Hal Abelson, CSAIL Principal Investigator and the Class of 1922 Professor of Computer Science and Engineering in the EECS Department at MIT has been named the recipient of the 2012 ACM SIGCSE Award for Outstanding Contribution to Computer Science Education. The award is presented annually by the ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education.
As one of the inaugural MacVicar Faculty Fellows in 1992, Abelson has played key roles in fostering educational initiatives at MIT, including OpenCourseWare, which allows individuals worldwide to take MIT classes online, and DSpace, an online library for MIT research materials. Along with CSAIL Principal Investigator Gerald Sussman, Abelson developed MIT’s introductory computer science subject, Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, which is widely credited with having a global impact on computer-science education at the university level.
Abelson has been noted for using computation as a conceptual framework in teaching since the 1970s. He directed the first implementation of children's computer language Logo for the Apple Computer, making the language widely available on personal computers beginning in 1981; and he published a widely selling book on Logo in 1982. His book Turtle Geometry, written with Andy diSessa in 1981, presented a computational approach to geometry was cited as "the first step in a revolutionary change in the entire teaching/learning process."
Abelson was engaged in work in this area on sabbatical from 2009 through May 2010 at Google, where he explored the educational potential of mobile computing -- something which he pioneered with a new class offering 6.081-6.087, Building Mobile Applications, an experimental course offered in spring and fall semesters in 2008 that focused on how to pick a project idea and rapidly bring it to fruition through the prototype phase.
Abelson is also noted as a leader in the worldwide movement towards openness and democratization of culture and intellectual resources. He is a founding director of Creative Commons, Public Knowledge, and the Free Software Foundation, and a director of the Center for Democracy and Technology — organizations that are devoted to strengthening the global intellectual commons.
The ACM SIGCSE award will be presented at the March 43rd SIGCSE Technical Symposium, where Abelson will be giving a plenary address.