Saturday, November 28, 2015

Parenting Month 61: Sibling relationships

There is a giraffe way up there
There is a giraffe up there

We've been fortunate that our kids get along well with each other. My son likes being a big brother and watching over her and showing her around places, and the little one adores her big brother. So they play with each other, they cheer each other on, and she has even started letting him read to her (she still has a strong preference for mommy or daddy).  About the closest thing we get to conflict is the fact that she is only 18 months old and at that age kids kinda hit each other without thinking about it.  And sometimes ge-ge (older brother) just isn't enough for what she wants.

Carnegie Science Center
Siblings running at the Carnegie Science Center Sportsworks

Let me show you something in the art gallery
How do you like the art museum?

The other major issue of development is courage. A is an 18 month old who does not know fear. T, has always been the careful one. He was among the slow ones to interact with others in day care, and he was slow to socialize at his new school. And we note that things that he is quite competent in around us, he freezes when others are observing him. While Taekwondo is a big help in this area (competence does help in this), with testing and tournaments, this does not get all of the way there. Using the curtesies of TKD and catholic school has been one tool he can sometimes use to get over his general nervousness, and I'm teaching him some techniques from Red Cross Pillowcase Project training as well. There are a few opportunities coming for him to practice engaging the world in public, but this will a be something to deal with for a long time (both of us parents are naturally introverts, and we expect the same is true with him)

Jumping on trampoline at the Carnegie Science Center Sportsworks
Trampoline at Carnegie Science Center

In other notes, T saw his first movie in a theater, The Martian.  A now knows a fair number of letters and numbers. While slightly behind where her brother was at this point, this is without putting in any work (we think she is picking it up from two alphabet books that are on her chosen rotation).

T's first movie
Tickets to The Martian

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Parenting Month 60: Confidence and public performance

Some lists for the elder one.
  1. Favorite book: The Martian.  Runner up: Rosie Revere, Engineer
  2. Wake up song: Level Up by Vienna Teng
  3. Favorite color: Yellow, Green, and Red are the current rotation. (The concept of favorite needs some work)
  4. Favorite toy: LEGO
  5. Favorite taekwondo move: round kick
  6. Programming environment: Kodable Runner up: Scratch Jr.
  7. Museum: Carnegie Science Center
Stretching before testing
Stretching before belt testing

We are starting to get some feedback from his first year in school (Kindergarten).  The first month, there was some concern that he was not really socializing (which we expected), but that has largely ended. He is still relatively quiet, but he does interact with the other kids and all of the other teachers more. We have noticed that it seems like all of the other students (K-8) at his school seem to know who he is. We think it is a combination of being the smallest one in the school, and that he now has an identity as the kindergartener who practices piano during the after school programming.

One of the effects of school is socialization and comparison. And it seems that he has figured out that he is ahead in most areas. His reading is at least a grade level ahead. Math is actually unmeasured, but in what they are doing he has pretty down (at least if he is paying attention). Robotics and art he is ahead (basically this means he is very good at interpreting and following instructions, he really is not that good in art, no creativity. But robotics (LEGO and Scratch) is probably justified. That is called the effects of daddy school.) not sure so about Spanish or gym, but I suspect he is just fine there. The real problem right now is that he knows he is ahead.

Punching pads
Reverse punch with pads
The big issue with kids who are ahead in school is that they start to put worth in succeeding at something. And it makes struggling at something doubly problematic. In the past, he was not paying close enough attention to the other kids to matter, and mommy and daddy school was pretty challenging. So success in the past was valued in part as a reward for the effort it took. And he developed the focus and value of work to make things happen. But what we have started to notice is that he no longer can keep focused on task, and we think it is because at school, nothing he is doing requires extended effort on his part. Daddy school (museums and LEGO, woodworking, and games), is somewhat rare nowadays. But where we really see the effect is in piano. He actually does not have the endurance he used to for practicing. And he responds much worse to difficult passages. So this is a danger that we have heard about, but now we have to think about what to do about it.  On the other hand, we are really glad we accelerated him and put him in Catholic school.  Another year of Pre-K would have made things worse, and we think that in a public school, they probably would not even have noticed he was ahead at everything (he is neither behind, nor does he act up or talk a lot, so he would go right under the radar of a Kindergarten teacher with 20 kids for 2 hours the whole day.)

