Quick registration

Over the years, I’ve worked at many a registration desk at conferences. Afterwards, there’s always a debrief to talk about how to make the process better and faster. There has to be a better mousetrap. Registration always seems to be a bottleneck. My theory is that people meet up in the lobby and all check in together to make the lives of those doing the registration miserable.

Typically, participants get a registration package and a great deal of time and effort goes into nametag or registration package management. By management, we know what that means – putting things into alphabetical order.

Then, the participants approaches the desk and gives you their name. As often as not, they say it very quickly because they’ve used it all their life so you’ll have to have them repeat it and even perhaps spell it out for you! Then, there might be an accent or two…

Once you get the name, then it’s into the collection to find their registration package. Of course, they’ve stood in the right line A-E, F-L, etc. and you don’t have to excuse yourself and dig into another box! If you’re lucky, things stay in alphabetical order for the duration of registration. A big hassle comes when a wife/husband combo using the same last name arrive. You get the first one and then the second person steps forward and you do a re-search for packages!

At the CSTA Conference, we used electronic registration. It was really slick. We had 4 iPads for registrant use and two printers. On the iPad, they just had to find themselves by tapping their name, make sure details were correct and tap print. As you can see in the video below, registration can be done in 13 seconds!

Wife/husband combo? No problem. In computer terms, it didn’t even require serial registration; they could do it in parallel with side by side iPads.

In retrospect, there were slowdowns but it wasn’t because of the registration. It was reconnecting with people and taking the time to walk back to the table holding the registration bags. We worked on many variations to try to speed things up.

The most comment question “Is that it?”

It was nice to just say “Yep”.

Random thoughts from Phoenix

As the 2019 CSTA Conference winds down, I thought I’d share a few thoughts.

“It’s a dry heat” – I’ve heard that many times but got to experience. It’s 5:30am as I type this and it’s already 31 degrees with a forecasted high of 43. The “feels like” temperature is 29 which is a little bizarre. At home, we’ve experienced high humidity which turned the tables in the opposite direction. But, “it’s a dry heat”. (It’s also the wifi password…)

As expected, the convention centre was very well air conditioned. Talk to some and they’d say over air conditioned. That only lasts until mid-afternoon and then the sun kicks in. But, it’s a dry heat, right?

The roads are amazing. At least where I’ve been, there are no cracks and potholes, just smooooth driving. I’m guessing we have winters to thank for things. Of course, in the downtown city, there is spray paint identifying underground services so that remains constant!

Computer Science teachers are very friendly and are more than willing to share coding stories. That’s a highlight for me.

The most organized group has to be the Arkansas folks. They sent a big group en masse and they have assigned t-shirts to wear every day. It started with a tie-dye and ended with red.

People love swag. We had a nice collection of things from the exhibitors. For me, the big winner was the metal coffee cup. Of course, I had to get a green one.

I have a renewed appreciation for the Ontario Curriculum. If you talk to any Grade 11 teacher in Ontario, they’re all working from the same page. That’s not the same here. The common thread, if there is one, is in the AP courses but beyond that there’s a wide variety of topics.

Cybersecurity is a big issue for many people. This is a good thing. It’s also a tough one because there are no hard and fast answers and it truly is a moving target.

Back to the environment in Phoenix, those misting machines outside the restaurants do a really good job. They work against the dry heat!

One of my volunteers was from Phoenix. I learned

  • even Phoenix people don’t go outside from 12-2 if they can get away with it
  • people never close their backyard pools
  • Phoenix has huge traffic problems like any other city
  • Phoenix is located in a valley and that can cause problems when smog settles in
  • recycling is a big deal

From the elevator with the outside glass windows, the tops of the building are not black as so many of ours are, they’re white in colour.

Looking down at the Convention Centre – three storeys tall.

There really is a difference in mentality between “Learn to Code” and “Code to Learn” when you talk to people. Obviously, I have my preferences – how do you know if you’re right?

You could go broke if you bought even one of the programmable robotic things in the Exhibit Hall, forget buying enough to use them effectively in the class.

