Staring In The SIGCSE Mirror

One of the great things about going to a top notch conference like SIGCSE is that you get a lot of exposure to great educators bringing their A game for their presentations and workshops. It’s a great event in many ways but it’s also highly educational. I wrote furiously during the time that I was there (and there are still some blog posts to come) because there was so much knowledge flowing, I felt that I had to get it all down.

It is also valuable because it is humbling. There are educators who are scraping together feather, burnt cork and a few pebbles and producing educational materials and content that would knock your socks off. Given that attending SIGCSE is a significant financial expenditure for an Australian, it’s a quiet reminder that my journey to SIGCSE had better have a valuable outcome now that I’m back. A lot of my colleagues are doing amazing things with far less – I have no excuse to not do at least as well. (And I’ve certainly been trying.)

It’s inspirational. Sometimes it feels like we’re all adrift in a giant cold sea, in little boats, in the dark. We do what we can in our own space but have no idea how many people are out there. Yet there are so many other people out there. Holding up our lights allows us to see all of the other boats around us – not a small fishing fleet but a vast, floating city of light. Better still, you’ll see how many are close enough to you that you can ask them for help – or offer them assistance. Sound, ethical education is one of the great activities of our species, but it’s not always as valued as it could be – it’s easier when you have some inspiration and a sea full of stars.

It’s levelling. It doesn’t matter whether you’re from the greatest or the smallest college – if your work was accepted to SIGCSE then other people will hear about it. Your talk will be full of people from all over the sphere who want to hear about your work.

It encourages people to try techniques so that they, in turn, may come back and present one day. It also reminds us that there is a place where CS Education is the primary, valued, topic of conversation and, in these days of the primacy of research value, that’s an important level of encouragement.

There are so many more things that I could say about the experience but I think that my volume of blogging speaks pretty much for itself on this event. How did it make me feel? It made me want to be better at what I did, a lot better, and it gave me ways to do that. It made me hungry for new challenges at the same time it gave me the materials and tools to bring a ladder to scale those challenges.

I’ve always said that I don’t pretend to be an expert – that this blog is reflective, not instructive or dogmatic – but that doesn’t mean that I don’t strive to master this area. Attending events like SIGCSE helps me to realise that, with work and application, one day I may even manage it.


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