Watching others go through testing
Watching the others test
The other area that we are looking at is performance anxiety. While shyness is not overwhelming (he has started to learn to fall on the courtesies of taekwondo or Catholic school during regular interaction), he still freezes when he becomes the focus of attention.  We were hoping that had largely gone after a successful taekwondo tournament experience, but it is definitely still there. While he will never be the loudest or among the talkative kids in the group, we would like him to learn how to comport himself in the public eye, or at least learn methods of focusing on the task and ignoring a crowd around him.
For the younger, she now babbles with purpose. I'm convinced she is telling stories. Most fun is when she babbles while paging through a book, now we know what we sound like when we read to her :-D. Her favorite books are A Baby's First Book of Zombies and Hands, Hands, Finger, Thumb. And with those two she can do appropriate sounds effects for most of the page.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Parenting 59: First steps out into the world

One thing that makes Kindergarten such a major milestone is the fact that the kids start being comparable.  Now that they are in a setting where there are actual goals at the end of the year, we see the results of parenting and the time spent in play and exploring the world. And there is an outsider making assessments (as the Kindergarten teacher establishes where each child is and how to nurture them to be ready for first grade).

Watching a drawing robot
Two Kindergarteners watching a robot.

Some things are easy to establish because they are skills. Can the child count, read letters, read books, draw? But some things are harder to figure out by the parent, does the child show empathy, care for others, handle adversity, is the child eager to learn? These are harder to see because you cannot tell the difference between the child interacting with the parent and the child interacting with the outside world. In our case, we have to start off by admitting we think highly of our 4-yr old, seeing as we have accelerated him into an early start in Kindergarten. (specifically, a catholic full-day Kindergarten) But having the outside assessment is helpful.

Our Kindergarten teacher opened the parent orientation by telling us that they were going to be taking it slow the first two months so she could assess their levels. At that point, we knew we were in good shape because in two months in a fairly small environment (20 total Kindergarteners in two classes), we were pretty sure that T will have adjusted to give a proper accounting of himself.  At one month, they are still looking for his reading level (we note that the library books that he brings from school are gradually increasing in difficulty), math is focused on sorting and shape (no challenge yet). His robotics teacher stating that he is doing well (essentially, at this point it means he can follow instructions to put together LEGO Technic and introduction to Scratch, both of which daddy school has covered.) His writing and drawing skills are noticably better (yeah!).  He practices piano on his own (for some definition of practice), he has started playing with other kids, and his gym teacher states he is a joy to have in class.  And more interesting, since we are not Catholic, is him talking about being 'provident' (attitude derived from the name of the order that sponsors the school).

He is still an introvert, and we do not expect that to change (after all, so are we). But we want him to develop the skills of interacting with the outside world. And the small class that he is provides him a safe place to do that. And we see it in how he carries himself around us, and in public. We like watching him try to take care of others, teaching other kids how to do things at museums, being polite to adults, he has even started holding doors open for people. And we note that one thing that being taught curtesy does, it provides a framework for approaching the world. A child showing curtesy is not at a loss in how to act and removing uncertainty makes everything more comfortable.

Another major milestone is T's first taekwondo tournament.  T is in a American Taekwondo Association (ATA) class as a Tiny Tiger (4-6 yrs old). And our main concern was if he would completely freeze. I had even taught him the breathing technique for dealing with emergency that we teach in the Red Cross Pillowcase Project.  But what got him started was the fact the he had to deal with the judges, and judges were just like instructors. And T knew how to treat instructors with respect and follow instructions.

Starting his Ssang jeol baang form
junbee! Ready to start his ssang joel baang (nunchucku) form at the tournament

What makes the tournament useful was not the prize (at this age, there are enough potential classifications of awards than there are participants, so everyone gets a prize, but some sound more 'real' than others), but the opportunity for him to be in an environment of strangers and perform. And for us to see how he is compared to the other 4-6 year olds.  Just like every other environment he is in, he is clearly one of the smallest. But he is also self controlled. I found it amusing that as they were waiting (having 4-6 year old boys wait without anything to hold their attention is a loosing proposition). He would go between the standard figiting and moving to almost an exaggerated version of attention when he remembered where he was.  We also saw him around kids from the various other area schools, and we realize that our school is just like all the others, and he gets compared in the same light. His memory (in the ATA, 4-6 yr olds are not expected to have memorized their poomsae, but he was clearly doing his with the leader instead of following as most of the kids did), focus (kicks and punches with snaps) and general lack of hesitation. Given that he was among the youngest of the bunch (the others were 5 1/2-6) he compares well. And doing well in his first tournament was a great confidence booster.
Bowing out
Bowing out after his form