Unlike ECOO where everyone seems to be using some sort of Macintosh or iPad, there are a lot of Windows users here. And, a bit of Linux too!

There didn’t seem to be any local flavours at the restaurants that I ate at. One night, I actually had fish and chips for supper. I don’t know everything about Phoenix but I’m pretty sure Cod is not caught anywhere around here.

I’m envious of US smartphone plans. I would have had to pay extra to have roaming access; it seems like everyone else is connected no matter where they’re originally from.

I’ve got a really good appreciation for my own bed. I can’t wait to get back and sleep in it!

Aero and Coffee Crisp chocolate bars go over well!

I think this was the first conference ever that I wore shorts every day. There are pants in my luggage but they stayed there.

I’d kill for a Tim Horton’s coffee. (just an expression)

A couple of posters

From the poster session at the CSTA 2019 conference, a few interesting poster sessions that I enjoyed.

What Well-Prepared CS Teachers Should Know

From my friend Dr. Philip East at the University of Northern Iowa, a collection of observations from a NSF project they’re involved with. Do you know these things?


How Media Messages Impact Girls in Computer Science

A couple of links to resources

Programming Drones Using Swift Playgrounds

Finally, from Kristeen Shabram, programming drones. She had her own drone doing a flip at her station.

An Interview with Michelle Lagos De Javier

Doug:  Through my association with the Computer Science Teachers’ Association (CSTA), I’ve had the opportunity to meet Michelle Lagos.  Michelle is a Computer Science teacher at the American School of Tegucigalpa (AST) in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. We last caught up at the CSTA Conference in Omaha last summer and I made a mental note at the time – I’ve got to interview Michelle for the blog.  She’d be great!

Here goes…

Doug:  My first question, as always, can you remember when we first met?

Michelle: I think we met for the first time at the CSTA conference in Irvine, California in 2012 if I am not mistaken.

Doug:  OK, I’ve got to know.  Going from Tegucigalpa to a CSTA Conference in the United States has to be a major undertaking, no matter who you are.  Why do you do it?

Michelle: I love teaching Computer Science (CS), but in my country it can become a lonely endeavor. There are not many organizations that I can belong to that are for CS teachers. Plus working at an American School we teach based on US standards and curriculum so it matches my work. CSTA has developed into my community throughout the years.

Doug:  For me, getting to Omaha as an international traveller was actually fairly easy.  I crossed into the USA at the Ambassador Bridge into Detroit, cleared Customs, and then drove along I-94 to Detroit Metro Airport and took a direct flight on Delta to Omaha.  How does one get from Honduras to Omaha? Where did you clear US Customs?

Michelle: Well, in Tegucigalpa (my home town), we don’t have an abundant number of flights so the choices are quite limited. For the Omaha trip in particular I flew into the US and cleared customs in Miami, FL and came back home through an overnight connection through Houston, TX. Getting anywhere besides Miami, Houston or Atlanta requires at least one connection, usually arriving around midnight to my final destination, and coming back I usually have to sleep in one of these cities.

Doug:  How do you feel about flying alone?

Michelle: I have been getting used to it although I prefer flying with company, especially my husband. But now I know that if I travel anywhere for CSTA I will get to see good friends wherever I go so that makes it exciting.

Doug:  Tell us about your school.  The pictures from the website look outstanding.  https://amschool.org/ (AST)

Michelle: My school is amazing!! It was founded 72 years ago. We are an American School accredited to grant a US high school diploma by AdvancEd; we are an IB school granting an IB diploma and granting a Honduran baccalaureate secondary school degree. We are a Nursery – 12 school. The working environment is great and we are always looking for ways to innovate and prepare our students in the best possible way for college.

Doug:  On Wikipedia, AST lists three former Honduran Presidents as alumni.  That’s impressive. Did they take Computer Science?

Michelle: Yes, we have alumni that have been very successful in different areas including being President of the country. I assume they had a computer application course or an elective advanced computer class.

Doug:  Obviously, the tie that binds us is Computer Science.  You have a wonderful insight into the profession here. http://advocate.csteachers.org/2018/09/05/what-does-it-mean-to-be-a-computer-science-teacher/
Can you tell us about your computer and Computer Science program at the school?

