TITLE: SIGCSE Day 3 -- Expectation and Outcome AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: March 18, 2008 1:08 PM DESC: ----- BODY:

[A transcript of the SIGCSE 2008 conference: Table of Contents]

This was a tale of two sessions, two different expectations, and two results. First came a session on Nifty Objects. After seeing this one, my sarcastic side envisioned a one-word report: Not. But then I cam to my senses and realized that I wasn't being fair. A couple of the presentations were okay. The problem was in using the word "nifty" in the title of the session. As I alluded in my post on this year's Nifty Assignments session, the word Nifty creates a brand expectation that even the originators of the panel have had a hard time living up to. I tried to recreate the nifty assignments magic at the OOPSLA'04 Educators' Symposium, but the assignments weren't quite nifty enough or the presentations quite dynamic enough to succeed wildly. So to be fair, all I can really say about this panel is that expectations for its niftiness surpassed what it delivered. At this point, I'd say that using the word "nifty" in a session title is a recipe for overextended expectations. Then came a session called "It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time". I commented positively on last year's panel of the same name, but I wasn't sure what to expect this year. First, I honestly don't remember many details from last year's, other than the guy whose intro students crashed the university network with a flood of Java-generated e-mail. Second, this year's panel didn't have a bunch of "big names" with a reputation for making a session a hit. So my expectations were not all that high. But, as I wrote last year, I like the idea of seeing an idea fail, so I gave it a chance. The session was a lot of fun, better than expected. Every presenter told a good story. After Dan Garcia went, I worried about the folks to follow, because he killed. The folks who followed more than held their own. So this panel exceeded my expectations. Unfortunately, I can't tell you much about the content of the presentations. What made the session enjoyable was the storytelling, and I can't do the stories justice by retelling them here. I suppose that I should be able to give you a list of the lessons learned -- red flags to watch for in some big ideas, but I can't even do that. I haven't forgotten all the details yet (though ChiliPloP is starting to fill up my limited memory)! I recall Dan Garcia talking about a bad experience with giving an exam with no time limits and Caroline Eastman, I think, talking about just how hard it turned out to be to alphabetize a list of names in the face of international standards. The individual stories were about very specific instances. The one general lesson I draw from the panel these two years is that any idea, however well thought out, can go awry in the most unexpected ways. Be prepared for that to happen, be prepared to adapt in real-time, and be prepared to take advantage of the experience to help students learn what they can. And loosen up -- if your assignment or exam goes unexpectedly wrong, you probably haven't scarred your students for life or harmed them irreparably. They may even have learned something valuable they wouldn't otherwise have learned. -----