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Computer Science Education Summer Institute

jd's picture

Post on August 14 2007

Today I discovered a Blog by Ashley Dawkins about CSESI 20007 that I hope can continue a discussion not only about CS education topics, but a "meta-discussion" about CSESI itself.  I am reminded that this is an open area of investigation, esp. as I work to attend the ICER 2007 conference on CS education research.


Post on July 27 2007

Paul Grobstein is conducting a mini-symposium for K-16 teachers in inductive learning -- a few CSESI 2007 graduates are present, including Jack Marine, Angela Bryant, Victoria Brown and J.D. So far we've had two discussion: one to define inductive learning, and another to determine if/should IL replace traditional, transmission learning. There is a mix of K-12 teachers, college students, college professors and college staff (library, GIS coordinator).


Post on July 20 2007

Jack Marine sent in the following link about true distance education (his school participates), connecting Ireland and Philadelphia (thanks, Jack).

American schoolchildren learn Irish tin whistle – from 5,000 miles
Athlone Advertiser, July 20, 2007


Posted on July 17 2007

Well, I finally sat down with iPhoto and our webserver and posted the photos from CSESI 2007, there is also a link from the CSESI hompage at Haverford and from Blackboard.


Posted July 14 2007

I am presently working at PGSIST 2007 at Drexel University with Jeff Popyack and HS students from Pennsylvania to develop software for the Tablet PC -- I have some time to get to work on concluding CSESI -- it seems stipends went out thanks to the efforts of Kim Minor. I also hope to get participants interested in continuing the discussion.


Post on June 29 2007am

Tom Way and Mary-Angela P. (I cannot spell her last name, sorry :-( ) arrived on a rainy day, Tom with amazing stories of cancelled flights and lost luggage in England/Scotland.

Tom started with his "long strange trip" into teaching CS at Villanova (school -> radio -> TV -> grad school -> teaching). Tom polled the class about magnetism -- thumbs uop/down exercise -- Tom and MPA did it!

Weather predicting (guessing, clounds, "humdity" [sic]) -- predicting weather with a deck of playing cards.

Gravity and the pencil -- "stuck" to his hand -- it's magic ....

Dividing work among string segments.

Summarizing a long paper -- Beverly was such a great volunteer.

-- Tom then went into the use of magic in teaching, it is a good tool in a bag of pedagogical tools (and cheap!).

Two approaches:

  • topic driven
  • trick driven

Tom suggested being surprised along with the students, as opposed to impressing the students.

The Magician's Code:

  1. never reveal
  2. never repeat
  3. practice

Misdirection, concealment, switching, forcing.

Trick categories

  • production
  • vanish
  • transposition
  • penetration
  • levitation
  • mental


  • movement
  • angles
  • surprise
  • thought
  • eyes
  • reason

Tom and MAP then distributed some sample kits/handouts so we could all learn -- the tricks are CS slanted, but many can be adapted for other sciences.

Arms and thinbs for 2-state concepts.

Forcing a card (3 clubs, see tombstone of Penn and Teller)

Pencil and gravity

Post on June 28 2007pm

Dave Wonnacott revisited a few of the ideas already touched on during the week, including algorithm (sequence, selection and reprtition), specification, and problem solving.

Dave then introduced a cool tool he is developing to assist on in learning he sounds of words by introducing color (and other features). Pronounciation is certainly an issue (e.g., ordering "coke", or "kuk") -- shame, the red did not render onscreen.


Post on June 28 2007am

Wow, attendance was really light today, but we did get started (let's blame the heat!) -- anyway, Jeff Popyack of Drexel University surprised us all by bringing in an actual braed making machine -- he loaded it up, and started it, and then began his "formal" presentation on ways to engage computing that might be considered unconventional.

Jeff noted that today's graduate will spend about 50 years in the workforce (isn't that conforting).

As Jeff added some water to the breadmaker, I could not resist adding that he was "tweaking" the program -- Jeff recounted the "smart" building at Drexel that had no light switches -- however, during meetings, the light would go out after about 20 minutes -- manual override always needed!

Jeff discussed many common, everyday application that inviolve computing -- laser guns/tag, EZpass systems, etc ...

Jeff kept looking at the breadmaker (checkpointing overhead).

I had to make the observation that specification of software is very hard -- e.g., for laser tag, software considers cases such as hit other team, hit same team -- what about hitting youself? is that the same team?

