Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Villanova in the Fall …

Last Friday, computing educators in the Greater Philadelphia Area, also known as the Delaware Valley, gathered at the Conference Center at Villanova University just west of Philadelphia, PA USA (hey, blogs are international :-). Our hosts, Boots Cassel of VU and Manuel Perez-Quinones of VT, used funding from their NSF-CPATH grant to arrange this meeting. All participants submitted background information, current projects and future endeavors from which a tentative agenda was gleaned.

We all met on a crisp autumn day (the colors were astounding!), and immediately got down to work over breakfast. After a sequence of substantial introductions, the floor was open for discussion. We talked about perceptions, priorities, goals, practicalities, diversity and motivations involved in computing education. Other efforts from other disciplines were noted (including Eric Mazur’s work in concept physics at Harvard).

Before we knew it, it was lunchtime -- more food, and more conversation. The afternoon went by as rapidly as the morning, though Boots was able to at least list and reminder everyone of the agenda items. We discussed discovery learning, virtual worlds and robotics, kinesthetic learning and PBSL, whatever came into the stream of the discussion among motivated people. I then realized that our hosts were also demonstrating some of these forms of learning in practice that day: we held loosely to an agenda, we facilitated and provided with surroundings conducive to activity, and then set off to explore. We had lived the ideal, and I was renewed once again, looking forward to returning to Haverford to see if I could implement some of these strategies.

I recall feeling that I was experiencing one of my favorite parts of the SIGCSE conference; namely, the ongoing discussion towards a set of goals, some immediate, some longer term. I believe that this meeting was made more effective because the majority of participants were “SIGCSE regulars” – and the rest of the people were constantly reminded that they should attend SIGCSE soon. I was able to distribute about 30-40 roses as reminders of the City of Portland, OR, home of SIGCSE 2008. I look forward to progress reports and more lively chat (in the real world :-) in a few months at the Oregon Convention Center.