This past Tuesday, I attended – and presented at – the Computer Science Teachers Association Annual Conference in Irvine, California. I’d been to the Conference last year in New York City. This year’s conference was even better.
The first workshop I attended was “Project-Based Game Design for Social Causes.” The presenter, Pat Yongpradit, shared quite a few ideas on using programming games for social causes. His goal: having students create technology that is both innovative and socially relevant. What really impressed me was that Mr. Yongpradit used the Millenium Development Goals as the basis of the students’ game design. The students in his classes worked in interdisciplinary teams – I especially liked the peer programming – and used XNA Game Studio to bring their Apps and Games to the Global Marketplace.
The session I attended after lunch was “Exploring Computational Thinking in Math and Science Classrooms.” This session reviewed the exploring computational thinking (ECT) aspect of Google. There is a lot of information and lesson plans on this website. What is key that many of the activities ask students to look at large volumes of data. So often in lab, students collect ten or twenty data points. Working their way through the data noise – and being able to handle a large number of data points – is a skill that students definitely need to master.
The morning keynote “Policy Wonks and Teacher Advocates’ – by Baker Franke and Cameron Wilson – was thought-provoking and inspiring. The most important point: you need to believe, in your core, that computer science education is critical to students of today. Clearly, everyone in the room believed this – but didn’t necessarily know how to advocate for it. Cameron and Baker discussed how national policy objectives can and should be brought home to the local level, and how and why everyday classroom CS teachers should join the fight and be empowered to make a difference. Fortunately, here at Marymount, our students have CS experiences every day!