Today is Ada Lovelace Day. I somehow neglected to sign the pledge to blog about a woman in computing today. However, that isn’t stopping me from doing so. I want to talk about a teacher, author, researcher, mentor, inspirational leader and professional volunteer, Nell Dale.
Nell Dale is the consummate role model. Nell retired from a long, illustrious career as a senior lecturer in Computer Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin. That doesn’t mean she is retired. She is still writing and revising several series of computer science texts.
It was Nell who pioneered texts in introductory programming and data structures usable by both high school and undergraduate students. Her over 40 texts emphasized just in time concepts with problem solving as the basis for instruction.
Nell has been a champion for women in computing and was the lead many years ago on an NSF grant to retrain unemployed and underemployed women for careers in computing in the Women in Science Program. Even after retirement, Nell participated in a summer working group to collect stories of women computing educators.
Foremost in my mind is the seminal role she played in Computer Science Education Research. She insisted that “my students liked it” and “everybody knows to be true” as flawed arguments. She insisted that her graduate students partake in evidence based computer science education research at a time when this type of work was rare. At an early SIGCSE Symposium I remember her exhorting the audience to test their ideas be willing to refute common beliefs about what works when faced with data.
Nell is a tireless volunteer. She is past chair of the foremost educational computing organization, the Association of Computing Machinery Special Interest Group in Computer Science Education, ACM/SIGCSE. She has served as a leader in the Advanced Placement readings, as a force in keeping high school teachers current in computing by holding summer workshops, and the list goes on.
Nell has been honored as an ACM Fellow, with the ACM Karlstrom educator award, and the ACM/SIGCSE outstanding educator award to name a few.
I am honored to consider Nell a friend and even more honored to have the opportunity to blog about her.
Listen to an interview with Nell at CEOHP.org and read about her latest award.