A Call to Celebrate Diversity in Computer Science

A primary goal for our #CSforAll initiative should be to develop positive computational identities among all students. This requires that students not only build strong foundational knowledge and skills; they must also understand how CS connects to their interests and, perhaps most importantly, believe that they can succeed in CS.

This is challenging because a small subset of the population has dominated the field of computer science, and our society has crafted a pervasive and narrow stereotype for who has access to and can achieve in CS. Even though the field is actually more diverse, these stereotypes are not surprising given the mostly homogenous population of the tech industry (see the Kapor Center’s Leaky Tech Pipeline report, 2018).

It is critical that we disrupt this narrative. We must highlight how people of all backgrounds have positively contributed to computing in diverse ways.

Describing the problem

Students as young as elementary school begin to adopt stereotypical beliefs in STEM. Research has shown the negative impact on students traditionally underrepresented in CS, namely women and people of color (e.g., Cheryan, Master, & Meltzoff, 2015). Professor Sapna Cheryan notes:

“People use these images to decide where they fit, where they’re going to be successful and what’s appropriate for them to pursue.”

Stereotypes negatively affect students’ interest, self-efficacy, career aspirations in STEM (e.g., Shapiro & Williams, 2011). If students do not fit those stereotypes and they don’t have role models that suggest otherwise, they are less likely to pursue CS.

What can we do about this?

Such a wicked problem cannot be fixed quickly, but we can make substantive impacts in our local schools. One strategy is to connect students to role models and mentors with whom they can identify, to provide inspiration and guidance. Exposure to role models of similar race and gender backgrounds leads to increased identification, self-efficacy and aspirations in STEM fields (Stout et al., 2011; Scott et al., 2018).

How to celebrate diversity in CS

Teachers can provide exposure to diverse role models through books, videos, and magazines and also through direct interactions including classroom visits, field trips, career fairs, and mentorship programs. These efforts should happen throughout the year. In addition, during cultural awareness months, we can use the opportunity to highlight people of specific backgrounds. March is Women’s History Month. This presents a great opportunity to connect students to female role models and showcase the incredible contributions of women in CS. Below are some suggestions from the #CSinSF team:

  1. Invite guest speakers to your class. If you don’t have connections through friends and family, try finding a local volunteer or a Skype connection. Here are some tips for classroom volunteers and a list of suggested questions to ask about their careers.
  2. Explore careers. Great videos featuring diverse professionals are available from Made w/ Code, Technolochicas, and Code.org. You can also have students read articles from the Careers with Code magazine, designed for teens to understand how computer science can help them create a dream career in any field, including health, sports, business, fashion, and virtual reality. The site features both profiles and videos of diverse people in diverse industries.
  3. Showcase influential figures in CS. Read books, watch videos, and lead activities that showcase influential figures in computing. For example, during Women’s History Month, hang these posters of seven incredible women in CS and lead related activities (e.g., matching activity, Bee-Bot challenges, Kahoot). Elementary teachers could read story books like Ada Lovelace: Poet of Science and Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code and show videos like Happy Birthday, Ada. Additionally, teachers of all levels can use Hidden Figures (original text, young readers’ edition, story book, or the film adaptation) and challenge students to retell stories of these incredible women (e.g., through Scratch animations).

Bryan Twarek, School District Representative

What does CSforAll mean for teacher preparation programs?

In a CSTA Voice article last year, I argued that a goal of CSforAll students means we also need to have CSforAll teachers. There are many professional development efforts underway that target existing teachers such as those supported by the National Science Foundation for courses like Exploring Computer Science and Computer Science Principles and for curricula like Bootstrap, Project GUTS, and Everyday Computing. However, these are not long-term sustainable models. In addition to in-service programs, computer science needs to be integrated as a part of pre-service, or teacher preparation, programs.

Change is Coming

Many states are adopting student standards and teacher credentialing in computer science. In 2017, the Iowa Department of Education established a working group to create computer science standards, Ohio required the state board to adopt K12 CS standards, and Tennessee created an endorsement in CS. These are among many legislative efforts (described at code.org/promote) that have an impact on teacher preparation programs.

Because the United States has a distributed control model of education, this means that teacher preparation programs are driven by state requirements for licensure. When states adopt new standards and licensure requirements, teacher preparation programs need to be ready to teach those new standards and prepare students for licensure.

Models for Integrating CS

So, how can teacher preparation programs meet the growing demand for K12 CS teachers? Some schools have included a module on computational thinking in existing tech integration courses while others are integrating CS across the curriculum. Some schools target secondary STEM education majors while others want all education majors to have some experience. Each school will need to grapple with their state context and their own program structures to determine a model that will work. Ideally, all pre-service teachers will have a basic understanding of computer science as a discipline, its impact on our society, and key equity issues that impact it.

