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When I had grant money or worked in industry, I was a member of the Association for Computing Machine (ACM) and the Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE), which holds several annual conferences and publishes ACM Inroads. Now that I'm no longer publishing in CS education, am focused on teaching, and would have to pay for membership out of my own pocket, I'm wondering if membership is worthwhile. What do SIGCSE members or non-members in situations similar to mine think?

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  • $\begingroup$ The existence of this website might change the answer. As a non-computer scientist who nevertheless teaches CS, I think the only reason I would join SIGCSE would be for the community to bounce teaching ideas off (whereas, I am a member of the math versions because I feel like I should support them, as a professional mathematician). Now, I have that community. $\endgroup$ Jul 3 '17 at 14:06
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I would say yes, definitely. It is a great bunch of well informed and friendly people. The conferences are very valuable, including the panel discussions, demos, and tutorials.

The SIGCSE conference is also a place at which some of your students might publish and, if they are interested in teaching as a career, meet people who can help them. The people who go to the conference have broad interest in CS as a whole, not just teaching.

Some of the questions that you ask here would find ready answers in the SIGCSE community. Many things done and discussed in the community would enhance your own teaching.

SIGCSE also has an international conference (ITICSE) at which people from lots of places, but mostly Europe, come together annually.

If you don't care to get conference proceedings, etc, on paper, an electronic only option is available and very inexpensive.

I'm a long time member, never an officer, frequent reviewer. I've maintained membership even after retirement, though I've withdrawn from other, more technical, SIGS. Worth it, always.


Let me add that ethics and related topics are often in the Inroads magazine and a number of members are strongly focused on ethics (say, Don Gotterbarn)

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Part of the answer depends on where one is in his/her career and the type of institution that one works at. If one is non-tenured and at the beginning of his/her career in a hard-core CS department at a heavily research-oriented institution, I would say no. Many such institutions do not even recognize acceptance at papers at educational conferences when evaluating applications for tenure. As David A. wrote above, there is a big difference between CS and CS Ed. If one is in this category, he/she should speak to the Dept. Chair and/or Chair of the P&T Committee carefully about what counts and what doesn't.

At my institution it took me four tries over 14 years to get promoted from associate to full professor in part because my work was all in CS Ed. This is despite the fact that I had an extensive publication record, including many papers at SIGCSE. I would be happy to share my three rejection letters with anyone interested. (My email address is in my profile.) They may very well be the most complimentary letters you will ever see with respect to teaching and service. But until I ramped up the research aspect of my work and got support from the NSF, had doctoral students doing research in other areas, and got a book published by Oxford University Press, I was unpromotable in the eyes of the P&T Committee.

On the other hand, if one is not in such a situation, I would say yes. I have benefited greatly both personally and professionally from my association with people I have met through SIGCSE. As "Buffy" wrote: "It is a great bunch of well informed and friendly people. The conferences are very valuable, including the panel discussions, demos, and tutorials."

I don't regret one bit of the path of my academic career. I am now retired, but former students still contact me to get together for lunch or email me to ask my opinion on issues in their lives. One former student even hired my barbershop quartet to perform at his grandmother's 100th birthday celebration! :) Being a member of SIGCSE gave me support for my teaching activities and helped make me a better educator. In a very few years no one will care about or cite my publications, but the relationships I have built with some students through my teaching will last for the rest of my life.

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    $\begingroup$ Nice, thoughtful answer. Welcome to Computer Science Educators. I hope we year more from you! $\endgroup$
    – Ben I.
    Jun 30 '17 at 14:20
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, sadly, tenure is all for young faculty. Some things that are very interesting, but not highly valued by your colleagues, should probably be avoided (or minimized) until you grasp the Holy Grail. I've had to push students away from one of my main interests for this reason. Learn to play Goalie before you try to become the Star Forward. $\endgroup$
    – Buffy
    Jul 1 '17 at 16:00
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The information on the SIGCSE mailing list is well worth the $25/year SIGCSE fee. Better yet, this discount you get off the SIGCSE conference registration is more than the cost of joining SIGCSE.

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    $\begingroup$ This answer is a little shorter than good answers typically are, but I must say it contains surprisingly high-quality content for its length. Welcome to Computer Science Educators. I hope we hear more from you in the future! $\endgroup$
    – Ben I.
    Jun 29 '17 at 22:02
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you. Could you elaborate on the information available on the list? $\endgroup$ Jun 30 '17 at 0:30
  • $\begingroup$ The SIGCSE mailing list is just that. A mailing list to all members in which members can pose issues and others comment. It is similar to this site, but for issues that come and go, rather than for archiving solutions. Sometimes it is quite noisy, other times quiet. It values "discussion" where this site does not. Since you have joined @EllenSpertus, you will have plenty of examples soon. $\endgroup$
    – Buffy
    Jun 30 '17 at 11:41
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There's a difference between CS and CS Education. SIGCSE is not the only organization focused on pedagogical and curricular CS issues but it is arguably the leading such organization in the world. It provides a steady stream of useful teaching ideas and is a venue where new curriculum is developed and existing curriculum reshaped.

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It depends on what you want to get out of it. There are plenty of CS outreach opportunities that don't require a membership fee:

  • Code.org
  • Annual scholars day at the university
  • Hackathons
  • CS Meetups
  • CS Advisory Committe (does your university have one?)
  • Your university's ACM or IEEE chapter
  • CoderDojo (up to high school level)
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