This is a question that I think should be asked more often, because if you have a better grasp on why then you might make more informed decisions about what to do. We will give a set of seminars on the “Why are We Here” theme in connection with Anne Peters defending her PhD thesis Learning Computing at University: Identity and Participation: A Longitudinal study. The seminars will be held on November 30 and December 1 followed by Annes defence after lunch on December 1 at Uppsala University. Please feel welcome to come and listen and discuss.
I have just looked at the second reflection made by the students in my groups regarding the start of the project in the IT in Society course. It has been an interesting read that give some insights into the challenges for the students, but also for us as faculty running such a course. Here area few of my observations:
A student points out that they are not supposed to create a product and that this is something they are not used to. The student also muses that this might make it hard to work on the project, for instance since they will only cover the start of the project. I did find this intriguing as it reminded me of the discussion regarding product vs process as the assessing unit in a course unit. I think there are merits and weaknesses with either extreme, but argue that a combination is generally advisable. Another aspect is the interpretation of product, since I think this concept is much broader that an artefact (or running program). For instance, the students in the IT in Society course will write a report for the client and to not view this as a product is interesting to me. Perhaps we should be better at conveying different views on what a product can be.
Another interesting observation is that an added complexity of the task is that it is not enough that the members of a group understand the plan for the work, which they are what they are used to. This is, I think, similar to another student pointing out that the project will be more tougher than first assumed (due to no programming). One student makes a clear reference to open-ended problems, which is something that we have written quite extensively about (here are a few examples: The Contribution of Open Ended Group Project to International Student Collaborations, Open Ended Group Projects a ‘Tool” for More Effective Teaching, Open-Ended Projects Opened Up – Aspects of Openness (to be presented at ASEE/IEEE FIE in three weeks), and Developing and Assessing Professional Competencies: a Pipe Dream?)
Most identifies cultural differences as a risk in the project and point out the excellent seminar hold by Helena Bernáld on this issue. An interesting manifestation of this is that three out of four group leaders are Americans, despite the fact that they have less time in their study plan for the collaboration and that they are only a third of the students in the project. This fact is definitely something for the student group to be aware of as it could influence the pace of the project. It was also interesting to note that the student assumed this was ok since we’ve run the collaboration for many years and thus would know that this would not be a problem. This comment indicate to me that there is a view that there are a recipe for how to conduct a project of this kind, rather than there being some generally good advise that would be helpful given that they are adapted to a particular setting.
It’s soon time to go to FIE, this time in Erie, Pennsylvania, USA. I’m really looking forward to this trip, since FIE to me in a great inspiration, where I can meet interesting people from a wide variety of backgrounds. This year will be more hectic than normal, since I’m part of a panel and four paper (1, 2, 3, and 4) presentations on top of being a member of the Helen Plants award committee. The committee selects the best special session
Special sessions are intended to be creative, non-traditional, interactive ways to engage engineering and/or computing education professionals in the frontiers of education. These are ~80 minutes in length; the number of special sessions offered is limited. These sessions intended to be of value to FIE Conference attendees, enhance the experience and knowledge of the session participants, and help advance the frontiers of engineering and computing education.
and is a great help for me in deciding on what to listen to among the wide selection of options at the conference (smile). Most of the sessions I’ve attended over the years have been rewarding experiences.
Two of our new PhD students (Virginia Grande and Tina Vrieler) in Uppsala Computing Education Research Group (UpCERG) will also attend, as will three seniors (Aletta Nylén, Arnold Pears and me) together with a soon to graduate associate to the group (Thomas Lind). The Uppsala University presence should thus be quite visible and hopefully appreciated as we will strive to use the conference as a great opportunity to get our new PhD students introduced to the area and become part of interesting networks.