Barbara Ericson

Digital Library

ACM Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award

USA - 2010

citation

For their contributions to computing education, through the Media Computation (MediaComp) approach that they have created, supported, and disseminated, and its impact on broadening participation in computing.

Barbara Ericson directs the "Institute for Computing Education@Georgia Tech," and Mark Guzdial is the Director of the Contextualized Support for Learning at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Together they have written three textbooks using the Media Computation approach, and Ericson has written a fourth book on using Media Computation with Alice. The media computation contextualized approach to introductory CS is now used in nearly 200 schools around the world. Their approach has students writing programs that manipulate and create digital media, such as pictures, sounds, and video. Ericson and Guzdial have taught hundreds of high school and college teachers how to teach with Media Computation across the US and in workshops in Sweden and New Zealand.

The origin of this work was Guzdial's realization that non-computer science students, and some computer science students, were not motivated by the classical algorithmic problems addressed in the traditional introductory computer science approach. This was evident by observing the high national failure rates in introductory CS courses. Guzdial's goal was to develop a better approach, to demonstrate that it really was a better approach, and then to spread the use of that better approach. This led Guzdial to develop JES, the Jython Environment for Students, which has now been used by thousands of students in introductory CS courses. The result is that the rates at which students successfully completed these courses with a passing grade rose significantly.

Ericson and Guzdial are also PIs on an NSF-funded statewide alliance "Georgia Computes!" which is focused on increasing the number and diversity of computing students in the state of Georgia. A common theme throughout the alliance's efforts is the use of contexts, like MediaComp, to engage and inspire student learning in computing.

Ericson also led the efforts in Georgia in having a high school computer science curriculum, having a computer science teaching endorsement, and counting the Advanced Placement in Computer Science course towards high school graduation requirements. In addition, Ericson's "Operation Reboot" was an innovative project that brought unemployed IT workers back into the workforce as high school computer science teachers, thereby helping current teachers become more knowledgeable about computing. While Ericson and Guzdial have worked both together and separately, they have done so working from a mutually-developed set of goals and methodologies.