Friday, July 16, 2021

Observations on #CSTA2021 Virtual Conference

The CSTA 2021 Virtual Conference is in the books. I really did enjoy it and I learned a lot. Virtual conferences are different from in-person conferences and I plan a post on that. But for now I want to talk about this year.

First off, the conference program was pretty awesome if I can say that as part of the conference committee that selected them. Not only was content good but the presentations were very well done. At  least the ones I sat in on were. I wonder if the experience of teaching online as so many have had to do played a role in preparing teachers to present at a virtual conference. Thoughts on that?

Secondly, the chat feature in Hopin got a lot of use. As one person pointed out, yelling things out in a live presentation is rude but adding questions, comments, or additional resources in a chat windows is not. More than that it adds to the value of the presentation.

Sessions for grades younger than high school are growing in number. This is hugely important in my opinion. This year, Nifty Lessons had a lesson for the very young grades. There were not many teachers of those grades to hear it though. I would love to see more nifty lessons for younger grades. Elementary school and middle school teachers are doing amazing things and we need to share them.

I ran two monitors during the conference. One monitor was on the conference itself while the second was split screen between the Slack channel the conference staff and committee used to handle things behinds the scenes. The other window was following the #CSTA2021 Twitter hashtag. I don’t have data but it felt like the Twitter stream was less busy than most years. I suspect two causes. One the aforementioned chat activity in Hopin and the other the fact that computers and phones were occupied with attending the conference rather than social media. Is this god, bad, indifferent? I don’t know. Being virtual we had many more people AT THE CONFERENCE so maybe we don’t need as many Tweeting for the people not there?

There was a clear theme of equity in CS education in this year’s conference. Given the last few years, equity is and will continue to be an awfully important topic. The keynotes were all on that topic and at the risk of taking criticism, was that necessary? I love people talking about how they bring equity into the teaching. I will listen to Amy Ko again in a heartbeat for example. The last keynote at CSTA 2021 had some inspiring stories. It was great to hear the success of students from students. We can probably all do even more to bring equity to teaching CS. I would just have liked a little more variety in the keynotes.

I have been thinking about what else I would like to see in keynotes for next year.

One is talk about the need for ethics in CS education. I am not sure what form this keynote should be given or who should give it but ethics in computing is a critical topic in my eyes.  We’re seeing ransomware and cracking into systems all the time. We need to make sure we are bringing ethical thinking into our teaching. Students need to ask “should I?” as often as they ask “can I?”

The second thing I would like to see is pure inspiration. At this point in the year teachers are tired, drained  and most of us could use some excitement. The future of technology is amazing and hearing about the possibilities and ideas that we can share with students to encourage them would be a great thing. Again, I am not sure who is the person to bring it but I want to hear a positive and exciting message about the future. I want energy!

So what do you think? How was the conference for you? What was great or not so great? What do you want to see next year?

BTW, my daily notes on the conference are at:

1 comment:

Mike Zamansky said...

My problem with virtual conference chat is that it can scroll off so quickly that it can become uselsee.