Tiny Tiger with Medals
Medals for "Best power" in forms, one-steps, and weapons
The other one is turning into a toddler.  She has always had a will, now she is trying to enforce it.  And for a toddler, this means being greedy, grabbing things (especially something that someone else has), toddler tantrums, and yelling. On top of that, she seems to be quite smart, able to precisely specify her desires, demonstrating a good memory, so she is very good at causing trouble.  This one is going to be a fighter, and we see ourselves having much more trouble with the little one than we did with T.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Parenting: Moving on to Kindergarten

This month was marked by another major milestone: Kindergarten, the point where the education system starts in earnest and where the effort of the school becomes comparable or exceeds the effort of the parents. In our case, the big issue here was T's birthday: his birthday is after the PA deadline. We wanted him to start Kindergarten because his cohort in daycare/preschool was all starting Kindergarten this year, so socially and academically he was ready.  (daycare/preschool promoted people based on age, so he already had almost a year of pre-K. And he maxed out on the pre-K assessment even before being promoted from the 3-year old preschool to pre-K (meaning they ran out of pre-K assessment material, they knew not to bother with the 3-year old assessment material)). The public school pathway would require that at some point, he would have to repeat a year, which seemed like a recipe for boredom.

For the two weeks before pre-K, we have been moving his bedtime and wake up time up.  From a generally 9:30 in-bed time we shifted to 8:30.  From a generally 8AM wakeup over the summer we shifted him to 7.  The week of pre-K we had him in bed by 8:30, and 6:30 wake up.  Sunday was the school welcome and orientation.  Monday I woke him up in the morning to get to school to play in their playground.  Wednesday was first day of school.  Yeah!

First day of Kindergarten
First day of Kindergarten

Main development for the past month:

We had a nearby neighbor from China that we got to know over the summer, which included two young girls. T and them played nearly daily as we were essentially the only people they knew who were not business related (and the only people for the kids to play with).  They eventually did so many things with us that we joked that they were copying our lives.

Splash, splash
Playing on the Northshore Riverwalk Water Steps

T had another round of testing, so now he has a Yellow belt with Black Strip (in the ATA system, the Yellow belt is the third belt, after White and Orange).

Knife hand strike
Yellow belt testing - Knife hand strike

T has definitely been getting more confident and expressive over the summer.  He is better about  expressing what he wants and being forceful (i.e. taking his turn).  And he is better about expressing when he has an opinion, which will hopefully help when in school.  (Taekwondo definitely contributes here)

A has turned into a 15 month old babbling daredevil.  She is a determined child when she has determined what she wants, and is willing to climb over anything to get to it. Very amusing are her babbling episodes, where she can go on babbling for extended periods of time. When she develops language skills she is going to talk our ears off.

Looking forward we see settling into his new school and getting to know his place in the class.  We also have a first TKD tournament that T will go to in September, which is a new level of performing in public

Saturday, August 01, 2015

LEGO Chain Reactions: LEGO for teaching engineering and reading

Lego Chain Reactions: Design and Build Amazing Moving MachinesLego Chain Reactions: Design and Build Amazing Moving Machines by Pat Murphy and the Scientists of Klutz Labs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a very different LEGO product, it is about using LEGO system and Technic pieces to build simple machines, so it as much learning about simple machines as it is about building. And the fact that the end result is not a static object but a series of motions is a big plus in our book.

The LEGO Chain reaction set is a book with 10 plans for building a structure that supports a combination of simple machines. The assumption is that you have the LEGO system pieces (the standard bricks and plates) and it provides you with a few Technic pieces (beams and pins). For each project, there is an introduction to the project, instructions to build the project, instructions on how to work the project once it is done, and an explanation of how it works. What links the 10 projects together is use of either moving pieces or plastic balls that go in motion and becomes the trigger for the next project.

My four year old son and I have gone through all 10 projects. And we have done sequences of up to four of the projects in a row. In making the projects, we actually ran out of bricks and had to do substitutions and use Duplo blocks to get enough volume to build up the structures. With every project, I have him read the text on the project, then have him explain to an audience (mommy and any lucky visitors) what the project(s) are doing.

The fact that the projects are so different, and that after making them, they are very playable is the appeal of this. My son enjoys making the completed projects work, and especially making the chain, then trying to explain what it all means.

