CS Ed Week Celebrations

This is my first CS Ed Week as Executive Director for CSTA and I am so excited about the progress our organization has made during my tenure. While CS Ed Week is about inspiring students to take an interest in computer science, it is also an opportunity to honor dedicated teachers fighting for all students to learn computer science.

At CSTA, we’re celebrating CS Ed Week with two very cool events — both of which are honoring dedicated educators — and by sharing some big announcements. Keep reading to learn about the big things happening at CSTA.

CS Ed Week Kickoff

I was honored to kickoff CS Ed Week at the University of Washington in Seattle to award the 2nd annual Champions of CS winners. Along with the founder and CEO of Code.org, Hadi Partovi, and Melinda Gates, we honored a student, teacher, district and an organization for their outstanding work in Computer Science. Congratulations to Jocelyn Marencik, Robert Defillippo, Chanel White, Seaside High School, Lincoln Public Schools, GirlsCodingWithGirls, and AccessCSforAll — you truly are champions of computer science.

CSTA Honors Chicago’s Computer Science Teachers

In collaboration with Chicago Public School’s CS4All, CSTA and our Chicago and Suburban Chicago chapters highlighted and honored computer science teachers in Chicago at our CSTA Night for Excellence in CS Teaching. Held at Google’s Chicago office, the event included networking opportunities and the presentation of outstanding teaching and administrator awards to deserving computer science champions.

Congratulations to Chicago Public Schools awardees, Stephen Tow from Goudy Technology Academy and Jennifer Roscoe from Lane Tech College Prep, on your achievements and your scholarships to the 2019 CSTA Annual Conference. You truly are champions for your students.

CSTA’s 2018 Administrator Impact Award Winner

Each year, CSTA opens nominations for our Administrator Impact Award to honor an educator who has made a significant impact to improve access to and the quality of computer science education.

I am so excited to announce the winner of CSTA’s 2018 Administrator Impact Award Winner — Barb Schwamman, Superintendent of Osage Community School District, and Superintendent of Riceville Community School District, in Osage and Riceville, Iowa.

In Osage, Superintendent Schwamman started the 2017–18 school year with zero computer science opportunities. Recognizing the importance of computer science, she added courses at both the middle and high school levels and supported the CS Fundamentals training of about 40 K-5 teachers. Schawmman is working to add new options in game development and cybersecurity. In Riceville, she is working toward the same successes she had in Osage. Schwamman proves that rural students can benefit, sustain and grow computer science opportunities.

Congratulations to Superintendent Schwamman! The CSTA family wishes her much success as she continues to expand computer science in her districts.

Infosys Grant

To commemorate this year’s CSEdWeek, Infosys Foundation USA is announcing several grants to support thousands of underrepresented and underprivileged students, young adults, and educators to learn about computer science through a combination of long-term programs as well as one-time coding events across the US.

I’m excited to announce CSTA as one of those grant recipients. This generous grant, in the amount of $150,000 will help support our initiative to grow CSTA+ membership, and more importantly, help support our 75 chapters.

Chapter Grants

From my first day at CSTA, I’ve told everyone who will listen that our chapters are the heart of our organization. I’m proud to announce the launch of CSTA’s chapter grant fund, which will make over $130,000 available to chapters interested in bringing professional development and programming to their regions. This more than meets our goal of putting 50% of CSTA+ dues back into supporting local CSTA chapters. Chapters leaders will receive more details later this week.

CSTA to take the CS Honor Society National

CSTA will be taking the CS Honor Society national for the 2019-20 school year! Launched by CodeVA, the CS Honor Society acknowledges academic excellence in CS disciplines — and the enthusiasm that surrounds it. Originally designed for Virginia high schools — with a growing number of out of state chapters — students must not only meet academic requirements but also must complete service hours in support of CS education. I am very excited about the expansion of this initiative and cannot wait to see its growth on the national level. Stay tuned for more information about getting involved.

2019 is shaping up to be a great year for CSTA. Thank you for all you do for your students, computer science education sphere and for your continued support of CSTA. I hope to see you all at the annual conference in Phoenix.


Jake Baskin
Executive Director CSTA

Celebrating CS Ed Week

This is my first CS Ed Week as Executive Director for CSTA and I am so excited about the progress our organization has made during my tenure. While CS Ed Week is about inspiring students to take an interest in computer science, it is also an opportunity to honor dedicated teachers fighting for all students to learn computer science.

At CSTA, we’re celebrating CS Ed Week with two very cool events — both of which are honoring dedicated educators — and by sharing some big announcements. Keep reading to learn about the big things happening at CSTA.

