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Restoring the Passion, Beauty, Joy and Awe: Making Computing Fun Again Eric Roberts Professor of Computer Science Stanford University University of Auckland – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Eric Roberts


1
Restoring the Passion, Beauty, Joy and
Awe Making Computing Fun Again
Eric Roberts Professor of Computer
Science Stanford University
University of Auckland 15 July 2009
2
Grady Booch at SIGCSE 2007
3
The View from 2008
  • As everyone has now been aware for some time,
    computing enrolments in the United States and
    most of Europe have plummeted since 2001.
  • This drop is of significant economic concern
    because those same countries are training far
    fewer people than they need to fill the available
    positions. In the United States, there are now
    many more jobs in the IT sector than there were
    at the height of the dot-com boom, with all
    projections pointing toward continued growth.

4
What a Difference a Year Makes
  • As everyone has now been aware for some time,
    computing enrolments in the United States and
    most of Europe have plummeted since 2001.
  • This drop is of significant economic concern
    because those same countries are training far
    fewer people than they need to fill the available
    positions. In the United States, there are now
    many more jobs in the IT sector than there were
    at the height of the dot-com boom, with all
    projections pointing toward continued growth.
  • In Silicon Valley and at Stanford, the answers
    are clear
  • Demand for talented software developers is as
    high as ever.
  • CS enrolments are skyrocketing, nearly erasing
    any previous loss.

Are enrolments still falling?
Is this still true after the meltdown?
5
Enrolment Trends at Stanford
1800
1600
1400
1200
1000
800
600
400
200
0
2008-09
1994-95
1985-86
1986-87
1987-88
1988-89
1989-90
1990-91
1991-92
1992-93
1995-96
1996-97
1997-98
1998-99
1999-00
2000-01
2001-02
2002-03
2003-04
2004-05
2005-06
2006-07
2007-08
1993-94
6
The Single Best Enrolment Predictor
5000
4000
3000
2000
1000
500
400
300
2008
2006
2004
2002
2000
1998
1996
1994
1992
1990
1988
1986
1984
A statistical analysis undertaken by my
colleague, Mehran Sahami, found that 88 of the
1993-2003 enrollment variance at Stanford can be
explained by the NASDAQ average of the preceding
year.
7
There are Fewer Places to Go
8
Industry Demand Remains High
  • The computing industry offers some of the best
    employment opportunities for university
    graduates. The following data are from the
    United States, but the situation is similar
    elsewhere
  • The number of jobs in the domestic software
    industry are at an all-time high and are
    projected to grow dramatically over the next
    decade.
  • Salaries for newly minted B.S. graduates in
    Computer Science are high, sometimes exceeding
    the 100,000 mark.
  • In 2005, Money magazine rated software engineer
    as the number one job in America.
  • Labour statistics show that the ratio of the
    number of available jobs per graduate is higher
    in computing than any other employment category.

9
Degree Production vs. Job Openings
160,000
Ph.D.
140,000
Masters
120,000
Bachelors
100,000
Projected job openings
80,000
60,000
40,000
20,000
Engineering
Physical Sciences
Biological Sciences
Adapted from a presentation by John Sargent,
Senior Policy Analyst, Department of Commerce, at
the CRA Computing Research Summit, February 23,
2004. Original sources listed as National
Science Foundation/Division of Science Resources
Statistics degree data from Department of
Education/National Center for Education
Statistics Integrated Postsecondary Education
Data System Completions Survey and NSF/SRS
Survey of Earned Doctorates and Projected Annual
Average Job Openings derived from Department of
Commerce (Office of Technology Policy) analysis
of Bureau of Labor Statistics 2002-2012
projections. See http//www.cra.org/govaffairs/co
ntent.php?cid22.
Sources
10
But We Still Have Work to Do
1.
The kind of exposure students get to computing at
the elementary and secondary level tends to push
people away from the discipline long before they
reach the university.
2.
The image of work in the fieldand, more
importantly, all too much of the reality of work
in the fieldis unattractive to most students and
no longer seems fun, particularly in comparison
to other opportunities that bright students might
pursue.
11
The Real Image Problem
http//www.youtube.com/watch?vCmYDgncMhXw
12
The Reality Is Also a Problem
Has anyone considered the possibility that its
just not fun anymore?
Don Knuth, October 11, 2006
  • Students at Stanford have expressed the following
    concerns
  • Long hours with little chance for a balanced life
  • A less pleasant social milieu than other
    occupations
  • A sense that success in programming is possible
    only for those who are much brighter than they
    see themselves to be
  • Work that is often repetitive and unchallenging,
    particularly when it involves maintaining legacy
    technology
  • Work that has become more difficult than it used
    to be
  • No chance for a lasting impact because of rapid
    obsolescence
  • Fears that employment with an individual company
    is dicey even though opportunities are good in
    the industry as a whole
  • Frustration at being managed by nontechnical
    people who make more money but are not as bright
    (Dilberts boss)

