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Educational Grand Challenges and Related Issues


Memories for life. Scalable ubiquitous computing systems. Dependable systems evolution ... prepare students to be creative and innovative will create advantages ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Educational Grand Challenges and Related Issues

Educational Grand Challenges and Related Issues
  • 7th HEA ICS Annual Conference
  • Dublin, August, 2006
  • Andrew McGettrick

  • The concept of Grand Challenges
  • The Newcastle conference in March 2004
  • Research challenges
  • Educational challenges
  • The Glasgow conference in March 2006
  • Research again
  • Education revisited
  • Meta - challenge

Plan of talk
  • Provide an overview of the original challenges
  • Make brief comments on the March 06 review
  • Make some observations, e.g. about any progress
    towards solutions
  • Reflect on the meta-challenge

The Research - Based Grand Challenges
The seven challenges
  • In vivo - in silico
  • Science for global ubiquitous computing
  • Memories for life
  • Scalable ubiquitous computing systems
  • Dependable systems evolution
  • Journeys in non-classical computation

The Education - Based Grand Challenges
Perception of Computing
  • Promote an improved and ultimately very positive
    public image of computing whereby the public
    gains respect for the field and the professionals
    who practice within it.

Models of Computing (formerly Innovation)
  • Provide simpler models of computing as a
    discipline and have this simplicity reflected in
    a better mix of high quality computing courses
    that genuinely accommodates a broad spectrum of
    student ability and interest. 

  • Ensure that the quality and currency of
    computing skills and competence are recognised as
    being important by graduates throughout their
    career, and put in place an infrastructure to
    provide support and guidance on a career long

  • Understand the programming process and
    programmer practice to deliver effective
    educational transfer of knowledge and skills

  • Ensure that students of computing see relevant
    mathematics and formalisms in a very positive
    light, as providing support, guidance, and

  • Establish e-learning as a credible viable
    complement to face-to-face education.

Pre-university Issues
  • Rationalise the situation at the pre-university
    level directed toward the promotion of computing
    to would-be students of computing. Create for
    students a smooth transition from school to
    university by first enthusing and informing
    potential students and create a positive
    influence affecting pre-university computing.

The March 06 Conference
  • The Glasgow Conference

The Research Challenges
  • Three new challenges added
  • These were
  • A meta Grand Challenge - see later
  • Learning for life
  • Bringing the past to life for the citizen
  • .

The Education - Based Challenges
  • Comprised three sessions
  • A review of the challenges
  • Possible projects to address the challenges
  • What will computing look like in the year 2015?
  • Conclusion original challenges remain robust

Some Issues
  • relating to the Education - Based Grand Challenges

  • At the present time, Computing has to be seen as
    a discipline in absolute crisis
  • It is important to recognise this, and of course
    worry about how we may respond
  • These challenges as set out do not quite do that
    ... or do they?

Threats to Discipline
  • Recently several threats to our discipline have
  • For instance, drop the mathematical foundations,
    the theory, and replace that with a heavy
    emphasis on Business studies and Management
  • This will ensure industry is competitive, etc.

Some Issues
  • Difficulties in addressing the challenges
  • Funding needed at some level
  • No obvious funding source, unless initiative from
  • HEFCE initiative in progress
  • Need to identify projects and new ideas in
    support of this important!!

Various Comments
  • The following is a quote from Eric Roberts
  • at a recent ICER workshop in Palo Alto
  • Computer Science curricula have changed in the
    last decade to focus on languages (Java) and
    paradigms (object-oriented programming) that are
    difficult both to teach and to learn.
  • Do we always need to teach students to write
    program? Would understanding the nature of
    software suffice?
  • e-learning strategy topic of great debate here

Comment on the Discipline
  • Given all these problems should we question the
    nature of the basic discipline?
  • Some advocate a move to more joint degrees for
    the most part, they are not popular. Are there
    topics we should be absorbing into the
  • Will this change not just the perception but the
    situation to our benefit?

An example …
  • Just as we tend to have courses on discrete
    mathematics, should we have a specially tailored
    first year course on, say, biological studies for
    computing? Or is it bio-informatics?
  • Why? Biometrics for security, modelling framework
    for ubiquitous and pervasive computing,
    forensics, etc.

Why bio-informatics?
  • Ability of living things to store, utilise and
    pass on information
  • What information is important and how is it used
    to control behaviour in human organisms?
  • Basis of inheritance
  • Structure and organisation in nature
  • DNA issue as it relates to security

Additional comments
  • We seem to be almost in freefall as far as the
    problems we have
  • Thus applications are down by a further 10 this
    year. The problems of attracting girls / women
    remain and yet are important.
  • Note The BCS has ECDL. Of the core modules
    successful completions are 64 female, 36 male

ECDL Advanced Modules
Observations from the US
The US Situation
  • The number of applications in the US is around
    40 of what it was about 4 5 years ago
  • There is serious concern that there will not be
    graduates to fill key posts
  • Much of the reasons for the fall is attributed to
    offshoring / outsourcing

JMTF report
  • ACM has just published its Job Migration Task
    Force report (March 2006)
  • This contains a chapter devoted to education and
    educational issues
  • The implication is that the world of education
    has responsibilities here
  • There are likely to be initiatives as a result of

JMTF Comments on Education
  • There is a need to consider the levels of IT
    work that are predominant in the national and
    multinational economy being served by the
    educational institution, and which are likely to
    be predominant in the coming years
  • There is a need for computing / IT education
    to evolve, whether due to globalization or not.
  • There is a need for education to begin to prepare
    students for a global economy and its possible
    impact on their careers.

