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 Teacher Certification Committee

The Certification Committee is primarily concerned with issues surrounding teacher certification for Computing teachers. Our most recent effort was the publication of the white paper, Bugs in the System: Computer Science Teacher Certification in the U.S. This was a substantial effort of members from almost every state! You can see the state map that resulted from this work, where each state has a color code based on whether or not that state has a certification for HS, for MS or no certifications at all. One of the criteria is Computer Science as a required course, but not one state had that in 2013.

On our CSTA website, you will find the Certification section at the bottom of the left side navigation. We currently have two links, one to the resources which include downloadable PDFs of our two white papers as well as information on a methods course for teacher prep programs. The second link is to an interactive map of the United States. Each state contains answers to three questions: Is Computer Science a required course? Is there a Middle School Computer Science teacher certification? and Is there a High School Computer Science teacher certification?  Soon, we will be adding a link to this page to allow our members to self-report changes to these questions for their state. Advocacy for Computer Science education is having an effect on this data, and we would like to keep this information current.

With the increasing importance of K-12 computer science, CS teacher certification is becoming even more critical. The committee welcomes news from any state that is working on CS teacher certification. The committee also welcomes any volunteers who would like to serve on the committee.

Who is on the Certification Committee?
Chair – Tammy Pirmann
Members – Deborah Seehorn, Aman Yadav, and Lissa Clayborn

 

CSTA Board of Directors Election (part 2)

As a follow-up to the reminder about the CSTA Board of Directors election, here are some notes from the Nominations & Elections Committee.

  1. We apologize if any candidates have had trouble submitting applications or experienced delays in receiving acknowledgements. CSTA is currently transitioning to a new association management system (AMS) and had some related technical issues for a period. If you have any problems in the future, please contact nominations@csta-hq.org or customerservice@csta-hq.org.
  2. There are five open positions up for election in 2016. Two other positions, School District Representative and Teacher Education Representative, were scheduled to also be open this year. This would have resulted in seven of ten elected Board positions being open at once. In situations where 2/3 or more of the positions are open, the Nominations & Elections Committee is charged with extending one or more positions by one year to ensure Board continuity. No Board member can have his or her term extended more than once.
  3. 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 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 At-Large Representative?
    A: The mission of CSTA is a broad one, promoting K-12 CS education and supporting the interests and professional development of our 22,000+ 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 22,000 members.  In addition, working closely with other amazing educators is rewarding in itself.

Details on applying for the CSTA Board of Directors can be found at http://csta.acm.org/About/sub/AboutFiles/Election2016.html. 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.

Dave Reed
Chair, CSTA Board of Directors

CSTA High School Survey Results Are In

The Research Committee has been analyzing the High School survey results from May and below are some of the highlights. A detailed Summary of Results is available on our website.

  • 51% of the survey respondents have computer science teaching experience of 15 years or more
  • 45% of the teachers reported that computer science courses make up 50-75% of their teaching load.
  • 66% of the teachers reported that they are offering a CS principals course
  • 79% of the teachers reported that they offer the APCS A course.
  • 68% of those who offer APCS A course reported that half of their course enrollment are female, and between 20-40% are underrepresented minorities.
  • Majority of the teachers (68%) also reported that CS enrollment has increased in the past 3 years

These statistics are encouraging for the outlook of CS education and what is going on in the High Schools at this time. However, this data is self-reported and we need to examine ways to triangulate the numbers, especially the APCS-A enrollment numbers. We encourage you to view the full summary.

The Research Committee,

Stephanie Hoeppner & Aman Yadav

CSTA2016 Submissions and Reviews

The review period for next summer’s annual conference just ended, and we will have an amazing program for you! For this conference we will have workshops, one hour sessions, 20 minute short talks and birds of a feather networking opportunities. Almost one hundred professionals in the field of computer science education reviewed the submissions. Every continent was represented as well as every level and type of education.

The next step is arguably the toughest. The planning team met in late-October to determine the actual program. We want this conference to be the best professional development and conference for K-12 computing educators, so we put a lot of effort into balancing all of the offerings.

