5-6, 7-8, 9-12, Professional Development

CSTA 2021: Highlights and Takeaways

If you’re reading this, you better not be sleeping on CSTA Conferences. I’ve attended every year since I started teaching CS and I always walk away reinvigorated for the next school year. Like many early in my CS teaching career, I used to look for ready-to-go curriculum or fun gadgets. Now, I try to find new pedagogical techniques, engaging activities, and ways to go deeper with the material I’m already teaching. Here’s an unordered list of ideas, takeaways, and sites I want to revisit before school starts:

  • I really appreciate the focus CSTA (and the Chapter Leaders) Conference has put on diversity, equity, and inclusion in computer science. This year’s flash talks and presentations from the Equity Fellows were eye-opening and inspiring. My department will be completing a curricular review this year, and I plan on taking a deep dive with the Kapor Center’s Framework for Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Computer Science Education.
  • The “Twitter track” alerted me to Code.org’s new Machine Learning/Artificial Intelligence Learning Module. It look like it has a lot of great hands-on activities.
  • For my more advanced students, I think Daniela Ganelin and Trenton Chang’s presentation on AI Ethics & Criminal Justice will give them a better idea of how machine learning is actually used to make decisions. They always want to see the code!
  • I heard lots of good things about Amazon Future Engineer’s Class Chats and virtual Fulfillment Center Tours. Both sound like great options if we can’t have outside people on campus again this year or take field trips.
  • Tim Bell’s keynote was fantastic; I’ve always incorporated many of the activities from CSUnplugged. I’ll be following up with his Big Ideas paper.
  • In a session by Algorithm Literacy, they shared the “Most Likely Machine” which I plan on using to talk about algorithmic bias with middle school students.
  • For a new twist on an old favorite, Brad Ankney and Sarah Rizzi presented The Geometry & History of Symbols of LGBTQ+ Pride. I gained a new appreciation for the history of the different LGBTQ+ flags, and I love the idea of using them to practice Turtle Art instead of country flags.
  • Jane Waite and Christine Liebe presented the Student-Centered Instructional Continuum chocked full of good instructional strategies. My big takeaway was the reminder that students must read code before they can write it. I’m also intrigued by the PRIMM sequence (Predict-Run-Investigate-Modify-Make) and want to look for places to incorporate it more intentionally.
  • Philip Huff and his team from University of Arkansas have recognized the need for affordable and approachable cybersecurity labs and presented on their CyberArena. The demo lab they showed required the player to find out information about the owner of a cell phone by reading through text messages, browser history, etc which I know would capture my students’ attention. You just have to pay for the cloud access which is just a few cents per hour per student.

So much good stuff this year I couldn’t list it all. I’m hoping we’ll be in-person for 2022 in Chicago!

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