One of my goals for my sabbatical this year is to pursue professional development opportunities that I might not otherwise have time for. As I mentioned in a previous post, I applied for and was accepted into POSSE, a workshop aimed at professors who want to incorporate student participation in HFOSS (humanitarian free and open source software) projects into their courses. The workshop was held two weeks ago in Raleigh.
POSSE is structured in three stages. Stages 1 and 3 are completed outside of the workshop itself — Stage 1 is the “homework” phase, while Stage 3 is the “continuing work” phase. In Stage 1, we completed activities designed to introduce us to the HFOSS world and HFOSS tools and workflow, and practiced using those tools. We examined some projects and learned some strategies for vetting projects for our classes. From what I understand, the goal of Stage 3 is to have us continue working in groups, developing and implementing curriculum (mainly, learning activities) around HFOSS. Stage 2 is the face-to-face part.
The workshop was intense. We maximized the small amount of time we had together. The face-to-face activities consisted of more learning about HFOSS projects and HFOSS tools and workflow, practicing this workflow, hearing others’ experiences incorporating HFOSS into their classes, and working on developing curriculum and learning activities in small groups. I appreciated that most of the activities were done active learning style, with hands-on activities and discussions as opposed to lecture. I learned more about POGIL, a particular approach to active learning, during the workshop since many of the activities were done POGIL-style. (On a possibly related note, I’m strongly considering applying to a POGIL workshop this summer to learn more about it. I realized during the workshop that I already do a lot of POGIL-like things already, but I always love learning how to be more effective using active learning in my courses.)
I went into this workshop intending to find a way to integrate HFOSS experiences into our Comps (senior capstone) experience at Carleton. I struggled during the pre-workshop activities to figure out a way to make it fit, eventually abandoning that line of thinking and instead exploring how I might integrate HFOSS activities into our Software Design course. Being at the workshop, talking with the other participants, and reflecting on the pre-workshop thinking I’d done for Software Design, helped me to get unstuck. I spent much of the group work time planning the curriculum, structure, and schedule for an HFOSS-based Comps. I think I have a pretty good start, and I’m excited to explore it further.
I still don’t feel a great level of comfort in my ability to select an appropriate project. I guess part of the point is that dealing with real-world developers and timelines is messy by default, and I’m mostly ok with that (and that in and of itself is a good learning experience). But as an educator, I have to balance this with the learning goals and objectives I have for my students, and my vested interest in making sure the activities in the course (or the capstone experience) help them work towards those objectives. I’m still a bit scared about all the things that could go wrong with any given project. I think a fix for this is to just play around with some projects more and get a better sense of the level of involvement, and then just try it out next year in Comps and hope for the best.
Aside from everything I learned, the best part of the experience was the people. Collaborating and learning with like-minded colleagues from a variety of institutions in such an intense way is exhilarating. As I mentioned on my FB page, I feel like I’ve gained a bunch of new colleague-friends, people who I look forward to meeting up with in the future and collaborating with in the short- and long-term. I would highly recommend this experience to other faculty! (*)
The biggest takeaway from this workshop? A renewed commitment and interest in integrating civic engagement experiences into the CS curriculum. As I said in my workshop application, I see HFOSS experiences as another piece of the civic engagement puzzle, one I was eager to explore. I see so many new opportunities as a result of attending this workshop. I’ve been thinking of curricular models to expose more students to civic engagement within CS, whether that’s engaging with the local community face-to-face or with the world community via HFOSS. After attending this workshop, I’m more committed to exploring those models and seeing what changes I can institute at Carleton. I have a bigger vision now of what’s possible, and space to explore that while on sabbatical. I’m excited to see where this new path leads me.
(*) If you’re interested in learning more about POSSE and about integrating HFOSS into your courses, there will be a couple? a few? sessions at this year’s SIGCSE, so be sure to check that out if you’re there!