Check out the virtual bobbleheads of the CSESI group! As if that is not enough ... Virtual Pests!

Post on June 27 2007pm

Dianna Xu endured a "flight from hell" (actually, from Las Vegas, but for some people ...) to visit with us today -- she talked about various types of Visualization and Computing

  • scientific visualization
  • data visualization
  • information visualization (i.e., everything else)

Onto applications, including insurance, mortality tables, census data -- Halley did meterology and mortality tables in the 17th century -- 2D examples as well in the 18th-19th century.

3D images -- X-yars, stacking of 2D X-rays -- 1949 SAGE air defense system -- 1965: Sketchpad system (Sutherland), considered the first 2D graphical drawing system.

Now, augmented reality -- 1983: responsive environments; 1995: CAVE.

A discussion of the practicalities, or "realities", of augmented reality ensued.

Howard mentioned applications in medicine, to "experience" a tumor.

Visualization domains:

  • scanning
  • computational
  • measuring

Potential applications include:

  • surgical tools
  • tele-medicine
  • inter-operative visualization in brain surgery, biopsies
  • industry

Telemedicine, vurtual surgery example to get expertise into remote areas in the real world -- presently experimental, used in "no other options" situations.

Lots of examples of visualization successes (e.g., discovering the source of a cholera outbreak, flight information) -- then the classic, the 2D graphic. of Napoleon's invasion of Russia.

Clearly Dianna made the most of her time waiting in the airport, as the slides were very beautiful and effective.

Affter many visual illusions, we took a quick break.

Dianna suggested application of visualization in education.

One example is Second Life -- popular, and becoming a resource for advertisers -- access is free, but land is not free in the game, must be bartered -- opportunities are emerging in this virtual world -- service based and barter economy.


Post on June 27 2007am

Hot and humid -- a real "summer in Philly" day, and thus a good day to work inside and discuss computing and education -- Steven Lindell started his presentation polling the audience about accessibility and interface issues with computers.

Most of the teachers in the workshop have students with disabilities and/or accessibility issues -- Steven noted that everyone has some accessibility issue.

So, how does someone with mobility or vision issues work with a computer? Other examples were discussed. For example, converting a webpage into Braille; but what about images? Perhaps a topological map.

Steven then introduced the Kurzweil Reading Machine, invented by Ray Kurzweil to help people with vision issues read books.

Note the term from yesterday -- "geek-out" -- Steven suggested that all of our technology involved "a nerd" -- people passionate about thier work.

Universal design principles as applied to HCI.

A discussion of Steven Hawking, who hold the same chair as Issac Newton (but the only one that was electric) -- accessibility issues -- he can do many thinkgs still but extremely slowly -- Steven met Pf. Hawking last year, and his disabilities are quite profound.

Segway -- two models, one for standing, one for sitting (and climbing stairs, and raise the person to the height of a standing person!) -- the sitting one is called an IBOT.

Steven recounted his personal experiences with assistive technology and interface solutions -- for many reasons, esp. students with accessibility issues.

Some history of IT for non-typing input:

  1. dictation with a person (i.e., "secretary")
  2. discrete speech recognition
  3. continuous speech recognition

Initially on IBM supercomputers in the 1970's (which are about how powerful today's PCs are).

Speech as an alternative to typing -- kids can pick up new technology rapidly.

Steven's presentation notes are available from Blackboard.

Lots of discussion of different microphone technologies (analog vs. digital, noise-cancelling vs. echo-cancelling, headset vs. array microphone).

Steven then went through a demonstration of his use of speech recognition (here's a video of a previous demonstration).

Here's a link to an interesting story about the Professor and the Madman.


From Dora:

JD - I don't want to mess up your blog but here's something of
interest by way of ebooks-

Speaking of sources for ebooks and a low-risk way to trying them out:

World eBook Fair (sponsored by Project Gutenberg) is a special event
run by the
World Public Library (normally $8.95 a year to join)

but every year they give away free downloads for a month starting
July 4th to August 4th from a selection of half a million ebooks.

Project Gutenberg itself has 20,000 free classics including poetry
(also includes audio files!)

Also check out the World Public Library
Not free but less than $9 a year.


Post on June 26 2007pm

After another fine lunch, Deepak Kumar began the afternnon with his goals for the session:

  • how do computers really work?
  • robots and computing
  • diversity and computing

We started with a discussion of the definition of a robot -- pictures of R2D2 mailbox, locations around the area.