CS Ed Week Kickoff

I was honored to kickoff CS Ed Week at the University of Washington in Seattle to award the 2nd annual Champions of CS winners. Along with the founder and CEO of Code.org, Hadi Partovi, and Melinda Gates, we honored a student, teacher, district and an organization for their outstanding work in Computer Science. Congratulations to Jocelyn Marencik, Robert Defillippo, Chanel White, Seaside High School, Lincoln Public Schools, GirlsCodingWithGirls, and AccessCSforAll — you truly are champions of computer science.

CSTA Honors Chicago’s Computer Science Teachers

In collaboration with Chicago Public School’s CS4All, CSTA and our Chicago and Suburban Chicago chapters highlighted and honored computer science teachers in Chicago at our CSTA Night for Excellence in CS Teaching. Held at Google’s Chicago office, the event included networking opportunities and the presentation of outstanding teaching and administrator awards to deserving computer science champions.

Congratulations to Chicago Public Schools awardees, Stephen Tow from Goudy Technology Academy and Jennifer Roscoe from Lane Tech College Prep, on your achievements and your scholarships to the 2019 CSTA Annual Conference. You truly are champions for your students.

Congratulations to CSTA’s 2018 Administrator Impact Award Winner

Each year, CSTA opens nominations for our Administrator Impact Award to honor an educator who has made a significant impact to improve access to and the quality of computer science education.

I am so excited to announce the winner of CSTA’s 2018 Administrator Impact Award Winner — Barb Schwamman, Superintendent of Osage Community School District, and Superintendent of Riceville Community School District, in Osage and Riceville, Iowa.

In Osage, Superintendent Schwamman started the 2017–18 school year with zero computer science opportunities. Recognizing the importance of computer science, she added courses at both the middle and high school levels and supported the CS Fundamentals training of about 40 K-5 teachers. Schawmman is working to add new options in game development and cybersecurity. In Riceville, she is working toward the same successes she had in Osage. Schwamman proves that rural students can benefit, sustain and grow computer science opportunities.

Congratulations to Superintendent Schwamman! The CSTA family wishes her much success as she continues to expand computer science in her districts.

Infosys Grant

To commemorate this year’s CSEdWeek, Infosys Foundation USA is announcing several grants to support thousands of underrepresented and underprivileged students, young adults, and educators to learn about computer science through a combination of long-term programs as well as one-time coding events across the US.

I’m excited to announce CSTA as one of those grant recipients. This generous grant, in the amount of $150,000 will help support our initiative to grow CSTA+ membership, and more importantly, help support our 75 chapters.

Chapter Grants

From my first day at CSTA, I’ve told everyone who will listen that our chapters are the heart of our organization. I’m proud to announce the launch of CSTA’s chapter grant fund, which will make over $130,000 available to chapters interested in bringing professional development and programming to their regions. This more than meets our goal of putting 50% of CSTA+ dues back into supporting local CSTA chapters. Chapters leaders will receive more details later this week.

CSTA to take the CS Honor Society National

CSTA will be taking the CS Honor Society national for the 2019-20 school year! Launched by CodeVA, the CS Honor Society acknowledges academic excellence in CS disciplines — and the enthusiasm that surrounds it. Originally designed for Virginia high schools — with a growing number of out of state chapters — students must not only meet academic requirements but also must complete service hours in support of CS education. I am very excited about the expansion of this initiative and cannot wait to see its growth on the national level. Stay tuned for more information about getting involved.

2019 is shaping up to be a great year for CSTA. Thank you for all you do for your students, computer science education sphere and for your continued support of CSTA. I hope to see you all at the annual conference in Phoenix.


Jake Baskin
Executive Director CSTA

The First Next Step

As we round the corner to the end of November and head into computer science education week, we know millions of students and teachers will try computer science for the first time. I am continually amazed how Computer Science Education Week drives so much action and awareness in such a short amount of time.

As critical as computer science education week is for the initial exposure to computer science, what might be even more important is the first next step.

The momentum from campaigns like those around Computer Science Education Week and the hard work of people and organizations around the world to create equitable access to computer science education has created a wide variety of resources that make access to information, training, curriculum, content, activities and planning tools accessible and suited for a range of learner outcomes, teacher readiness and school and community needs.

So whether you’re already implementing computer science in your classroom or school or you’ve just completed your first Hour of Code and you’re ready for the next steps, here are some no cost and low cost resources available nearly anywhere you are to get you started, and help you keep going!

Code.org
Get to know Code.org beyond an Hour of Code with the wide variety of resources available to support teachers, students, administrators and communities to bring computer science to every student. Check out the Teacher Resources and the Student Resources.

TEALS
Microsoft Philanthropies TEALS pairs technology industry professionals with classroom teachers to team-teach computer science education. School applications are open now!

