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Distinguished Lecture

From Computational Thinking to Computational Values

Hal AbelsonMassachusetts Institute of Technology
1670 Beyster BuildingMap

Abstract – Computer academics love the beauty of computational thinking. We know the joy of bringing those ideas to young people. That love for computational thinking entails respect for the computational values that empower people in the digital world. For academics, those values have been central to the flowering of computing as an intellectual endeavor.

Today, those values are increasingly threatened by stresses from both within and outside academia: squabbles over who owns academic work, increasingly stringent and overreaching intellectual property laws, and the replacement of open computing platforms by closed applications and walled-garden application markets.

In this talk I’ll describe some things done at MIT and elsewhere to support computational values, like open publication of all our course materials, our faculty policies on open publication of academic research, and plans for open online instruction based on non-proprietary software platforms. I’ll discuss Creative Commons licensing and Free Software, and the importance of tinkerability for empowering citizens in an information society. And I’ll describe App Inventor for Android, a new programming tool motivated by the vision that all of us can experience mobile computing as creators using tools that we can control and reshape, rather than only as consumers of packaged applications.

Biography – Harold (Hal) Abelson is a Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, a fellow of the IEEE, and is a founding director of both Creative Commons and the Free Software Foundation.

Abelson holds an A.B. degree from Princeton University and obtained a Ph.D. degree in mathematics from MIT under the tutelage of mathematician Dennis Sullivan. In 1992, Abelson was designated as one of MIT’s six inaugural MacVicar Faculty Fellows, in recognition of his significant and sustained contributions to teaching and undergraduate education. Abelson was recipient in 1992 of the Bose Award (MIT’s School of Engineering teaching award). Abelson is also the winner of the 1995 Taylor L. Booth Education Award given by IEEE Computer Society, cited for his continued contributions to the pedagogy and teaching of introductory computer science, and the winner of the 2012 ACM SIGCSE Award for Outstanding Contribution to Computer Science Education.

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