Last spring, a group of leading experts in computer science education gathered for the Finding a Home for Computing Education in Schools of Education Strategy Workshop. The report synthesized the conversations and existing efforts and will suggest frameworks and models for integrating CS in the field of education at the post-secondary level. Videos from the workshop are available now and the report will be released April 12, 2018, on computingteacher.org.

A Role for Classroom Teachers

Integrating CS in teacher preparation programs will be a massive effort that requires many people from a variety of areas to make it successful. Education faculty may not have had much experience in computer science and, just like our students, may feel quite intimidated by the subject. The CSTA community is a great resource for them!

If you’re a current classroom teacher, you could:

  1. Host students for field experiences that include a CS component
  2. Connect with your local college education programs to help them develop programs to meet new licensure and certification requirements
  3. Share your experiences with students considering a career in CS teaching through guest lectures or mentoring programs
  4. Teach college courses related to CS education

Jennifer Rosato

Teacher Education Representative

Board Candidate Personal Statements

Hello fellow CSTA members! Below please find several of your candidates personal statements for you to use as you consider who best to vote for in the current election.

NOTE: You can even find more information about each candidate, as well as the election itself at here:

Dr Jason Zagami: International Representative
I am seeking to represent international members of the Computer Science Teachers Association. Living far from the United States and Europe gives a different perspective on global computer science education. Many countries have made great strides in K12 CS education that are rarely acknowledged, with innovative and complex approaches to providing opportunities for students to study CS. I see the role of the international representative as keeping the CSTA board aware of what is occurring beyond the USA, and ensuring that CSTA initiatives apply globally. My own experience in CS curriculum reform has been in Australia, Oceania, India and East Asia, but I have been also active with UNESCO and the annual EDUSummIT forums looking to shape global CS education, particularly in support of developing nations. As a teacher and teacher educator for 25+ years, my focus has been on expanding perceptions of what CS can involve, in pedagogy through the use of visual programming languages and data visualizations, project-based learning, and educational games; in content through the development of computational, design, futures, strategic (entrepreneurial and business), and systems thinking skills as the reason we teach lower order processes such as coding; and through technologies such as robotics, automation, and AI systems. My research as an academic is focused on improving CS education and bringing it to the level of understanding we have of cognitive and curriculum processes found in mathematics and science. Much of CS curriculum development is currently guesswork or drawn from higher education, and CSTA is well placed to progress our understanding of what works best and when in CS education. Female participation is another area I am deeply concerned about in CS education, and as CS increasingly becomes the avenue for employment, we must ensure that everyone has access to these opportunities. CSTA is well placed to encourage research and promote initiatives to address this inequality. At a global level, CS opportunities are not well distributed, and the CSTA has a responsibility to providing educational opportunities to all member nations. To achieve these aims, I have experience in working on and leading professional associations as state and national president of Australian CS Teacher associations, and look forward to bringing a wider perspective to the CSTA board to address the needs of the many CSTA members outside of the USA, and of course benefiting all CSTA members as a result.

Michelle Lagos: Representative at Large
Hey there CSTA Members: I work at the American School of Tegucigalpa in Honduras as the Computer Science Department Head and grades 9-12 CS teacher. I am Honduran born and raised with a passion for Computer Science Education. As many of our members, I stumbled into teaching Computer Science. CS ED is not my first mayor, I am a Computer Sciences Engineer who started teaching CS when I was finishing college and got hooked on it. After two years doing full IT work as the IT officer for Latin America & the Caribbean for a British organization called Christian Aid, I realized that my passion was teaching and therefore I decided to become a teacher for good. I have been a CSTA member since 2008 and am currently one of the two Representatives at Large on the Board of Directors. I am running to serve a second term in the same position. My first experience with the CSTA board was in 2012 when I ran for the International Representative position. At that moment the 2011 version of the CSTA standards was our main focus as it had been recently released. I had the amazing opportunity of working in the Curriculum committee alongside Deborah Seehorn and Tammy Pirmann. One project that I am proud of during this term is getting our standards translated into Spanish which turned out to be a very helpful tool for international members. If you have attended the CSTA conference there is a chance you have seen me at the registration table or volunteering around. Volunteering during a conference is a lot of fun and you get to do some great networking with fellow CS teachers as well as get to know vendors that can provide you with tools that can help your instruction. Working on the board of directors is about having conversations on how to support our teachers in the best way possible. It is bringing the voice of the members to a table of CS leaders that have our best interests at heart. During this time, I’ve had the honor to work with and learn from people that are very well respected in the CS ED area. I would really be honored if our membership allows me to keep on working with the board and see some projects that are on their way to be fulfilled. Thank you for the support you have shown me so far.