Professional Development Resources
This Computer Science Professional Development Guide was built with input from experts from TEALS, CS for All, CSTA, Code.org, NCWIT and Microsoft. It’s intended to help education leaders build teacher, school counselor and administrator capacity to support equitable computer science education for all students.

CSTA
CSTA has a wide variety of supports available to computer science teachers. A CSTA+ Membership offers additional benefits, discounts and access to resources specially for CSTA+ Members.

ISTE
ISTE’s tools and resources are designed for teachers who bring computer science education into a wide variety of subjects across K-12.

This is just the start of a list and definitely not exhaustive. Share the resources you love with the CSTA community! Post them on Twitter, tagging @csteachersorg with the hashtag #CSforAll so others can see them too. You can view all posts that use these two tags here.

Yvonne Thomas
Partner Representative CSTA Board

Direct Instruction and Discovery – Why Pick Sides?

I recently read a post by Mark Guzdial on the CACM blog entitled “Direct Instruction is Better than Discovery, but What Should We be Directly Instructing?”  (link).  

This led me down the rabbit hole to:

  • Felienne Hermans’ blog post , “Programming and direct instruction” (link)
  • NY Times article “Why Are we Teaching Reading the Wrong Way.”  (link)
  • Kirschner, Sweller, Clark paper “Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching” (link) (I’ll call this the KSC paper)

Felienne’s post doesn’t seem to make as strong a claim as Mark’s headline, but does make the point that, “[C]hildren need help with learning to program because they will get stuck otherwise, drop out and decide programming ‘is not for them’.”  She concludes with the idea that we have to “embrace direct instruction,” and to “rote memorize the ifs and loops, if we want all children to learn well.”

The NY Times article was a nice interlude, which made the following point:

  • “[W]hile learning to talk is a natural process that occurs when children are surrounded by spoken language, learning to read is not. To become readers, kids need [..] explicit, systematic phonics instruction.”

Okay, so kids need systematic instruction for basic building blocks that are not naturally learned.  I’ve seen this before, and I buy it. But does that mean, categorically, that, “Direct instruction is better than discovery”?

Well, from the links above, we have a picture of direct instruction (DI): explicit systematic instruction; rote memorization.  What about the “other side.” The KSC paper wastes no time in painting this as a simple dichotomy:

  • “On one side of this argument are those advocating the hypothesis that people learn best in an unguided or minimally guided environment [and] must discover or construct essential information for themselves.”
  • “On the other side are those suggesting that novice learners should be provided with direct instructional guidance on the concepts and procedures [..]”

The paper goes on to lump together, “Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based” and consider them all to be equivalent to the most extreme version of a single ideology: students must figure everything out for themselves.

Before I go on, I will say that I make no claims to any special expertise here.  I’m basing my points on: (A) my past experience as a HS math and CS teacher, and as a state STEM education director; and (B) my current studies of STEM education research at a university, in the department of education, where constructivism is the dominant theoretical perspective.  This is not a research paper – I’m not going to cite sources. I’m not going to rigorously argue my points.

I also recognize that science, math, engineering, and CS are unique disciplines that require different pedagogical approaches.  That said, I will try to keep things general rather than referring to any particular discipline.

Here are my points:

  1. DI vs. Discovery is a false dichotomy
  2. “Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based” learning are not identical, and are not equal to “just figure it out.”
  3. Inquiry-based learning has benefits that go beyond mastery of basic skills
  4. Rote learning has risks

DI vs. Discovery is a false dichotomy.  If anything, it’s more like a spectrum, but this is probably oversimplifying it too.  Educators can and should use a variety of strategies.

“Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based” learning may all share a constructivist foundation (or maybe not necessarily), but they emphasize different strategies, or aspects of teaching.  Constructivism might hold that we construct knowledge and meaning from experience, but that does not imply that we need to “just figure it out.”

Benefits of constructivist learning include development of:

  • Autonomy / agency / critical thinking
  • Communication / collaboration
  • Creativity / divergent thinking

Although these benefits are more difficult to measure than basic skills, evidence has been described in a number of empirical studies.  These skills are generally useful, and highly valued by employers.

Risks of rote learning include:

  • False impression of what “doing science / math / engineering / CS” is really about.  
  • Students may not have opportunities to have a voice in the class, or may not feel like their prior experiences are valued.
  • Whole-class direct instruction assumes that all students require the same instruction at the same time.  This can lead to frustration (and disengagement) for students who are not ready, or boredom (and disengagement) for students who have already advanced beyond the skills being instructed.

In closing, I encourage the reader to consider the pros and cons of different pedagogical strategies and draw their own conclusions.  

