Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Learning From Today and Planning For Tomorrow

It’s the end of the school year for me. Next week is our final exam week and my students are working on their semester projects. I use projects rather than an exam because I think students learn more from projects. Writing an exam would be easier in some ways but I am more about learning than grading. It seems like my students are learning a lot. Many of them are really grokking how to put all the concepts we have been learning together for the first time. Others are stretching themselves to learn new concepts beyond what I taught in class. And I’m seeing some new (to me) ways of addressing old (to me) problems. It’s win win.

Semester projects reminds me in a serious way that diversity of thought, of looking at a problem, and at putting tools together is really important. I’ve gotten a couple of new design patterns to add to my toolbox that were driven by students seeing different ways to do things. This is not unusual. It seems like every semester I learn something new from my students. Sometimes it is errors I have never seen before and sometimes it is new ways of solving problems but it is all good. It’s never the same course twice.

And that brings me to planning for next year. I created a number of new demonstrations this year. Some worked great. Some not as well. I’ll spend time evaluating them this summer. I’ll also spend some time thinking about new projects for next year. It is difficult to find the time to come up with new things during the school year. There is too much grading, adjusting the schedule to match what is going on in school, and just plain teaching. And maybe I’ll record some short talks or demos to make available to my students for review.

While I am mainly a project oriented person I have seen some value in quizzes for formative evaluations. They are faster for one thing. And they help determine who really gets the concept and who is getting a bit more peer assistance on projects than they really should. So I plan to write a bunch of them over the summer. Not full period exams but 15 minute quizzes. Automated grading speeds things up and I am finding that the tools for seeing what questions are gotten wrong and correct is helpful to me.

I’ve got a good bit of work planned for the summer. I’m also attending ISTE and the annual CSTA conference. I expect both of them to provide me with some new ideas to incorporating into my teaching next year. If you’re at either of these conferences I hope you’ll look me up. I love connecting in real life with other teachers.

I also hope to learn some new things this summer. I’ve ordered a copy of GitHub For Dummies. I figure it is about time I learned GitHub. Maybe I will use it with students. I think that would be very valuable for them but it depends on me learning enough to get them started. I plan to continue trying to figure out how to format apps for my Android phone using Xamarin and Visual Studio. Code is easy (C# for the win) but the UI APIs are a bit more of a learning curve. I’m not planning on using it with students right now but I want to write my own apps for me.

SO what are your summer professional development plans?


Anonymous said...

My plans overlap with yours a fair bit. I was planning on handwritten coding quizzes, but they do take time to grade (90+ students). Are your self-grading quizzes to be multiple choice, or submitted code? I may order that GitHub book too.

Alfred C Thompson II said...

Our LMS handles grading of true/false and multiple choice. I will do a mix of those and some short free response questions. Those I will have to grade myself but at least once I do the grades go into the system automatically. I am not a fan of automated grading of code. Most of those systems are either it worked or it didn't. Too binary for me.

Garth said...

I am going to offer a Web design and Development course. I know nothing about web stuff so I guess I better figure that out this summer. I am going to continue to poke at Android Studio. App development looks like something I should teach but AS is a real pig. I am not offering it this year simply because I do not have good enough computers to run the emulator and I do not have a supply of Android devices to use instead. I have taught app development with App Inventor but had too many issues and it is too "kidsy" for real apps.

I am on the Montana State CS curriculum design committee for this summer. I am actually a bit nervous about this. I have this queezy feeling I am going to show up and they are going to want to talk about Microsoft Office and Photoshop and I will then say something inappropriate. Subtlety is not one of my strong points. I have a tendency to get real pissy when business teachers talk about "CS" as though it were an apps course. There is always hope it turns out a good experience.

I want to work on the Python/Lego EV3 possibilities. It looks like a great way to get the kids more hands on in programming.

Summer is not time off for me. It is time to explore new stuff.

Chad said...

I used Github Classroom in my 2nd year course this year with moderate success. It really made checking student progress and verifying student contributions to their group projects much easier. I also encouraged students to submit issues and tag me when they needed advice. I then used pull requests to make suggestions and give feedback. There is a little bit of upfront time spent teaching the students Git and Github (just enough to get going, then filling in more complex things as needed). You may also be able to get a "goodie box" from Github...mine came with some interesting comic books, cheat sheets, and some stickers.

This summer, I'm planning on completing 100 Days of Web with Python and blogging about my experiences. I've been wanting to start up a blog for the past two years (as long as I've been teaching CS full time) but just didn't keep up with it. I guess it's kind of like a summer resolution.

Richard White said...

Summer is such a great time to recharge and rethink what we're doing in the classroom. My personal projects this summer consist primarily of:

* writing a utility that I can use to run tests on code for my Python students, and
* clarifying daily assignments for students in both my Python- and Java-based courses

I see in the comments here that people are looking at git/GitHub and web development. I'm pretty happy with the weeklong unit on HTML/CSS that I use with my Intro classes (static pages only, no JavaScript or Django/Flask as of this time), and the git/GitHum stuff I use with advanced students. I got impatient with GitHub classroom and decided to just go for the real deal a couple of years ago, so students in my classes all end up creating their own GitHub accounts. Most of them won't go on to use them personally/professionally, but some of them will. I was inspired by a talk Tom Callaway (RedHat) gave at the Southern California Linux Expo a few years ago, and am so glad I was finally able to work git and GitHub into my courses, even if students typically don't use it on a day-to-day basis.

Happy Summer, everybody!