Dr. Amy Fox: 9-12 Representative
I am currently the founder and President of the Lower Hudson Valley Chapter, which chartered in the summer of 2015. We currently have over 20 districts involved spanning 3 counties in New York State. I am grateful for the opportunity to potentially serve in this position to help further the goals of the CSTA and our local chapter. I believe working with CSTA members and chapters from all over the country will help me understand the challenges of computer science teachers in diverse school settings and learn about CS policies from all over the country. This knowledge, in turn, can help the chapter grow in our ability to reach out to the greater community and understand NYS computer science policies and trends. It is my goal to both learn from and contribute to the membership in ways that enhance computer science education for all students.

Miles Berry: International Representative
It’s been my privilege to serve the CS education community as the international rep on CSTA’s board for the last couple of years. I’ve had some great opportunities to visit other countries to share what we’re learning about implementing computing education for all back in England, and to learn how other countries are introducing CS in their schools. Let me share four great projects here. For anyone interested in laying a foundation for CS in kindergarten, it’s hard to do better than Linda Liukas’s Hello Ruby work in Finland. Linda has written and illustrated a series of three books, each featuring Ruby, a small girl with powers of logic, perseverance and imagination. Alongside the books, helloruby.com has a great set of unplugged, craft-based activities through which young children can learn computational thinking and what happens inside a computer. New Zealand’s Tim Bell has just received SIGCSE’s outstanding contribution to CS education award. Tim’s CS Unplugged takes some of the harder ideas from CS and makes these accessible to children (and teachers) through practical, classroom based activities. More recently, he and his team have plugged some of this back in, with companion coding activities in Scratch. His CS Field Guide is brilliant too, for those learning or teaching CS at high school level. There are so many fab CS education initiatives in the USA, but if I have to pick one, it would have to be Scratch, from Mitch Resnick’s Lifelong Kindergarten team at MIT. For me, the wonderful thing about Scratch is not its block-based approach to building (rather than writing) code, but rather the global community of young coders that has grown up around it, with a vibrant culture of sharing, remixing and informal learning. It’s also great how Scratch has led on to the development of other tools like Scratch Jr, Snap! and GP. Finally, I have to mention the ‘problem solving activities for computational thinkers’ textbooks that have been developed by KOFAC in South Korea, covering topics such as AI, the internet of things and gene editing. The books combine authoritative, engaging text with practical activities, some unplugged, but others using Korea’s equivalent of Scratch, Entry. I’ve uploaded English translations to Computing At School’s site at http://bit.ly/psafct. I talk a little about these projects, as well as coding competitions in Singapore, in a presentation I gave at Microsoft in Reading, England last November: https://youtu.be/yxd7V6rEH94.

Kristeen Shabram: K-8 Representative
I am extremely excited to be nominated as one of the candidates for K-8 Representative on the CSTA Board. For the past four years, I have taught computer science at the middle level. During this time, I have worked diligently to bring computer science education to all 7th and 8th grade students in my school district. I have also collaborated with K-6 teachers in my school district on integrating computer science concepts into their curriculum. As a Career and Technical educator, I feel it is my responsibility to equip students with the skills needed to be successful as they enter the workforce. A solid foundation of computer science knowledge is essential to achieving that success. Currently, I am in my second year as Chapter President of my local CSTA chapter. In this role, I am serving as a change agent by providing opportunities for teachers in my community to learn about the latest research, tools, and curriculum in computer science education. I am also working to build a strong network of teachers that are passionate about promoting computer science education in my community. My passion and enthusiasm for helping younger students develop a solid foundation of computer science knowledge is what makes me a strong candidate for the K-8 Representative. If elected, I am motivated to provide teachers with innovative curriculum and professional development opportunities that will equip them with best practices when teaching computer science. If teachers have these resources, it will better prepare them to integrate computer science in their classrooms in relevant and meaningful ways, as well as prepare students for the future.

