At the recent CSTA Conference in Omaha, one of my duties was coordinating the volunteers for the event. There were a couple that emerged as “super volunteers” and went far beyond the basic call of duty.
One of these people was Adrian and he was good enough to agree to this interview.
And, one of his first words were “Call me Edge” as he handed me his business card. So I did and will below.
Doug: Thanks for agreeing to the interview, Edge. Can you tell us how we first met?
Edge: Apart from corresponding online for volunteer work, I remember I first met you just as I arrived from a long hike to and from the AMC in Council Bluffs. It was the second day of Ant-Man and the Wasp and I didn’t want anyone spoiling the movie for me. I came in to the CenturyLink Center thinking I was way underdressed in shorts and a tank top so I made my way to a restroom to change into something more decent. Then I went to the room where we were to start putting swag into bags then I saw you and some others in shorts. I think I was overdressed the entire time at the CSTA conference!
Doug: This was a first for me. Nobody has ever taken fashion advice from me before!
It was a tough event to dress for. I expected incredibly hot temperatures but it was just nice and warm. I did have a pair of pants in my luggage but left them there.
Now, let’s put all this in context. You are a Computer Science teacher at the Philippine Science High School in Quezon City, Philippines. So, you were a long way from home. What made you want to attend the CSTA Conference?
Edge: I discovered the CSTA conference through a series of fortunate events. I was working as a curriculum consultant for a book series and saw the name of the organization attached to the standards to follow. I had read through the most recent standards and saw that it was incredibly interesting. I jumped at the chance to attend the conference knowing it would be a great learning opportunity for me and allows me to bring fresh eyes to what I think is a very much outdated curriculum in the Philippines.
Doug: One of my first questions to you once I learned of your origin was “How does one get from Manilla to Omaha?” Can you share your itinerary with us?
Edge: This one’s very complicated. I had debated getting to Omaha through Chicago or Los Angeles and maybe driving from Chicago or flying from Los Angeles. I even considered flying in via Toronto and taking a train down to the US. When the affordable flights started disappearing one after the other, I found that flying to New York was the most affordable and accessible port of entry for me.
I originally just set some time in New York City, visit a couple of friends in Fort Lauderdale, and then attend the conference in Omaha. However, when a friend and former student saw my pictures in New York, he invited me to come visit him in DC. Another friend from college wanted to meet up and I eventually found myself making plans to go to Goldsboro NC. Since I had family somewhere midway between those two, I also stopped in Virginia Beach VA.
So from North Carolina, I drove down to Orlando with my friend and his wife who were heading down to Florida on holiday and to help me get nearer Fort Lauderdale. I spent about five days and the Fourth of July down there and flew to Omaha the morning after. I spent eight wonderful days in Omaha for the CSTA conference and the NICERC Education Discovery Forum. Soon after, I flew to Philadelphia to get together with another former student who was top of his class and is now at Wharton taking up his MBA. I needed to get back to the East coast anyway to catch my flight home.
Doug: So, you had a very circuitous route which you called the #EatPrayLoveLearn tour. You were good enough to share your story on Twitter so we can follow it here. https://twitter.com/search?q=%23EatPrayLoveLearn&src=typd and you created this moment. https://twitter.com/i/moments/1023177643359797253
What would you consider to be the highlights of your tour?
Edge: Clearly the highlight of my 32-day trip was the CSTA conference. I met so many wonderful people who are passionate about Computer Science education. I don’t know, but I seem to have quickly gotten a reputation as a sucker for work. I mean, I already have the reputation back at home. I am a willing grunt if I believe in the cause.
To be honest, I did touristy things. I went to the beach. I went on hikes in state parks. But on top of all these, I consider the highlights of my tour would be meeting wonderful people from everywhere. Despite being an introvert, I appreciate interactions from people allowing me a fresh perspective on different things.
Doug: That sounds like a fantastic experience. Will you do a repeat next year to the conference in Phoenix?
Edge: When Jake announced the venue for next year’s conference, I nearly immediately plotted out an itinerary of visiting family in Vancouver, a close friend in Seattle, flying to meet a cousin in Las Vegas, and then driving down to Phoenix. Until friends shout out again and tell me to do some detours.
Doug: Nobody could claim that you’re afraid to fly!
This is a big commitment in your professional learning. What qualifications do you have to teach Computer Science?
Edge: I graduated with a Computer Science degree and have done coursework towards a master’s degree in it while I was teaching in the University of the Philippines. I did not really intend to be a teacher. In fact, I was dissuaded from taking a different program for college because my parents asked me “What will you be after taking up Math, just a teacher?” Ironically, fate brought me to my life’s passion now.
Doug: What were your takeaways from the CSTA Conference?
