TITLE: SIGCSE DAY 0 -- Media Computation Workshop AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: March 10, 2010 8:35 PM DESC: ----- BODY:

[A transcript of the SIGCSE 2010 conference: Table of Contents]

I headed to SIGCSE a day early this year in order to participate in a couple of workshops. The first draw was Mark Guzdial's and Barbara Ericson's workshop using media computation to teach introductory computing to both CS majors and non-majors. I have long been a fan of this work but have never seen them describe it. This seemed like a great chance to learn a little from first principles and also to hear about recent developments in the media comp community. Because I taught a CS1 course in Java, using media comp four years ago, I was targeted by other media comp old-timers as a media comp old-timer. They decided, with Mark's blessing, to run a parallel morning session with the goal of pooling experience and producing a resource of value to the community. When the moment came for the old-timers to break out on their own, I packed up my laptop, stood to leave -- and stopped. I felt like spending the morning as a beginner. This was not an entirely irrational decision. First, while I have done Java media comp, I have never worked with the original Python materials or the JES programming environment students use to do media comp in Python. Second, I wanted to see Mark present the material -- material he has spent years developing and for which he has great passion. I love to watch master teachers in action. Third, I wanted to play with code! Throughout the morning, I diddled in JES with Python code to manipulate images, doing things I've done many times in Java. It was great fun. Along the way, I picked up a few nice quotes, ideas, and background facts: I also learned about Susan Menzel's work at Indiana University to port media computation to Scheme. This is the second such project I've heard of, after Sam Rebelsky's work at Grinnell College connecting Scheme to Gimp. Late in the morning, we moved on to sound. Mark demonstrated some wonderful tools for playing with and looking at sound. He whistled, sang, hummed, and played various instruments into his laptop's microphone, and using their MediaTools (written in Squeak) we could see the different mixes of tones available in the different sounds. These simple viewers enable us to see that different instruments produce their own patterns of sounds. As a relative illiterate in music, I only today understood how it is that different musical instruments can produce sounds of such varied character. The best quote of the audio portion of the morning was, "Your ears are all about logarithms." Note systems with halving and doubling of frequencies across sets of notes is not an artifact of culture but an artifact of how the human ear works! This was an all-day workshop, but I also had a role as a sage elder at the New Educators Roundtable in the afternoon, so I had to duck out for a few hours beginning with lunch. I missed out on several cool presentations, including advanced image processing ideas such as steganography and embossing, but did get back in time to hear how people are now using media computation to teach data structures ideas such as linked lists and graphs. Even with a gap in the day, this workshop was a lot of fun, and valuable as we consider expanding my department's efforts to teach computing to humanities students. -----