Chinma Uche: 9-12 Representative
In the summer of 2003, five Connecticut AP Computer Science teachers met to discuss how to support each other as the College Board was switching the language of AP CS A from C++ to Java. After that meeting, Connecticut CSTA (CTCSTA) was formed. CTCSTA started the process of joining the national CSTA body in 2004, and became a chapter of CSTA with myself as President in 2009.
CSTA was a small organization of members who believed that CS should be taught to all students. It comprised of people who were ready to dedicate their time and personal resources to advocate for CS. As a member of the CSTA Leadership Cohort, I formed lasting relationships with other CSTA colleagues, benefited from CSTA training, and advocated for CS education for all students. I presented at conferences nationwide and participated in many panels on CS education.
I took what I learned from CSTA to work in Connecticut. I wrote numerous letters to the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE), which led to the formation of the CSDE’s CS Advisory Committee. I presented before the Education Committee and others, and have contributed greatly to the growth of CS in Connecticut. As co-creator of Mobile CSP, a College Board endorsed AP CSP course which has trained more than 200 teachers nationwide, I have contributed greatly to the development of CS teachers, leaders, and Master Teachers. CS leaders have been locally grown in Connecticut and are now leading their own projects, in part due to this course and the supportive community in CT. I actively supported bringing ECEP and ECS to Connecticut, to create additional resources for students and teachers. I advocated for teachers to be treated as professionals and paid respectably for their time. Within Connecticut, I negotiated and brought weekend and summer opportunities for CTCSTA members. My support of CS education includes serving as a Code.org Fundamentals facilitator, since 2014, by training K-5 teachers in CS.
I have been a math teacher for more than 30 years and a CS teacher for more than 15 years. CSTA has been supportive of my work and training. CSTA helped me appreciate the role CS plays in national competitiveness, and understand issues of equity and social justice as they relate to CS education. I benefited from the CS community’s willingness to share resources. The support that I received over the years has led me to commit to supporting others. I see the need for thorough training for teachers so they can be confident of their skill levels before going before students. I also see the importance of providing necessary support for teachers during the school year, given the nature of the K-12 teacher’s school day. Currently, I serve on the CSTA Board in the Chapters and Professional Development committees and I ask for your vote to continue to bring my years of experience to CSTA activities. This is important given the need to bring CS to all students, which requires the development of a new skill set for creating an inclusive classroom. I want to remain a voice at CSTA for teachers, as we march towards #CSFORALL.

Another technology revolution

I was honored (ok…and also proud) recently to attend the South Carolina award ceremony for the recipients of NCWIT Aspirations award. The National Council for Women in Technology recognizes girls for their interest and achievements in the technology and Computer Science classroom. They are right there on the front lines addressing the lack of gender diversity in both education and industry!

Hundreds of high school girls around the county were honored in similar events. In fact, over 8000 students have received awards over the years. For many, this will be a giant stepping stone and the encouragement needed to explore a technological field as a major in college and beyond.

Over the decades as technology has gone from the fringes of elite scientific society to something which is as common as food and shelter for most people. It has become a backbone upon which almost every industry builds it’s tools and connects with the world. Traditionally, the percentage of females involved in the design, implementation, testing, marketing, advertising, sales, and support of the various technologies has been incredibly small. Of course there have been some tremendous contribution from women, but those numbers are still far too small relatively speaking. When females have been involved, there has usually not been much credit or recognition given.

So what that translates to is that many of the products we use now have been created without significant input representing half the population of the planet. Those products naturally will have a certain unavoidable bias to them. That is so crucially important to recognize because women are different! (wait, what?!) And that is a wonderful thing! They ask different questions, interpret problems differently, understand information differently, have different perspectives and priorities, have different passions, want different things, interact with technology differently, and work with people differently. We can take advantage of that!

Who doesn’t love the amazing technology we have at our fingertips? What a typical person can do on their smart phone is more than the entire NASA computing systems used to send rockets to the moon. Walking into an electronics store today we find products available that address almost every aspect of our society. Technology is allowing us to interpret, see, and interact with the world around us in ways never even imaginable. We can find, address, and even solve problems that help us truly make the world a better place.

We are already seeing increased females taking Computer Science and technology classes in middle school, high school and in college. While we still have a huge mountain to climb, we are starting to see more women enter the tech-industry as well. This translates to more women being prominent and active contributors to the products we use every day. We will start to see more recognized female technology leaders. Not far off from now, I think the world is going to experience a new wave of innovation, creativity, and incredible technologies like we have never seen. We will identify and start to solve problems that we didn’t even know existed.

Another technology revolution.

So…to Alexa, Rebecca, Haley, Beau, Lauren, Caroline, Kelsey, Eleanor, Sammie, Amanda, Tanner, Meg, Katherine, Elen, Riley and the many thousands of girls across the United States brave enough to enter into this world, I look forward to seeing and using the products you help to create.

Doug Bergman, 9-12 Representative

Doug Bergman headshot - Gr. 9 to 12 teacher representative

Doug Bergman – Gr. 9 to 12 teacher representative

Rethinking Computational Thinking

Over the past 18 months, I’ve had the opportunity to be part a team led by Joyce Malyn-Smith of EDC for her NSF grant, Computational Thinking from a Disciplinary Perspective. The project was inspired by earlier work that Joyce conducted with Irene Lee. (Irene is the creator of the Project GUTS curriculum for learning science and computational thinking via modeling and simulation).

In their work, Joyce and Irene interviewed a variety of practicing scientists to reveal how they used computing to do science. Through these interviews, they elaborated a variety of practices which include profound and creative uses of computing, often invented by the scientists themselves.

Since the publication of Jeannette Wing’s 2006 paper on computational thinking, our community has been engaged in a sense-making process: what exactly is it? The initial description of “thinking like a computer scientist” is a bit tautological—and not terribly helpful for someone who isn’t already a computer scientist.

I have personally been struggling with understanding the relationships among the broad categories of computer science, programming, and computational thinking. For example:

Q. Can you do computer science without programming?
A: Yes of course; we can analyze the complexity of a search algorithm, realize the need to use hashing to speed a table-lookup, etc.