Michelle: Our Computer Science program starts in Pre-K and goes all the way to 12th grade. Our Ministry of Education has made CS mandatory for graduation which means that all Seniors must take a CS course. We use a progression of using ISTE standards for Pre-School and evolving into CSTA standards.

Doug:  Are you the online Computer Science teacher at AST as well?

Michelle: We do not have online courses. All our courses are on site. My school counts 4 Computer labs equipped with PCs and a CS class room plus we are a one-on-one High School.

Doug:  When students graduate from High School at AST, where do they go?  University, College, Work?

Michelle: We have a 99 to 100% college going rate. A few stay here in Honduras for college especially if they are interested in Medicine or law school; others go to the States, Canada and now more commonly to Europe for college. We also have a Senior year internship program where students can get a short experience in the workforce of their career interest to be able to make a more informed decision before leaving for college.

Doug:  What were the big takeaways from this year’s CSTA Conference that you took back home?

Michelle: There were so many great workshops and conferences that every year it becomes harder to choose which ones to attend, but the keynotes got us great messages. I especially loved the one by Andy Gonzalez one of the authors of “Girl code”. The new launch of CSTA+ was a success and as part of the board of directors it makes me happy to see my association grow and makes me proud to work and serve the CS teachers globally.

Doug:  Last year, a mutual friend of ours, Stephanie, and her husband joined you for holidays in Tegucigalpa.  What kinds of things did you do?

Michelle: Stephanie and Brandon visited us for Thanksgiving. It was their first time in Honduras. We took a short 20 minute flight to an island called Roatan which is part of the Honduran Bay islands. We went snorkeling and got a nice tan in November. Our Bay islands are world famous and an amazing tourist attraction. Snorkeling and scuba diving are a must as they are part of the Mesoamerican coral reef which is the second biggest natural coral reef after Australia. Then we flew back to our coastal city of San Pedro Sula and made the road trip back to my hometown where we celebrated Thanksgiving with my family and visited a small colonial town called Valle de Angeles where we rode a motor taxi commonly known as Tuc Tucs here. Stephanie and Brandon learned how to make tortillas. My kids were teaching them Spanish. It was so much fun having them here.

Doug:  You indicate you speak English, Spanish, and Spanglish.  I’m curious – what does Spanglish mean to you?

Michelle:  For me there are two ways to define Spanglish.  Spanish is my first language, but as a fully bilingual person I learned English at the same time as Spanish. So Spanglish is when you incorporate a word in English into a Spanish sentence because you have no idea how to say that word in Spanish or vice versa. The other thing is (and you might notice this in the way I write or express myself) is that I usually think in Spanish so I use more words to express one thought in English. I speak English 8 or more hours a day as my school is an English spoken campus and my kids are also English/Spanish/Spanglish speaker.s A very funny anecdote is that my first born son who is currently in third grade his lowest grade is always the Spanish class. The reason for this is that my house is more English spoken, we watch TV and movies in English, we read more in English than Spanish and we even talk to each other in English. There is a belief that since English is our second language and we get Spanish everywhere we go, then we should practice our English more frequently.

Doug:  How about your children?  Is it important to you that they are bilingual?  

Michelle: For my husband and me, it is very important that they are at least bilingual and if they can learn a third language such as French, Mandarin etc. even better. We want them to be competitive everywhere and be able to understand and communicate in different ways to open doors. We also consider programming another language as it promotes logic and common sense which is not as common as it should be, so that can also be considered another language they can learn. They have mastered Spanglish by now so there is that too.

Doug:  Not far from your school, there’s this lovely looking green area called Eco Park Juana Lainez.  What can you tell us about that?

Michelle: Cerro Juana Lainez (Juana Lainez hill) is a national monument that has our flag permanently on display and can be seen from most places in town. In recent years a series of foundations have remodeled it and turn it into a nice eco park that involves several areas of our society including our school. Our Senior students have to do a community project as part of our Ministry of Education requirements and this year they are reforesting the areas around the monument. They have also built hiking and bike trails and playgrounds for kids. It is a very nice place inside the city to spend a family Saturday or Sunday. Every time there is a national holiday such as independence day, there is also a tradition that our Armed forces salute the nation 3 times a day, at 6 am, 12 m and 6 pm with 7 cannon blanks making 21 salutes in total.