In the end, my assessment is that this is a great use of LEGO, build things that then have actual use, and use it to engage and educate the builder. It combines engineering and language (explaining why the projects work the way they do). And abstract enough that the builders may be able to apply these designs in new ways. Highly recommended
Explaining the four stage LEGO Chain Reaction project
Explaining how a four stages chain reaction project works
View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Parenting Month 57: The preschool years are ending

This summer is going by quickly. And in front of us we see that next month T starts Kindergarten, which is probably the point where others start to have a significant impact on his growth. (While his daycare and preschool staff are wonderful caregivers, we are clearly driving T's attitudes towards how he approaches his world as well as skills he develops, academic, social, and physical.)  Some touchpoints.

1.  He has learned to take pride in competency and the effort it took him to get there. This shows in reading, playing piano, taekwondo, building things (LEGO and wood), helping with cooking and chores around the house, and most facets of life.

2.  While we are reserving judgment on how smart he is (ok, we are pushing him into Kindergarten ahead of schedule, but that as much a result of the fact that preschools advance kids on their birthdays while the public school system advances people in cohorts as anything else (i.e. he has been in pre-K this past year since his birthday, but the standard public school timeline would have him repeating a year before he is on their timeline)), he does have an attention span and a pretty good level of perseverance (for a 4-year old). And we think the fact that he has the attitude that it is good to work hard to do something difficult as he starts his school years is a success on our end.

3.  We have had guests with us this week. One of their comments was he seems like he is the type of kid who will never complain about things being unfair because he did not get something. We are pretty sure that he has learned to value people over things (although, if the things in question are books, it is a close call), And I think that half of the attraction of usual rewards like candy, toys, and trophies is because he gets from others that he is supposed to like it. (we occasionally have candy laying out, and don't realize there is an issue until other kids come into the house, because T won't go after them)

4.  He likes helping around the house. Actually, when he makes a mess, he tries to clean up before we find out about it. It is really funny when he needs some supplies to do it. Last week he was asking me to help him get paper towels, "but don't come downstairs to look at the table"

5.  He approaches the world engaged and looking around. We see that in his visits to museums, when we go on walks in parks and trails, and especially in taekwondo (my impression that this is the biggest differentiater among the pre-schoolers is their ability to focus on the teachers and class.
6.  He is generally happy. The main testimonials are a couple kids that are in both his pre-school and his taekwondo school who have stated that "T is always happy"

7.  He plays with other kids.  This was a bit of a concern up to when he was around 3 1/2 or so.  One thing that helps is there are a number of kids just a little older than him on our street (mostly girls). Now, the preschool teachers say that our little turtle is out of his shell and they have to tell him to stop talking.  One of the joys about taking him to taekwondo is that we get to watch him interact with the other kids. And while we don't encourage it, he interacts with all of the other kids as they are waiting their turns for drills and such. As one of the smallest kids in the school (I think he is now the second smallest, one of the owners refers to him as one of their peanuts),  We don't ever see him being one of the really talkative kids in his class and we expect that he will always take time to get used to new adults (neither he nor his sister were ever pass around kids),

8.  He is learning how to present what he knows. Since we actually talk about what is going on at the museum or science center, we have been having him show the other kids and parents (advantage of having academics as parents, we actually know more than the kids volunteering there about whatever we are looking at, most of the time).  These past few months he has been getting markably better at it.

9.  He adores his little sister. (and she does likewise).  From day 1 he has enjoyed being the big brother and getting to play and help care for his baby sister.

10.  He still does not sleep on his own. Back when he was a baby with colic, the pediatrician warned us that he probably would not sleep on his own until he was four. Well, he is four, what's up (jk)  At this point he can sleep by himself and does occasionally, but he really likes to check every now and then that someone is around. And he likes the snuggle.  And, well, since I can pretty much sleep through the occasional check-in it does not bother me so why not. And I'm sure that there will be an end to this.

11.  He is very careful. In some sense this is good. There are a lot of things we never had to worry about. He tested things before trying to eat them, We never really needed baby gates with him (because he figured out how to go backwards down before he started getting to fast for us to catch him), we can let him cut food with a (plastic) knife.  We probably did not do a complete job on babyproofing things. But this goes along with not being daring in trying new things, until we go through with him first.

12.  Not very creative. This somewhat goes with being careful, but he never had the phase of coloring and drawing with abandon. So we went from scribbling to deliberate outlining shapes, but not the randomish stick drawings that are stereotypical of pre-schoolers.  I've started him on learning to draw using primitives (assembling basic shapes until they look like something) but the wild abandon that many kids keep through early elementary school never took with him.

13.  He is no longer the the island of stillness in the chaos of toddler daycare like when he was 3, but he still tends to focus on one thing for extended periods of time, even as all of his peers fly from task to task.