Q. Can you do programming without computer science?
A. Probably. Beginners’ spaghetti code might be an example. “Hacking” in general suggests building things without an underlying theory (though there may be an implicit one). But let’s say yes to this too.

So, where does CT fit in? Is it in the intersection? Many people think you can do CT without doing programming, so perhaps not. How is CT not just another word for computer science then?

Venn diagram of programming and CS. Where does CT fit?

Venn diagram of programming and CS. Where does CT fit?

Jeannette Wing’s more recent paper (2011) provided this definition of CT: “Computational thinking is the [human] thought processes involved in formulating problems and their solutions so that the solutions are represented in a form that can be effectively carried out by an information-processing agent [a computer].”

To me, this still sounds like “thinking like a computer scientist.” This is what we do! We formulate problems and their solutions so that a computer can carry them out!

So what’s the difference between doing CT and doing computer science?

Thanks to my collaboration with Joyce and Irene (and our whole team), I now see an answer.

Computational thinking is about connecting computing to things in the real world.

Here are some examples.

A starter program we may often have our students write is to model a checking account. Our students will use a variable to represent the bank balance, and build transactions like deposits and withdrawals. Maybe they’ll represent the idea of an overdraft, or insufficient funds.

Let me argue that this simple example captures the essence of computational thinking.

What makes it so is that we are connecting a concept in the world—money in a bank account—to its representation in a computational system. This sounds pretty simple. But there is surprising complexity. What sort of numerics should we use—e.g., should we represent fractional pennies? For a beginning student, we could ignore this. But in a more elaborated solution, this intersection of computational considerations and real-world concerns is crucial—and this is computational thinking.

Here is another example. Consider how we usually represent colors. We use three bytes of information: 0 to 255 amounts of red, green, and blue (RGB) light. For web HTML, we’d use the hexadecimal notation. For example, #8020C0 is 128 (decimal) of red, 32 (decimal) of green, and 192 (decimal) of blue, or this color:

A purple swatch which is #8020C0.

A purple swatch which is #8020C0.

This RGB representation was created at the intersection of the neurophysiology of human vision, the physics of how we build displays, and practical considerations of computing. Why do we mix only these three wavelengths of light? Because the way our eyes and brains work, we can mimic practically any color with just these three. Why use just one byte of information for each color intensity? It turns out the ~16 million colors which can be represented this way is quite powerful—and good enough—for how we use computers now.

So the whole notion of the RGB representation of color is computational thinking in action.

For a more elaborated example, let’s consider the JPEG file format—of the Joint Photographic Experts Group. This team included computer scientists, neurophysiologists, and artists. Their insight was that we could compress images by a factor of ten or more by discarding information that the human eye doesn’t see anyway. What a fabulous insight—and the very essence of computational thinking, because it connects concepts in computing (like compression algorithms) to understandings of our physical and perceptual worlds.

To revise our illustration, now CT is the “connecting tissue” between the world of computer science / programming expertise and the world of disciplinary knowledge:

Visualization of CT as “connecting tissue” between CS/programming and disciplinary knowledge of the world

Visualization of CT as “connecting tissue” between CS/programming and disciplinary knowledge of the world

To “do CT,” you need to know about both worlds. You need to know how to create solutions using computing. You need to know something about a domain in the world. And CT is the knowledge, skills set, and disposition of intermediating between these two.

Now, Jeannette Wing’s 2011 definition makes perfect sense: “Computational thinking is the thought processes involved in formulating problems and their solutions so that the solutions are represented in a form that can be effectively carried out by an information-processing agent.”

Yes! The key is recognizing that there is a non-computational domain—something in the world that we care about—which is being transformed (represented computationally) in this process.

To close the loop back to Joyce’s project: In addition to myself and Irene Lee, Joyce’s team had project advisers Michael Evans and Shuchi Grover, her EDC colleagues Paul Goldenberg, Lynn Goldsmith, Marian Pasquale, Sarita Pillai, and Kevin Waterman, and project evaluator David Reider.

In a series of planning meetings and then a pair of 2-day workshops with K-12 CS practitioners and researchers from around the country, we developed the idea of how computational thinking is transformed by connecting it to scientific disciplinary practice.

We created a framework with a set of five “elements” which illustrate the integration of computational thinking into disciplinary understanding.

Please stay tuned for work to come from our group, presenting this idea of “Computational Thinking From a Disciplinary Perspective.”

It’s given me a whole new way to think about what computational thinking can mean.

It’s about connecting computing to the world.

head shot of Fred Martin, chair of board of directors

Fred Martin, chair of board of directors

What are we Doing?