Doug:  If someone was planning a trip to Tegucigalpa, what are some of the “must-see” places to visit?

Michelle: Definitely Cristo del Picacho, a Sculpture of Christ of 2,500 tons and 98 feet in total height (an image of 65 feet high on a pedestal of 33 feet). It is located in El Picacho, a special place in the strip occupied by the Park of the United Nations and bordering the same hill which is about 2 kms from our house. It is a wonderful sight especially at night. Right there in the same park we have the Rosa Walthers zoo which has been recently remodeled. If you keep going up the hill you find La Tigra National Park an ecological reserve which has great hiking trails where you can see great Honduran flora & fauna. There are many Catholic churches that were built in the colonial era and have great architectural interests and religious antiques and images. Then there is the newest Church which only took 62 years to build (from 1943-2005) and it is now the home of our country’s patron Virgen de Suyapa.

It is also nice to visit the different small museums that are around town such as Museo de Identidad Nacional or MIN as everyone knows it here. If you want to go to the near outsides of town, Valle de Angeles and Santa Lucia are two small colonial towns located around 20 minutes away from downtown and have great Honduran typical food restaurants, sights and souvenir shops.

Doug:  If someone was interested in following you on social media, where could they find you?

They can follow me at:

  • Twitter: @mglagos
  • G+: mlagos@amschool.org
  • LinkedIn: Michelle Lagos
  • Facebook: Michelle Lagos de Javier
  • Snapchat: mglagos

Doug:  Thank you so much for the interview, Michelle.  I now have more things to chat about when we get together next summer in Phoenix.

Periodically, I interview interview interesting people like Michelle for this blog.  You can read them all here. https://dougpete.wordpress.com/interviews/

This post was made to:


If you read it anywhere else, it’s not original.

2019 CSTA Conference Call For Proposals

Call for Proposals

Applications are now open to present at the 20th anniversary CSTA Annual Conference, July 7-10, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. Submit your application by 11:59 PM PT December 2nd, 2018. We encourage educators from all grades and experience levels to consider submitting a proposal.

We’re looking for proposals from educators that are:

  • Engaging and collaborative. Think beyond the lecture and devise new ways to engage your audience.
  • Led by educators, and grounded in the everyday practice of teaching and learning.
  • Targeted to specific grade bands and/or experience levels, with guidance for participants to easily determine what’s appropriate for their needs.
  • Aligned to the CSTA Standards.

This year, the conference is seeking proposals for three-hour workshops; one-hour sessions; 20 minute mini-sessions; and 1 hour Birds of a Feather conversations. Full details can be found at cstaconference.org.

Start your proposal now.

Know someone else who would be great? Nominate them to present, and we’ll reach out. Or forward them this page and let them know why you’d want to attend their session at the conference!

All proposals will be submitted through our online system; however,

 you may preview the application before starting your submission here.

Proposals may be started and updated between the opening and closing of the system. The deadline for proposals is midnight (Pacific time) on December 2, 2018. Review of proposals will occur shortly thereafter and notification of the program committee’s decisions will be made in January 2019.

All submissions will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • appropriateness and relevance for professional development for K-12 computing (including alignment to standards if applicable)
  • feasibility of the proposal
  • timeliness of the topic
  • writing and presentation
  • completeness of the submitted information
  • consideration for the breadth and balance of topics at the conference.

Successful proposers will be invited to submit a draft copy of their presentation by June 1, 2019. Draft presentations will be posted on the website for attendee reference and note-taking. Some sessions may be selected for videotaping, which will be shared online post-conference. All workshops and sessions will be photographed. Workshop presenters will be given a list of registered attendees prior to the conference so that they may email them with any pre-workshop materials or downloads. All presenters are expected to register for the conference.

Why present at CSTA 2019?

