On Wednesday I went to the New Educator's Workshop (NEW). Even being faculty for two years, there was still a number of things that were either new or good reminders. Such as including or discussing learning objectives with each lecture and assignment, or being careful with increasing one's level of service. As a new faculty member, each service request seems exciting, as no one has asked me before! But many senior faculty emphasized that this is the time in which they are protecting us from lots of service opportunities such that we can spend time on our teaching and research.
On Thursday morning, I presented my recent work that updated a programming assignment in Introduction to Computer Systems, and from which we saw improvements in student exam scores. We did not research the specific action, and are therefore left with two theories. First, the improvement could be from using better style in the starter code and emphasizing this style in submissions. Second, we redesigned the traces to require submissions to address different cases and thereby implement different features. I lean toward the formed, but have no data driven basis for this hypothesis.
Let's discuss active learning briefly. I attended (or ran) several sessions focused on this class of techniques. The basic idea is that students have better engagement and learning by actively participating in class. There are a variety of techniques that work to help increase student activity. On Thursday afternoon, Sat Garcia of USD, presented Improving Classroom Preparedness Using Guided Practice, which showed how student learning improved from participating in Peer Instruction, which particularly requires students to come to class prepared. Shortly later, Cynthia Taylor joined Sat and I in organizing a Bird of Feather (BoF) session on using Active-learning in Systems Courses. We had about 30-40 attendees there split into two groups discussing some techniques they have used and problems they have observed. 5 years ago, a similar BoF had attendance around 15-20, so we are making progress as a field.
On Friday, I spoke with Brandon Myers who has done work on using POGIL in Computer Organization and Architecture. In POGIL, students are working in groups of 3-4 with specific roles through a guided learning, guiding students into discovering the concepts themselves. We had a nice conversation and may be merging our draft resources. This last point is often the tricky part of using active learning in that developing reasonable materials can be both time intensive and requires several iterations.
The Friday morning keynote presentation was given by Tim Bell, who spoke about K-12. This topic is rather distant from my own work and research, so I was skeptical. Yet, I came out quite enthused. It was interesting to think about presenting Computer Science concepts in non-traditional ways, based initially on having to explain your field at elementary school when the other presenters are a cop and a nurse (his example). How could you get 6 year olds to sort? Or see the advantage of binary search as the data grows?
In the afternoon, I was a session chair for the first time. I moderated the session on Errors, so obviously the AV system stopped working for a short duration. Beyond that incident, the session seemed to go well.
I always like going to SIGCSE. It is rejuvenating and exhausting. So many teachers to speak with about courses, curriculum, and other related topics. And then you find that you've been social for 16 hours or so hours.