Next was the chimpanzee robot, available for about $30.

Robots are now quite readily available.

Next, the robot vacuum cleaner (RoomBot).

Wow, and then there was "robot surgery", remote operation, ability to delivery the service from anywhere -- so the question arose about what happens if there is a problem with the surgery; may need human interaction, plus the components are designed to respond quickly to these issues.

Onto Mars images taken by robot.

YouTube video of a robot skater.

Now onto two aibo robot dogs (by Sony) interacting ($1,700 each) -- a discussion about the cost tradeoffs in designing and implementing this particular robot -- one of the hardest issues is balancing a dog on four legs -- another video of a dog on a skateboard.

Some discussion of how robots should appear: different from us, or look like us (or other "reality")?

So there was some discussion about how does the robot vacuum know how to clean your room? No camera, no pre-programmed sketch of the room -- so how -- generally a "random" algorithm that moves the robot until it strikes something, then turns, .... works pretty well -- "Zamboni algorithm" for simple layouts -- and yes, you could use a GPS, but likely not worth it (i.e., you could pay to have a person clean the entire home!) -- note: simple behaviors can produce pretty effective results, at least with vacuum cleaners -- robot return to station by sensor.

A major issue for a robot is power, so that needs to be handled; either return to charging station, or perhaps solar power -- also, replication can help ("multiple sheep").

Algorithms involve thinking mathematically and over the long run to achieve the desired (and defined) outcome.

General robot algorithm: sense, reason, action, repeat....

There are typically multiple sensors providing input to the robot.

AI looks at research about how we operate. Note that most airplane land by auto-pilot.

Cell phones and changes in design -- cars and reprogrammable robots for the assembly line, keeping costs down.

Google search engine as robot.

"Input => Process => Output" parallels the robot algorithm above.

Input processing is a major issue in computer vision.

Deepak then asked the big question, "What is computer science?" -- generally, it is the science of algorithms.

He supported this using the "guessing game" example, discussing that the solution is achieved in log N steps, where N is the size of the sequential ranges of integer values.

Computer is dumb (can really only add and move data) but very fast.

Deepak continued with the basic of algorithms, including

  • sequence
  • decision
  • repetition

These are the key ideas for algorithms.

Then the discussion proceeded to identifying the freshest eggs, and that the "use by" date is often not enough.

Deepak also introduced the Robot Game where four people work together as a brain, eyes, and two arms to stack one box on another -- it quickly becomes clear that the brain needs to do a lot of work.

Wizard of Oz simulation first, help students visualize the process of animation of robots.

Deepak discussed the issues of gender in computer science/computing -- "geek-out" as a new term -- hoping that teachers can help redefine the gender bias seen in computing -- there was a nice, lively discussion about how some of the subtle things we might do as teachers impact the choices made by students, especially girls and boys.

Lastly, as a computer exercise, visit "I Was Wondering dot org" -- review.


Post on June 26 2007am

Breakfast (Thanks Bruce), then Steve Cooper introduced the Alice virtual world environment, and how it can be used to engage students about computer science.

Steve has authored a text on Alice, and announced that it is available to the attendees (thanks, Steve!).

Steve asked that professionals keep solutions out of the public domain.

Tracking the use of Alice in colleges is about 290; K-12 not sure.

Steve also mentioned usage of Alice to help children with autism to express "sentences" -- other approaches were mentions (e.g., "writing out loud").

We now were able to work with Alice, building the initial world (feels empowering to build a world :-).

The group then proceeded to build a world that has an ice skater spin, and eventually fall into a hole in the ice (with water sound effects!) -- though I hear many chicken sounds as I compose this ....

Alice programming online resouces are available at .

Post on June 25 2007pm

After a fine lunch (and visits from Darin Hayton and Teryy Newirth), Dora Wong began the afternoon presenting IT tools for research and library work -- she started with a distinction between Web 1.0 vs. Web 2.0.

A discussion of plagarism and ethics ensued -- IT tools can make cheating faster, but can also be used to help mitigate cheating -- still, honor and integrity are needed (as in the "real world").

Challenges of eLearning

  • define goal
  • search/find
  • locate/localize
  • represent
  • store
    • object
    • metadata

Peer learning -- no experts, knowledge evolves in the new paradigm (Web 2.0) -- Dora asked how many people have used Web 2.0 tools.

Mindmap for the presentation (old-fashioned, in color).