The CSTA annual conference is the premier conference specifically dedicated to meeting the needs of K-12 computer science educators. Come network with your peers, present your great ideas, and learn best practices. Here is what last year’s conference attendees had to say about the conference:

 This was my first [CSTA] Conference and it was amazing. I am sitting in my classroom on July 12th because I want to make sure I gather all my info from the Conference and make connections before I forget. Thanks so much.
I was impressed with the amount of resources shared as well as the wealth of knowledge of the presenters and colleagues in the rooms.
As presenters, we found everything very organized. We had a large room and the A/V equipment was perfect. The A/V guy even checked in with us before we started to make sure we had everything we needed.
 I spent my own money to cover my trip out here, and it was worth every penny. Thank you for a well run conference with delicious food, awesome people, and professional learning that is applicable and high quality. I will definitely be back.

The deadline for proposals is 11:59 PM (Pacific time) on December 2, 2018.
Submit your proposal here

Thoughts from #CSTA2018

I just spent a wonderful four days of learning at the CSTA (Computer Science Teachers Association) conference.  All this, in spite of being on the conference committee.  My role, this time around, was organizing the volunteers that are integral to the success of any conference.  For the most part, as you can imagine, it involves darn near anything except attending sessions.

Now, I did have the chance to attend a couple in their entirety.  The key is to volunteer to proctor.  It has a number of payoffs – first you have to attend the entire session so you can’t be dragged off into different directions but even better a chance to sit and get off your feet.  Just make a new friend like Kristeen Shabram to have your back covered!

Conference committee work is a long term commitment.  This year’s conference was about 11.5 months in collaboration and planning that started from debriefing the previous year’s conference to planning the flow of traffic through workshops, keynotes, and sessions, to issuing a call for proposals, evaluating those proposals, assembling a conference that is balanced for potential attendees from K-12, higher ed, research, and industry, and then making contact with all kinds of people to make sure that there are enough volunteers to handle questions, registration, proctoring, … And that was just my contribution.

On a personal note, I was given instructions before I left – “We do not need more coffee mugs or water bottles” — but these are really cool water bottles that come along with a copy of Girl Code when you sign up for CSTA+ membership.  I’ll throw out a plastic one so that there will be zero effect on cupboard storage.  Maybe nobody will notice.


To date, I’ve written a couple of blog posts…

And I think I have at least one more in me to show up next week.  Fridays through Sundays are kind of devoted around here.

I used Flipboard to gather what might be blog posts from the conference (CSTA is used in other contexts so filtering is important).  It was a great launchpad to these.

To date, there were three that I’ve had the chance to enjoy

from Messrs Bergman, Thompson, and Zamansky respectively.  I had the opportunity to chat with these gentlemen among many others.  My regrets – I wish we could have chatted longer.

I think that’s the part of it all that makes for success at a conference – people, good people, my people – all engaged in conversations of personal and professional nature.

Some conversations that stand out include…

  • Three professors from University of Northern Iowa talking about a new project involving professional learning opportunities for new computer science teachers.  This one was particularly interesting for me
  • Then, there was a disturbing conversation about equity, or rather the lack of it, in some major decision making settings
  • I got a chance to finally meet the new Executive Director of CSTA face to face and have a quick conversation.  As you might expect, he was pretty busy
  • Of course, there was a tour through the exhibit hall.  I like to take a moment to visit every booth, thank them for their participation, and get a sense of what was new.  As Albert Thompson noted in one of his posts, I may have seen the world’s biggest micro:bit
  • At our outing to the Computer Science faculty at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, a great interaction about open-source software and also advice from a friend that those cute things with the sesame seeds may not be the best for someone allergic to shellfish
  • While at the university, I spent time in what would be a poster session about projects with local schools.  In particular, Machine Learning with Sphero
  • I was blown away that the Faculty at the university had a “petting zoo” for local teachers.  They could come in and play before making purchases and, even if their school couldn’t afford to buy, they could borrow the technology for their class!  Wow!  I mentioned that every conference attendee got a Chipitronic starter kit.  There was someone in the room that actually had theirs and demoed it – the zoo will be getting a new animal
  • Of course, there were the conversations with the committee.  You can do all the planning you want in advance but there are things that only arise once you go live
  • There were lots of new-to-me people for discussion with the volunteers.  I’m reminded that everyone has a story.  There were a couple of super volunteers that put in more than one time slot just to make sure that things went well
  • There was fun in volunteers too – we had some help us with bag stuffing – going round and round the swag table until we had stuff over 700 bags.  My step counter congratulated me on a new daily step record
  • And, there was a catchup with my friend, Michelle Friend
    Screenshot 2018-07-11 at 19.41.47
  • A private tour on the way back from the University of Omaha from a Creighton professor would take the leisurely route back to the hotel, including a drive through the Creighton campus pointing out the highlights
  • Podcasting and internet radio broadcasting from the Philippines.  I may have got us a new content contributor
  • For the closest of friends, it was a chance to catch up on the latest with our families and our lives
  • Perhaps the most impactful conversations came from people who knew I was Canadian in a place that wasn’t Canada.  Apologies and other thoughts were very common.  Yes, these were indeed my people