Edge: Where do I even begin? CSTA was as much an emotional as a pedagogical experience for me. I appreciated Mary Snapp’s sharing of Bill Dougall’s story and I realized that I once upon a time wanted to be Bill Gates when I was still in college. She made me realize that I would much rather be Bill Dougall who inspired his students to be trailblazers in the fields that they choose. I also loved Jennifer Manly’s session on Agile in Education as it validated my practice of using the paradigm in my own classroom and augmented my knowledge with new techniques I can bring in. I also received awesome feedback from my own session on International Perspectives. Alfred wrote on his blog that there were so many good sessions that I had difficulty choosing my own lineup. In fact, I wanted to attend other sessions, too, while I was presenting. However, I was not disappointed by the energy of the other presenters in my own session. It was very much exhausting at the end of the day but it was very very enriching.
Doug: Why motivated you to be the “super volunteer” that you were. You certainly helped with the workload and for that, I thank you.
Edge: Wow. Thank you for the so-called recognition. I just like to help. It was also my pleasure.
Doug: And, you got a great volunteer shirt too.
If we were to walk into your Computer Science classroom, would it be any different than Computer Science here in North America?
Edge: With all the awesome teachers I met and all the effective techniques, I believe it will be different. For one, we do not have the College Board dictating CS A or CSP. We do not even have standards across the entire country. But in my classroom, I engage the students to participate and collaborate. In fact, my graduates attribute a quote to me, “It’s not copying, it’s collaboration!”
Doug: Students have to apply for admission to your schools. Can you describe the type of student that is successful in their admission?
Edge: I do not like putting a student in a pigeonhole. We receive different types of students who are all admittedly brilliant. We still get the same range of jock to nerd to geek, from the reserved introvert to the boisterous extrovert. We don’t fit the stereotype of the nerds
Doug: Acceptable at Philippine Science High School is very competitive. How many apply and how many are successful in their application every year?
Edge: The Philippine Science High School System is a network of 16 campuses with 15 spread out across the Philippines and the Main Campus where the top 240 students who took the national competitive exam may elect to go. They may still choose to go to the regional campuses if they choose to be nearer their families, opening slots for alternates to come attend the Main Campus.
Doug: From your curriculum matrix, I was impressed to see that Computer Science was available from Grades 7-12. http://pshs.edu.ph/curriculum/ It is an optional course in Grades 11 and 12. Do you find that students select it or do they opt for the alternatives?
Edge: There are students who do choose to go to CS 5. That is what I taught last year and will be teaching this coming year. It’s Data Structures and Algorithms so it’s a little new to them to look at Computer Science in a mathematical perspective. I do make it a point to show them that they were already doing mathematics in other subjects. Even in classes like art or home economics, they already have some form of computational thinking except they never really realized it.
Doug: I would make the assumption that most of your graduates head to post-secondary institutions. Are there institutions that are more popular than others?
Edge: Well, that’s actually a contractual obligation for our graduates. In exchange for six years of free education and stipends, they are expected to take up a science or engineering program. A lot of our graduates go to the University of the Philippines. There are also those who choose to go to Ateneo de Manila University, a Jesuit university near UP. Eleven of our graduates from the Class of 2018 are going to different universities in the US.
Doug: One of the topics of our discussion was the level of professionalism that was required of teaching staff. Does this level of discipline extend to students as well?
Edge: There’s the understanding that teachers model the behavior for students and that we expect a standard for their decorum. However, I think we even apply a greater expectation on their part that they have a uniform and dress code for them to, shall I say, look professional. Then you look at the faculty and we have men who have long hair, or teachers with dyed hair, and those who have tattoos. But we’re quick to judge the students for these. I believe how they dress does not really affect their scholarship and inhibits their individuality and creativity. So a lot of them express themselves in some other creative ways.
I always express my dissent towards this so-called professionalism that is superficial. Even our own uniform code for teachers is stifling. We really have to update our ideas of what we can and should do as professionals. Just the fact that we show movies in school without proper licensing is still a problem. Not to mention lazy. We abuse the phrase “fair use” too much. We are trying to teach our students to respect content creators and give proper credit, but then we suddenly turn around and lift a piece of artwork from the Internet or show a movie in school that’s often times a bootleg. We also need to update our knowledge on what we could and should do in these cases.
Doug: If I took inventory of the computers and technologies at your school, what would I find?
Edge: As a magnet school here, we do have a more impressive setup than many other public schools. We have three computer laboratories equipped with desktops for our class size of 30. There is a smart classroom that I use for collaborative activities. It had 30 laptops and 30 tablets. Up to four student groups can project on a video wall or on any of the other five wireless projection setup televisions. There’s a seventh screen in the classroom which is a resistive touchscreen so I use it as an alternative to the wall-to-wall floor-to-ceiling glassboards around the room.
We have other makerspace equipment such as a laser cutter, seven 3D printers, a large CNC router, and a tabletop router.
Every classroom has an LCD projector and there are trolleys you can borrow that have a speaker and projector setup.
Doug: What are the languages of choice for classes at Philippine Science High School? I see classes in English and Filipino on the curriculum grid.
Edge: Being the official languages of the Philippines, we all speak and write in English and Filipino to varying degrees of proficiency. I do some context-switching depending on the need of the discussion. It’s also a chance for me to inject puns in both forms of popular culture. I try to be funny. At least my students emphasize on “try”.