I look forward to seeing you in San Diego in July of 2016!

Tammy Pirmann
Review Chair, CSTA 2016
CSTA Board Member, District Representative

The CSTA Curriculum Committee

The primary purpose of the CSTA Curriculum Committee is to provide K-12 computer science teachers with access to high quality, standards-based curriculum resources. The committee has vetted several crosswalks that have been submitted by curriculum providers with the CSTA K-12 CS Standards. The crosswalks that have been vetted by the committee include those submitted by Linux, Oracle, Google, Tech Corps, and Mobile Makers iOS. With approval by the curriculum provider, vetted crosswalks to the standards are posted on the CSTA website.

A major publication for the CSTA Curriculum Committee is the CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards, released in 2011 and available on the CSTA website. The purpose of the standards is to delineate a core set of learning standards designed to provide the foundation for a complete computer science curriculum and its implementation at the K–12 level. The standards allow the Curriculum Committee to support our CSTA members by informing them of quality standards-based curriculum resources. To better support and assist CS educators, the CSTA K-12 Standards have been cross-walked to these national standards: Common Core State Standards, Common Core Mathematical Practice Standards, STEM Career Cluster Topics, and the Partnership for the 21st Century Essential Skills Standards. The CSTA K-12 CS Standards are also available on the CSTA website en español.

A major undertaking for the CSTA Curriculum Committee during 2015-2016 is the revision of the K-12 CS Standards. The process began last week with a request for input from educators and other stakeholders about the standards. Read the blog post from earlier this month.

The current members of the CSTA Curriculum Committee are:

Laura Blankenship, The Baldwin School, lblanken@gmail.com
Debbie Carter, CSTA Board Member Emeritus, dpcarterpa@verizon.net
Fred Martin, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, fredm@cs.uml.edu
Tammy Pirmann, School District of Springfield Township, PA, tpirmann@gmail.com
Deborah Seehorn, CSTA Past Chair, deborah.seehorn@outlook.com
Lissa Clayborn, CSTA Deputy Executive Director/Chief Operations Officer, l.clayborn@csta-hq.org

Frequently, the Curriculum Committee collaborates with other CSTA committees on projects of interest to both committees. Occasionally, the committee solicits assistance from experts with a particular area of computing curriculum expertise. We welcome your comments and suggestions on ways the CSTA Curriculum Committee can better meet the needs of our CSTA members.

Deborah Seehorn; CSTA Curriculum Committee Chair

Website Links:

Completed Curriculum Crosswalks: http://csta.acm.org/Curriculum/sub/CompletedCrosswalks.html

CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards: http://csta.acm.org/Curriculum/sub/K12Standards.html

CSTA Advocate Blog: http://advocate.csteachers.org/

Certification Committee Update

The Certification Committee of CSTA is responsible for coordinating efforts around computer science teacher certification in the United States.

The CSTA Wisconsin Chapter is part of a consortium with University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse and Marquette University to provide an alternate path to certification for teachers who already hold a valid certificate in another discipline. It uses a combination of existing courses and training opportunities along with MOOCs and a faculty observer to provide a CS add-on certification.

If you have anything interesting happening in your state around computer science teacher certification, we would like to hear about it!

Tammy Pirmann
Chair, Certification Committee
CSTA Board Member, District Representative

We’d love to see more student-developed apps like NeverLost

Image

A child goes for a walk in the nearby forest… all of a sudden she realizes that she has lost her way. How can she alert her guardian that she may be in danger, especially when she has a mental handicap? A challenging situation no doubt, calling for a practical solution… which came in the form of the “NeverLost” app, designed and coded by a group of students from four collaborating schools in Corfu, Greece.

As the website is in Greek only, I will attempt here to present an overview of their work.

The four schools met and got down to work on their first task: to roll out a plan. Here are the steps:

  • Investigate application requirements.
  • Carry out market research to explore the competition in apps designed for kids.
  • Design functions.
  • Delegate tasks to the individual schools.
  • Code app in App Inventor.
  • Design app in Photoshop.
  • Transfer design to App Inventor.
  • Publish app in Google Play Store.
  • Design and develop webpage.

