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Interview with Dr. Dennis Kafura

1. What is the idea behind your class?

The Introduction to Computational Thinking class (CS 1014) uses real-world data (big data) resources from a variety of fields to motivate student engagement. The class is organized into 4-person peer learning “cohorts” that work together in each class. This class is largely taken by students in non-engineering and on-science majors. We want to convey a quantitative, information-based view of the world.

2. What are your goals for your students in this class?

Beyond the define Learning Outcomes, our students should:

  1. see the relevance of computing to their career interests
  2. see that programming/coding/computing is a learnable skill rather than a mysterious and arcane endeavor.
  3. see that computing has social impacts in the world
  4. to develop cognitive abilities in “process oriented/algorithmic” thinking
  5. to develop cognitive abilities to master complexity using a hierarchy to organize relationships

3. What are the “cool” or “fun” things you are doing this semester in your class that you would want showcased?

Some aspects of the class to showcase are:

  1. students working in 4-person cohorts doing active learning in class
  2. students having access during class to an undergraduate teaching assistant to help guide them and answer questions
  3. projects that are student-defined using real world “big data” resources

4. What is your opinion of CLEs, specifically your class being one?

It probably matters less what I think of the CLE (or the future Pathways) than what the students think. I hope that they will find in this class a way to acquire a useful skill, some news ways of thinking and looking at the world, and do so in an engaged (dare I say enjoyable) way.

(Interview by Caleigh Shaffer)

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