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Professionalizing Computer Science In His 1999 SIGCSE Keynote, Peter Denning called for the a professional rather than disciplinary view of Computing 1. The focus on the phenomena surrounding computation and computing machines is too narrow.

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Professionalizing Computer Science

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Professionalizing Computer Science


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In His 1999 SIGCSE Keynote, Peter Denning called for the a professional rather than disciplinary view of Computing

1. The focus on the phenomena surrounding computation and computing machines is too narrow.

2. The academic organization via discipline should be overcome by collecting all computing departments within a school of computing and forging a common core.

3. The professional world-view, however, transcends the disciplinary world-view, so merely teaching generic computing concepts is not the solution.


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Six Assertions Illustrate the Professional Perspective

  • 1) Like every other profession, IT is based on a set of durable human concerns for taking care of others, for seizing opportunities, and for removing blockages to progress; the need for a profession will not soon disappear.

  • 2)Practices are as important a part of knowledge as discourses, mental models, conceptual frameworks, processes, and rules.

  • 3)Concerns and practices first show up when technology is applied in real circumstances: applications domains are the front lines of the profession.

  • 4)Innovation is the ultimate reward of research; R&D portfolios must expand to include innovations in ideas, in teaching practices, in products, and even in business designs.

  • 5)Much innovation occurs at the boundaries between fields; the practices of one appear at the margins of the other, moving eventually to the center.

  • 6)In addition to the traditional formal degrees, the system of higher education must accommodate professional practice, continuing professional education, certification where appropriate, the full spectrum of professional specialties and involvement with customers.


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Rigorous computing programs can differ stress on :

  • Undergraduate research (discovery and exploration of fundamental problems in the discipline--training in analysis and synthesis).

  • Undergraduate project exposure (experience putting principles into practice--training in the process of computing applications).

  • Initial job preparation (practical skill--acquiring the specific knowledge and skills relevant to current problems and today=s technology).


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The Disciplinary approach to undergraduate curricula

Computer Science has held that professionals should understand the mechanical (algorithmic) details of a solution else the merits or limitations of the solution will be learned only with experience

To learn about computing and using computing environments today one starts in the middle and moves up or down depending upon the interest in the topic being considered. Even with a breadth-first introduction, Computer Science moves down and builds its view of the discipline bottom up. We learn the components of building solutions before we attempt to solve real problems.

A Professional prospective probably favors a top-down curriculum where problems are the focus and tools and techniques are introduced as they are needed.


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A top-down curriculum focuses on accomplishments

The top-down curriculum addresses the interests and motivations of a different class of students from those that computer science usually attracts. It satisfies these students’ need for an immediate sense of accomplishment by using powerful tools first. It offers a stronger motivation for continued study than a mere breadth-first introduction because the student is immediately empowered but can be challenged to gain greater control and refinement.

The top-down curriculum can be real-problem motivated and can teach tool use where the tool exists to solve the problem. Only when the tool is inadequate does the student’s frustration generate the concern for WHY? HOW DOES THIS TOOL WORK? WHAT CAN BE DONE TO IMPROVE IT? In domains where tools are good, students will become very proficient in applying the tool.


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A new degree in Applied Computer Science

The Bachelor of Science in Applied Computer Science needs to be a new degree because its requirements will differ substantially from those of the CSAB accredited Computer Science degree.

This program will not have at its core the training of programmers. Instead, this program will prepare workers who will be focused on critical commercial software packages and their applications

Our goal is to entice the practical student to become a power user and then to transition to what is under the hood. We are also interested in incorporating as much of the content pertinent to industry-sponsored certifications as we can


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Implementation of the “outside-in” degree

Revise and extend “user” (non-major) courses

Build a tier of “power user” courses

Modify our upper division “elective” offerings to merge the two streams of students

Offer the “webmaster” and the “network engineer” tracks with other tracks envisioned.


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Prerequisite Tree (core courses in bold)

webmaster track & network engineer

101111 Math 201

  / \          /  \   / 

205270305242, L

|   /   |   \      /   |  \  \    |  

|       / |     \    /     |   \    \  330

|     / | \ /       |     \ 415 /  |     \ 

431276 / \     |    \    / 433437

  |   \ /       \  |    \ /  | 

  |      / \          |\     \ / 434

 382  \     |   \   \  /  

460 \ |/   490 335


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Conclusion

The transition to a professional point of view will occur in small steps, but the current growth of the computing industry provides a lot of opportunity for computing departments to broaden their purview. The Computer Science Department at LSU-Shreveport has accepted the challenge posed by differently motivated students and demands for new skills and has devised a second degree program which gives a "non-programming" option to students while still focusing on hardware and software. The structure of the new degree anticipates other non-programming tracks which could in the future provide graduates in computer-based manufacturing or e-commerce.


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Respondents

Sharon Tuttle, Humboldt State

Gary Eerkes, WWU

Cathy Bareiss, Olivet Nazarene

Chuck Howerton, Metropolitan State Univ.

The respondents form a panel whose duty it is to express a response or reaction to the presentation based upon the opportunity to read and reflect upon the paper in advance.


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