Oh, I’m sure that I missed more conversations to include.  I need to take notes.  The big takeaway here is the power in conversations when you get the right people together at the same place at the same time.  For this moment, Omaha in July was the right time and place.  Next year, Phoenix in July will be the right time and place.

And, just so that I don’t lose them, a few pictures.

Screenshot 2018-07-11 at 19.48.19

The Convention Centre

Screenshot 2018-07-11 at 19.48.32

The outdoor courtyard at the Convention Centre

Screenshot 2018-07-11 at 19.48.45

Our hotel – note the sky bridge crossing the street.  It’s air conditioned but we really didn’t need it.  Compared to the hot, humid weather we’d had, Omaha was so pleasant.

Screenshot 2018-07-11 at 19.48.59

The TD Ameritrade ball park where the Men’s College Baseball World Series is held.  It was a comforting Canadian feeling to see the TD on the sign.


The Computer Science building at UNO.


and hanging in the atrium


The Sphero Machine Learning poster

2018 CSTA Conference Call for Proposals

The Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) invites you to submit a proposal to present at the 2018 CSTA Annual Conference. This event will be held July 7-10, 2018 in Omaha, Nebraska.

The CSTA 2018 Program Committee seeks proposal submissions related to the practice of teaching and learning computer science and information technology in K-12. This year the conference is seeking 3 hour workshops; 1 hour sessions; 20 minute mini-sessions; and 1 hour Birds of a Feather sessions.

Proposal submission requires presenter and presentation information including a brief overview/abstract used to inform attendees about the session; as well as a PDF providing more detailed information about the session.

All proposals will be submitted through our online system; however,

 you may preview the application before starting your submission here.

Proposals may be started and updated between the opening and closing of the system. The deadline for proposals is midnight (Hawaiian time) on November 26, 2017. Review of proposals will occur shortly thereafter and notification of the program committee’s decisions will be made in December/January 2017.

All submissions will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • appropriateness and relevancy for professional development for K-12 computing;

  • feasibility of the proposal;

  • timeliness of the topic;

  • writing and presentation;

  • completeness of the submitted information; and

  • consideration for the breadth and balance of topics at the conference.

Successful proposers should expect to submit a draft copy of their presentation by June 1, 2018. Draft presentations will be posted on the website for attendee reference and note-taking. Some sessions may be selected for videotaping, which will be shared online post-conference. All workshops and sessions will be photographed. Workshop presenters will be given a list of registered attendees prior to the conference so that they may email them with any pre-workshop materials or downloads. All presenters are expected to register for the conference.

 I learned so much and am more motivated than ever to bring essential CS skills
to my students and to my colleagues.
Amazing conference with so many takeaways and ponderings.
I am leaving with specific strategies for our district,
and numerous contacts for help, as we move forward.
 It is a real live computer science conference. Loved it!
The resources…  Best Exhibit hall, great sessions…. it was just… timely

Additional conference details can be found here.

The deadline for proposals is midnight (Hawaiian time) on November 26, 2017.

Submit your proposal here.

We look forward to receiving your proposals and to your attendance at the conference.

The 2018 Annual Conference Planning Committee