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C'est la Z

SIGCSE 2023 An Overview

On top of what I posted yesterday, it looks like I'll add something on Nifty Assignments but as I'm winding down in my Toronto Hotel waiting for tomorrow morning's flight home, I thought I'd share some general thoughts on the conference.

Numbers and perceptions.

The announced attendance was around 1500 but that was both in person and remote. It would be interesting to know what the in person numbers were but I'd estimate it was under 1000. There were a good number of people there but it didn't feel overwhelming. Continuing a terrific change from last year, coffee and tea were available before the first session each day and overall, at least from my perspective the organizing team did a great job.

SIGCSE has always been a college level thing. Over the years, more and more K12 educators have been attending and the scope has been widening but this year, the K12 numbers seemed lower. There also seemed to be a larger than usual amount of first timers. Of course, I could be all wrong about this since this was just based on my observations and I couldn't really take in the entirety of the conference all at once and have no access to the actual data.

I really enjoyed this edition of SIGCSE and I'll share specifics in future posts but for now I'll say it was 100% a worthwhile and valuable experience. That said, I saw too many instances of college faculty talking authoratively about instruction in ways that would get them laughed out of any strong collection of K12 teachers.

I'm not the only one who experienced this.

This morning, during the Nifty Assignments session, I was speaking to a HS teacher who I've known for a long time but was meeting in person for the first time. It was his first SIGCSE. I asked how he was liking it. His response was "well, there are a whole lot of professors who really could use a class or two in pedagogy."

Now, I'm probably being a bit hyperbolic but I do believe that many college educators could learn a lot about teaching from K12 teachers - particularly inner city K12 teachers, and for some there's a level of arrogance that won't let them do so.


It was my first time in Toronto and I really enjoyed the city or at least the parts I was able to see.

Between Wednesday and Saturday, I walked about 20 miles of Toronto streets. Hit the waterfront, the Fort York historic site, the Shoe Museum (who would have thought there would be a museum dedicated to Shoes), Kensington, UofT and more.

We had fun meals at Sneaky Pete's and the Loose Moose and really good modern Indian at Kettle. Side snacks at Wanda's Pies and from the tourist and foodie point of view the trip was a great success but still leaves much to do on return trips.

Favourite parts

My favourite thing about this trip was that my daughter Batya came along. She's a software engineer at Meta but is spending the semester teaching at Georgia State so Meta sent her along. Of course now, she's considering this ed thing as a possible career path (particularly if she's hit in the next round of layoffs). Devorah also came along but only to play tourist. Just like it was a treat for me to have Batya in my class back at Stuy, it's also such a treat to be able to share professional experiences be they strict tech or even better education.

Also, of course, was the hallway track. I was able to at least say hi to almost everyone I wanted to who I knew was there. Though in one case it was on the escalator out of the center for the final time and I was so conferenced out by then I was barely coherent but still, so great to see old friends.

Session wise, I loved the "It seemed like a good idea," "Microteaching," and "Nifty Assignments" trifecta. Each of those tackled a different aspect of actual teaching so together they made for an interesting set. I'll write more about each later.

As a final plus, I'll say that the coffee break snacks were top notch.

Least favorite parts

There were a few sessions that unfortunately did dissapoint. One was a session on liberal arts schools and the forthcoming ACM 2023 curriculum. The presenters talked about liberal arts colleges being different but I was really hoping for a how and/or why. I left having learned very little. I was hoping for maybe an example of a liberal arts college and why its curriculum differed from a school implementing the traditional ACM 2013 curriculum or a specific example of how two liberal arts colleges differed from each other.

There were a few sessions like this where I was hoping for more than a reading of the paper or report. The paper provided the bones but I wanted the talk to be the meat on the bones. I'd say about two thirds of the sessions I went to had the meat but a few were lacking.

My other downside, and I don't know how to avoid this was that this year I had the bad luck more than in the past of having more time slots that had multiple sessions I really wanted to see at the same time along with other slots with nothing that talked to me.

What's next

So that's a quick hit on some overall thoughts, some good, and some bad. I'll start writing posts soon on individual sessions and in some cases individual presentations.

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