13
Dilbert vs. the Boss
Interestingly, during the bubble of 2001 to 2007,
students with strong technical skills opted for
careers in management or finance, giving them a
seemingly secure place on the capital side of the
capital/labour divide.
14
For Some, Programming Is the Enemy
  • Because students respond more negatively to
    programming than they once did, some have argued
    for reducing its emphasis in the university
    curriculum.
  • As an illustration of this trend, consider the
    following post that appeared on SIGCSE-MEMBERS on
    August 14, 2006

15
Industry Is Not Amused
  • Every technical person in the industry with whom
    Ive spoken is horrified by the prospect of
    reducing the emphasis on programming in the
    undergraduate curriculum.
  • Employers in developed countries with high-tech
    sectors are desperate for more people with
    programming talent. In his keynote at ITiCSE
    2007 in Dundee, Scottish entrepreneur Chris van
    der Kuyl said that the lack of programming talent
    was the greatest limiting factor in the industry.
  • At meetings of the ACM Education Council in
    recent years, industry representatives have been
    united in their concern about the scarcity of
    competent software developers.
  • In a new graduate-level course taught at Stanford
    by Monica Lam and Martin Rinard, the course
    description begins like this The key to
    delivering a successful software project is to
    hire top notch programmers.

16
Programming Remains Central
  • Calls to reduce or eliminate programming from
    computing curricula arise from some undeniable
    assumptions
  • There are more jobs in IT that dont require
    programming.
  • Programming is not particularly popular with
    students today.
  • Offshoring of programming jobs has increased.
  • Unfortunately, this analysis ignores the
    following equally valid propositions
  • There are more jobs in IT that do require
    programming.
  • Programming has historically been what attracts
    students the most.
  • Globalization has created more IT jobs in
    India/China and the U.S.
  • Offshoring exists largely because of a shortfall
    of skilled employees.

17
But It Has Gotten More Complex
18
Sobering Thoughts
  • There are more public methods in the java and
    javax package hierarchies than there are words in
    Jensen and Wirths Pascal User Manual and Report.
    The amount of explanation once deemed sufficient
    to teach the standard introductory programming
    language is thus no longer sufficient for an
    index of the operations available today.
  • Typical software today exists at a level of scale
    and complexity that would have been unthinkable a
    generation ago. The most common operating system
    used in mobile phones, for example, contains
    approximately 100 million lines of code.
  • Given the scale of modern software systems, it is
    typically impossible for students to develop
    projects as extensions to existing code
    frameworks. An academic term is now barely
    sufficient to understand what is already there,
    leaving no time for further development?

19
We Need to Make Things Simpler
  • In the future, producing enough computing
    graduates to meet the demand will occur only if
    it is possible to hide much of the complexity
    from students as they learn the basic concepts.
  • Many strategies already exist along these lines
  • Microworlds (Karel the Robot, Alice, Scratch)
  • Teaching libraries (the ACM Java libraries)
  • Using high-level APIs in place of low-level
    implementations
  • Using languages with easier learning curves
    (Scheme, Python)
  • Using these strategies can delay acquisition of
    specific language skills in C and Java that
    many employers expect.
  • Universities would be an ideal setting to explore
    strategies for simplifying software development,
    but there is little funding available in this
    area.

20
The End
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