TITLE: OOPSLA Day 2: Morning at The Educators' Symposium AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: October 17, 2005 9:54 PM DESC: The Educators Symposium is over. It succeeded well enough. And now, I relax. ----- BODY: This was my second consecutive year to chair the OOPSLA Educators' Symposium, and my goal was something more down to earth yet similar in flavor: encouraging educators to consider Big Change. Most of our discussions in CS education are about how to do the Same Old Thing better, but I think that we have run the course with incremental improvements to our traditional approaches. We opened the day with a demonstration called Agile Apprenticeship in Academia, wherein two professors and several students used a theatrical performance to illustrate a week in a curriculum built almost entirely on software apprenticeship. Dave West and Pam Rostal wanted to have a program for developing software developers, and they didn't think that the traditional CS curriculum could do the job. So they made a Big Change: they tossed the old curriculum and created a four-year studio program in which students, mentors, and faculty work together to create software and, in the process, students learn how to do create software. West and Rostal defined a set of 360 competencies that students could satisfy at five different levels. Students qualify to graduate from the program by satisfying each competency at at least the third level (the ability to apply the concept in a novel situation) and some number at higher levels. Students also have to complete the standard general education curriculum of the university. Thinking back to yesterday's morning session at Extravagaria, we talked the role of fear and pressure in creativity. West and Rostal put any fear behind them and acted on their dream. Whatever difficulties they face in making this idea work over the long run in a broader setting -- and I believe that the approach faces serious challenges -- at least they have taken a big step forward could make something work. Those of us who don't take any big steps forward are doomed to remain close to where we are. I don't have much to say about the paper sessions of the day except that I noticed a recurring theme: New ideas are hard on instructors. I agree, but I do not think that they are hard in the NP-hard sense but rather in the "we've never done it that way before" sense. Unfamiliarity makes things seem hard at first. For example, I think that the biggest adjustment most professors need to make in order to move to the sort of studio approach advocated by West and ROstal is from highly-scripted lectures and controlled instructional episodes to extemporaneous lecturing in response to student needs in real-time. The real hardness in this is that faculty must have a deep, deep understanding of the material they teach -- which requires a level of experience doing that many faculty don't yet have. This idea of professors as practitioners, as professionals practiced in the art and science we teach, will return in later entries from this conference... Like yesterday's entry, I'll have more to say about today's Educators' Symposium in upcoming entries. I need some time to collect my thoughts and to write. In particular, I'd like to tell you about Ward Cunningham's keynote address and our closing panel on the future of CS education. The panel was especially energizing but troubling at the same time, and I hope to share a sense of both my optimism and my misgivings. But with the symposium over, I can now take the rest of the evening to relax, then sleep, have a nice longer run, and return to the first day of OOPSLA proper free to engage ideas with no outside encumbrances. -----