[SIGCIS-Members] Computer Science in Higher Education

Jean-François Blanchette blanchette at ucla.edu
Tue Oct 9 08:15:34 PDT 2012

Dear colleagues,

Since we are discussing computer science in higher education, I wanted to point to an opinion piece I just wrote for CACM, entitled "Computing as if Infrastructure Mattered." 


The piece focuses on computational thinking", an approach that suggests that computing concepts should be taught as fundamental literacy skills. I argue that it neglects, among other things, the historical dimension of the computing infrastructure. 

There are some interesting differences and parallels with Vint Cerf's piece in the same issue, "Where's the science in computer science?"

Best wishes,

> Dear Friends & Colleagues,
> This is just to inform SIGCIS members, particularly those working on Computer Science in Higher Education, of a paper about to appear :
> "Computer Science in French Universities: Early Entrants and Latecomers"
> http://www.infoculturejournal.org/current_issue/47.4 
> This paper stems from my book *, but goes further to define models of development in an international comparaison perspective.
> With cordial salutations, looking forward to meet some of you in Copenhagen,
> Pierre Mounier-Kuhn
> CNRS & Université Paris-Sorbonne
> * http://pups.paris-sorbonne.fr/pages/aff_livre.php?Id=838
> http://www.koyre.cnrs.fr/IMG/pdf/CV-Mounier-Kuhn_1_.pdf 
> Abstract - MOUNIER-KUHN Pierre, 2012, "Computer Science in French Universities: Early Entrants and Latecomers", Information & Culture: A Journal of History, vol. 47, n° 4.   
> How do new disciplines develop in certain universities, not in others ? What factors shape the geography of science ? The history of computer science in French higher education suggests a model to describe this development and differenciation process.
> Computer science stemmed from local configurations associating a school of electrical engineering and a professor of numerical analysis. In the early 1950s, a few professors, who may be characterized as “science entrepreneurs”, created three-fold structures, associating courses in applied mathematics and programming, a computing facility and a research laboratory. This initiated a cumulative development process, attracting students, researchers, contracts, funding and powerful machines, and opening the field to novel applications or theoretical investigations. In other universities, these configurations were not completed – typically, they were limited to an assistant and a small computer, so that computing remained confined to technical training.
> In the 1960s, the pioneers became the leaders of the new informatics field, hold power positions in learned societies and in science policy committees, and controlled the definition of computer science curricula. As the computing institutes they had created reached considerable size, they began to spin off their junior professors toward other universities, thus still increasing their « radiance ». These centers, like Grenoble, Nancy or Toulouse, remain major academic centers in the discipline today.

Jean-François Blanchette, Associate Professeur
Dept. of Information Studies, UCLA
Burdens of Proof: amzn.com/0262017512

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