  • MindMap
  • ConceptMap
  • TouchGraph
IT "toys" to review, including a GPS.

Now onto Blogs, and their quality -- then onto the OED.

Creative Commons License -- use and share items online -- very useful on Web 2.0 -- be careful what you post, be aware of your rights -- Dora showed how to use Flickr to post and limits access to a photo.

JD shared the Recursion Song.

Steven Lindell described James Murray and the OED, including the history of words.

Dora described the battle between Andrew Keen (Cult of the Amateur) vs. James Sorowiecki (Wisdom of Crowds), as well as Peter Miller (Swarm Theory).

Dance Contest on YouTube.

Ashley about the issues of MySpace.

Law and virtual space -- what a discussion we can have!

Perfect Summer exercise.

Dora then demonstrated the cmap tool (on BB).

Then onto TouchGraph. (Now with Facebook!, a surprise) -- e.g. of reading a good book.


Post on June 25 2007 am

Well, after some "synchronization issues" (location of the breakfast, Blackboard login), Paul started his session on Reality and Virtuality -- as I compose, he is discussing Conway's "Game of Life" asking about when does the game get interesting (vs. boring/stable???) -- example of a generative world -- computers were needed to make the observations (i.e., Conway was not able to realize all the implications). Note we can get order out of chaos/randomness -- even in the classroom.

This is an example where computers were able to help ask questions that were not feasible to ask (and answer).

My question is, is this virtual science? ...

Now Paul is discussing the classroom as a distributed system, individual actions with interactions using Langton's Ant. "Random" behavior, then "building a road", even past a wall -- how?

Now onto tinking about segregation and integration with interactive model (looks like NetLogo).

I am always impressed at Paul's delivery -- paced, deliberate, making the audience think and reflect, he seems to be able to extract the needed "next step" from the students, as well as adjust when a tagent arises -- also, his delivery is almost completely opposite of my style (as far as I can tell).


I am quite new to this whole "blogging" thing, more interested in living than reporting -- still, conversation is an important part of living, so I am open to exploring a new way to converse -- the initial information below is also found on a blog at Blackboard for CSESI 2007 -- J.D.


Post on June 24 2007

Wow, the week flew by, but I learned much at Lafayette College, part of a NITLE workshop on computational science and parallel computing (two of my favorite things) -- I was able to read email occasionally, but mostly re-learning MPI -- there is a neat package called BCCD, bootable cluster on a CD from this workshop.

Anyway, I am quite excited about the upcoming week, and pleased that so many old and "emerging" colleagues have agreed to participate as presenters and attendees. I am posting some materials on the web and Blackboard, as well as preparing some signs in case people need help in finding Hilles Hall (I was reminded how easyy it is to get lost when visiting an unfamiliar campus). Please proceed to the second floor where breakfast should be available (KINSC H208).

Paul Grobstein will begin the Institute, a fitting beginning as we have based this approach on his Summer Institutes at Bryn Mawr that have been quite successful. I was able to present the last two years, and I hope the attendees learned as much as I learned.

After lunch, Dora Wong will discuss the many tools that professionals (e.g., academics, librarians, spies I suppose :-) use to locate, filter, and extract information from data -- increasingly vast amounts of data -- also, I have seen Dora many times, she is not as pixellated as her online image ;-).

I also hope we can find some time to discuss topics relating to computing and education -- I "assigned" a New Yorker article about "lifeblogging", perhaps that can prime the pump (perhaps not).

Post on June 18 2007

Hello, and welcome to my first attempt to seriously blog.

It is late, so this first entry will be short, and hopefully sweet. I have been thinking much about how this workshop (or "institute", the historical name used, but I am not one used to institutionalizing people :-) -- I have been recently swamped by practicalities (like how to get a Blackboard site up and running). Still, the goals of the workshop are of interest to me.

A few goals I can share:

  • intellectually engaging, ideally stimulating, for all participants
  • efficient use of everyone's time
  • some practical tools acquired by as many as possible
  • generally a worthwhile experience
  • fun

The last two goals go together, especially as I lately reflect on the role of emotion in learning.


cheap computers's picture

The goals of the workshop

The goals of the workshop are of interest to me.

Ann Dixon's picture

Links to Langton's Ant and The Game of Life

Serendip has some fun, interactive exhibits about Langton's Ant and The Game of Life:




Other Serendip interactive exhibits are available on Serendip's Playground: