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Media as a Context for Learning Computation

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Title: Media as a Context for Learning Computation


1
Media as a Context for Learning Computation
  • Mark Guzdial
  • College of Computing/GVU

2
Story
  • Computer science education is in a sorry state
  • Thats a serious problem for GVU
  • The challenges we need to face
  • The argument for a course in digital media
  • Description of the course thats on-going now

3
Computer Science Classes Today
  • CS1 is one of the most despised courses for
    non-majors
  • CS retention rates are lower than the rest of
    campus
  • 65 for 1995 cohort, vs. 73 for Engineeering
  • Drop-out rates near 50 at many institutions
  • Female enrollment in CS is dropping nationally
  • At Georgia Tech, were below the average

4
Why?
  • Tedious, boring, lacking creativity,
    asocial
  • CS culture seems most attractive to white males.

5
CS Freshmen Majors, Fall 2001
Number SAT avg (combined)
Female 38 1342
Male 303 1371
African-American 15 1349
Hispanic 2 1350
Caucasian 233 1379
Total 341 1368
6
Why should GVU care?
  • What is our vision of computation and new media?
  • Should people just consume media? Or should they
    understand it? And even be able to create it?

In Alan Kays vision of the computer, the
Dynabook, programming itself is a medium
7
The best uses for our technologies will come from
others
  • Thomas Edison vs. D.W. Griffith
  • If we want our technologies to become useful,
    they have to get out of our hands.
  • It cant be just through applications
  • That presumes that we the researchers know how
    the technologies should be used.
  • Suggestion D.W. Griffith knew things that Edison
    didnt.

8
Why should anyone care?
  • In 1961, Alan Perlis argued that computer science
    is more important in a liberal education than
    calculus
  • Calculus is about rates, and thats important to
    many.
  • Computer science is about process, which is
    important to everyone

9
The Challenges
  • We have to motivate non-CS students to care about
    computing
  • We have to make it social, creative, exciting,
    and not tedious
  • Which is how many of us already see Computing,
    but thats not getting communicated

10
Our Attempt Introduction to Media Computation
  • A course for non-CS and non-Engineering majors
  • International Affairs, STAC, Architecture,
    Management, Biology, etc.
  • 120 students this semester, planning 400-600 in
    the Fall
  • 2/3 female in this semesters CS1315
  • Focus Learning programming within the context of
    media manipulation and creation

11
Motivating the Computing
  • As professionals, these students will often the
    use the computer as a communications medium.
  • All media are going digital, and digital media
    are manipulated with software.
  • Knowing how to program, then, is a communications
    skill.

12
Programming as a Communications Skill
  • Knowing how to program means to understand ones
    tools.
  • Maybe means can transfer tool skills more easily
  • Students already telling us that theyre excited
    to learn how PhotoShop works.
  • And it means that, if you have to, you may be
    able to grow your own

13
Programming as Communicating Process
  • A program is a succinct, executable process
    description
  • That makes valuable for explaining process
  • We use examples from Biology and Management to
    make this point

14
Python as the programming language
  • Huge issue
  • Use in commercial contexts authenticates the
    choice
  • ILM, Google, Nextel, etc.
  • Minimal syntax
  • Looks like other programming languages
  • Potential for transfer

15
How the class was developed
  • Created in response to recent unpleasantness
  • On-line surveys, meetings with students
  • Inspired in part by ECEs DSP First
  • Developed with an advisory board from across
    campus Psych, HPS, Math, ECE, CETL
  • Trialed in faculty workshop in mid-December

16
Course Objectives
  • Students will be able to read, understand, and
    modify programs that achieve useful communication
    tasks
  • Not programming from a blank piece of paper
  • Students will learn what computer science is
    about, especially data representations,
    algorithms, encodings, forms of programming.
  • Students will learn useful computing skills,
    including graphing and database concepts

17
Use a loop! Our first picture recipe
original
def decreaseRed(picture) for p in
getPixels(picture) valuegetRed(p)
setRed(p,value0.5)
Used like this gtgtgt file"/Users/guzdial/mediasour
ces/barbara.jpg" gtgtgt picturemakePicture(file) gtgtgt
show(picture) gtgtgt decreaseRed(picture) gtgtgt
repaint(picture)
18
A Sunset-generating function
  • How do we turn this beach scene into a sunset?
  • What happens at sunset?
  • Tried increasing the red, but that failed.
  • New Theory As the sun sets, less blue and green
    is visible, which makes things look more red.

19
A Sunset-generation Function
def makeSunset(picture) for p in
getPixels(picture) valuegetBlue(p)
setBlue(p,value0.7) valuegetGreen(p)
setGreen(p,value0.7)
20
def clearRed(picture) for pixel in
getPixels(picture) setRed(pixel,0)
def greyscale(picture) for p in
getPixels(picture) rednessgetRed(p)
greennessgetGreen(p) bluenessgetBlue(p)
luminance(rednessbluenessgreenness)/3
setColor(p, makeColor(luminance,luminance,
luminance))
def negative(picture) for px in
getPixels(picture) redgetRed(px)
greengetGreen(px) bluegetBlue(px)
negColormakeColor(255-red,255-green,255-blue)
setColor(px,negColor)
21
Using your personal pictures
22
And messin with them
23
Data-first
  • Real users come to a user with data that they
    care about, then they (unwillingly) learn the
    computer to manipulate their data as they need.
  • CS1315 can work the same.
  • Students can bring their pictures, sounds, and
    movies as starting points for manipulations.

24
Rough overview of Syllabus
  • Defining and executing functions
  • Pictures
  • Psychophysics, data structures, defining
    functions, for loops, if conditionals
  • Sounds
  • Psychophysics, data structures, defining
    functions, for loops, if conditionals
  • Text
  • Converting between media, generating HTML,
    flattening media and saving to a database
  • Movies
  • Then, Computer Science

25
Computer science as a solution to their problems
  • Writing programs is hard! Are there ways to make
    it easier or shorter?
  • Functional programming and recursion
  • Object-oriented programming
  • Movie-manipulating programs take a long time to
    execute. Why?
  • Algorithmic complexity
  • Why is PhotoShop so much faster?
  • Compiling vs. interpreting

26
Assignments encourage collaboration
  • Homework are all collaborative
  • Quizzes are preceded by nearly-identical,
    collaborative pre-quizzes
  • Two take-home exams (programming assignments)
    are non-collaborative

27
Assignments encourage creativity
  • For several homework, the task is to manipulate
    media in some way, but we dont care what media
  • Creating a collage, building an animation
  • Encouraging homework results to be posted to
    CoWeb in galleries
  • Purchasing Webcams to loan to students to create
    their own media

28
These arent CMU CS undergrads
  • Were realizing that these students are not like
    the ones in the Fisher Margolis class.
  • Students who can get into CMUs CS program (often
    the computer experts in their families and
    schools) are not the same as non-CS and
    non-Engineering students at Georgia Tech.
  • I type the command and nothing happens. The
    Enter key?
  • Do I need a Zip disk to unpack a zip file?

29
Tying it back to student goals and GVU
  • Working with Jay Bolter (jay.bolter_at_lcc.gatech.edu
    ) and Diane Gromalas new course LCC 3404e
    Designing for the Internet
  • Aimed at Freshmen and Sophomores
  • Students learn to analyze and design Web sites
  • Approach combines
  • Visual design principles
  • Information architecture and HCI
  • CS1315 teaches the students the
    technologies, LCC3404e teaches them how to use
    the technology to communicate.

30
Assessing the effort
  • Comparing CS1321, COE1361, and CS1315 in terms of
    learning and motivation, broken out by gender and
    major
  • Observational study of student performance to
    understand problems and strategies
  • Interview study of impact on women

31
Summary
  • CS Education is in a sorry state, and fixing it
    is important to us and others
  • Media Computation may be a useful context to
    motivate student performance
  • Our class is aimed at addressing the challenges
    weve identified, and were trying it now

32
Acknowledgements
  • Course materials development Jason Ergle, Claire
    Bailey, David Raines, Joshua Sklare, Adam Wilson,
    Andrea Forte, Mark Richman, Matt Wallace, Alisa
    Bandlow.
  • Assessment Andrea Forte, Rachel Fithian, Lauren
    Rich
  • Thanks to Bob McMath and the Al West Fund, to GVU
    and CoC, and the National Science Foundation

33
For further information
  • Course CoWeb http//coweb.cc.gatech.edu/cs1315
  • Where we planned the course http//coweb.cc.gatec
    h.edu/mediaComp-plan
  • guzdial_at_cc.gatech.edu

34
def chromakey(source,bg) for x in
range(1,getWidth(source)) for y in
range(1,getHeight(source)) p
getPixel(source,x,y) My definition of
blue If the redness greenness lt blueness
if (getRed(p) getGreen(p) lt getBlue(p))
Then, grab the color at the same spot from the
new background setColor(p,getColor(getPixe
l(bg,x,y))) return source
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