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Why Would K-12 CS Teachers Want to Attend SIGCSE?

These were my thoughts several years ago as I was headed to my first SIGCSE. It seemed on the surface a little intimidating when the majority of attendees and sessions dealt with college/university level computer science. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to find that SIGCSE is the second best conferences I attend (the firs being the annual CSTA Conference)

SIGCSE 2014 was the fifth time I have attended SIGCSE and there seemed to be more sessions and activities geared specifically toward K-12. I usually find, however that it is important to attend anything that piques your interest regardless of the intended audience.

So here are my suggestions as you contemplate attending next year in Kansas City, Missouri.

Look at all the workshops because many have high school (sometimes middle school as well) implications or are on different teaching tools that can be used in your classroom. Attending workshops are how I met many different people and gained experience with great tools for my classes. You spend three hours learning, collaborating, and sharing teaching practices. I highly recommend attending at least one your first year.

Secondly, check out the Friday and Saturday schedule as this is when the sessions geared toward K-12 normally are. If you are a K-12 teacher and are only attending these days, there is a discounted HS rate as well. If you attend the full conference, you often find gems you would not otherwise know about. One of the best things that happened my first SIGCSE is I attended a paper session on using robots within CS courses. It was from the college perspective; however, I learned about a new robot called a "finch" and how it was going to be a cost effective option for those wanting to use robots. At that point it was still in beta testing but I in turn mentioned this to a local business that runs a computer camp in the summer. They were able to make a connection and help beta test the finches and, as a result, I also was able to use them. From there I was able to buy some for my classroom. Could I have still found out about the finch at a later time? Sure, but I had the benefit of listening to the creator, hearing the plan, and following it from its inception.

Another great example is that information regarding the CS Principles course from the concept to the piloting has been showcased at SIGCSE. These are just a few of many examples of the benefit of SIGCSE.

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, are the relationships you build. While I will admit that the CSTA Summer Conference is the best place to collaborate with other CS K-12 teachers, SIGCSE is a great place to collaborate with community colleges, universities, and even other organizations. I have met several professors from universities in Ohio and have been able to continue conversations with them as well as work with them on some summer projects. This is the conference is where K-16 computer science educators can learn from each other and make valuable connections that they normally would not make.

Stephanie Hoeppner
CSTA 9-12 Representative

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