I’m not sure I can do yesterday justice. It was awesome of course but I am also exhausted from all the activity and travel of late. (Doug Peterson has a great post about this day as well. Read it here.) I’m taking some vacation time coming up and I hope to come back recharged. But I’m going to try to at least summarize what went on for those of you who couldn’t make it to CS & IT this year. Hopefully you’ll be able to make it next year. Today we started with a breakfast talk from Dean Kamen the man behind many inventions as well as FIRST Robotics. I got to introduce him which was a pleasure for me – I’m a big fan of FIRST. And FIRST is what he talked about today. He ran through some of the history of FIRST and how it has grown into a major international player is getting kids hooked on science, technology, engineering and math. He has an easier time getting support from major companies to support FIRST with money, gifts in kind and the time and energy of professional developers than he does getting support from school administrators. Schools who will pay football coaches more than they pay teachers will not pay stipends to teachers who mentor FIRST teams. Seems crazy to me when one very important difference between members of football teams and FIRST teams is that every student on a FIRST team can turn pro. You sure can not say that about football players.
Dean Kamen at CS&IT 2011 (I’m the guy with the hat – Dean is the guy with the hair)
The key concept I got from Dean today came early in the talk when he said “We don’t have an education problem – we have a culture problem.” I think this is so true. We reward sports star more than we reward academic success. The priority is off. FIRST is trying to change that.
After breakfast we all bussed over to NYU and the Games 4 Learning Institute. Paul Tymann from Rochester Institute of Technology talked about his unofficial pilot of the new CS Principles course.
Paul Tymann from RIT
Next up we heard from, and better yet had demos by, students of Ken Perlin from the Games 4 Learning Institute. They are developing games to test various theories about what makes a good game for learning. In other words what games not only capture kid’s imaginations and interests but also show improvement in learning and understanding.
Ken Perlin (standing on the far left) and students on the right at the Games 4 Learning Institute
One of the students is a high school student doing his second summer internship there. The others are graduate students. They are doing interesting work and once they have publishable results they will be sharing more of their games including possibly source code. I think that a number of teachers attending were getting ideas for educational game projects for them to work with in their own classrooms. The Institute is also experimenting with Kinect devices in games. It will be interesting over time to see what they learn from that about learning games that get people up and moving.
We finished the day at the WorldWide Imagine Cup closing ceremonies. We all got to look though the showcase where all the finalists were demonstrating and explaining their projects. There were some inspiring projects. I should do a whole writ up on that but you know what? You’d be better off reading the news at the Imagine Cup New page.