TITLE: K-12 Road Show Summit, Day One AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: May 30, 2008 7:23 PM DESC: ----- BODY: The workshop has ended. Google was a great host, from beginning to end. They began offering food and drinks almost immediately, and we never hungered or thirsted for long. That part of the trip made Google feel like the young person's haven it is. Wherever we went, the meeting tables included recessed power and ethernet cables for every kind of laptop imaginable, including my new Mac. (Macbook Pros were everywhere we went at Google.) But we also learned right away that visitors also must stay within bounds. No wandering around was allowed; we had to remain within sight of a Googler. And we were told not to take any photos on the grounds or in the buildings. The workshop was presented live from within Google Docs, which allowed the leaders and presenters to display from a common tool and to add content as we went along. The participants didn't have access to the doc, but we were it as a PDF file -- on the smallest flash drive I've ever owned. It's a 1GB stick with the dimensions of the delete key on my laptop (including height). The introduction to the workshop consisted of a linked-list game in which each person introduced the person to his left, followed by remarks from Maggie Johnson, the Learning and Development Director at Google Engineering, and Chris Stephenson, the executive director of ACM's Computer Science Teachers Association. The game ran a bit long, but it let everyone see how many different kinds of people were in the room, including a lot of non-CS faculty who lead outreach activities for some of the bigger CS departments. Chris expressed happiness that K-12, community colleges, and universities were beginning to work together on the CS pipeline. Outreach is necessary, but it can also be joyful. (This brought to mind her panel statement at SIGCSE, in a session I still haven't written up...) Next up was Liz Adams reporting on her survey of people and places who are doing road shows or thinking about it. She has amassed a lot of raw data, which is probably most useful as a source of ideas. During her talk, someone asked, does anyone know if what they are doing is working? This led to a good discussion of assessment and just what you can learn. The goals of these road shows are many. When we meet with students, are we recruiting for our own school? Or are we trying to recruit for discipline, getting more kids to consider CS as a possible major? Are we working to reach more girls and underrepresented groups, or do we seek a rising tide? Perhaps we are doing service for the economy of our community, region, or state? The general answer is 'yes' to all of these things, which makes measuring success all the more difficult. While it's comforting to shoot wide, this may not be the most effective strategy for achieving any goal at all! One idea I took away from this session was to ask students to complete a short post-event evaluation. I view most of our outreach activities these days as efforts to broaden interest in computer science generally, and to broaden students' views of the usefulness and attractiveness of computing even more generally. So I'd like to ask students about their perceptions of computing after we work with them. Comparing these answers to ones gathered before the activity would be even better. My department already asks students declaring CS majors to complete a short survey, and I plan to ensure it includes a question that will allow us to see whether our outreach activities have had any effect on the new students we see. Then came a session called Five-Minute Madness, in which three people from existing outreach programs answered several questions in round-robin fashion, spending five minutes altogether on each. I heard a few useful nuggets here: Dinner in one of the Google cafeterias was just like dinner in one of my university's residence halls, only with more diverse fare. A remarkable number of employees were there. Ah, to be young again. Our first day closed with people from five existing programs telling us about their road shows. My main thought throughout this session was that these people spend a lot of time talking to -- at -- the kids. I wonder how effective this is with high school students and imagine that as the audience gets younger, this approach becomes even less effective. That said, I saw a lot of good slides with information that we can use to do some things. The presenters have developed a lot of good material. Off to bed. Traveling west makes for long, productive days, but it also makes me ready to sleep! -----