14.  He is becoming more expressive.  With people he knows, he is willing to express himself.

15.  In Fate Approaches terms, he would be Good at Careful, Fair at Quick and Clever, Average at Forceful and Flashy, and Poor at Sneaky.

16.  We pretty much skipped tantrums. He has occasional crying spells, but his tantrums seem like he is trying to imitate what he thinks a tantrum should look like.

17.  He has little sense of possessiveness.  His daycare teachers have commented he does not fight over toys, because he does not have that sense of possessiveness and greed. He has more of a sense that something is his, but it still is not that strong.

18.  He is pretty much what you see is what you get. No deceptiveness at all. Well, he is in the stage of saying what he thinks we want to hear (which would be considered lying if he were older), but even that is not that bad (exhibit: saying "I need a paper towel. But don't come downstairs, there is no mess")

Now we are getting ready for Kindergarten.  We are going to a local catholic school, because they are the only ones who would consider taking in someone early (with recommendations from his pre-K teachers and an assessment, of course).  They are going to get a kid who reads Dr. Seuss before entry into Kindergarten. Judging by their reactions, they can handle a wide range in a Kindergarten class.  We have found out in his daycare/pre-school that T responds well in settings with small sizes (also helped a lot in taekwondo) and we are looking forward to his starting school.

Explaining the four stage LEGO Chain Reaction project

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Lessons in teaching: teaching exploratory data analysis with R

Last spring, I took over a course labeled as information systems engineering.  This is aimed at sophomores in engineering.  Historically, this course focused on using the MS Access database.  I was asked by the department to take this over after several years of commenting that our engineering seniors have inadequate computer programming skills, as evidenced by the amount of effort they spend on their senior projects doing tasks that would have been much simpler if they tried programming.  Last year some of the faculty tried experiments in their classes where they had students code in an assignment (generally they asked for C). In every case this went very badly.  So they asked me to take this course and change it so that it covered programming and specifically to use R. (I am effectively the primary data analysis faculty here).  In keeping with the course title, I chose to focus the course on data analysis, with one month focusing on databases and how to think about data problems (and giving them time to gradually learn R), the rest on exploratory data analysis.  I used as the primary text Data Manipulation with R by Phil Spector, and as supplements GGplot2 by Hadley Whickam and An Introduction to Data Cleaning by Edwin de Jonge and Mark Van Der Roo. I presented the CONVO framework for thinking about data problems based on Thinking about Data by Max Shrum.

As freshmen, they would have has CS0 (the Association for Computing Machinery designation of introduction to computer science for non-computer science/electrical engineering majors) material covered over a two course sequence that also covers mathematics for engineering (primarily linear algebra).  The language of instruction is primarily Matlab, but they also cover C and, depending on instructor, Python (there is one module that is sometimes covered by Physics faculty, and they like to use Python).  For databases, there is another course on databases taught by an adjunct faculty who used to teach databases for information systems.

For tools I used SQLite (more on why this and not MS Access later), SQLite Manager, R, and R Studio. Prior to the end of the previous semester I sent everyone an email with links to videos introducing them to R and R Studio and encouraged them to introduce them to R through typing out a tutorial (I explained that they would actually learn R over the semester, the typing exercise was to ensure they had seen everything once before we actually needed it in class.).

For assessments, there were weekly labs for computer knowledge, exams mostly covered how to think through data problems. A semester project with two milestones (plus completed project) was the main way to assess how well they developed computer programming competency.  Each week, we covered one

We had three datasets that I used as teaching and lab examples throughout the course.

  1. Titanic survivors
  2. National Survey of Family Growth
  3. American Community Survey (U.S. Census, Pittsburgh North PUMA)

Some observations and notes

1.  SQLite vs MS Access.  I was surprised to find out that MS Access has a relatively low size limit on databases. It was not able to handle either the National Survey of Family Growth (expected) nor could it handle a single PUMA for the American Community Survey (this was a surprise).  That meant we had to use SQLite for the entire course. (my Mac students were happy since this put them on equal footing with the PC students). Next time I will just use SQLite. (and use MS Access only to explain why we are not using MS Access)

2.  Learning R.  In a pre-class survey, the entire class indicated complete lack of confidence in programming to fulfil a task (expected).  I think that the standard programming language belief that it is always easier to learn a second programming language failed in this case, because I did not realize just how bad their first experience was.  While the first month was very intentionally a confidence building exercise, I think that for a portion of the class, they really needed to start from scratch.  Next time around, I will spend an entire period doing nothing but walking the class through R.

