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Wed 7/6: Rise…

July 6, 2016 Leave a comment

I know this post will bear an eerie similarity to the last one, but once again I am going to take a stab at writing a useful blog. Not sure if it will be useful to anyone else, but at least I will try to make it useful for me. My school and I have reached a tentative understanding that I will be returning to a full-time teaching load, including math, and so it seems an appropriate time to begin a more reflective chapter of my career.

So that I might be more inclined to post, this blog will start with one post per week on Fridays. As those of you who know me can attest, I tend to be a fairly rules-based guy, so I am going to try to set up a template for my blog posts, with a few key sections:

  • This Week Today — with apologies to John Oliver, this will be a retrospective of the week, with my key observations on what I did in my classes.
  • The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly — a section outlining one thing that worked really well, one thing that didn’t work so well, and one thing that was truly awful.
  • Thoughts on Teaching — a short piece attempting to extract from my brain any useful nuggets concerning computer science, math, and/or teaching.
  • What I’ve Been Reading — links to the blog posts and articles that I have read in the past week that seemed to strike a chord in my teaching practice.
  • Whimsy with Wistar — something off-topic that amuses me and hopefully amuses you as well. If you don’t like it, well de gustibus non est disputandum.

That’s probably too ambitious and may prove a barrier to entry, but here goes nothing.

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Categories: blog, blogging, compsci, math

Tue 10/30: Ping ping ping…

October 30, 2012 Leave a comment

For some reason, keeping my teaching blog going has been something that I have not been able to generate consistent momentum on. It’s a great metaphor for my workload that I don’t feel like I have time after completing the tasks of the day to spend more time on a reflective exercise like this.

Nevertheless, I’ll try again. My aim this time will be to write two posts a week: one post on Tuesday about what is going on in my Java programming class, and one post on Friday about what is going on in my role as our educational technology facilitator. If you like teaching, read the Tuesday posts; if you like educational technology, read the Friday posts. If you just want to take pity on me, read both posts (or maybe neither — caveat emptor).

Categories: blog, blogging, worklife

Sun 7/3: Musings on blogging

July 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Now that I’ve recovered and decompressed a little bit from ISTE, it’s time to return to my main job this summer, which is to plan my new course on Digital Citizenship. As a reminder, this is basically a course on how to use various Web 2.0 technologies effectively.

The first one out of the gate is blogging. Based on my work for the last three years in my children’s blog, I think I am pretty comfortable personally with this technology, but I’ve never taught it before. In particular, I’m not sure yet about what sort of rubric to use to assess students’ blogs. Beyond simply making them post, what should I be looking for to determine quality?

My first thoughts are in the tables below. This is an adaptation of Grant Wiggins’ “Understanding by Design” methodology for course development. Of course, I would appreciate your feedback!

What will students understand
as a result of this unit?

What “essential” and “unit” questions will focus this unit?

Students will understand that blogs can be used for a variety of different purposes, but all of them are designed to allow for periodic publishing of new content.

What is the purpose of this blog?

Students will understand that in addition to creating a well-written message, students must include appropriate hyperlinks and tag the post correctly.

How should I create this new post?

Students will understand that they need to choose the appropriate widgets for their blog page, and lay out the page in a way that makes it easy for readers to navigate.

How should I structure my blog page?

Students will understand that blogs give the power of publishing to individuals, and connect common cohorts together.

How are blogs changing communication?

Categories: blog, CO335, Hotchkiss, iste, teaching

Wed 6/1: Hello world!

June 1, 2011 5 comments

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?