It’s the final day of the 21st Annual Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education (ITiCSE) here in Arequipa, Peru. It has been a really informative conference in a stunning location. There was a great amount of diversity this year with attendees from 37 countries, and the first time that ITiCSE was held outside Europe. I met a lot of Latin/South American delegates who normally can’t make it to ITiCSE in Europe which was great. Alison, Ernesto, and the rest of the committee really pulled out all the stops. From top to bottom – venue, organization, amazingly thought out excursions, and the spectacular conference dinner – they left covered every detail. And of course the program was packed full of great CSEd research.
The venue is the Universidad Católica San Pablo, who have also put a load of pictures up on their Facebook page, and have a nice article on their webpage (in Espanol) – Headline translation: Experts from more than 35 countries meet in Arequipa to analyze education in Computer Science.
For most of the conference I have been occupied with my working group (WG6) – see here for abstract. I also presented a paper A New Metric to Quantify Repeated Compiler Errors for Novice Programmers. Being pretty busy I haven’t been able to compile much in terms of an in person report of many papers, but here I present my take on three before we get to the photos. All three of these talks really impacted (and at times challenged) my perceptions of some CSED topics.
Mehran Sahami‘s keynote Statistical Modeling to Better Understand CS Students (abstract here) was very insightful. It considered developing statistical models to give insight into the dynamics of student populations. The first case study focused on gender balance and demonstrated that focusing on simple metrics such as percentages can be misleading, and that there are better ways to capture how program changes are impacting the dynamics of gender balance. The second looked at the performance of populations that are experiencing rapid growth. This case study showed one answer to the common statement/observation “the number of weak students is increasing”, and the answer was somewhat surprising – performance during a stage of unprecedented growth was quite stable.
Andrew Luxton-Reilly gave an excellent talk on his paper Learning to Program is Easy. This really challenges the notion that ‘programming is hard’ which is upheld by much of the literature and he argues, the community. This talk really caused me to reconsider my own beliefs about teaching programming, and to question my own expectations, assessment, module learning outcomes, and even program learning outcomes.
Mark Zarb presented a paper he authored with Roger McDermott, Mats Daniels, Asa Cajander and Tony Clear titled Motivation, Optimal Experience and Flow in First Year Computing Science. The authors examined motivation from the perspective of Self Determinism Theory and also considered the optimal state known as Flow – also colloquially known as being in the zone. After discussion how these concepts can be measured they presented preliminary results looking at motivation and flow in a first year computing class. The results were extremely encouraging and made me realize that there is a lot we don’t know about how students think ‘unconsciously’ while learning.
And now, the promised pictures. Don’t forget that there are many more here. I also included some photos from the conference bus tour which to say was all-encompassing is an understatement. We stopped about a half-dozen times at places like town squares, miniature farms (with alpacas of course) and a charming restored colonial-era mansion.
See you in Bolognia for ITiCSE 2017!
Update – I couldn’t resist adding a few photos I took in Cusco today:
And a parting shot from Machu Picchu Mountain…