Friday, August 6, 2010

Reflections from Summer Institute for CS Educators

I presented two talks today at the Summer Institute for CS Educators here in Waterloo. The first was on The Effective Use of PowerPoint and the second was about Teaching Programming Through Game Design. I'm just going to jot down a few notes and reflections mainly for myself; if anyone finds them useful that is a bonus.

Effective Use of PowerPoint

I was very pleased with how this went, it could not have gone better. I really slimmed down my presentation from when I gave this talk as a student at Trent. That reductionist approach seemed to be the spark that led to an engaging conversation during the talk. I did not have time to get to the group activity of having the participants 'makeover' some slides I had brought in, but I don't think that was needed. The conversation we had was fascinating. I'm going to attempt to summarize some of the key points that I remember:
  • Too much text leads to us serving PowerPoint during the presentation. We need to ensure that PowerPoint is working for us.
  • Sometimes the best usage of PowerPoint is to not use it at all.
  • Allowing our students to use PowerPoint as a crutch (i.e. by having a text laden presentation that they read) may be great scaffolding to help them get over their fear of public speaking. We just need to remember to remove the scaffolding.
  • Tell your students to 'think graphically' about their presentation.
For next time, I would like to have attendees email me some slides prior to the presentation so I can have time to adjust them and we can discuss the changes during the presentation.

Teaching Programming Through Game Development

I felt a bit hectic in this presentation. It was a difficult arrangement as I was planning on working through a few demos with both Python and XNA, but when I got there I realized that would probably not work due to the differing comfort level with the languages.

Overall I was pleased with this presentation as well. I think for next time I would allow time for brainstorming of ideas of games students can program. Also a focus on how to use gaming to bring in the groups of students not typically represented in CS (i.e. anyone non-white male). I would also go through more of my assignments looking more at the idea of them as opposed to the code. Perhaps a bit more detail on how to develop games in a few other languages (like Java or C++) would be helpful


At this moment, I have received approximatly 10 submissions to my feedback form (had roughly 15 in the PPT session and 30-35 in the Game Dev session). The majority of the feedback is for the Game Dev session (I'm assuming that is because we were in the computer lab so they were able to fill the form out right then). Some highlights for changes for future presentations:
  • Show games in Java and C
  • More discussion of simple game ideas (as opposed to the graphical games I'm assuming)
  • Less lecture up front, get to the hands on portion ASAP
  • Time to code in XNA (this one is tricky as XNA has a steeper learning curve)
  • Examples that we can work with that allow us to develop parts of the program or improve it (once again, tricky as it implies a working knowledge of the language. Could have a Python example, Java example, C++ example and have them break off into teams. Would have to brush on my Java ...)
  • Have a break (PPT session) and do some sort of group activity (I agree, I had the idea for the makeover at the end and ran out of time. Perhaps moving that forward)
Overall, I am very pleased that I decided to do both presentations. Next stop .... STAO!

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