Congress complaining about the low cost of faculty development
I’m still wading through the 300 unread email awaiting my return from vacation. (Yes, the last week’s worth of blogs were all pre-recorded.) The family had a great time in California and at the ACM Awards in San Jose.
One of the interesting threads that came up while I was gone were the complaints from Senator Coburn about badly spent funds at NSF. In particular, his report highlights the “low-budget rodeo and hoedown” that was held at SIGCSE 2011. If you weren’t at SIGCSE 2011, you may not have heard about the event where teachers programmed 75 robots to dance together. Senator Coburn seems disappointed that the event was “a source of enjoyment for observers.” (It’s better if educational activities are not enjoyable?)
The organizers of the hoedown put together a reasonable and well-argued response. The event was really about getting a lot of teachers to try out new computing curricula and actually install the robot software (with help) on their computers. $6,283 is a remarkably low price (which actually led to some corporate matching) for faculty professional development.
Senator Coburn’s report complains about the “low-budget” event. Would it have been better if it was more expensive? Just how much should faculty development cost? I admit that I’ve been part of much more expensive efforts (with six and seven digit budgets) that achieved less than the robot hoedown did. My sense is that the robot hoedown was a particularly low-cost way of getting some new ideas flowing among the teachers who participated. But it is scary that folks in Congress might not realize how important faculty professional development is, and how expensive it can be.