Frontiers in Education, El Paso, Texas

You know that you are in Texas when the meeting rooms are named according to different types of cows (Agnus, Hereford, Longhorn, …) So, I was in El Paso Texas to present a paper “Global vs. Local – Experiences from a Distributed Software Project Course Using Agile Methodologies” by Outi Sievi-Korte, me, and Rune Hjelsvold. The paper was about our joint effort with Gjøvik University College to run a distributed project course.

Typical city car in texas

Typical city car in Texas

The conference(FIE- Frontiers in Education) covered various topics from curriculum design to use of mobile tools to teach mathematics. As the conference was backed-up by IEEE the focus was in engineering education and computer- and software-related topics dominated.

If I need to mention topics that had a lot of attention in many talks, I would pick:

  1. Gamification and use of games in education.
  2. Entrepreneurship and how to support that among students
  3. Flipped classroom
  4. Use of Raspberry PIs, Arduinos and similar devices for teaching

A few talks were interesting for a reason or another:

  1. Interesting points about problem solving styles and professional domains was given in a talk “Predicting Entrepreneurial Intent among Engineering Students and Faculty using Problem Solving Style Preference”.
  2. Two papers resonated nicely with our research on Web/Browser as platform. Paper “From the Browser to the Remote Physical Lab: Programming Cyber-physical Systems” showed how a nice simulation could run in a browser, and “Vamonos: Embeddable Visualizations of Advanced Algorithms” introduced a tool can integrate animation to (almost) any web page. And yes, it is open source.
  3. Two talks about group forming: one about using genetic algorithms to find the optimal grouping and another about providing students with portal that uses background information like individual success in previous courses.
  4. An interesting talk about “Students Learn More with Less Text that Covers the Same Core Topics” discussed how a material can be condensed and the study results improve.
  5. A talk about a simulation game in teaching of SW engineering processes. There seems to be a few tools – maybe we should check what they can do.
  6. Finally, I would give the blue-sky award to the talk about using genetic algorithm to build courses and curriculum from learning objectives.

It was interesting but not really surprising to note that the participants of teaching conference are more extrovert and talkative than in technical conferences. My daily smalltalk quota was easily filled. When I mentioned that I am from Tampere quite many people noted that next SEFI conference will take place in Tampere. Ask Hannu-Matti if you want to learn more.

If case you interested in the program see

The conference was located in El Paso that is at the very western edge of Texas on river Rio Grande. City of Juarez and Mexico is on the opposite side of Rio Grande and could have been reached by walking. El Paso and especially the close neighborhood of the conference hotel have seen one of the most famous gunfights of the wild-west, namely “for dead in five seconds” . Luckily, I could safely walk on the streets.

City lights of El Paso and Juaréz from the conference dinner.

City lights of El Paso and Juaréz from the conference dinner.


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