Rather than meeting online in January, we’ll be meeting in person. So join us at Durham University for the annual Computing Education Practice (CEP) conference which takes place on Friday 5th January, with a pre-conference dinner in the evening of Thursday 4th January.
All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances. And one teacher in their time plays many parts.
As students watch academic actors enter and exit their lecture theatres on University campuses around the world, what role can drama play in their teaching and learning? How can theatre and storytelling facilitate students understanding of whatever is they are supposed to be learning?
Are we walking shadows and poor players that strut and fret our hour upon the stage, and then are heard no more? Do we tell tales like an idiot, full of sound and fury but signifying nothing? In short, how much should teachers embrace theatricality, both amateur and professional, on their respective stages? Can drama and storytelling actually improve students learning and if so, how? 🎭
Join us on Monday 6th November at 2pm UTC for our monthly ACM SIGCSE journal club meetup on zoom to discuss a paper on this topic by David Malan.  From the abstract
In Fall 2020, Harvard University transitioned entirely from on-campus instruction to Zoom online. But a silver lining of that time was unprecedented availability of space on campus, including the university’s own repertory theater. In healthier times, that theater would be brimming with talented artisans and weekly performances, without any computer science in sight. But with that theater’s artisans otherwise idled during COVID-19, our introductory course, CS50, had an unusual opportunity to collaborate with the same. Albeit subject to rigorous protocols, including face masks and face shields for all but the course’s instructor, along with significant social distancing, that moment in time allowed us an opportunity to experiment with lights, cameras, and action on an actual stage, bringing computer science to life in ways not traditionally possible in the course’s own classroom. Equipped with an actual prop shop in back, the team of artisans was able to actualize ideas that might otherwise only exist in slides and code. And students’ experience proved the better for it, with a supermajority of students attesting at term’s end to the efficacy of almost all of the semester’s demonstrations. We present in this work the design and implementation of the course’s theatricality along with the motivation therefor and results thereof. And we discuss how we have adapted, and others can adapt, these same moments more modestly in healthier times to more traditional classrooms, large and small.
This paper was presented at the SIGCSE 2023 Technical Symposium in Toronto, a video presentation of the paper is also available below. All welcome, as usual, we’ll be meeting on zoom, details at sigcse.cs.manchester.ac.uk/join-us
Why do some students achieve more than others? Students goals, their belief in their ability to reach those goals and their prior experience are key factors. But how do they interplay? Join us for our monthly ACM SIGCSE journal club meetup on Zoom to discuss a prize-winning paper  on this topic by Hannu Pesonen, Juho Leinonen, Lassi Haaranen and Arto Hellas from Aalto University in Finland and the University of Auckland. From the abstract:
We explore achievement goal orientations, self-efficacy, gender, and prior experience, and look into their interplay in order to understand their contributions to course performance. Our results provide evidence for the appropriateness of the three-factor achievement goal orientation model (performance, mastery approach, mastery avoidance) over the more pervasive four-factor model. We observe that the aspects and the model factors correlate with course achievement. However, when looking into the interplay of the aspects and the model factors, the observations change and the role of, for example, self-efficacy as an aspect contributing to course achievement diminishes. Our study highlights the need to further explore the interplay of aspects contributing to course achievement.
We’ll be joined by one of the papers co-authors, Hannu, who’ll give a lightning talk summary to kick off our discussion. This paper won a best paper award at ukicer.com this year. All welcome, meeting details at sigcse.cs.manchester.ac.uk/join-us
Hannu Pesonen, Juho Leinonen, Lassi Haaranen, and Arto Hellas (2023) Exploring the Interplay of Achievement Goals, Self-Efficacy, Prior Experience and Course Achievement. In The United Kingdom and Ireland Computing Education Research (UKICER) conference (UKICER 2023), September 07–08, 2023, Swansea, Wales UK. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 7 pages. DOI: 10.1145/3610969.3611178
Microcredentials are mini-qualifications that allow learners to provide evidence of their broader skills alongside their traditional academic awards. How can these awards be integrated into existing educational qualifications? Join us on Monday 4th September at 2pm BST (UTC+1) to discuss a paper on this topic by Rupert Ward, Tom Crick, James H. Davenport, Paul Hanna, Alan Hayes, Alastair Irons, Keith Miller, Faron Moller, Tom Prickett and Julie Walters. From the abstract:
Employers are increasingly selecting and developing employees based on skills rather than qualifications. Governments now have a growing focus on skilling, reskilling and upskilling the workforce through skills-based development rather than qualifications as a way of improving productivity. Both these changes are leading to a much stronger interest in digital badging and micro-credentialing that enables a more granular, skills-based development of learner-earners. This paper explores the use of an online skills profiling tool that can be used by designers, educators, researchers, employers and governments to understand how badges and micro-credentials can be incorporated within existing qualifications and how skills developed within learning can be compared and aligned to those sought in job roles. This work, and lessons learnt from the case study examples of computing-related degree programmes in the UK, also highlights exciting opportunities for educational providers to develop and accommodate personalised learning into existing formal education structures across a range of settings and contexts.