Next they decided which school would be responsible for each stage of the plan; “Kato Korakiana Vocational High School” would work on the design of the app and the webpage, and Amfipagites Middle School, the 2nd General High School and the 4th General High School of Corfu would collaborate on developing the app and writing the code in App Inventor.

They concluded that the app should include six functions:

  • Make phone call (e.g. dad, mom, guardian)
  • Send message (e.g. dad, mom, guardian)
  • View your location on map
  • SMS your location (Latitude and Longitude coordinates)
  • SMS your location on map
  • Settings (assign phone number to receive calls and messages)

Finally, they decided that a short video would help explain the concept to potential users, so they filmed a “trailer” for their app.

The project was presented with great success at a Computer Science Teachers Conference in Northern Greece and received wide appraisal in the national press and the Internet. Μore information is available on their Facebook page or directly by email: scroll to the bottom of their webpage for details (I have checked that their admins are eager to answer questions and provide info in English).

We would really love to see more great projects like this: the students and teachers involved deserve all the credit in the world for their social awareness, teamwork abilities, app market savvy and  competitive design skills. Keep an eye out for this year’s video competition of the CSTA Equity Committee themed around Computing for the Common Good: dates and guidelines to be announced soon!

Mina Theofilatou
CSTA International Representative
Kefalonia, Greece

 

neverlost_app

CSTA Professional Development Committee

The Professional Development Committee’s purpose is to improve teaching and learning in the computing disciplines by identifying the ongoing professional development needs of members; by developing, facilitating, and overseeing the professional development activities of the organization; and by building partnerships with other organizations that support CSTA’s mission and goals.

Specific initiatives include:

  • Encouraging networking and resource sharing opportunities for members.
  • Building upon the success of the CSTA Annual Conference to provide more professional development opportunities for members.
  • Developing and disseminating materials and providing support for local, chapter-driven professional development.
  • Expanding the presence of the CSTA, especially board members, at regional and national conferences.

The current members of the committee are Dave Reed (chair), Myra Deister, Irene Lee, and Fran Trees.

Dave Reed
Chair, Professional Development Committee

Research Committee Survey Information

The Research Committee does just what the name implies – research surrounding computer science education in K-12 setting.  The research is often in conjunction with other organizations, such as Oracle that led to the recent CSTA – Oracle Academy 2014 High School CS Survey.  Beside partnering with corporations, CSTA also conducts larger research projects, such as the Bugs in the System: Computer Science Teacher Certification in the US.  These types of research are important to understanding what is happening in the landscape of computer science education and identify issues our CS educators face .

Along with larger research projects we also do our own CSTA Membership Survey (results of past years here) and CSTA National Secondary Computer Science Survey (results of past years here).  These two surveys alternate years to allow CSTA to collect complimentary data and inform our work.

  • The membership survey gives us data on membership demographics, how they are connected to CS education, and CSTA resources they find useful in their work.  This gives us data to improve CSTA’s support and direction for the membership at large.
  • The CSTA National Secondary CS Survey gives us data on what is being taught at the high school level, the types of certification teachers hold, demographics of the students we reach, as well as allowing us to see the demographic reach of CS education.  The survey data allows us to tailor our professional development resources to meet the curricular needs of the CSTA members and apply for grants and funding based on the student population we are reaching.

This years 2015 CSTA National Secondary Computer Science Survey was sent out in an e-blast yesterday (4/21) to the US Secondary membership. We would greatly appreciate your time in completing the survey as the data is valuable in meeting your needs.  As an incentive, we have a drawing for five Amazon gift cards worth $100 for those that complete the survey.

Survey link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/2015NatHSCS (Closes on May 5, 2015, at 11:59pm HST)

Thanks,
The Research Committee
Stephanie Hoepppner & Aman Yadav, CSTA Board and Research Committee Members