This past Saturday was the 19th ACSE.net conference. That stands for the Association of Computer Science Educators. Peter Kuperman and I both attended. I was able to get away in the morning and be there for the whole day because Peter looked after our children in the AM; he joined me in the afternoon, leaving the children in the care of a trusted babysitter. We were so pleased to be at this conference. For us both, it was a real pleasure to connect and re-connect with professional teachers and educators whose passion is to achieve real learning outcomes in computer programming/computer science. In addition, it was wonderful to see some participation from CanCode recipients: Kids Code Jeunesse was there, although none of the other government funded organizations made it out.
We were invited to deliver a 10 minute lightning-round presentation by the Conference Chair, Grant Hutchinson who is also an industry (IBM) veteran and now a veteran high school CS teacher at Malvern CI in the Beaches. He and Pete Beens, the President of the ACSE gave us a warm welcome.
I was really interested in Grant's talk about physical computing with Python and Micro:Python. I also really enjoyed Cathy Leung's (of Seneca College) discussion of the practicalities of using Github to host courses (an element that we are introducing in our Teens UP and Adults UP program). In addition, I loved Michelle Craig's (award-winning UofT CS prof) talk about sharing and collaborating in CS as a means of furthering pedagogical outcomes; she rightly noted that knitting is an apt analogy for programming. I hope to squeeze out a blog post about Cathy and Michelle's presentations at a later time, but my focal point today is on Grant's presentation and some broader take-aways from the conference.
In Grant's presentation about teaching with Micro:Python he explained that he's approached colleagues in the Science department at Malvern who are intrigued, but haven't yet integrated physical computing in their classes. For teachers like Grant, Pete Beens, myself, and Shawn Lim (of Botcamp), as well as for individuals like Peter Kuperman with a strong background in computer science engineering, exploring the relationship between programming and physical computing is an important element in STEM education. We hope that in the years to come, there will be opportunities to build out curriculum in this area, to have science teachers learn more about the relationship, and to have them receive PD on real computer programming and real computer languages.
I also noted with interest that, like us at Hatch Coding, most teachers at ACSE are all "coded" out. That is to say, that the co-opting of the term "coding" by anyone with a toy robot and the co-opting of the term "curriculum" by anyone with anything to sell in STEAM is having a deleterious impact on pedagogy. If everything is coding, what does it mean for science, the field of technology (a big tent), engineering, maths, and even the arts (STEAM)? How can we have educated and professional conversations about learning outcomes if everything is now coding, and what is the net impact on improving pedagogy and curriculum in all of these fields—including computer programming and computer science as computer programming becomes more important to society?
Please note that after 4+ years of teaching and learning in computer programming, we are launching a new website this week to explain what we've found in the research and development of our Studio software.
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