Maybe you know about 13 dwarfs but have you heard about the 26 concepts, 10 myths about CS and 10 ways to attract CS students; Informatics Education Europe III

I attended the IEE III 2008 conference in Venice Italy on December 4-5 2008 (http://www.dsi.unive.it/IEEIII/). Supported by the ACM the conference provides a forum for European Informatics academics to discuss the latest developments in the teaching and learning of Informatics in Europe. Overall the topics were familiar from the previous conferences; the decline in students and specifically the decline of female students, increasing the engagement of the students in the classroom, and the overall image of the dicipline. We discussed how to involve more women, how to get students involved in the topics, and how to increase their understanding of the topics. Through the 24 different talks, all of us were busily, listening, discussing and writing down all the excellent ideas and studies presented. Read on for a few highlights below.

Meeting took place at University De Foscari

Prof. Dr. Andrew McGettrick, University of Strathclyde during the opening keynote discussed accredidation in Europe, the changes since the Bolona process and status of the dicipline.

Prof. Dr. Bertrand Meyer, ETH Zurich pointed out in his invited speech 'The 26 concepts of Computer Science' that the discipline is improperly named and therefore the public do not understand the importance of the discipline or how Informatics influences our everyday lives.

Prof. Dr. Jan van Leeuwen, Utrecht University in his invited talk continued on this theme as he discussed the 'Ten ways to attract more students to Informatics'. He stressed the importance of developing a consistent image of the discipline, an image that changes the perceptions of the students, their parents and the public about Informatics. Dr. Jan Van Leeuwen said that 'this science seems to be only attractive to a small margin of males' and that it is perceived as a 'lonely' job.

Thanos Hatziapostolou, City College presented a study entitiled '10 Myths for Computer Science'. This study surveyed incoming applicants and their parents about their perceptions about Computer Science. From the study, they developed a list of the top ten misconceptions about computer science. They then determined ways to dispel these myths when talking with the entering students and their parents. Finally, they surveyed final year students, which showed that after 3 years of study they have changed their perception of the myths; however, they believe that current entering students and the public still believe these myths.

Another topic discussed during the 2 days was how to keep the students attention with all the social networking available. Prof Roger Boyle, Leeds University during his talk indicated it is not just getting the students into the classroom, additionally you need to keep their attention, and with everyone in the lecture hall connected to the network with their laptop, faculty must be aware that every student in the hall is using Facebook while in the classroom and that there is no point in trying to fight this phenomenon, instead teachers need to find new ways of engaging this new generation of students. Several of the other talks presented ideas to involve students and gain their participation.

Overall the 24 talks during the two days supported and confirmed these issues with very innovative recommendations and ideas for resolution. It is clear that the work on these issues is no where near complete: more information and studies are needed to get us going in the right direction. Without changing the image and the number of interested students, and the engagement of the students we will have a serious shortfall of skills in the future.
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