News | DOI:10.1145/1498765.1498774
Time to Reboot
A diverse, international group of more than 200 attendees met at the Rebooting
Computing Summit to address the problems confronting computer science.
THE CHALLENGES FACING the
computing field are well
known: enrollment in degree programs has steadily
declined since 2001; women
and minorities are underrepresented;
many K–12 students have a negative
perception of computing; and reports
say the innovation rate in the field has
To address these formidable challenges, a group of more than 200 participants from many sectors touched
by computing, including business,
education, government, engineering,
and science, held a three-day Rebooting
Computing Summit at the Computer
History Museum in Mountain View, CA,
The meeting comes at a critical
time for the computing field, says Peter
Denning, chairman of the computer
science department at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA, and
organizer of the invitational summit.
Conference organizer Peter Denning, left, and facilitator Ron Fry prepare before the start of
the Rebooting Computing Summit, which was held at the Computer History Museum.
“According to the last figures I saw,
the total number of computer science
students in the pipeline and expected
to graduate is about two-thirds of the
number of jobs needing to be filled,”
Denning says. “These are rewarding
jobs, demanding creativity.”
munity that’s been frustrated in its
efforts to attract young people and collaborators, and report that they’re eager to continue the momentum started
at the event.
“The most exciting part of the meeting was getting together with people
who all share a passion for computer
science and a common goal of working
to help revitalize the field,” says Robb
Cutler, past president of the Computer Science Teachers Association. The
summit fostered connections among
people with an interest in K–12 computer science programs, Cutler says.
that will carry out projects in the coming year. These groups include Image
of Computing, Defining Computer Science, and K–8 FUNdamentals. Each
group created a mission statement and
a list of actions they plan to accomplish
during the next year.
In addition to the inadequate number of computer science students,
another disturbing reality is that key
meetings of the leaders in science don’t
regularly include computer scientists.
“Computer science is often not at the
table,” Denning says, “and that hurts
The Rebooting Computing Web
site, rebootingcomputing.org, lists the
groups, members, and contact information, and incorporates collaborative
tools such as blogs, social networks,
and wikis. Denning is encouraged by
activity he’s seen since the summit,
such as the appearance online of several videos about the conference.
PHO TOGRAPH B Y MAR Y BRONZAN
Denning and a like-minded 18-mem-
ber team decided that previous workshops and studies devoted to these issues hadn’t produced enough impact.
It was time to try something different,
so they invited a diverse, international
group representing all major sectors
of computing to meet, share ideas and
find common ground, and take action.
Tim Bell, associate professor at the
University of Canterbury in New Zealand, says the summit brought together
many people in an environment that
seeded a lot of cooperation. “Not only
did I meet people interested in the same
kind of project, but there was the energy
and impetus to do something cooperative on a global scale,” Bell says.
“The loss of attraction to [computing]
comes from our being unable to communicate the magic and beauty of the field,”
Denning says. “We need to create an
appreciation for the elegance and power of what computing can do.”
Bob Violino is a writer based in Massapequa Park, NY,
who covers business and technology.
Attendees say the summit succeeded in generating excitement in a com-
The summit’s main achievement
was the formation of 15 action groups
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APRIL 2009 | VOL. 52 | NO. 4 | COMMUNICATIONS OF THE ACM
4/28/09 2:20:15 PM