When I was asked to write this blog, I wondered if I should focus on the Arkansas Computer Science (CS) Initiative, after all who doesn’t like to brag about their program? Instead, I decided to publicly address something that has weighed on my mind over the past three years. Yes, while Obama was in office and more so now that Trump is in office. At almost every national presentation I have given, I have always stated, at some point and in some way, that “Computer Science is not a partisan issue, it will only become one when we the community force it to be one.” This is the focus of this blog.

On January 30, 2016, President Obama asked Congress to allocate $4 billion to expand K-12 CS education. This announcement, while the amount was questioned, was met with over all excitement and enthusiasm; the community had a POTUS that was finally talking about CS education. It is what really made the #CSforALL movement gain national attention and respect. Personally, I was captivated with the renewed excitement; people who had seemed to doubt that their state would ever make any progress forward, were again actively engaging in visionary discourse. We all know that the $4 billion was never approved in a federal budget, nor did many who were connected to D.C. discussions ever think it would be. Notwithstanding, the announcement generated headlines, got other federal agencies thinking about CS (thank you National Science Foundation), and bolstered the movement amongst states that had been thinking about, but not yet wholeheartedly committed to, jumping into the CS Education arena, which Arkansas has led since 2015 (yes, I had to throw that in there). With that in mind I ask, what are we doing to keep the excitement we all felt on January 30, 2016 as a catalyst for change?

Fast forward to September 25, 2017, President Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump announce that POTUS is requesting that the Federal Department of Education (DOE) devote at least $200 million of its grant funds to STEM fields with an emphasis on CS education. This announcement, which spurred the #CSforKids movement, was met with mixed reactions, and unfortunately, individual reactions could almost be predicted based on party affiliation. Personally, I was again excited, not at the mixed reactions, but that President Trump had found a way to continue the discussions about CS education from the platform of our nation’s highest executive office. We all knew that it would not look like President Obama’s plan, but I will admit that, prior to this announcement, I was anxious about it potentially disappearing from the federal focus completely. Before I get emails, I will acknowledge that we are still waiting on the DOE to open the competitive grant program, which I believe to be delayed for various reasons including but not limited to aggregating and considering the feedback and the lack of a long-term federal budget. With that in mind I ask, what are we doing to maintain the initiative’s momentum in a positive and cohesive manner?

Now that the history portion is out of the way, I address directly the question my title asks, “What are we doing?” After September 25, 2017, I was appalled at the way our community started fighting through various social media channels. I was troubled by the personal attacks that started flying between people who agree with each other more often than not on other political issues. I was disheartened to witness that the unofficial national leaders in the CS community, people who I admire and highly respect, were reduced to engaging in the political bickering and attempts to silence opposing viewpoints that has stalemated our country’s progress in so many other areas over the past two decades. This attitude shift in the community and its unofficial leadership created a toxic environment, which replaced excitement and enthusiasm with discouragement and pessimism. With that in mind I ask, what are we doing to make sure that CS does not become a topic that we are afraid to discuss publicly?

Fret not, all is not lost! We continue to see great bipartisan efforts taking place to continue the positive focus on CS education. The Governors for CS group, which is co-chaired by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) and Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D), is a great example of a group of individuals with various political ideologies, state needs, and regional differences coming together and focusing on advancing CS education, not only within their respective states but also across the nation. In addition to state executives, our community has a wonderful support structure through various groups, that for the most part play well together. The Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), #CSforALL Consortium, ECEP, Code.org, and many other large scale efforts provide our community with mostly positive and non-political mechanisms that support our community’s continued growth. With that in mind I ask, what are we doing to follow and support the leaders and visionaries of our state and national efforts?

What are we doing? We are moving forward together! Sure, there will be some nay-sayers and negativity out there, but that is okay. Critical thinking and challenging the status quo is what makes a community stronger. To be clear, I am not asking for the CS community to become an “echo chamber,” as I firmly believe that open and honest discourse is necessary. Considering different situations and points of view is how successful and long-lasting programs are built. I am asking that we as a community step back occasionally and ask “what are we doing?” Are we engaging in conversations that are bolstering or hurting the initiative? Are we focusing on minutia, that while important, is prohibiting progress? Are we demonstrating to the larger educational community that CS should be taken seriously and is of vital importance to our students, or are we creating a circus side show? Are we building up the other members of the community, or are we putting them down to make ourselves look better? In short, I guess what I am asking everyone reading this to do is what I need to do a better job of myself. Stop asking “what are we doing” but instead ask, “what am I doing, and should I continue doing it?”

