TITLE: Educators' Symposium Success AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: October 26, 2004 10:41 AM DESC: A brief review of the OOPSLA 2004 Educators' Symposium ----- BODY: The Educators' Symposium is over. I'll have to think deeply about Alan Kay's talk and the follow-up panel to say much on the central challenges posed by the day, but I can at least say that the day went pretty well. Alan's talk went longer than planned, but no one complained. A few questions then took us another half-hour over schedule. We made some adjustments in the line-up, tightened up the talk slots, and things fell into place. The technical papers were stronger than in some past years. We received many strong submissions, and the papers that made the cut held some important ideas for the audience. Some -- like teaching interfaces before inheritance, by Axel Schmolitzky, and teaching collections before arrays, by Adrienne Decker -- are small steps, for sure, but steps that many folks still need encouragement to take. Others, like how teaching event-driven programming first can improve our coverage even of traditional procedural topics such as for loops, by Kim Bruce, are less obvious jumps that some folks are taking. They show that the universe of choices is larger than you might think. The Framegames! activity by Steve Metsker and Bill Wake was intense but fun. It showed how teachers can use simple game shells (like instantiable classes) to create interactive class sessions with relatively little fuss. I don't yet use games of this sort in my classes very often, but I should probably try them out sometime. Students might appreciate the chance to take a break from my intense pace in class. You will be able to find notes on the games at Bill Wake's web site within the week. The closing session of "sound bytes", one-minute ideas for improving instruction, started slowly but picked up. Unfortunately, it spun a bit off-topic at the end, with lots of 'me-too's added in. This was the first time Joe Bergin had tried this idea live, and it showed some promise. To be honest, though, the result of this activity is a common phenomenon at Educators' Symposia: open mike time at the end often doesn't live up to its promise, because people are both tired and overstimulated with ideas from the long day. But sometimes people just need a chance to speak, and they miss it if you take it away. So, after all the work I and my committee put in this year, the symposium came off a success. My strengths showed up in the planning: well organized, ambitious but not too much so, and being connected to folks with good ideas and a willingness to server. And my weaknesses showed through, too, though more in the execution. For example, I get so into the moments of the workshop that I don't do very good job setting up beginnings and ends, such as wrapping things up gracefully and getting the next scheduled item off promptly enough. I have big plans in my mind, and may even prepare to execute them, but then I lose steam at the end. I've been asked to chair the Educators Symposium again in 2005. I know now how to do some of the little things better next time, but can I do the big things as well or better? Do I have an idea of where we should take the next Symposium? I'm too tired tonight (Monday night) to say for certain. But maybe -- if I can get the right folks to help me again. San Diego is awfully nice this time of year. -----