3.  Data manipulation.  This included covering data structures (text, dates, dataframes), regular expressions, plyr, reshape, and missing values imputation.  Essentially the Hadleyverse v. 1.  One issue here was the wide variety of potential topics. While I think every topic got used by someone in their semester project, some of the student evaluations complained about my teaching topics that were not on the exam.  Essentially, for people who are only used to computing on numbers, the entire topic of data manipulation seems to be a heavy cognitive load.

4.  Visualization.  I taught qplot, but I think that I should have gone straight to ggplot.  I think that either I go the traditional route and build every type of plot as an individual entity, or I present the grammar of graphics approach and build plots. Either way, now that I've taught it, I don't think qplot helps in either, and it is a lot less capable. (every groups final project pretty much had to transition to ggplot)

5.  Projects. I let  the students find their own datasets and questions, subject to the fact that they had to write the project purpose using the guidelines we covered in thinking about data.  The big division in quality of the projects was the richness of the dataset.  Next time, I will be a lot more strict on the dataset, in particular, I had a subjective guideline that they should not consider it practical to look at the whole dataset. In some cases, this still was a very small volume, and it made for a trivial and uninteresting report.

6.  Thinking about data. I used Max Strum Thinking about data framework where for a data project, one should identify the COntext, Need, Vision, Outcome.  Every week we read a contemporary news article that included a data component (mostly from the website)  Each discussion opened up with class discussion to summarize the article into this CONVO framework, then a discussion of the analysis in the article itself.  This actually worked out pretty well.  Each exam had at least one CONVO focused question, and generally they did well (and of the people who did not, there were no surprises based on class participation)

7.  News articles.  I had a wide range of news articles that we covered in a weekly discussion, drawn mostly from, the Upshot column from the New York Times, and the data series from the Washington Post.  Each article was assigned at the end of the week, for discussion in the Tuesday morning lecture.  Discussion opened up with a summary based on the CONVO framework, then we evaluated the data analysis presented in the article, followed by how we could change it to make it better or to answer a different question.  These class periods were fun. My goal was to take 15 minutes for each article, in a few cases we were on a roll so we let it go to 30 minutes.  I had good participation.  And it showed in the CONVO question on exams, and generally people did well when I asked them to imagine a data analysis based on data presented on a test (this was the last part of a multi part question, where the other parts were about the data presented). One disappointing thing was that when it came time for course evaluations, I was rated poorly with how the class material relates to the everyday world (like all engineering courses do). So I have to figure this one out.

8.  Course evaluations. When course evaluations came in, they were roughly a uniform distribution, which makes them very hard to interpret. In addition, comments that expressed weaknesses were mirrored in the comments that expressed strengths. So that meant that I had terrible averages and a chat with my department chair.  Fortunately for me, the generally accepted belief is that the broad diversity in the teaching evaluation is due to pushing the students harder (i.e. making them do programming again) and that this is part of improving the department as a whole. Hopefully when he meets the dean to review the faculty the dean agrees with this assessment as well.

9.  Class projects.  About a quarter of the projects (teams of1, 2, or 3) were genuinely impressive. Many projects with 100,000s of records, a few with millions of records, several dimensions, and data analysis that used layered visualizations to explore.  Most projects were a little more modest, thousands of data points and reasonable visualizations. Some projects were personal in nature (looking at issues in their home towns), others were fun (several projects revolved around music or sports) A number showed evidence of lack of confidence, shown in very unambitious data sets.  The issue with this group is how hard to push. One of the known problems with CS0 or CS1 is that they complete destroy people's confidence in programming, and a substantial portion of those who take one of their courses completely leave the field, or in the case of engineers, avoid programming at all costs in the future.

Next time around:

1.  Using a framework like CONVO (Max Strum) works. I am pretty sure everyone at least learned how to think about problems and settings.
2.  Skip MS Access.  I think I probably spent too much time on databases and working with the MS Access interface.  Next time, going straight to SQL is probably enough, given that the limits on MS Access means that we cannot do interesting datasets.
3.  I liked using three datasets the entire course.  Actually, some of them used the American Community Survey for their semester projects (after reading in multiple PUMA, e.g. an entire metropolitan area instead of only one PUMA).
4.  One question that I will have to think about is how much of a do-over of CS0 this course will be.  Clearly, as it is most of the class seems to get it the second time around and a good portion are pretty impressive. But there is a pretty large fraction that finished CS0 absolutely convinced that programming is forever beyond them.