The 2015 Annual CSTA Conference is in the books now. Over 350 people attended in Grapevine TX for 14 three-hour workshops and 24 concurrent sessions. There was also a tour and reception of the University of Texas Dallas, a code.org sponsored happy hour and other opportunities for informal networking.
I had the chance to sit in on two of the workshops. The first was by Mark Guzdial and Barbara Erikson from Georgia Tech on their Media Computation course. They do a lot of cool things with manipulation of images and sound. They use Python which looks pretty interesting. On the other hand the libraries they use for images look like they would be easily duplicated in C# or Visual Basic and so usable with either or both of those languages. I may give writing them a try. Not sure about the sound stuff yet.
I also sat in on Problem Based Learning in Computer Science: A Case Study in Robotics Camp presented by Joshua Block. My big takeaway there was an interesting exercise in problem solving and planning involving making a tower out of playing cards.
It may be a replacement for the marshmallow challenge which I have used in the past. I’ll have to see about a cheap source of playing cards first.
My favorite of the concurrent sessions is probably Out of Your Seat Comp Sci: Coding Using the Kinect presented by Doug Bergman. Doug has a project based course for his advanced students that has them all making projects that use a Kinect. Apparently used version 1 Kinects can be found on the Internet now that the version 2 is out. Doug showed us some of his student projects and some of the code behind them. They sure do have to do a lot of design work and thinking to create these projects. Most of them have to use – gasp – math.
I also attended sessions on Minecraft and Pencil Code. Minecraft looks interesting but I’ll see how interested students at my school are before trying to include it in the curriculum.
Pencil Code has some nice ideas and lets users switch back and forth between block and text based programming. But mostly it seems like another version of Scratch (like Blockly, App Inventor, and Snap!) and I’m just not feeling the excitement in these any more. I’m going to stick with TouchDevelopment for now.
There were also keynotes and an industry panel of course. The closing keynote was from a game company and I think it had a lot of value for people who haven’t talked to game developers before. Lots of talk about the need for soft skills (communication and teamwork), problem solving ability and a reminder that professionals are always learning new things. I’ll share the video when it is available with my students who need to hear this stuff.
As is so often the case conversations were key to my enjoyment and learning. I’ve already blogged some about my conversations around the BBC Micro:bit. I had some conversations about projects, pedagogy, other tools (the exhibit hall was well worth the time here) and just catching up with friends from around the country. And a few people from outside the country.
Overall a great conference. If you missed it you really did miss something good.
And now we look forward to 2016 in San Diego, California. There will be a request for proposals in the fall. Start thinking about what you would like to present next year.