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C'est la Z

Challenges of teaching at a commuter school

One of the bigger challenges faced at commuter schools is building a feeling of community. Students aren't on campus every day and come from far afield and even when they are on campus, we really don't have a CS "hang out" space. The space issue should be resolved soon - we're scheduled to get a CS student lounge next semester.

I'm finding this to be even more of a challenge this year with my honors students. The first two cohorts were a single class in size. Even though some dormed and some commuted, they were all together in my class twice a week. This year, we've close to doubled in size and about half of my students came in with a good deal of prior CS knowledge. The result is that I have two different classes of honors students and we are never all together unless it's for a special event.

Fortunately, we've got one of my favorites coming up.

In two weeks, I'll be taking about half my students up to Catskills Conf. An event that I describe as light tech conference with a focus on creativity and diversity meets summer camp. I've written about the event in in each of the past three years (2015, 2016, 2017) and also about the knitting for charity event that Devorah runs during the conference weekend.

It's a great event and if you're anywhere near the Hudson Valley region you should check it out.

To start, it's a great first conference for the students. It only has one track so no choices and the talks look really interesting this year. Some of the ones I'm looking forward to are:

  • Designing for Access first
  • Behind the Tech: Emoji
  • Leaning into uncertainty

The full schedule is here.

But also mixed in are activities like blacksmithing

<figure><img src="/img/commuter-school/blacksmith.jpg" width="250px"/> </figure>

and a live bird of prey show

<figure><img src="/img/commuter-school/BOP.jpg" width="250px"/> </figure>

There are also hikes that show off the beauty of Fall in the Hudson Valley

<figure><img src="/img/commuter-school/nature1.jpg" width="250px"/> </figure>

<figure><img src="/img/commuter-school/nature2.jpg" width="250px"/> </figure>

<figure><img src="/img/commuter-school/nature3.jpg" width="250px"/> </figure>

Rather than having the kids spread out in random hotel rooms we're all in a camp style bunkhouse.

<figure><img src="/img/commuter-school/bunkhouse.jpg" width="250px"/> </figure>

The weekend is spent living together along with technologists and other creative types from NYC, the Hudson Valley and everywhere else.

One of my favorite parts is at the end of each evening when we all hang out by the campfire. Hunter CS students, company founders, software engineers, designers.

<figure><img src="/img/commuter-school/campfire.jpg" width="250px"/> </figure>

It's a great event overall and a great event to build community.

As I said before, if you're in the area, check it out.

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