This week, I've been away at the Agile 2007 Conference and it occurred to me that you might wonder why we go to conferences.
There are three communities that we try to keep in touch with: other educators, people in industry and people doing research in areas similar to ours. Connections with those people help us stay up-to-date and help us innovate in our curriculum, classrooms, and research.
Agile 2007 is a strongly industry-focused conference. Probably 95% of the attendees are associated with developing software from people in the trenches to upper management. It's a great time to see new tools and techniques that teams are using to create high quality software quickly. For me, it confirmed that the content in our Testing and XP course is up-to-date (though I think we'll add continuous integration this spring). It also confirms that my consulting activities are current, though I picked up a few tricks here and there.
Agile 2007 also had an educator's symposium for people to talk about how they are teaching agile methods. It included talks on project courses at other schools and I presented the innovations we have made to CS1 (I've presented our project course to a number of venues in the past). You can see the project I presented on here (Click on TDD in CS1). On this front, we are definitely on the leading edge. People were very surprised that freshmen can master TDD while learning everything else they need to learn in that course. I think a lot of people will be watching the labs develop and using them in their courses, too.
Any way, this conference confirmed that our technology is up-to-date. In October, I'll be heading to Frontiers in Education which is entirely focused on teaching. I'll let you know what I learn.