on the idea
that ACM would focus on a handful of
regions, and in each region we would
look to build a group of distinguished
computer scientists who knew both
the region and ACM. We now have
regional efforts in India, China, and
Europe, each of which is led by a Regional Council. These councils typically meet twice a year, and grow and
shape what ACM does in the region.
One result is that over the last three-and-a-half years, almost all growth in
membership at ACM has come from
outside the U.S.
[con TinUeD FroM P. 120]
Are there any specific regional initia-
tives you would like to highlight?
Let’s talk about the initiative you
launched to deal with cs education.
The phrase I use for this initiative
is “the image and health of the field,”
which reflects, first of all, how computing is perceived and to what extent
the general public understands what
computing is—why it’s more than just
IT literacy. Part of that effort is aimed
at a healthy computing educational
pipeline in general, and another part
is worrying about the specific image
issues that tend to keep girls from getting involved the field. On the “health”
side, it’s about ensuring we have a
healthy discipline, so that if we do get
kids interested in computing, there’s
a place for them to go—a well-defined
computing curriculum that is actually
This must be part of the reason you
“over the last
created the computer science Teach-
ers Association (cs TA).
all growth in
at acM has come
We created CSTA to have the national organization that every other discipline has for their high school teaching community, and to ensure that we
could get real computer science into
high schools. Today, much of the effort
is focused on a new Advanced Placement (AP) computer science course,
because AP courses are the closest
thing we have in the U.S. to a national
educational standard. With funding
from the National Science Foundation
(NSF), the community has developed
a new course, the College Board is engaging to make this new course a real
AP computer science course and test,
and we are in the process of figuring
out how we can scale this effort, train
teachers, and get real AP computer science into 10,000 high schools.
it sounds like an uphill battle.
It’s a very complicated problem,
but the computing community—ACM,
CSTA, NSF, CRA, NC-WIT, Microsoft,
Google, Intel, SAS, and others—are
basically all on the same page for the
first time that anybody can remember.
A new future for computing in high
schools is within grasp, though it’s going to take a lot of work and coordination and a lot of money to make it real.
What are the short-term goals for AcM?
There are a lot of important short-
term goals. We want to take our initia-
tives in India, China, and Europe to the
next level. In addition, we will be dis-
cussing how we could contribute to ad-
vancing computing in Latin America.
Throughout, we will be supporting our
SIGs in delivering an amazing spectrum
of high-quality ACM SIG research con-
ferences. And this year we are organiz-
ing an ACM special event to celebrate
the 100th anniversary of Alan Turing’s
birth. This will be a one-and-a-half-day
event and lead into the ACM awards
banquet in San Francisco. Amazingly,
32 Turing Award winners have agreed
to participate, and we’re working to
build it into a compelling program with
panels, talks, and networking oppor-
tunities, organized around 32 Turing
Award winners, to explore both the past
and the future of computing. It will be
something not to be missed.
What challenges does AcM face as it
heads into the future?
As an organization, I think ACM faces one core challenge. It’s a challenge
I believe almost every membership organization faces, and that is creating a
value proposition sufficiently compelling that individuals will decide to step
up and become a member. ACM represents the computing community—we
are led by the computing community,
and we serve the computing community. As a result, we need the computing community to be members of ACM,
partly because it makes sense and
partly because the community looks
to ACM to take on some very important tasks—tasks like worrying about
the image and health of this field,
publishing the best research, sponsoring world-class conferences, shaping
public policy, and leading initiatives
around the world. Part of the challenge
we have is that the social dimension
of the Web is fundamentally changing how people work, communicate,
and network. This shift is influencing
everything from publishing to delivering products and services to members.
There is a sense that everything we do
should be freely available to the world.
And while some of that desire makes
sense, if the community isn’t joining
the organization that’s funding all of
this work, then it doesn’t compute. We
have vision, we have great ideas, and
we have amazing leaders who are willing to guide the ACM. We just need the
computing community to realize that
this organization is important, and
that they need to be a part of it.
Leah hoffmann is a technology writer based in brooklyn, ny.