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C'est la Z

Category: pedagogy

A Memorable Lesson (at least for one student)

Back to calling an audible. Around seven years ago I was visiting with some former students at Google in Mountain View. One of them from way back in the late 90s, Pawel, out of the blue said there was one lesson I taught that was particularly memorable. Not memorable in the "that was fun" way like maybe my Halloween adventures but memorable in that he felt he got a lot more out of it than a normal lesson.
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Should every assignment be open ended?

This post by my friend Alfred caught my eye yesterday. It's a good post - some good examples of inserting student creativity even into small intro level assignments. While I like the post and agree with the sentiment of open ended, student driven projects, I had to take issue with the lead quote Alfred used: “If you assign a project and get back 30 of the same thing, that’s not a project, that is a recipe.
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Why it takes so long to become a better teacher

I've written about how long it takes to become a master teacher and that even after 9 or 10 years most teachers are really just advanced beginners. A big reason for that is our long feedback loop. You do something and you can't do it again for a year. I was listening to a podcast on my morning run by the Hudson River and something came up about differences between quantities of items.
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Designated Slacker

Our teacher certification program is in full swing. All day every day through the end of the month. We finished off the first course about a week ago and are currently covering data structures and methods - teaching methods that is. All day every day is pretty intense and doing it on Zoom doesn't help so we try to change things up. As with many Zoom based classes, we make use of breakout rooms for small group work.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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