“I do research in computing education, not in computer science”

This weekend I’ve participated in the doctoral consortium (DC) arranged by ITiCSE (a conference on innovation and technology in computer science education). This was the first time for me at ITiCSE, and just like most conferences nowadays, it was all online over zoom. I did have quite high expectations for the DC and was a bit disappointed that we did not have time to discuss our research projects more. There was also no time to discuss any questions or thoughts that we had pertaining our research projects. We were limited to 10 minutes presentation and 5 minutes discussion, which is according to me, way to little to get any constructive feedback. Although I am grateful for the feedback that I got from the organisers in an email afterwards.

With this post I want to bring up one essential thing that I take with me from the DC. One of the workshops that we had at the DC was about the importance of educational theory. Andreas Mühling (one of organisers) was responsible for this workshop and he emphasised that the difference between computer science education and computer science is the use of educational theory to understand what goes on in the CS classroom. This is something I’ve known “unconsciously” but to hear Andreas say this out loud really made an impact on me. Sometimes I’ve felt that I focus too much on theories and that it might be hard for me to reach teachers in CS(E) if what I write gets too abstract and difficult. I guess it is easy to feel like you focus too much on theory being an educational researcher in computer science, but thanks to Andreas workshop I know that I am doing the “right” thing. However, it is tricky to write in a way that resonates with everyone. Still, theory is important. But I am sure now that focusing on educational theory (and theory in general) is what makes all the difference when it comes to identifying myself as a CS education researcher, and that difference makes me feel like I belong in this field after all.

Last but not least, my 2-page DC paper is accessible here: https://doi-org.ezproxy.its.uu.se/10.1145/3456565.3460019

Presentation Skills

Almost three weeks ago I participated in a webbminar on presentation skills arranged by Forskar Grand Prix (#forskargrandprix). Forskar Grand Prix is a competition where researchers are invited to present their research in a short, simple, and accessible way. The time limit to present your research is 4 minutes.

This is what I took with me from the very interesting webbminar by Anders Sahlman:

  1. Don’t try to squeeze every detail about your research in the 4 minutes time-slot that is allocated to you. Pick, with care, the most relevant, important, interesting aspects of your research. Remember “the big idea” – what is it that you want the audience to remember once you’ve finished talking? Maybe you want to show that the world is a better place than it was 50 years ago? Or that artificial intelligence is not that “clever” and has human biases?
  2. Talk about your passion: what is it that makes you wake up each morning to do your research?
  3. Who will you be presenting for? If the audience is the general public then it is a good idea to imagine that your audience consists of 17 year old high school students. What does a 17 year old student know? If you make sure your presentation can be understandable by 17 year old students, you are pretty likely to make a presentation that is accessible for the majority of the audience.
  4. Another idea is to frame your presentation in terms of purpose. What is the purpose of your research? What is good for the audience to know?
  5. Yet another twist is to think about what your results will look like in a perfect world? What new knowledge do you contribute to the world that was not there before you conduct your research?
  6. “Capture the people’s heart, not their mind”. Storytelling is perfect for this. Start with the problem at hand: what is at stake? Why is it so important that the problem is solved? What are the risks? How does your research contribute to solving the problem?
  7. Ask yourself: Who/What is affected by your research?
  8. Avoid focusing on methodology, and avoid using jargons when presenting for the general public.
  9. Write a script! Know it verbatim, but write the way you talk! Practice! Ask friends/family/colleague to listen to your presentation and ask them to retell what they remember from your presentation.
  10. Last but not least: don’t forget to time yourself to make sure that you stay within the time limit!

In October I will have my half-time seminar, which I really look forward to! I will definitely think about these presentation techniques when presenting my work. Maria Berge from Umeå University will be my opponent, although perhaps a better word is: half-time advisor, since the focus of the seminar is to help me push my work forward.