. Tamara writes the following about their new column, which we are looking forward to in the next issue.
Pamela and I are excited to present Notes from the Margin. This new column will focus on elevating research by and about historically marginalized communities in computer science, with a particular focus on Black women. Taking its name from the seminal work, From Margin to Center, by renowned Black feminist scholar Bell Hooks, we ascribe to the assertion put forth by her that the margins of society are not only places of oppression but also of great resistance. Our column will highlight that resistance. With articles written by me and Pamela, along with contributions from invited guest authors, we seek to reshape the conversation about those of us in the margins of computer science. For as Bell Hooks so eloquently wrote in her 1989 article, Choosing the Margin as a Space of Radical Openness, 'This is an intervention. A message from that space in the margin that is a site of creativity and power, that inclusive space where we recover ourselves where we move in solidarity to erase the category colonized/colonizer. Marginality as site of resistance'. We look forward to meeting everyone there.
In this June 2023 Inroads, Jeba Rezwanan and Mary Lou Maher explain the issues and insights they have come across as they aim to increase women's participation in CS. In their article, the authors present interviews and explain some insightful results. The findings from the interviews include student experiences, struggles, expectations, and suggestions particularly around the stereotypes which are interesting for us all to reflect on.
David Bunde with his team of Zack Butler, Christopher L. Hovey and Cynthia Taylor continue their series on prominent propagators and interview Frank Vahid. As the founder of zyBooks, Frank will be well known to many of you, as he is to both of us Co-Editors-In-Chief. Our university, RMIT University, uses zyBooks for our bootcamp and studio model of teaching introductory programming courses. Bunde and team ask Frank some excellent questions about why he developed the books, why they are necessary, important, and valuable, and about the research involved. Frank offers some great advice for someone who has something they've created that they would like other people to adopt.
If you have some spare time to puzzle, we thoroughly recommend the Back Page, and the Course Codes puzzle developed by our Back Page Editor, Scott Weiss.
Jeffrey Popyack offers information about impressive student performances in the Upsilon Pi Epsilon (UPE) space. He provides details of all the prizes won recently. There is also a fitting tribute to James Comer, who served seven terms as UPE International President and in 2014 received UPE's most prestigious award, the Abacus Award, given to "an individual who has gained international renown in the profession, and over a period of several years has provided extensive support and leadership for student-related activities in the computing and information disciplines."
Henry Walker has interesting insights to the long-term consequences that can result from short-term convenience. He explains some of the discussions from his books, particularly around the use of sort functions and measuring complexity. While doing this, he notes that in telling the story, an important point is that early discussion of a topic, even if brief, can leave an impression that can be difficult to undo later.
In their article on think-alouds, Asanthika Imbulpitiya, Jacqueline Whalley and Mali Senapathi examine the transition from in-person think-aloud interviews to online ones. They present the perceptions of interviewer and novices learning to design and model relational databases. They note that while the COVID pandemic drove them to transition to a virtual online method, they discovered that this change, in the end, was a positive experience that challenged their preconceptions of the online format. In developing a new protocol to gain insights into students' progress by using thinking out loud, they suggest ways of broadening participation and addressing other limitations of data-gathering approaches.
In this edition, we have some other new interesting opinion pieces under the title of "As I See It." Victoria Chavez gives some great advice about ways to (re)discover the joy of computing. She explains why students can find data structures and algorithms difficult, and how some of the reorganisations she undertook helped return joy. Some of her suggestions for trying to learn amidst the ongoing pandemic could be adopted in any course to help students feel cared for and belong.
Lorraine Jacques gives some insights into teaching CS101 and involving ChatGPT. She writes that the purpose of her article is not to provide strategies that prevent students from using AI tools in place of learning, but rather to help instructors use these tools to improve novice programmers' critical thinking skills. As AI improves, preventing or detecting cheating on programming assignments will increase in difficulty, but so will AI's importance to computer science professionals. Understanding when and how to use AI is something we can teach, just as math instructors teach students to use technology critically.
We know that many of Inroads readers have been experimenting with ChatGPT in your own classrooms and we look forward to hearing your reports both on how it has been implemented as well as the results.
Margaret Hamilton and James Harland
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