Elementary Patterns and their Role in Instruction
Call for Participation

What Are We About?
There are many ways to look at patterns. An especially useful way to think of patterns is as a tool for teaching. We don't use patterns blindly; we learn them. Patterns are all about learning new techniques, understanding when and how to use them.

This workshop will explore the teaching side of patterns, especially patterns appropriate for novices learning in more formal instructional settings. We will consider how patterns can be used in such settings. We will also evaluate some elementary patterns that are in use and try to determine what makes a pattern suitable for novices.

Our goal is to explore how to use patterns effectively to teach novices. If you would like to seek answers to this question, then you will want to consider attending the workshop on elementary patterns and their role in instruction, to be offered as a part of ChiliPLoP99. Read on for answers to these questions about the Hot Topic workshop:

What Will We Do?
Our goal is to explore how to use patterns effectively to teach novices. One of our primary means toward this end will be to learn by doing. We will produce a prototype or two: the design of a course organized around patterns, or a set of curricular materials for such a course, or a pattern language for teaching some elementary topic. Two focus groups of three or four people each will work together for much of the workshop to create these artifacts, which will then be reviewed by the whole group at the end of the workshop. Topics of the focus groups will be selected based on the requests to participate and the strengths and interests of the selected participants.

In the end, our artifacts may or may not prove useful beyond the workshop itself. But, even if they are not, we will have learned something about the use of patterns to teach novices and, we hope, have increased our chances of succeeding in future attempts.

How Will We Do It?
Our initial plan for the workshop is given below. Once participants in the workshop have been identified, they will engage in discussion to tailor the goals, activities, and schedule of the workshop to their own strengths and interests.

Pre-Workshop Preparation

  • Applicants submit requests to participate, with pointers to relevant patterns that they have read, written, and used, if any.

  • Selected participants will review the materials submitted by others and engage in e-mail discussion to frame issues of interest for the workshop, especially potential focus topics.

  • Participants must then complete two tasks prior to the workshop:

    • Study the patterns and papers identified in group discussion as the basis for the group's Hot Topic work.

    • Produce a draft of a pattern, pattern language, or a paper on using patterns in a course. Again, the specific requirement will be identified through group e-mail discussion.
Day 1
  • A very short session to open the workshop and jump start our work.

  • A couple of demonstrations of elementary patterns in use in an instructional setting, followed by discussion of what worked and what didn't.

  • Break-out sessions to begin work on patterns, pattern languages, and curricula for the focus topics.
Day 2
  • Readers workshops on some of the elementary patterns in use, with a focus not on learning the patterns but rather on what makes a pattern good for novices and on how to use them in courses.

  • Break-out sessions to continue work on patterns, pattern languages, and curricula for the focus topics.
Day 3
  • Workshop the materials developed the preceding two days for the focus topics. This is the climax of the workshop.

  • A short open forum to "workshop" the workshop, to summarize what we have achieved and what open questions remain, and to plan for future activities to develop the area and disseminate results.

Who Should Participate?
We hope to attract 6-8 highly motivated and experienced teachers, pattern writers, and software developers to work on this hot topic at ChiliPLoP. To this end, we invite requests to participate from:

  • individuals who teach, whether in academia or industry, using patterns as a means to introduce course content or to organize their courses.

  • pattern writers who are interested in writing the elementary patterns that underlie their more advanced patterns.

  • individuals who do not yet teach using patterns but who have thought about how patterns could be used to organize an elementary course or textbook.

How Do I Apply?
Submit a request to participate by e-mail to Eugene Wallingford by Friday, January 15, 1999. You may submit ASCII text, HTML, or a URL where we can find your submission. Your proposal should be three to five pages long and might include one or more of the following:

  • A description of a course that you teach using patterns, either in academia or industry. Your submission might describe the ways in which you use the patterns, in- and out-of-class exercises that you assign, or projects that your students do.

  • A proposed elementary pattern language or catalog for teaching some topic to novices. This topic might constitute a whole course or a unit within a course. It might also relate to an existing body of patterns in some more advanced domain.

  • A draft outline of an elementary textbook organized around patterns.

If you are invited to participate, you will be expected to:

  • Participate in e-mail discussion prior to the workshop, as described above, to tailor the goals and activities of the workshop to the selected participants.

  • Prepare for the workshop through study and writing, as described above.

  • Come to ChiliPLoP prepared to participate actively and to help achieve the workshop goals!

What Are The Important Dates?
The dates to watch for are:

January 15, 1999
Submit your request to participate by this date.

January 22, 1999
We notify all applicants whether they have been accepted to participate or not. Workshop participants commence e-mail discussion to tailor the goals and activities of the workshop.

February 15, 1999
Collectively, we will finalize the list of reading and writing "assignments" to be done prior to the conference. We continue e-mail discussion.

March 16-19, 1999
We gather at the Wickenburg Inn and (set out to) accomplish our goals!

How Do I Find Out More?
For more on the ideas behind this workshop, see the Elementary Patterns home page, and feel free to contact the workshop organizer:

Eugene Wallingford
Department of Computer Science
University of Northern Iowa
Cedar Falls, Iowa 50614-0507

Note: PLoP is a trademark of The Hillside Group, Inc.