You might be a specialist in your school and the only one teaching computer science. You might be one of the few classroom teachers at your school or at your grade level integrating computer science into your instruction. You might be the math or science teacher who was just asked to also teach computer science. Your school might be integrating computer science at all grade levels and you and your colleagues have questions about best practices in teaching computer science. You may have been teaching computer science for some time but feel overwhelmed by all the options we have today.
Where can you go to feel supported and ask those questions that come up? Questions like:
How can I fit computer science into the already overcrowded school day? What is the best way to teach 1st graders about networks and the Internet? When should my students be moving from block-based coding to a text-based language? How can I meet the needs of my class when I have students who have never coded and students who are already programming proficiently in one or more languages? And so many more…
In my opinion nothing can beat face-to-face connections and CSTA provides some exceptional options for this. You really must plan to attend the annual CSTA Conference. It is an amazing experience, and the perfect place to meet and make connections with others who are doing exactly what you are. The next conference is scheduled for July 7-10, 2019 in Phoenix, AZ. This conference is only once a year, but you can keep those face-to-face connections going by getting involved with your local CSTA chapter and some regions are starting to hold regional conferences as well!
What about those times between chapter meetings and conferences? If you have questions today, you don’t want to have to wait until your next CSTA chapter meeting or the next conference to get them answered. I have never met some of amazing CS teachers who I consider mentors, colleagues, and friends. Most of my connections with other computer science teachers have been made online even if I have, subsequently, met them at a conference or other event.
Where can you go online to add to your community of computer science teachers? I recommend both Twitter and Facebook.
Twitter was the first place that I made connections with other K-8 teachers of computer science and you can, too! The K-8 Teacher Representatives from the CSTA Board of Directors moderate regularly scheduled chats on Twitter on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of most months during the school year. You can follow along or join using the #csk8 hashtag! Each chat has a specific topic, and the chats are archived if you happen to miss one. The best thing is that the hashtag is used by K-8 CS teachers to share about what they are doing, and to ask questions of other K-8 CS teachers all the time, not just during the chat.
Twitter is awesome, but it is also very public, the length of a post is limited, and it can be difficult to follow ongoing conversations depending on how people reply. We, the K-8 reps on the CSTA Board, wanted a place for an inclusive, online community of K-8 teachers of CS – a place where teachers could share the amazing things they are doing in their classrooms, ask for and give help, and keep conversations going all year. At the CSTA Conference in July 2018, we asked some of the K-8 teachers who were in attendance where they thought this community should be. For most, this was Facebook. In August 2018, the CSTAK8 Group was launched! We would love to have you join us there to help build our community.
You don’t have to be or feel alone. Make some connections online and offline!