Archive for January 19, 2011

My Students Know Far Less Than I Ever Expected

Today was my very first lecture using peer instruction in a computer science class, and I’m already blown away.  I had no idea that my students had these misconceptions.

I’m teaching a second semester course on data structures, using our Media Computation approach.  All of my students have completed their first semester of computer science, either in Python (with robotics or with media) or in MATLAB.  This is only the second lecture of the semester (due to the Snowcopalypse), so I’m just introducing the basics of Java.

I showed this slide.

I then posed this question:

Since Java uses zero-based indexing, and MATLAB uses one-based, I expected that the answers would be between A and B, and it would give me a chance to revisit (I’d already presented it) the zero vs. one-based indexing.  I posed the question, let students answer via Ubiquitous Presenter, then asked them to argue with one another about the right answer, then vote again.  Here was the distribution of votes after the second round of votes.

I don’t know about you, but there is NO WAY I would have predicted that the MAJORITY of the class would think that the answer was the sum.  Even if you had never seen Java before, how could you think that getting the total changes the array?

Wow. I’m flabbergasted.  I predict that I will cover FAR less material than I planned to this semester, since I now have a way of seeing what students are understanding on a day-by-day basis.  I’m now a convert.  Given what we know about how little students learn in the first years, one could argue that it’s unethical not to use peer instruction — how else will you know if your students are learning?

January 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm 35 comments

Tell the US Federal Government how to fix K-12 CS Ed

The timeline on this is really short — please pass on this call for comment!

The federal government asks for advice about education fairly regularly. But it isn’t often that it asks specifically what is needed to advance K-12 computer science education. So I was pleasantly surprised when one federal program asked some key questions about K-12 CS education . Members of our community have the opportunity [to speak up] about what they think is needed for a stronger K-12 CS education. (Comments are due by January 31.)

via Let the Feds Know Your Thoughts on K-12 Computer Science Education | blog@CACM | Communications of the ACM.

January 19, 2011 at 10:39 am 2 comments

Call for Participation in Georgia’s C^3

Georgia Tech and Southern Poly have organized a free event called the C3 Conference (Computing Commons Collaboration Conference) for both high school computing teachers and undergraduate computing faculty to meet, present, share ideas, and discuss topics of interest on teaching introductory computer science courses.  You are invited you to register for the first mini-conference of this event on Feb 26, 2011, through https://sites.google.com/site/dccec3/registration.  There is NO COST to attend this conference.  Please notice that the deadline for registration is Feb 15th, 2011.

You can find more information in the call for attendance below. Please also feel free to share this message with anyone who might be interested.

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Call for Attendance for the first C3 Conference on Feb 26, 2011

Georgia Tech and Southern Poly (SPSU) have organized an event called the C3 Conference (Computing Commons Collaboration Conference).  It is designed for both high school computing teachers and undergraduate computing faculty to meet, present, share ideas, and discuss topics of interest on teaching introductory computer science courses.  This event includes two mini-conferences in the spring of 2011 – February 26 at SPSU and April 16 at Georgia Tech. You can find more information about this event at https://sites.google.com/site/dccec3.

You are invited to register for the first mini-conference of this event.  There is NO COST to attend this conference.  It will be held at Southern Polytechnic State University on Feb 26, 2011.  This first C3 conference includes talks by invited speakers and selected presentations with discussion sessions on a variety of CS topics.  The conference will run from 1:00 – 5:30 p.m., followed by a reception after the last session. All talks, presentations, discussions, and the reception are designed to allow participants to interact with, and learn from, their computing and teaching colleagues in the Southeast.

1.) You can find the conference program on the program page at (https://sites.google.com/site/dccec3/program).

2.) If you would like to attend this conference, please fill in the registration form through the registration page at https://sites.google.com/site/dccec3/registration. The deadline for registration for the first mini-conference is Feb 15th, 2011.

3.) Directions to Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta GA are available at https://sites.google.com/site/dccec3/directions.

4.) If you have any question about this conference, please contact any of the following members of the conference committee:

 

 

January 19, 2011 at 10:37 am Leave a comment


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