A Personal Narrative of My Relationship with SIGCSE
Trends and Reflections
Frankly, 1991 was a time of turmoil in CS education. There
really was no consensus as to what should be taught in the first
course. Curriculum 1991 was a step in the right direction, but
educators still argued over what language to use in the first
course. When the APCS was first instituted using Pascal, local high-school teachers were up in arms—of course Basic was
the language to use. What was Pascal?
Who ever heard of it? (I personally
ran a worship to prepare high-school
teachers to teach a course for the first
AP exam. I wanted to talk about teaching concepts; they wanted to learn
During the first twenty years of
SIGCSE, there were other comput-er-education related conferences and
many of our members participated
in them. A listing looks like alphabet
soup: WCCE, NECC, EDUCOM, ACM CSC, CCSC, AFIPS. At
the time of the 1992 survey, the National Education Computer Conference (NECC) was still active. Twenty-nine percent of
our members had attended an NECC conference, but only 12%
in the last year (1991). This reflected NECC’s focus on pre-college education. However, most respondents felt that SIGCSE
should stay involved with NECC in some way.
CHANGES IN SIGCSE
There were strong feelings that SIGCSE should sponsor summer activities—workshops, refereed conferences, and/or
non-refereed conferences. Others cautioned that they could
only afford one conference a year. However, in response to this
strong support for a summer activity, the ITiCSE Conference
was initiated and held in Barcelona, Spain, in June of 1996. This
conference has been held each year since in Europe, Australia, Turkey, and Israel. There were no submitted papers the first
year, only refereed workshops. The results of the workshops
were published in the Bulletin.
The answers to the Free Response questions of the survey
highlighted our professional diversity:
• The papers are too technical/The papers are too low level.
• Having a paper accepted brings support for going to the
symposium, so take more papers/
The quality of the papers is poor, so don’t take as many.
• We need more papers on how to teach/We need more
• Symposium should be in cheaper places/The sites are dull.
So, how did we, as an organization, solve some of these
contradictions? A look at the research areas represented in the
survey gave us a clue—involved in technical research, 24.6%,
involved in CS Education research, 21.4%, and focused only
on teaching, 39.9%. There were two distinct audiences represented in the survey: the teachers and the researchers. Those
THE STATE OF SIGCSE IN 1992
In 1992, when I was Chair, Boots Cassel was Vice-Chair, and
Harriet Taylor was Treasurer of SIGCSE, we got together to
discuss the future of our organization:
• Who are we?
• How do we rate current services?
• Where should we be going?
To find the answers to these and
other questions, we devised a questionnaire or survey, which we distributed
to our membership. Four hundred and
forty-five SIGCSE members took the
time to fill out the 6-page questionnaire. The following paragraphs give
a summary of the responses and the
changes that resulted from members’
It was not surprising that 88.7% of the respondents were
associated with educational institutions. Others were in publishing, industry, government or some other type of institution.
The educational institutions ranged from high schools to
PhD-granting institutions with most of the institutions four-year colleges. Of our members in teaching institutions, 41.1%
taught all levels in the undergraduate program, 14.6% taught
only lower-division classes, and 25.2% taught both undergraduate and graduate courses.
The first SIGCSE Bulletin was published in 1969. ACM
Inroads was first published in 2010. Thus, the questions about
the quality of our publications only reflected the Bulletin and
the Conference Proceedings. First, we asked if the respondents
read the Bulletin— 75.6% read at least the Table of Contents and
selected articles; 15.5% read it from cover to cover; one person
tossed it on the bookshelf without looking at it; 93.5% rated
the Bulletin as good, very good, or excellent. The respondents
seemed equally satisfied with the Technical Symposia and the
The questions relating to the future of our organization were
broken into two parts—what should we be doing and where
should we be doing it? Curriculum ’ 91 had just been introduced
and obviously was of great interest to this group. A large majority of members were looking closely at the recommendations
with intent to adopt some or all of them. As the recommendations are of only historical interest, I won’t go into them. However, the concept of closed laboratories was introduced there
and did have a lasting impact.
Many of the SIGCSE members were interested in, and
worked closely with, the Advanced Placement Exam in Computer Science (APCS). Many of our members had been on planning committees and graders for the APCS. During the time of
this questionnaire, the APCS changed its format and split the
exam into two parts: A and AB. The A part was supposed to
mirror what was taught in the first course in CS, and AB was to
mirror the second semester.
Frankly, 1991 was a time
of turmoil in CS
education. There really
was no consensus as
to what should be taught
in the first course.