Having just returned from the Texas Computer Educator’s Association Convention and Exposition, held in Austin, TX, I have garnered some insights that I think might be worth sharing.
1. There is very little in the way of “Computer Education” going on in the state of Texas or anywhere for that matter. We use tablets, phones, and just about anything else, but the traditional computer is sorely lacking in representation. This is unfortunate because, while the previously mentioned devices allow us very convenient access to online resources, they are very difficult, if not impossible, to create new content with. Programs like Visual Studio, Eclipse, Adobe Premier Pro and After Effects, Autodesk Maya and Motionbuilder are not available. The resources and hardware accessible to tablets and phones is not able to run these applications. In short, don’t declare the humble desktop dead just yet. Most of the digital content developed in this world today still comes from a desktop PC or Mac or Linux system. (Even laptops can be a pain to create on.)
2. There is very little content creation education going on in the state of Texas or anywhere else at the secondary level or below. We use “educational” programming languages and tools like Alice or Scratch or Turtle. While these platforms have their place. They are great for teaching programming constructs like IF/THEN statements and Loops and variables, They do not, however, scale well into the real world. Why not use real languages like Java or C or Python to teach the same concepts, and at the same time, provide students with information they can use post High School. There are not so many calls for Scratch developers in business today. We can use the same time and resources to teach kids Java syntax as well as general programming structures and theories. We need to be generating lines of code and pixels of video, all sorts of content, that we are not doing.
3. If we DID choose to create content, there is a TON of resources available for free or nearly so. Nearly every major software creator offers educational or academic pricing. 3d modeling programs like Maya and 3DS Max can cost a movie studio thousands of dollars per license but a student or teacher can have access to the same program for a pittance. Programs like Microsoft Dreamspark, Adobe Academic Pricing for Creative Cloud, and Autodesk software provide professional tools for academics for essentially free. Add to that lot the Open-source programs available through Linux, as well as third-party developers who just want to create something and you can build an excellent program for the cost of hardware. (Now we just have to get the cost for THAT down to a reasonable level.)
4. We tend to waste opportunities like this. We don’t take advantage of what we are given. The Whitesboro contingent of teachers who went gathered a great deal of information but if we don’t do anything with it then it is wasted. I am trying , as we speak, to collate my notes and materials for distribution. I know some of our other attendees have already posted their findings in a shared folder for free access by all faculty members, but we need to make sure that what we learned is not just lost.
5. Austin traffic is dreadful. I am used to Dallas rush hour and there are a GREAT many more people in Dallas than in Austin. I suspect it must be the fact that Dallas is so much more spread out and the freeways there are more modern than in Austin. For whatever reason, I would not like to commute in the Austin area.