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C'est la Z

Category: pedagogy

Less Engagement For More

I think many of us are finding student engagement to be one of the more challenging aspects of remote teaching. I sure am. In person it's much easier to have in class discussions. You can read faces and body language, move around the room, encourage cross discussion and, well, you know, teach in the usual sense. Much harder on Zoom. The default behavior isn't a room of people all together but rather a bunch of individual teacher student connections.

Merge Over Zoom - A Hunter CS Certification Program Update

We've been talking sorting and searching in our teacher certification program and today was all about the merge sort. One of the strategies we use when teaching it in person involves sorting a deck of cards by Tom Sawyering it with the class. It's fun and it's effective but you can't do it over Zoom. What to do? We didn't want to just jump into the nuts and bolts of merge sort.

Try Something New - Quicksort

Many teachers are reluctant to try new things. Sometimes it's a bad case of "I'vealwaysdoneitthisway-itis." Sometimes it's not being comfortable with the new way or not having the time to develop whatever happens to be needed for the lesson and sometimes it's even coming from a good place. What's that good place? Concern - if I try this new way and it doesn't work I'm going to lose some students and never get them back.

Teacher Centric Teaching

Every few years the experts give us some new magic bullet, some new teaching fad research based pedagogical technique. Teachers are trained in it, forced to use it - frequently as a one size fits all. If we do, we're good teachers, if we don't we get the dreaded ineffective on our annual ratings. I was reminded of this when reading Mark Guzdial's recent blog post on things he got wrong in Computing Education.

My test grading policy

I was working on writing a midterm the other day so figured I'd talk a bit about my test grading policy. Before getting to the specifics, let me set the stage. I spent most of my career at Stuyvesant - a public magnet school in NYC. There are many great students who are interested in learning but there's also a focus on grades. and this leads to a non-insignificant portion of the student body that is grade obsessed and will do everything and anything for every point possible.

Teaching techniques - industry to classroom and classroom to industry

There are things we do in school and there are things we do in industry and they're not always the same. In school we might use a learning language or an IDE which gives additional support and at times even take away language features while at work you might you might make heavy use of continuous integration tools. On the other hand, sometimes we use the same things. Java is used in schools and in industry, StackOverflow consulted in both and many schools use professional IDEs like Eclipse.

What Is Good Teaching

I had a conversation with my principal during my last year at Stuy. She said "whenever the superintendent or high level education people come and ask to see our best teachers I can never bring them to Jim's class." Everyone knows that Jim is the best. I describe him as "the teacher I aspire to be." What's the problem? The problem is that Jim didn't teach the way the powers that be wanted him to teach.

Sequencing Topics

Monday's the start of the Spring semester. Other than the 8:00am start I'm looking forward to it. My 8:00am class is the honors/lab component that goes with CS1. I taught it last semester and during each of the past two years at Hunter. My second class is the follow up - more OOP / C++, data structures and some algorithms. The material is old hat. I've taught it in Java more times than I can count and also in C++ albeit many years ago.

Let Teachers Teach

Mark Guzdial's post the other day about direct isntruction struck a chord with me. Right up front, Mark said: The research evidence is growing that students learn better through direct instruction rather than through a discovery-based method, where we expect students to figure things out for themselves. Quite a surprise to the teachers who have been beaten over the head with "everything must be discovery" in recent years.