Anthony Owen, State Department Representative

The role CSTA has played in my professional life

This month the announcement for nominations for the board of directors made me think about my path through CSTA. The first time I heard of CSTA was in 2008; starting a new job in a new school having been teaching CS to High School students and was embarking on a new adventure of teaching K-5 Computer Science. It was the first time I was teaching Computer Science to that age group and I was apprehensive about some of the content and available resources. I teach at the American School of Tegucigalpa in Honduras, a small under-developed country in the heart of Central America. AST is a N-12 non-profit bilingual school, so we are an English spoken campus. Even though most schools offer computer classes, my school has always strived to give the best college preparation possible. So the expectations for me as a teacher were high. Being part of the smallest department in my school, it can be a challenge getting PD and resources. Luckily, I found the CSTA website and went directly to their resources and curriculum sections. As I explored the page I got interested and decided to become a member. As a new member of a community of teachers I now know we share similar challenges when teaching CS.

In 2012 CSTA was calling for nominations for the board’s upcoming elections. I was hesitant, thought the odds were not good for a Latin-American teacher. Turns out I got elected as the International Representative. I got to be part of their meetings which dealt with important topics, looking to improve and support K-12 CS education. I worked with the curriculum committee, alongside Deborah Seehorn and Tammy Pirmann reviewing the published CSTA K-12 Standards. Later I collaborated on my favorite project translating the Standards to Spanish which have been helpful for those teachers teaching CS in Spanish.  CSTA is not only meetings, it is also a place to grow and share, like the Annual CSTA conference which I always attend and volunteer to help out. It takes a lot of people and work to put it together. There are many ways to volunteer at the conference and it is a wonderful way to get involved and advocate for CSTA as well as make connections.

In 2016 I ran for a second term on the board, this time as Representative at Large and once again was elected to serve. This time around the experience was different as I was able to be part of different committees and meet more of the active, engaged and passionate members. I now know more about all the resources, workshops, scholarship, keynotes, PD opportunities CSTA brings to the K-12 CS teachers and how much heart is put into these. We hope that these efforts will improve CS education around the world. Family. My best advice as a CSTA member? Get involved, be an advocate, join a chapter or collaborate with other members. I guarantee that it will be worth it.

Michelle Lagos, Representative at Large

How Far We’ve Come – and How Far We Have To Go

Roughly ten years ago, the US computing community first started to really address policy about teaching K-12 computer science. The ACM Education Policy Committee was formed with K-12 education as its focus, and a few people – including Cameron Wilson (then ACM policy director, now COO and President of the Advocacy Coalition of code.org), Chris Stephenson (then executive director of CSTA, now with Google), and I (as chair of the committee) spent quite a bit of time talking to education policy makers in DC about computing education. This included both staff members in Congress and people in science policy organizations in DC. It was shocking – almost to a person they had no idea of the importance of the computer science, e.g. that even then most STEM jobs openings were and were projected to be in computing. It was almost as if Silicon Valley and DC lived in different universes!
On the one hand, things have changed drastically in ten years – awareness of the importance of computing and computing education is universal, in DC, by state governors and legislatures, and to a good extent by the public. When STEM-oriented policy is created these days, computer science almost always is included, something that wasn’t true a short number of years ago. And there has been significant growth in the amount of K-12 computer science education, as exemplified by the over 5-fold increase in the number of students taking AP Computer Science exams over the past ten years.
On the other hand, US K-12 CS education is just getting started. If the entire K-12 curriculum were invented from scratch today, it is not implausible to think that computer science would be as fundamental as math or language arts, with as many specialized teachers or general teachers who are well-versed in computer science, and as many hours devoted to computer science as any other primary subject. We are very far from there – in our curricula, in the number of teachers, in the orientation of schools of education where most teachers are prepared. This is where CSTA and its partner organizations come in – in continuing to advocate for the importance of K-12 computer science education, in helping with curricular standards, and most importantly, in providing community for computer science teachers, particularly when often there are only one or two per school. Ten years from now, things will again look very different than now, and CSTA will have played a major role in the evolution.

Bobby Schnabel, Partner Representative

A Message from CSTA Incoming Executive Director Jake Bastin

As the incoming Executive Director of CSTA, I’m thrilled to introduce myself to the greater CSTA community. Instead of vague generalizations and platitudes, I’d like to share a story about my first year teaching computer science, and the role CSTA played in my development as a teacher.

I’ll never forget room 225 at Lindblom Math and Science Academy, my first classroom. It had some quirks: desks bolted down to the floor, four fewer computers than my largest class, a heating system that required opening the windows every day of a Chicago winter. Most importantly it had 150 students who were ready to learn computer science with me, even if I wasn’t so sure I was ready to teach it.

In that building I found incredible support — a principal who knew computer science should be a core part of the school, colleagues that I still count among my closest friends, and the most creative, determined and fun students I could ask for.

The one thing I couldn’t find was another computer science teacher.

While I knew it was best to go along with the jokes and eye rolls when mandatory department meetings were held, what I really felt was jealousy. Everyone else had a time to discuss what content and practices were working, and get ideas on how to reach individual students. A group of coworkers that didn’t always have the answers, but at least understood the challenges everyone was facing.