We’ll be joined by Rupert Ward and some of the other co-authors of the paper who will give a five-minute lightning talk to kick-off our discussion. All welcome, as usual we’ll be meeting on Zoom, details at sigcse.cs.manchester.ac.uk/join-us.
Ward, Rupert; Crick, Tom; Davenport, James H.; Hanna, Paul; Hayes, Alan; Irons, Alastair; Miller, Keith; Moller, Faron; Prickett, Tom; Walters, Julie (2023). “Using Skills Profiling to Enable Badges and Micro-Credentials to be Incorporated into Higher Education Courses”. Journal of Interactive Media in Education. Ubiquity Press, Ltd. 2023 (1). DOI:10.5334/jime.807
What is the most dangerous course to teach in Computing? Join us on Monday 7th August at 2pm BST (UTC+1) to discuss an opinion piece by Tony Clear from Auckland University of Technology on this very subject. Tony argues that introductory programming (aka CS1) is the most dangerous course for educators to teach. Do you agree with him? From the intro to his paper:
This column reflects on some of my own experiences, observations, and research insights into CS1 teaching over more than 25 years in my own institution and others. The challenges facing first year programming educators and the inability of universities and their managers to learn from the copious literature relating to the teaching of introductory programming seem to be perennial. This places first year programming educators in some peril!
The textbook has long been a mainstay of education. Although online textbooks can give students easy (and sometimes free) access to increasingly interactive resources, authors have a bewildering array of tools and publishing models to select from. Software such as asciidoctor.org, bookdown.org, leanpub.com, pretextbook.org, quarto.org, rephactor.com, runestone.academy, zybooks.com, and many others allow instructors to publish course material freed from the constraints of printed paper, monolithic Learning Management Systems (LMSs) and Monolithic Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Join us on Monday 12th of June at 2pm BST (UTC+1) to discuss a paper describing one example: Dive Into Systems an undergraduate textbook on computer systems. We’ll be joined the co-authors of a paper  and corresponding textbook by Suzanne Matthews, Tia Newhall and Kevin C. Webb from Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania and the United States Military Academy at westpoint.edu, New York. 🇺🇸 From the abstract of their paper:
This paper presents our experiences, motivations, and goals for developing Dive into Systems, a new, free, online textbook that introduces computer systems, computer organisation, and parallel computing. Our book’s topic coverage is designed to give readers a gentle and broad introduction to these important topics. It teaches the fundamentals of computer systems and architecture, introduces skills for writing efficient programs, and provides necessary background to prepare students for advanced study in computer systems topics. Our book assumes only a CS1 background of the reader and is designed to be useful to a range of courses as a primary textbook for courses that introduce computer systems topics or as an auxiliary textbook to provide systems background in other courses. Results of an evaluation from students and faculty at 18 institutions who used a beta release of our book show overwhelmingly strong support for its coverage of computer systems topics, its readability, and its availability. Chapters are reviewed and edited by external volunteers from the CS education community. Their feedback, as well as that of student and faculty users, is continuously incorporated into its online content at diveintosystems.org/book
We’ll also be discussing options for adding interactivity to textbooks, see diveintosystems.org/sigcse23. So join us to find out more about what the future of textbooks might look like using Dive Into Systems as an exemplar. All welcome, as usual, we’ll be meeting on zoom, details at sigcse.cs.manchester.ac.uk/join-us
Suzanne J. Matthews, Tia Newhall and Kevin C. Webb (2021) Dive into Systems: A Free, Online Textbook for Introducing Computer Systems SIGCSE ’21: Proceedings of the 52nd ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, Pages 1110–1116 DOI: 10.1145/3408877.3432514
More and more software development tools are available in the cloud, with tools like Replit, CodingRooms, GitHub Codespaces, Amazon Web Services Cloud9, JetBrains and Eclipse all offering online tools for developers to code collaboratively in the cloud. Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) which have traditionally been available as “fatter” clients are increasingly available as “thinner” web-based clients running in a browser. These tools can lower some of the barriers to installation and maintenance for their users. What are the strengths and weaknesses of these new tools for teaching introductory programming courses? Join us on Monday 6th February at 2pm GMT to discuss a paper by Phil Hackett and his colleagues at the Open University on this very topic , from the abstract:
This paper discusses a pilot research project, which investigated the use of online collaborative IDEs (Integrated development environments) during a first-year computing degree course. The IDEs used can be described as virtual computing labs because they replicate some of the actions possible in physical computing labs. Students were supported by a tutor with real-time help and feedback provided, whilst they were programming, without being collocated. The use of two different platforms is considered with the benefits and drawbacks discussed. Students and tutors indicated that they would like to use a virtual computing lab approach in the future.
We’ll be joined by the lead author of the paper Phil Hackett, who’ll give us a lightning talk summary of the paper to kick-off our journal club discussion. The paper was presented at Computing Education Practice (CEP) in Durham earlier this month. 
