July 2012
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Notes: CSTA CS+IT Conference

Today I attended the 2012 ACM Computer Science and Information Technology Conference. It was focused heavily on the advocacy of teaching Computer Science material in the K-12 system.

I most liked the fact that every session I attended have some kind of interactive portion. Including trial activities, and Think-Pair-Share.

  • Think positively. Have your students relate 3 items of good news everyday. (I’ve read positive psychology, that proves this works to increase feelings of happiness).
  • Act as the host that elicits solutions from your audience. Don’t tell students the answers, instead get them to help each other or model the learning/investigation process.
  • Debrief on your process after every problem. How did you solve it? How does it apply to other things? Make sure the steps of solution.
  • Model the inquiry process to help students find the answer through their own knowledge.
  • First course may be more about building community that it is about content.
  • Have every student journal (think-pair-share)
  • Use scaffolding: play guess the number for binary search, fill out a cooking recipe for discovering a Gantt chart.
  • Scaffolding is especially important for group work. Assign roles so that everyone has a clear part to play. Make the steps to solution clear and incremental. Rotate the roles.
  • Can’t skip on the orientation part to save time. People need a context for the problem.
  • Ask meta-questions: 1. Directed 2. Convergent (pattern identification) 3. Divergent (pattern application to other place)
  • www.pogil.org and cspogil.org

A couple of new terms: Brogrammer and Hacker Hostel.

A couple of references:

  • The Art of Changing the Brain: Enriching the Practice of Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning, by Zull.
  • Stuck in the Shallow End: Education, Race, and Computing, by Margolis

By the way, I’m actually appalled at how low the minority and women turnout in CS eduction is. I would rather like to think that, behind the impersonal interface of text, minorities and women would have MORE opportunity to express themselves without being shutdown via automatic cultural biases. It should be a source of freedom. We have an image problem if the cultural message are so strong as to thwart those opportunities.

I’m still left with a question: What have I done to welcome students into my classroom? What have I done to be more inclusive? to break down the nerdy white male stereotype? How can I do this without appearing condescending or patronizing?

1 comment to Notes: CSTA CS+IT Conference

  • The minority turnout in CS “education” isn’t surprising if you consider which communities actually offer some sort of CS curriculum. I’ve been in eight different schools across the LAUSD and TUSD districts in the L.A. county from K-12; neither of them offered anything close to APCS. For the APCS exam, I had to call nearly forty schools only to realize that two rejected me because I wasn’t a part of their school district. I called David Bernier, director of ECS, and he got in contact with three obscure LAUSD schools in downtown L.A. that offered the exam. Frankly, I don’t believe learning MSOffice is attributed to a CS curriculum either.

    Here’s some stats from ECS:
    “The number of AP CS courses now offered in LAUSD doubled. In the 2003-04 school year, only 11 of the 57 high schools in LAUSD offered APCS. Currently, 24 LAUSD schools offer APCS.”–after collaborating closely with UCLA.

    A bit more Google-ing and you’ll find that UCSD and UCI (as seen from this event) are attempting to support secondary schools in local, minority districts as well. Honestly though, this is a statewide issue of secondary school curriculum standard for CS; otherwise, I fear that CS in secondary schools will produce a sharp divide that distinguishes between “privileged” and “underprivileged” schools w/ and w/o CS specifically. It’s akin to racism since underprivileged communities cannot necessarily afford to offer the curriculum.

    Just my hypothesis.

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