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

Designing Computer Science Classrooms

Computer science is being taught in all kinds of classrooms across the country, not just in computer labs. As more schools increase their computer science offerings and look to dedicate space to those classes, teachers are faced with the question: What should a computer science classroom look like?

In CS teacher professional development, we discuss how to make sure that all students feel welcome in the classroom, including the physical environment itself. NCWIT has a great resource, How Does the Physical Environment Affect Women’s Entry and Persistence in Computing?, that identifies how underrepresented students are impacted by posters and other images that reinforce stereotypes about computing. For example, images that associate “geek” with CS (Star Trek, a lone coder in the dark, etc.) or that call attention to the need for more women, can have a negative impact. Instead, consider using imagery like the new set of posters from NCWIT and Careers With Code, which show a variety of role models using computer science to pursue a personal passion or change their world. The goal should be to select images that appeal to all students and showcase a variety of people.

Working with K-12 teachers, I’ve had the opportunity to see many different types of CS classrooms. Sometimes the computers line the perimeter of the room, facing the wall but making it difficult for some students to see the teacher and their computer at the same time. Some rooms have rows of computers where it’s easier to see the teacher but often difficult to walk around easily. And some are regular classrooms that rely on a laptop cart. All of them have their advantages and disadvantages; the goal is to have a physical space that supports effective teaching.

The college I teach at is also looking to redesign one of our computer labs dedicated to CS courses, with a focus on supporting student collaboration. As more and more of our teaching relies on collaborative and cooperative learning activities such as pair programming, POGIL, debate team carousels, etc. the traditional classroom with rows of computers does not work well. So, we are examining ways to implement flexible classroom arrangements with tables and chairs on wheels that can be easily switched into another configuration. With these types of activities we move from a “guide on the side” model of teaching to more of a “sage of the stage” model and have less need for a large, central area with whiteboards and projection screen.

These types of considerations for the physical design of CS classrooms also directly support practices described in the CSTA K-12 CS Standards, specifically the practices of Collaborating Around Computing and Fostering an Inclusive Computing Culture. So, what would your ideal classroom to teach computer science in look like? How will it support collaboration and make sure that all students feel like they belong?

Jennifer Rosato

Jennifer Rosato
Teacher Education Representative