Phil Hackett, Michel Wermelinger, Karen Kear and Chris Douce (2023) Using a Virtual Computing Lab to Teach Programming at a Distance in CEP ’23: Proceedings of 7th Conference on Computing Education Practice Pages 5–8 DOI:10.1145/3573260.3573262
Computing is widely taught in schools in the UK and Ireland, but how does the subject vary across primary and secondary education in Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland? Join us to discuss via a paper published at UKICER.com by Sue Sentance, Diana Kirby, Keith Quille, Elizabeth Cole, Tom Crick and Nicola Looker. 
Many countries have increased their focus on computing in primary and secondary education in recent years and the UK and Ireland are no exception. The four nations of the UK have distinct and separate education systems, with England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland offering different national curricula, qualifications, and teacher education opportunities; this is the same for the Republic of Ireland. This paper describes computing education in these five jurisdictions and reports on the results of a survey conducted with computing teachers. A validated instrument was localised and used for this study, with 512 completed responses received from teachers across all five countries The results demonstrate distinct differences in the experiences of the computing teachers surveyed that align with the policy and provision for computing education in the UK and Ireland. This paper increases our understanding of the differences in computing education provision in schools across the UK and Ireland, and will be relevant to all those working to understand policy around computing education in school.
(we’ll be joined by the co-authors of the paper: Sue Sentance and Diana Kirby from the University of Cambridge and the Raspberry Pi Foundation with a lightning talk summary to start our discussion)
Sue Sentance, Diana Kirby, Keith Quille, Elizabeth Cole, Tom Crick and Nicola Looker (2022) Computing in School in the UK & Ireland: A Comparative Study UKICER ’22: Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on United Kingdom & Ireland Computing Education Research 5 pp 1–7 DOI: 10.1145/3555009.3555015
Picture of Glasgow Cathedral (St Mungos) on Wikimedia Commons w.wiki/5aFU
Science is a broad church, full of narrow minds, trained to know ever more about even less. That’s according to Steve Jones , but in Computing Education Research (CER) are we being too narrow-minded about what counts (and what doesn’t count) as a contribution? Join us to discuss via a paper by Steve Draper and Joseph Maguire at the University of Glasgow recently published in TOCE . From the abstract:
The overall aim of this paper is to stimulate discussion about the activities within CER, and to develop a more thoughtful and explicit perspective on the different types of research activity within CER, and their relationships with each other. While theories may be the most valuable outputs of research to those wishing to apply them, for researchers themselves there are other kinds of contribution important to progress in the field. This is what relates it to the immediate subject of this special journal issue on theory in CER. We adopt as our criterion for value “contribution to knowledge”. This paper’s main contributions are: A set of 12 categories of contribution which together indicate the extent of this terrain of contributions to research. Leading into that is a collection of ideas and misconceptions which are drawn on in defining and motivating “ground rules”, which are hints and guidance on the need for various often neglected categories. These are also helpful in justifying some additional categories which make the set as a whole more useful in combination. These are followed by some suggested uses for the categories, and a discussion assessing how the success of the paper might be judged.
Automatic code generators have been with us a while, but how do modern AI powered bots perform on introductory programming assignments? Join us to discuss the implications of the OpenAI Codex on introductory programming courses on Monday 4th July at 2pm BST. We’ll be discussing a paper by James Finnie-Ansley, Paul Denny, Brett A. Becker, Andrew Luxton-Reilly and James Prather  for our monthly SIGCSE journal club meetup on zoom. Here is the abstract:
Recent advances in artificial intelligence have been driven by an exponential growth in digitised data. Natural language processing, in particular, has been transformed by machine learning models such as OpenAI’s GPT-3 which generates human-like text so realistic that its developers have warned of the dangers of its misuse. In recent months OpenAI released Codex, a new deep learning model trained on Python code from more than 50 million GitHub repositories. Provided with a natural language description of a programming problem as input, Codex generates solution code as output. It can also explain (in English) input code, translate code between programming languages, and more. In this work, we explore how Codex performs on typical introductory programming problems. We report its performance on real questions taken from introductory programming exams and compare it to results from students who took these same exams under normal conditions, demonstrating that Codex outscores most students. We then explore how Codex handles subtle variations in problem wording using several published variants of the well-known “Rainfall Problem” along with one unpublished variant we have used in our teaching. We find the model passes many test cases for all variants. We also explore how much variation there is in the Codex generated solutions, observing that an identical input prompt frequently leads to very different solutions in terms of algorithmic approach and code length. Finally, we discuss the implications that such technology will have for computing education as it continues to evolve, including both challenges and opportunities. (see accompanying slides and sigarch.org/coping-with-copilot/)
James Finnie-Ansley, Paul Denny, Brett A. Becker, Andrew Luxton-Reilly, James Prather (2022) The Robots Are Coming: Exploring the Implications of OpenAI Codex on Introductory Programming ACE ’22: Australasian Computing Education Conference Pages 10–19 DOI:10.1145/3511861.3511863