Thursday, August 22, 2019

What I Want from Computer Science Education Professional Development

The CSTA 2020 Call for Proposals is out and as usual it has me thinking.   Two questions come to mind. One is, what can/should I propose to present? The other question is what do I want to learn? I think I have been to every CSTA conference (since it was the CS & IT conference) so I have attended a lot of sessions. I’ve presented quite a few times as well. So I have a lot of history to think about.

I don’t currently have any sessions or workshops I want to present. I keep asking myself is that is because I am not working hard enough to innovate or create new ideas. I suspect that a lot of people doubt if they are doing anything special enough to present. Some of those people are right but a lot of them are wrong. So I need to think about that.

I’m thinking more about birds of a feather sessions to propose and looking at my projects to see if I have something really nifty for the nifty project session. Birds of a Feather (BoF) sessions are very interactive and are great for refining ideas. And nifty projects are, well, they’re nifty.

What do I want to see presented? That’s actually hard these days. Why? Because my brain is already full of more ideas than I could learn or teach in a lifetime. Artificial Intelligence, cloud computing, Internet of Things, game development, virtual reality and on and on. Content! There is a lot of possible content out there.

What I really want to learn is how to teach better. I’m doing some reading (Computer Science Education is my current read) and I’ve been learning a lot from Mark Guzdial’s blog for a while. If you ever get a chance to hear Mark talk about how to teach computer science GO HEAR HIM! There are a number of his talks on YouTube BTW.

Lots of people want to promote a new tool (software or hardware) as a silver bullet for teaching. I’ve heard enough of them. Given a few myself. The more I teach though the more I think there is more to becoming a better teacher than a cool new robot, a fancy new IDE, a great new “educational toy.” or what ever.

Teaching is ultimately about establishing a relationship between teacher and student. It is about communicating well and sharing passion. That’s what I want to learn how to do better. And if you have research to back up what you are teaching about how to teach I really want to hear from you.


Jim Peters said...

Back in late 2008, as a first year teacher, I taught "related theory" in the programming and web development shop in a classroom and a building built 35 years ago The technology in the room was an overhead projector and IBM PC ATs. Books in the library, now named the media center were like those I had in high school in the early 80s. No mention of the Internet or web. My point is that I had to figure out how to teach as if it were the 1980s to a class of seniors who had spent three years not being taught much about CS rather than being babysat. I fell back on my own knowledge and experience-- mostly drawing from what I learned in CS in college or had picked up during my career working on and managing the networks that made up the Internet in the intervening time. We'd call it legacy today, but it is also the fundamental way and foundations of the way it works. We already have a generation that hasn't seen many things we knew, but the way it works today is because of something - allbeit faster and the surviving entity. That is what I understood and tried to impart on my seniors. Ten years on, I hope it worked for them.

William Lau said...

Alfred, your last paragraph sums up my beliefs so well. I’ve spent quite some time writing about pedagogy, curriculum and design and that is all research-informed and fully referenced in my first book. However over the past 2 years, I’ve begun to see the power of relationships, the Pygmalion effect, positive language, passion and enthusiasm. Perhaps it was watching other experienced and trainee teachers teach and trying to define the x-factor that separated them. Of course, subject knowledge is important, but unless you can deliver with passion, students are not going to “buy it” as they say .

I’m interested in coming back to CSTA one day , perhaps to talk about the language that we use in our classroom. Not the programming language , but the words we use and how we teach different concepts. Watch this space (or my Twitter feed @MrLauLearning). If I can find funding or anyone has any suggestions for making it back over to the US, I’d be delighted to share my experiences.

Garth said...

If I could attend CSTA or any other conference (limited by $$) I would look for three things: pedagogical approaches, CS knowledge (AI, VR, AR, game development (not programming) and some other odds and ends) and programming knowledge (not new languages but free resources to teach my present languages). I do not want “A better way to teach APCS”. I want “How to interest first time CS/programming students to take a second semester”. Fun stuff to do with kids to make them enjoy programming. When I look at conference sessions so many of them are for elite students and teachers. I want to see stuff for the kids that are not going to be CS majors but need a little CS for engineering, chemistry, business and so on. You know, the normal college bound high school kids.

I would also look for what can I employ in my classroom that does not require a lot of time on my part? Being a full-time teacher and the full-time IT department put a major lock on my time. Initially I need a cookbook.