I decided to reflect on HASTAC 2019 experience by focusing on a major theme that emerged for me over the course of the conference: De-programming and humanizing education. Several, but not all, of the talks that fall into this category were addressing issues in engineering and computer programming education. Some of these ideas have been implemented and tested in the classroom, and others were discussion points that came out of some great conversations. 

There were a couple different approaches to de-programming education that have resonated with me:

  • Self refection​
  • Adjusting student and instructor relations
  • Bringing different languages into the classroom
  • Localization

Using self reflection in computing classroom is a practice my instructors have used and that I feel strongly improves the way you think about the systems or tools you’re building. It not only gets you to think about the logic behind what you’re doing, but also the emotions behind your decisions. I come from a humanities and social sciences background, where writing about your thoughts and critical evaluation is a normal task. Now I’m in a computer and information science space, and writing (or any mode of reflection) is outside of the norm. There are many ways you can practice self reflection, and I think any way that lets you see a pattern in your choices and behavior is the right way. 

Adjusting student and instructor relations could really use a better title. I mean to say that building a personal connection between students and teachers is another great humanizing technique. From the talks and discussions I had, this connection seemed to boil down to trust. Teacher’s trusting students to do the work and being flexible on deadlines, assignment ideas, and course goals. Teachers also trusting the process, and emphasizing the process of learning over the outcome. I was very fortunate to have computer programming instructors who adhered to this idea – and it created a positive, relatively stress-free environment where I felt comfortable asking questions and receiving critique. It was easier to listen and adjust my work, knowing that my end product didn’t’ have to be perfect as long as I was grasping the concepts. 

Bringing different languages into the classroom was an idea that brought broadened my ideas to de-program education. I only speak English, and I’ve never needed to challenge that idea or struggled to expressive myself in a different language. I hope to learn more about how to incorporate other languages into education. 

The idea of shifting educational directions feels like trying to change the wheel on a vehicle while it’s moving, and I enjoyed hearing the work being done to change the wheel of the traditional academic vehicle. Presentations around this theme gave me concrete and practical ways to chip away at the rigid structure we have in place now.