Then I went to the first Chicago CSTA meeting of the year and discovered I had something better: a CS department that spanned the entire city and connected me to the latest ideas in teaching and learning computer science. I had finally found my team and was thrilled to begin working alongside them.

A lot has changed in the CS education world since I joined CSTA eight years ago—a wave of publicity around computer science education and shifting policies around the world—but the heart of the movement remains the same: dedicated teachers fighting for all students to learn computer science.

Our vibrant local chapters are the heart of this organization, and in my new role with CSTA I will focus on identifying and highlighting the most successful work happening at local chapters so we can spread those great ideas to all of our members. This starts with sharing—if your local chapter has something amazing planned, or an idea you need help executing, please let me know. You can always find me at jake.baskin@csteachers.org, and if you’ll be at SIGCSE say hi in person!

Jake Baskin
Incoming Executive Director, CSTA

Common questions about the CSTA board

I hope everyone had a great holiday break is leaping back into the school year with renewed drive and energy. With all of the chaos of the new year, you might have missed the call for nominations for the CSTA Board of Directors. There is no better way to contribute to CSTA’s mission of empowering and advocating for K-12 CS teachers than to serve on the Board. There are five open positions this year, four representing specific perspectives and a fifth, at-large position.

K-8 Representative: A classroom teacher who is currently teaching computer science at the pre-high school level.
9-12 Representative: A classroom teacher who is currently teaching computer science at the high school level.
International Representative: An international (outside the United States) classroom teacher who is currently teaching or promoting computer science at the pre-collegiate level.
State Department Representative: An educator or administrator who reports to a state department of education and oversees, in some capacity, computer science education.
At-Large Representative: An educator with responsibilities for K-12 CS education.

To apply for one of these position, you simply need to submit a resume and a brief application form – details can be found at http://www.csteachers.org/news/379241/Announcing-the-CSTA-Board-of-Directors-Elections–Nominations-Period.htm. The deadline for submissions is January 31 (11:59pm PST), so don’t wait too long. Questions can be directed to nominations@csta-hq.org.

In case you were on the fence about applying for the Board, here are answers to five of the most common questions that potential candidates ask:

Q: How much work is involved in being a Board member?
A: You have probably seen the phrase “the CSTA Board is a working board” in several places. What this means is that members of the Board are expected to help carry out the business of the organization – not just advise or supervise. This includes monthly virtual meetings and two face-to-face board meetings, one held in conjunction with the CSTA Annual Conference and another held in the late fall. While these meetings are packed and productive, most of the Board’s business is conducted throughout the year by committees, with individuals working from home and coordinating via phone conferences. The time commitment can vary by task, e.g., the work conducted by the Elections & Nominations Committee is concentrated around setting up and running the annual elections, and is light during other times of the year. On average, I would guess that the workload averages out to 2-3 hours per week.

Q: Are Board members expected to cover their own travel expenses to meetings?
A: No, expenses for travel are reimbursed (within reason) following CSTA’s travel policy guidelines. This includes travel, hotel, and meals at Board meetings. It also includes expenses related to attending the CSTA Annual Conference, since Board members are expected to attend this event and help out by proctoring sessions and assisting with registration. A copy of the travel policy is provided to all newly elected Board members.

Q: Why are there different positions on the Board, such as 9-12 Representative and International Representative?
A: The mission of CSTA is a broad one, promoting K-12 CS education and supporting the interests and professional development of our 26,000+ members. It is essential that the Board have a diversity of perspectives and experiences to address the issues and challenges that arise in the organization’s business. Each position has requirements to ensure that key perspectives are represented on the Board. For example, the 9-12 Representative is required to be a “9–12 classroom teacher who is currently teaching computer science at the high school level.” Once on the Board, all members are equal in status and welcome to contribute to all initiatives.

Q: If I apply for a position, does that automatically mean I will be on the ballot?
A: Unfortunately, no. According to the CSTA bylaws, the election ballot will list at most two candidates for each open Board position. If more than two qualified candidates submit applications, the Elections & Nominations Committee is charged with selecting the two most outstanding candidates to be placed on the ballot. Committee members independently rank the candidates using a rubric that considers factors such as leadership skills and experience, understanding of core issues in CS education, and alignment of goals to CSTA’s mission. While this model does sometimes mean that highly qualified candidates do not make the ballot, it does allow for us to keep the ballot size manageable while still providing detailed statements from each candidate.

Q: Why should I consider running for the CSTA Board?
A: Serving on the CSTA Board of Directors is an extremely rewarding opportunity to give back to the teaching community. Board members help to set the vision for the organization and work to promote CS education on a global scale. Their work supports and provides professional development for CSTA’s more than 26,000 members worldwide. In addition, working closely with other amazing educators is rewarding in itself.

JRN, Journalism, Media, Computing faculty members

Dave Reed
Past Chair, CSTA Board of Directors
Chair, Nominations & Elections Committee