Heading to SIGCSE!

Snowed under – get it?

I’m pretty snowed under for the rest of the week and, while I dig myself out of a giant pile of papers on teaching first year programmers (apparently it’s harder than throwing Cay’s book at them and yelling “LEARN!”), I thought I’d talk about some of the things that are going on in our Computer Science Education Research Group. The first thing to mention is, of course, the group is still pretty new – it’s not quite “new car smell” territory but we are certainly still finding out exactly which direction we’re going to take and, while that’s exciting, it also makes for bitten fingernails at paper acceptance notification time.

We submitted a number of papers to SIGCSE and a special session on Contributing Student Pedagogy and collaboration, following up on our multi-year study on this and Computer Science Education paper. One of the papers and the special session have been accepted, which is fantastic news for the group. Two other papers weren’t accepted. While one was a slightly unfortunate near-miss (but very well done, lead author who shall remain nameless [LAWSRN]), the other was a crowd splitter. The feedback on both was excellent and it’s given me a lot to think about, as I was lead on the paper that really didn’t meet the bar. As always, it’s a juggling act to work out what to put into a paper in order to support the argument to someone outside the group and, in hindsight quite rightly, the reviewers thought that I’d missed the mark and needed to try a different tack. However, with one exception, the reviewers thought that there was something there worth pursuing and that is, really, such an important piece of knowledge that it justifies the price of admission.

Yes, I’d have preferred to have got it right first time but the argument is crucial here and I know that I’m proposing something that is a little unorthodox. The messenger has to be able to deliver the message. Marathons are not about messengers who run three steps and drop dead before they did anything useful!

The acceptances are great news for the group and will help to shape what we do for the next 12-18 months. We also now have some papers that, with some improvement, can be sent to another appropriate conference. I always tell my students that academic writing is almost never wasted because if it’s not used here, or published there, the least that you can learn is not to write like that or not about that topic. Usually, however, rewriting and reevaluation makes work stronger and more likely to find a place where you can share it with the world.

We’re already planning follow-up studies in November on some of the work that will be published at SIGCSE and the nature of our investigations are to try and turn our findings into practically applicable steps that any teacher can take to improve participation and knowledge transfer. These are just some of the useful ideas that we hope to have ready for March but we’ll see how much we get done. As always. We’re coming up to the busy end of semester with final marking, exams and all of that, as well as the descent into admin madness as we lose the excuse of “hey, I’d love to do that but I’m teaching.” I have to make sure that I wrestle enough research time into my calendar to pursue some of the exciting work that we have planned.

I look forward to seeing some of you in Colorado in March to talk about how it went!

Things to do in Denver when you’re Ed?



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