The CS Educators StackExchange is now in public beta. For those of you who are not in tech, StackExchange is a network of question answering sites. StackOverflow is probably the most famous - many peoples go to site for computer science and programming questions and answers.
During this period of public beta the site will be working on defining itself and also on developing a critical mass of users. I hope the site succeeds and I encourage everyone to check it out, ask questions, answer some and let's all see where this goes.
An interesting difference between StackExchanges and most other communities is that it's a question answering site not a discussion board or shared resource collection. This works well for programming questions where you can share a code snippet, algorithm, or derivation which can be shown to be correct. We'll see how it works for something more nebulous like education. The voting system should help but the CS education community is already awash with anointed thought leaders with little or no teaching or CS experience. It will also be interesting to see how things develop given that, by and large, K12 educators know a whole lot more about teaching than those in higher ed while the on the flip side, the professors are generally much more knowledgeable about the subject matter and then you have the education researcher which is another beast altogether.
Part of me thinks that discussion could be more valuable than answers and in fact, I'm finding the comments which are more discussion like to be more interesting, but that's just me.
A side thing I noticed was that the moderators have taken to asking contributors not to link to other sites but to either write self contained answers. I understand this desire to have everything under your roof but it strikes me as wanting to use their silo instead of someone else's silo. This happened to me on an answer because I had already written a series of blog posts on the subject. Admittedly, I just put up four links and could have (and will) provide more context but I also had no desire to rewrite my content just to share info that was already out there. Likewise there was a question that was posed on A* which led to this post. I wanted to share my thoughts with "my" community as well as on the stackexchange and didn't want to have to do the same thing twice.
One of the moderators claims is that a link might not be permanent. This is true. My blog might not be around in 5 years but then the CS Educators StackExchange might not as well. I hope both are around and thriving but time will tell.
This also got me thinking about the mish mash of CS Educator communities floating around. I'm familiar with and a member of:
- A few Facebook groups (CS Education, CS Education Discussion, AP Comp Sci, APCSP)
- The CS Education subreddit
- A couple of mailing lists (the College Board AP Community, SIGCSE)
- A few blogs are kind of communities in that there's a core group of readers but discussion is pretty sparse.
Are there others I'm not aware of?
This has led to a lot of duplication and some fragmentation and there is a concern about silos. The Facebook groups are very much a silo and to a certain extent so are the mailing lists. I guess the SIGCSE list is more community run than the College Board one, but still. Blogs are our own personal islands so while I wish more people would both blog and comment about CS Ed they're not necessarily open and permanent either. At least with some blogs and with the subreddit and stackexchange we can, if we want, download all of the data if we want and preserve it for posterity.
I don't know if there's a solution - maybe we should set up a discourse instance - something really open and accessible.
In any event, please do check out the CS Educators StackExchange and let's all help it become the best question answering resource it can be for our community.