Doug: Can I assume you’re proficient in both these languages? I sure know about your English. Do you speak any other languages?
Edge: Yes, I am! English was, in reality, my primary language because I was the type who consumed a lot of American media as a kid watching sitcoms, Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, William Shatner’s Rescue 911, Bob Barker’s The Price is Right, and lots of the 1980s cartoons that came to our shores in the 1990s. In fact, I would betray my age if I say that in the early mornings before going to school, I enjoyed watching Matlock while eating breakfast.
Doug: There’s no shame in that. Matlock was one of my favourite shows. Whenever I think of him, I have this urge to eat a hot dog.
Another area of interest came as a result of poking around – you are involved with the online radio station at the Department of Broadcast Communication, College of Mass Communication, University of the Philippines, Commission on Higher Education, Center of Execellence in Broadcasting.
What shows are you involved with?
Edge: I am usually just involved with the weekly radio program Itanong Kay Engineer. In English, that title translates to Ask the Engineer. I started what I like to call my broadcast career way back in 2011 as one of the first guests when the radio station was brought back to life after many many years of inactivity. We get guests in the different Engineering fields and do an hour of conversational interview on the projects they’re working on or awards that they have received.
Occasionally, I would go on board for other programs as a guest announcer or as part of a reaction panel, most notably for our annual news coverage of the State of the Nation address given by the President to the joint session of Congress.
Doug: What language are the shows broadcast in?
Edge: The programs are primarily in Filipino. Once in a while, we get international guests or those who are more comfortable conversing in English so I switch to this. The program is, as I’ve said, conversational in nature so it’s easier for us to draw out responses from them this way.
Doug: What skills do you have for broadcasting?
Edge: I never thought before that having a conversation is a skill, but that’s one of the things I realized is important – to draw out answers from our guests in a seemingly smooth manner. Then there’s the incredible superpower of holding back cuss words on air and interrupting guests in a split second when they start saying “what the – ”. Speaking of superpowers, also being able to draw out more examples with guests who seem to have not much more value to add to a conversation and stretch it to an hour-long program. Luckily, it’s only happened a couple of times. More often than not, an hour is too short so there’s the other superpower of directing the conversation back to point when guests digress too much. All of this balanced with keeping it relevant to the listeners.
Doug: Can you describe for us the equipment that you personally use to make your part happen?
Edge: Well, I don’t have any personal equipment as the studio is run by the University. It’s a simple radio station set up that has one directional condenser microphone. Two other mics for co-anchor and primary guest. One spare mic for when we have more guests. We thankfully have toggle switches on the console to easily turn off our mics when we have to cough or sneeze. There’s a console mostly for controlling levels so we don’t have to tell our guests to watch theirs. Then there’s an extra input for when we have to do remotes so we can call in and they can patch us through.
Doug: Do students at Philippine Science High School have the opportunity to internet broadcast? If so, what topics are of interest to them?
Edge: I have had some students produce videos for YouTube. Apart from that, there’s really not much. With the construction of a new facility for our school, hopefully we can make full use of a multimedia studio to encourage our students to be content creators. It’s been more than a decade since Time’s Person of the Year was everyone putting their stuff online. It’s been made so much easier through technology and so many more avenues. I proposed at least having a broadcast club have a twenty to thirty minute audio program that can be played at the start of the day before the first bell rings. We can have short interviews with student leaders or teacher features played by rotating jocks then we can have student bands perform a piece.
Doug: Can you recommend any colleagues on Twitter that would be interesting to follow?
Edge: I’m only now getting acquainted with the lovely international scene in CSTA and the other organizations pushing for further advancements in CS Education. But there’s always Alfred Thompson and Miles Berry. I adore Miles’s photography, too. Plus his tweets about his daughter working on tech are precious. I also love Steven Floyd’s posts on teaching tech. I also met David Czechowski and saw his Twitter feed contained great nuggets.
Over on this side of the globe, there’s Noel Feria’s advocacy of putting education in every classroom. Follow him at @npf007, although his feed is very much Apple-centric. Then there’s the shameless self-promotion of my Twitter over at @edgeangeles. Forgive the rants and the millions of photos, though. I try to keep it clean.
Doug: There’s nothing wrong with that! I think we all use social media to whatever we feel are our thoughts at the time. Personally, I enjoy the pictures.
Thank you so much for the interview, Edge. I know that you are safely back home from following you online. I hope that you enjoyed your #EatPrayLoveLearn tour.
Definitely and the pleasure is also mine. Three weeks in and I’m still struggling to get back to a normal sleep schedule. Again, I’m slowly curating my photos and my feed and will eventually get around to finishing tweeting about that tour. Excuse me. It’s four in the morning over here right now and I should get ready to go to work. Catch you soon!
Doug: OK, that’s a bit of a challenge for me. I will schedule this post for 5am on Monday morning. If I’ve got it correct, there is exactly 12 hours difference between us and so this should go live in Quezon City at 5pm.
You can follow Edge online here: