TITLE: Educators' Symposium Success
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: October 26, 2004 10:41 AM
DESC: A brief review of the OOPSLA 2004 Educators' Symposium
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
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
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
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.