Background for David Ferro, PhD (Current through January 2011)
I have a Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies from Virginia Tech (2001) and currently work as an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Weber State University (WSU) in Ogden, Utah. WSU is principally an undergraduate teaching university. The Department of Computer Science has approximately 12 professors and 600 student majors.
Please find a summary of my work in the following:
My Vita: www.davidferro.org/Ferro_vita_2013.pdf (mostly current through June 2013)
I have a number of interest areas. They are: early instruction in computer science, computing history and culture, usability and user-centric design, web development, service learning, and online instruction. I often find myself combining these interests in potentially unique ways that inform and benefit one another. Allow me to delve into a few as I’ve applied them to instruction in Computer Science:
>I am interested in improving student recruitment and retention rates.
- One of the critical areas in
computer science - an area that is prevalent in
as well as much of the
Western world - is the lower recruitment and retention rates for women and
minorities. The 2003
ACM SIGSCE conference focused on this area.
- In 2005, I co-wrote a book
that is an introduction to computer science called Connecting
with Computer Science. It
uses techniques such as humor, fun games, audio/visual tutorials, dynamic
diagrams, explicitly reminding students of the significance of the
material, and placing computing and computer development into social and
historical context. These
techniques all geared toward improving student recruitment and retention rates.
- The book and course followed
many of the prescriptions of popular books like Professors are from
Mars, Students are from Snickers and What the
Teachers Do. An important
contribution to the book came from the groundbreaking work from Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in
Computing by Margolis and Fisher.
- There is some cohesion in these
approaches as well as our own. Putting any subject matter into historical context, for example,
helps students learn.
- Retention rates did
improve. Now our department is
working on recruiting at the high-school level using variations of these
of my website for the course.
>I am interested in the history and culture of technology
- In 2005 I co-wrote a global
history of computing from ancient days to the future called Computers: The Life Story of a Technology.
- In Fall of 2005 I used the
'Life Story' book as part of a course I created in our department called "Social
Implications of Computing" - a seminar style course that has
proved very popular. The content of the course changes every semester;
some recent themes we have explored include open source culture and
- In Spring of 2006 I
received a small grant to conduct
archival research at Syracuse University looking at the papers of the
science fiction author, Murray Leinster. I'm
looking into an obscure aspect of computing: the possible influences of
literature - notably science fiction - on computer development.
- In 2003, I collected a great
deal of older computing and telecommunication equipment into an IT Archive
that sits in a new building on
campus. Here is the ARCHIVE GUIDE
- I've used my industry
experience and knowledge of computing culture to move WSU in the direction
of user-centric decision processes for all IT issues on campus. Through
chairing a faculty senate organization - the Academic Resources Computing
Committee (ARCC) - and becoming a member of a number of committees where
technological decisions are being made, I've represented faculty and
student interests in my university. Among other things, I've created "Town Meetings" where
users and IT professionals meet, surveyed users, created focus groups, and
I've presented results at IT retreats and to the university
president. Of course, creating a
user-centric culture is a never-ending project, but progress has been
> I am interested in "service learning", “undergraduate
research”, and real-life user-centric design opportunities for students.
- In 2004, my CS3350 Web
Development did a service learning class project creating the webpage of
the Utah chapter of Campus
Compact. Service learning is a pedagogy that connects academics and
non-profit organizations to do research and instruction. In the
, there is a nationwide
organization called Campus Compact that has organized a number of local chapters focusing and assisting this
pedagogy. The class did the work of
interviewing prospective users continually to arrive at the current
design, building and installing on the dotNET platform. In terms of web-oriented
usability, it is mostly successful. In terms of satisfying the customer, it is extremely
successful. Utah Campus Compact has
been able to maintain the site without any coding knowledge since its
installation. Unfortunately, one of the most interesting and more
complicated aspects of the site - the 'match-maker' facility that is
password protected - cannot be viewed online by a casual observer.
- In 2005, my CS3350 class did
a 'face-off' between php and .net when 10 teams
(5 of each platform) created a blog program. The programs were judged
for usability by my friends at ONAI,
faculty, students, and our department's industry advisors. First place was taken by .NET although php took second and third.
- Many of the programs done for
the Connecting with Computer Science book were done by my
students. They had the opportunity
to revisit their own early days of computing to empathize with a new
- In 2005, a few students and I
assisted a local children's museum called the Treehouse Museum. In terms of usability
and maintainability this effort was less successful than I had hoped
(always lessons to be learned!) but far better than what it had replaced.
- Students from many types of
classes across the University have assisted in the development of the IT
museum. Tech Writing students in the English Department created writeups of the technologies. Students in the Department of
Telecommunication Business and Education created templates for what a
webpage could look like. History
students created oral histories by interviewing a number of local persons. A student in Visual Arts created a
design for the physical presentation.
> I am interested in online instruction.
- My first online course was in
the mid-nineties for Virginia Tech on a proprietary system. I've done the
same with a proprietary system at WSU and WebCT Vista, Moodle, and
- I've set up students to work
on ChiTester - a proprietary online testing facility at WSU.
> Other Activities.
I hope this overview of my background will help you
understand some of my efforts.
If you have any questions please contact
me at dferro at weber.edu.