Home > blog, CO335, compsci, Hotchkiss, roger, sbar, teaching > Wed 6/1: Hello world!

Wed 6/1: Hello world!

After reading so many other excellent teaching blogs with admiration over the past year or so, I’ve decided to throw my hat into the ring to see if I can’t dumb down the level of conversation a little bit. So, here we have, “Abort, Retry, Succeed?”. Some brief info:

Who am I?

My name is Roger Wistar, and I teach computer science at The Hotchkiss School, a boarding high school in NW Connecticut. As of 2011 I’ve completed eight years at Hotchkiss. Before that I taught CS at the Northfield Mt. Hermon (Ma.) school for four years.

Besides teaching computer science (and occasionally a little math), I’m also in charge of our School Service Program, which puts students to work doing various jobs around the school. I also work as the school’s sports information director (see our athletics page for some of my stories) and I live in a dormitory.

Outside of work, most of my time is devoted to my family, including my wife Marcie and my two sons Benjamin and Andrew (read about them in their blog). When I have free time, which isn’t often, I like to play computer games (especially Rift), go bike riding, and occasionally play the piano.

Before going into teaching, I worked for a year at IBM as a consultant. I graduated from Duke University in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, and then I earned a master’s degree in teaching from the University of Albany. Completing this retrograde trip down Memory Lane, I grew up in Baltimore, Md., and went to high school at the Friends School of Baltimore.

What is this blog?

I’m hoping to use this blog for two purposes. One, I’m designing a new course called “Digital Citizenship” that will focus on using various Internet-based tools for communication, including blogging. This blog is an effort to walk the walk with my students.

More importantly, though, I’d like to use this blog to meditate on some of the issues that face us as teachers today. Especially for computer science teachers, it can feel kind of lonely teaching in departments of one (or maybe two at most). Using the blogosphere and Twitter has been a great way to carry on a virtual conversation about teaching. Some issues most pressing for me include:

  • What’s the best way to teach programming?
  • How do you get more students to take CS courses?
  • How do you do standards-based grading effectively?
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  1. June 1, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Roger,
    Welcome to the world of edu-blogging! I’m excited to read what you’ll have to say about teaching computer science. Although I haven’t taught CS in quite a while, it’s become much more relevant to me as I’m teaching my physics kids to implement computational simulations of systems using vpython. I wrote a whole series about this on my blog, and would love any insight you have on the thoughts I wrote.

    If you’re looking for some advice on how to implement Standards Based Grading, I’d suggest checking out Shawn Cornally’s blog, Think Thank Thunk (he teaches computer science, along with a bunch of other stuff). You’ll find a lot of advice for implementing SBG there and probably a few neat ideas for CS projects as well.

    Also, the best gradebook for implementing SBG, hands-down, is Riley Lark’s Activegrade. Riley is a former math teacher who is developing this program specifically for SBG. Definitely add his blog/twitter to your feeds.

    Anyway, I’m very interested in learning more about your digital citizenship class. I’m sure you’ve seen some of the stuff Owen has been doing with Technical Foundations of the Internet course back at Duke—I think it’s high time that some people who know something about CS actually get involved in teaching students to really understand the digital world around them and not just pump them with fear.

  2. rwistar
    June 1, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Thanks for the quick reply — someone out there is actually reading!

    I’m very familiar with Shawn’s work — I actually got started with SBG as a result of reading his blog, and I follow him on Twitter. I used ActiveGrade this past semester.

    My experience with grading this year has been a mixed bag; I was sort of making things up as I went along. I hope over the summer I can really sit down and take stock of things, and do a better job of it next year.

    Stay tuned for more info about my CO335 class!

  3. Wicked Teacher of the West
    June 2, 2011 at 4:22 am

    I really need to go back to blogging.

    How about non-programming ways to introduce CS?

    Welcome to the blogosphere! I look forward to reading what you have to say.

  4. rwistar
    June 2, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    Thanks for reading!

    “Non-programming ways to introduce CS” — hmm. How are you defining computer science? That would probably affect my answer to the question. I used to do an exercise in my intro class where my students needed to write a complete algorithm for making a PB&J sandwich. Hilarity always ensued.

  5. Grandad Wistar
    June 3, 2011 at 2:34 am

    I only wish I had the chance to take CS and stuff like it, taught by innovative educators like you.

    Dad

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