D.I. von Briesen is a veteran computer science instructor who teaches coding at both the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and Central Piedmont Community College. He’s also an innovator, inventor, TEDx speaker, and all around creative force (Google him to see what we mean).
D.I. teaches his introductory Java course on the Coding Rooms platform. It’s a big class, with 70 students in person, and more joining remotely on Zoom. How does he keep such a big group engaged?
D.I.’s solution… The randomizer wheel meets Coding Rooms!
We asked D.I. to explain his approach:
Coding Rooms: How does the randomizer wheel come into play in your teaching?
D.I. von Briesen: At the beginning of each class I paste the roster into my online randomizer wheel (by the way, my favorite one is Wheel of Names). This includes both students attending the lecture in person and via Zoom. So everyone knows they might be called on, even students on Zoom with their cameras turned off.
CR: How does Coding Rooms work with the wheel?
D.I.: When I cold-call a student, I find their name in Coding Rooms in the student workspace/sandbox I have set up. I'm using the classroom computer, which projects onto the classroom projectors – and is also shared and recorded in the simulcast Zoom session. I like using projectors because everyone can watch what’s going on, while at the same time checking out their own workspace on their laptops.
The student starts coding and we’re all watching together, and I’m also screen-sharing on Zoom. I like to offer the student cues as they’re working and I might jump in every now and then to make a specific point. I can easily collaborate in real time in a student’s workspace in Coding Rooms by clicking on their name in the Lightning Grader.
I like to keep the students involved, and the wheel adds an element of surprise while also being completely fair – it's as likely to pick someone in the far back of the room as the person who sits in the front and always raises their hand. I'm continuing to refine the use of the wheel and tie it right to something in Coding Rooms, either as a note from the readings, or some practical code. I've advocated this technique to colleagues in PD sessions, incorporated it into my Web Development course, and have started teaching with it in my CS1 Java class.
I’ll also add that I always record my lectures so students can review the videos or catch up if they missed class. I think that’s really important.
CR: Thanks for this, D.I.! How has your experience been with Coding Rooms?
D.I. I’ve really jumped in feet first with Coding Rooms. I was ecstatic when Coding Rooms included the full CSAwesome because that’s a big part of my Java curriculum. When my students do the exercises, it’s automatically added to the gradebook. And there's a lot of other content, like Java exercises, that I can add to my courses. I’ve been bragging about the platform to my colleagues.
D.I. von Briesen is a veteran computer science instructor who teaches coding at both the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and Central Piedmont Community College.