… continued
  • Educational systems that help prepare students to
    be creative and innovative will create advantages
    for those students and their countries.
  • Educational systems that not only pay attention
    to current business and industry needs but also
    provide a core foundational knowledge will create
    advantages for those students and their
  • A good educational system requires the right
    technology, a good curriculum, and good teachers.

Standing back …
  • We need to be alert to the messages here, and to
    the reactions to this
  • What are the main ones?
  • The nature of the options we offer to students
  • Recognition that to be expert in some
    applications may need sustained study
  • Emphasis on innovation

Some US Initiatives
  • ACM Ed Board / Ed Council structure
  • The curriculum reports - computer engineering,
    computer science, information systems,
    information technology, software engineering
  • Overview volume
  • Related Guide and web site

The Image / Profile problem
  • Many solutions needed

The profile / image problem
  • How do we promote computing / IT as an area of
  • This is not just about main stream degrees, but
    about joint degrees, with-degrees, etc. and even
    individual modules.
  • Note the difficulty of differentiating this from
    considerations about fluency or literacy -
    nowadays all undergraduates will have or will
    acquire the latter

One perspective
  • We are about producing

Observations on Innovation
  • Note the link with
  • competitiveness, an important area of concern
  • capacity to lead, another important concern
  • … and so on
  • Also - somewhat subtle - it provides a very
    positive and necessary reaction to issues
    associated with globalisation

  • About two-thirds of the 80 gain in economic
    productivity since 1995 can be attributed to
    advances in information technology
  • IT has changed the conduct of research enabling
    scientific discovery across every scientific
  • The opportunities for future advances in IT
    research are enormous - in fact the opportunities
    are greater than they have been in the past

  • What is meant by innovation?
  • It is not that
  • everyone must be a Newton or Einstein, though we
    must accommodate them!
  • It is about
  • producing improved algorithms, interfaces, etc
  • better functionality
  • new devices, new uses, new applications, etc.
  • All students can learn it - attitude of mind
    involved, but needs context. This is important.

How do we teach it?
  • Imbue all years of a program of study with it
  • Create room for it
  • Suggest small group activity, and note the need
    to get staff committed to it
  • Normal curriculum does not lend itself easily to
    an approach that embraces innovation
  • Remember the vital and related issues of
  • motivation, and
  • providing a context in which innovation can occur

Thoughts on the curriculum
  • To encourage an innovation approach
  • base early courses on new technology and new
  • Students are often familiar with this and will
    recognise good features and limitations
  • this is a good start to innovation
  • Go further and remember motivation
  • This is likely to impose a dynamic aspect on the
    curriculum in the early stages

  • This is a plea to change the context in which
    important ideas are taught, as well as …
  • Curricula reports such as those contained within
    the CC2001 series still relevant
  • Suggestions here are really to look at a partial
    inversion of the curriculum
  • Address risk issues also by way of ensuring
    balance and perspective

  • Just maybe these thoughts need to be tempered,
    though I hope not
  • Does industry really want folk who can innovate
    and wish to innovate?
  • Rather does industry wish graduates who fit in to
    a well defined and well developed structure?
  • Graduates are agents of change!!

The meta-challenge
  • and some related observations

Perceptions of Computing
  • The first of the educational Grand Challenges
    included a sub-challenge
  • Participate in research-based Grand Challenges
    whose purpose is to promote an improved image of

  • In whose eyes?
  • In some quarters there is a belief that
    computing is all done
  • We have laptops
  • There are radio links, mobile computing is to
  • What else is needed?
  • So can we address this issue from the perspective
    of a 12 14 year old?

The (meta-) Challenge
  • Can we articulate research-based challenges that
  • can be explained in simple terms to 12 14 year
  • will capture their imagination, allowing them to
    buy-in and be excited about the discipline
  • It would be excellent if these had implications
    for employment

Other Beneficial Effects
  • If we can achieve a number of these, that will
    help greatly with other audiences
  • This is an important aspect of the public image
    of our discipline, about vitality, about
  • Latter rather vital administrators, funding
    bodies, etc.
  • EPSRC keen to know how to create challenges. So …

Thoughts on creating Grand Challenges
  • Innovation involved
  • Step one
  • Devise a context innovation best within this
  • Step two
  • Stand back and make relevant observations about
    the situation
  • Step three
  • …

Towards conclusion
Standing back
  • Huge issues for us all
  • Will welcome feedback, over the next few days or
  • On how we resolve the present difficulties
  • On challenges for the 12 to 14 year old

Final comment
  • These ideas need further work - a lot of it. And
    it is really challenging.
  • One plea in revising classes do not call them
    computer systems 3 abstract data types 2 formal
    methods 5 and so on.
  • Make titles of classes much more colourfull, more
    meaningful to students, more attractive.
  • Do not see bureaucratic considerations (e.g.
    module size) as a barrier
  • See this as a marketing opportunity to convey the
    excitement of computing courses.

Final Final Comment
  • Standing back and looking at universities in the
    UK, the effort being spent on preventing failure
    is huge
  • I would not wish to criticise any of those
    efforts, but do we have the balance right?
  • What about the good students? Ignored?
  • Perhaps attention to innovation will ensure a
    better balance, and provide a more attractive
    working environment

Grand Challenges reference
  • http//