I returned from ITiCSE 2014 last week, but this is the first chance I’ve had to catch my breath. Jet lag combined with a nasty allergic reaction and piles of work that greeted me when I landed have conspired to keep me from thinking much about the conference. But my allergy is calming down and I’ve adjusted to the time change, so I have space to think about the conference a bit.

I had two main things to do at the conference. The first was participate in a working group, which I had never done before. The group I chose was the one on computational thinking in the K-9 curriculum, and my group was fantastic. We worked together well, and while our report still needs some edits I think we’ll have something nice to send to the reviewers by the end of this month. It was a good stretch for me to think about CT in the context of elementary education, and I’m hopeful that we’ll continue to collaborate even after our report is done and published.

The other task at the conference was a panel. The topic was motivation and programming, and my fellow panelists were everything I could have hoped for. I had never met the third panelist until it was time to present, but the second panelist chose (him) well and I think we gave a cohesive and thought-provoking presentation. I say this in no small part because the discussion after our panel was quite lively, stopping only when I called it because it was time for lunch. A good number of the comments afterward indicated that the person speaking disagreed in some way with what we (ok, mostly me) had to say, but that was fine. As I told people afterward who asked about the panel, I would rather have people disagree with me vocally than stay quiet. So I deem the panel to have been quite successful.

Thinking about my reaction to the discussion after the panel made me realize that I’ve come a long way in my response to disagreement. It used to be that I shied away from arguments and conflict, but increasingly I’m finding that I enjoy it as long as the person who is disagreeing with me has interesting things to say and keeps it civil. In fact, one of my new collaborators this past academic year is most notable for his tendency to constantly disagree with me, and I find that I absolutely love it. It keeps me thinking and interested, and I think I learn a lot more than if he were agreeing with me all the time. That I would learn to embrace disagreement the way I have is something my younger self would have never predicted.