Thursday, March 03, 2022

SIGCSE 2022 Day 1

SIGCSE 2022 is my first in-person conference in over 2.5 years. It’s my first SIGCSE in a lot longer than that. It looks to be a great conference . There are 1518 people registered in total with 780 attending in person. I HAD to come in person. Honestly, I missed people and a lot of people I know in CS Education and CS Ed research are here. There is a lot to learn here as well.

The opening keynote was Barbara Liskov. This was a fascinating talk that covered a lot of the history of her work. She started publishing and researching what became object oriented programming while I was in the early stages of my career. Several papers she studied and referenced were published the year I got my undergraduate degree. I remember clearly many of the issues she discussed and problems she was looking to solve back then. I hope we can get access to her talk and show it to students.

My first session of the day was a panel discussion of should AP CS A switch to Python from Java. Needless to say, the room was full. The stick with Java people had two main issues. One was the work involved in changing – new resources, teaching aids, test questions, and the like. The second was that while there is a slight edge in universities using Python over Java for CS1, Java and C++ are FAR more widely used in CS2 courses. The current course results in students who do very well in CS2 and that is important.

The argument for Python is multiple. One is that it opens the door wider for using APIs for making more interesting projects. Another is that there is less syntactic “cruft” in Python which reduces cognitive load. A third is that Python is increasingly used in disciplines that are not computer science. For example the Physics and Chemistry departments are Stanford want their students to take a Python based CS1 course. FWIW, the school I retired from added Python in part because the Physics teachers encouraged it. I am finding the arguments for Python more convincing than I expected.

After lunch, It Seemed Like a Good Idea At The Time (COVID-19 Edition). The session opened with examples from the past: see if you can hack the department mail server; open book exams without a time limit; exponential time examples are actually cubic. Victoria Hong shared a study she did where she asked one section to write questions for the final exam. The cohort that wrote questions did worse on the final than the cohort that didn’t write questions. The opposite of what was expected. Ellen Spertus talked about a course without deadlines. This set off a lot of discussion about deadlines and the different ways to allow or not extensions. Some have tokens that students can use for an extension. I hope this was recorded because I can’t do the discussion justice here.

Next up for me was another panel: Advancing Opportunities for CS Teachers: How To Best Support Professional Development for Experienced Teachers in K-12 CS Education This session was hybrid which means that most of the panel was remote and not physically at the conference. More on that later perhaps.

Most professional development for CS teachers is focused on new and early career CS educators. We have a good number of experienced teachers (10+ years of teaching CS) and their needs and backgrounds tend to be different from new  CS teachers. A lot of the initial presentations was stating the problem.

Don’t tell anyone but I jumped out early and dropped in on a Special Session: K-12 Computing Education and Education Research Resources. Colleen Lewis talked about Computer Science Teaching Tips ( and a Teaching Practices Game. This can help teach about microaggressions. Briana Morrison introduced Engage CSEDU: which has a searchable database of CS Ed resources. Davina Pruitt-Mentle introduced NATIONAL INITIATIVE FOR CYBERSECURITY EDUCATION (NICE) which has a lot of resources for teaching and learning about cybersecurity. More information can be found at Cyberseek.

Got some dinner skipping the Birds of a Feather but I’ll go back for the reception. Overall, a very good day for me. Learned some things and connected with a bunch of great people. More tomorrow I expect. If you are reading this and at SIGCSE please look me up and say “hello.”

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