Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Media Computation Workshop

I spent the greater part of the day at the Media Computation Workshop, one of the pre-symposium SIGCSE events, learning how to teach CS1 using images, sound, music, and video. Media computation is what is taught at Georgia Tech to majors and non-majors in their CS1 course, and they've seen it significantly increase the percentage of students able to pass their course.

I must admit that after just the first two hours of the workshop had passed, I felt like the current way we teach CS1 at Harding could use some improvement. At the end of the semester, my students are still writing console programs that involve keyboard input manipulating numbers and text, and their programs look like something out of the 1970s. Yes, my students have a firm grasp on the fundamental concepts of programming, but I may have lost a few students along the way, and they are certainly not going to brag to their friends about their cool text-based programming projects. Media comp students regularly show-off their programs to friends.

The problem with adopting media comp is that ideally you teach it with Python or Java as there are currently no texts for C++. Mark told me there are libraries for C++, so I may at least see if I can integrate a few of the projects into my C++ class.

I really enjoyed the workshop, and it certainly gave me a lot to think about. Mark Guzdial and Barbara Ericson did a great job leading the workshop.