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Graduate Consortium

Expanding the Benefits of Computational Thinking to Diverse Populations

Graduate students whose work is related to the research theme below are invited to participate in a Graduate Student Consortium at the 2008 IEEE Symposium on Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing (VL/HCC'08).

Grants for Graduate Students

VL/HCC'08 anticipates funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to help defray expenses to attend the conference. Eligibility for this funding is limited to graduate students from U.S. universities and research institutions; however, graduate students from outside the U.S. are encouraged to obtain other support to participate in this event.

Research Theme

Interactive computer software permeates many individuals' working lives, and people are increasingly relying on computing and information systems for leisure and home activities. For many people it is no longer sufficient to consume the packaged software and scripted tasks developed by the professional software industry - many people now must produce their own computational solutions to a wide variety of problems, including spreadsheet models, web sites, educational media and simulations, automated business procedures, and scientific visualizations.

In this context, the term programming does not refer solely to languages designed for professional programmers, such as Java or C#. Studies suggest that end-user programmers outnumber professional programmers by more than four to one, and their numbers exceed 10 million in the US alone. For this broader class of programmers, programming takes many forms. For example, CAD systems and spreadsheet systems are programming language environments in which constraints and formulas are snippets of declarative programs. Other examples include multimedia/web authoring, voice mail programming, and building macros by demonstration.

Unfortunately, current advances toward computational thinking by end users are not evenly distributed across all segments of the population. Our society is rapidly evolving into two distinct classes: the "computation haves" and the "computation have-nots." This class distinction becomes an obvious barrier to the opportunities for the "have-nots" to advance in terms of career and influence, both individually and in groups. One reason for this divide is that very little information technology research is aimed specifically at the needs of disadvantaged users. Furthermore, there is virtually no research directed at computational problem-solving and information manipulation by users in these groups. Serving diverse user populations is a rich area that could raise interesting issues from a number of research communities that do not normally contribute to the design of programming languages and environments (e.g., sociology or education).

In this event, we aim to help the "have-nots" by exploring ways of enhancing access to a wide range of information technology. This might involve increasing participation in programs that teach computational thinking, lowering the barriers to learning programming, or inventing approaches to programming in unexplored domains. It could also involve research that seeks to understand and explain the nature of computational thinking and the growing class divide that it represents. We encourage submissions that contribute to any of these perspectives.

Who Can Participate

Students may apply to present their work to a panel of experts and to interested conference attendees. The goal is to exchange ideas, generate new ones, and receive constructive feedback. Current Ph.D. students are preferred, but M.S. students who intend to go on to pursue a Ph.D. may also apply. For one third of the participation slots, student researchers who have participated once before will be given priority; and for the other slots, students who have not participated before will be given priority. Each student from the returning group will be linked with new students in a mentoring arrangement. All participating students are expected to attend the graduate consortium and the main conference, September 16-19.

All other conference attendees are invited to attend the event to listen to the presentations, interact with the participants, and add to the feedback available to the presenters. No additional sign-up process or registration fee is involved. However, if you want to share the Graduate Consortium lunch and the tea and coffee breaks, please sign up for the "Extra Graduate Consortium lunch & break foods/beverages vouchers" when registering.

Application Process

Applications are due May 18.

Please send the following items by email to John Pane (

  1. A statement of up to 30 words explaining how your research fits the research theme listed above.
  2. A 2-page research abstract, introducing and motivating the research problem, describing research methods, summarizing results obtained thus far, and discussing research implications. Abstracts must be formatted in IEEE two-column conference format. Abstracts exceeding two pages will not be considered. The abstracts of accepted participants will be included in the conference proceedings.
  3. Your CV.
  4. A letter of recommendation sent by your thesis advisor directly to the organizers in a separate email message.

Preferred file format is PDF (Adobe Portable Document Format).

Committee/Panel and Event Organizers

  • Martin Erwig (Oregon State University)
  • Judith Good (University of Sussex)
  • John Pane (RAND Corporation)
  • Mary Beth Rosson (Pennsylvania State University)
  • Steve Tanimoto (University of Washington)
  • Susan Wiedenbeck (Drexel University)

Accepted papers

The Design of an Asynchronous Web-Based Project Review System to Support Studio-Based Learning in Computing EducationAnukrati Agrawal and Christopher D. Hundhausen
Towards End-User Web Software VisualizationCraig Anslow, James Noble, Stuart Marshall, and Ewan Tempero
Development of Techniques for Sketched Diagram RecognitionRachel Blagojevic
Rhetorical End-User ProgrammingChristopher Bogart
Diagrams and Intuitive Formal SpecificationsJames Burton
Improving Experiences of ComputationLuke Church
Developing Drawing and Visual Thinking Strategies to Ease Computer Programming for DyslexicsPeter Coppin
Developing a Mobile Intelligent Tutoring System to Bridge The Digital DivideQuincy Brown, Frank Lee, Dario Salvucci and Vincent Aleven
End-User Programming to Support Classroom Activities on Small DevicesCraig Prince
Connecting the Social and Technical Aspects of Computing with VisualizationErik H. Trainer
Designing Explanation-Oriented LanguagesEric Walkingshaw
Mashups for the web-active userNan Zang


  • Deadline for applications: May 18
  • Notification: May 28
  • Final camera-ready abstracts due: June 12
  • Graduate Student Consortium: September 16
  • Main conference: September 17-19
  • Workshops: September 15 and 20