David Benedetto

David Benedetto, At-Large Representative

Tips for countering the November Blues

Tips for countering the November Blues

November was always a tricky month for me as a teacher — the weather turns towards winter, the clocks fall back so it’s dark before leaving school, and there were just enough random days off that it was impossible to get a rhythm going. Here are a few tricks I used to keep the energy through November and the end of the year:

Get away from the computers

By November patterns were set, students walked into class generally knowing what to expect, with a structure to class, and projects to work on. In general this sense of routine was great, all the administrative stuff could happen quickly, but that energy from the beginning of the school year was gone. To counteract this I’d always find time in November to do some work away from the computers. This was great for two reasons, first it would break that monotony in the classroom, and lessons like the CS unplugged curriculum forced everyone to approach computer science from a different lens, and ensure that the collaboration and communication strands of the CSTA standards were being hit. Second (and maybe more importantly) it was an opportunity to swap classrooms with another teacher in my school. I got to teach every day in a computer lab and there was always a colleague who was looking for computer time. With one creative lesson plan I’d shake things up in my class and make someone else’s day! When class registration time came around, these teachers were always willing to help promote my computer science classes :).

Coach a team or after school club

For me, November meant the start of a new high school basketball season, and a new opportunity to see my students in a different light. I’m not saying that everyone reading this should immediately start coaching, but we all can find ways to see our students engaging in a passion outside of the classroom. The hours we spent in practice, on the bus to away games or waiting on bleachers during tournaments gave me a chance to see my students in a more relaxed setting, and learn more about them as people. These stronger relationships payed huge dividends on those days when I felt especially exhausted and everything I had planned for class just didn’t work out.

Dedicate some time to real professional development

First quarter grades were due in November for me, and assigning grades was always my least favorite part of teaching. I think mostly because it made me confront all the things I had hoped to teach, but clearly had not succeeded at actually teaching to my classes. It also meant a “professional development” day dedicated to fighting the online grading system that ran slowest when every teacher in the district was using it at the same time. In order to keep from going insane, I’d make sure to dedicate some time on those days, even if it was just an hour, for some real, self directed, professional development. It could be reading an article, taking an online course, or reaching out to my PLN (in my case the local CSTA chapter) to see what cool new things they were trying in their classrooms.

If you’re a CSTA+ member, there are some amazing free resources included in your membership to take advantage of on this front — try a online course from Pluralisght, get professional development on using robots, or read the latest issue of Inroads magazine to see what’s new in CS education research. Plus, you’ll be able to secure your spot at the 20th anniversary of the CSTA conference before anyone else (and at last year’s early bird registration price!) Join or upgrade today at http://csta.plus.

So, what are your tricks for combating the November blues? Let me know on twitter @jakebask or @csteachersorg using #csta


Jake Baskin
Executive Director CSTA

Why submit a proposal?

CSTA just announced the Call for Proposals.

Why should you considering submitting a proposal?

The most rewarding part of the process is actually not presenting at the conference (although yeah it’s pretty cool in itself)….but the best part is creating and building your application. It requires you to define exactly what you do, how you do it, and why you do it. And then it can’t just be you who think it’s awesome; you have to provide evidence that you are actually meeting the goals and results you say you are.

There is something satisfying about spending the time, and yes you will spend many hours, figuring out how to best explain and describe what you do. It forces you to ask tough questions: is what I am doing important? Will my professional peers see value in it as well? Is what I say I do really what I do? Is the impact really as powerful as I think it is? Are the results I am seeing reliable and valid? Is my innovation really an outlier? Will others appreciate my work and ideas? Will I be able to communicate what my project is really about?

It forces you to choose the project or topic you are most proud of in your work as a K-12 educator. It forces you to document the entire process–the preparation, the activity itself, and then actual results or completed work or evidence. It may involve interviewing students about their experience. It might be you have a completed paper. Maybe you just have some new ways of looking at something we all do in our classrooms. Perhaps you have figured out some new technology which you are excited about. Maybe you are passionate about a topic related to CS education, such as diversity, inclusion, the digital divide, or access. Is there some research you are proud of? Perhaps you have built something you’d like to share. Maybe you and some colleagues want to lead a panel discussion?

It forces you to create presentation ready resources and documentation so that others may find out more.

What I’ve found is that in most cases, as I am describing the project and the experience, I am also evaluating it myself and actually thinking of ways to enhance it.

And it’s a gutsy move. You are putting your everything out there for your peers to see, and you are saying this is the best I’ve got. Then your peers evaluate that and decide if it meets the criteria for the national stage. You are going to stand before tens or even hundreds of people and share your experience. What an awesome opportunity.

There is also an element of perception. While your project might be amazing, is it relevant to the state of CS Education right now? Will others see the same value that you see? Are you presenting about a tremendous success you have had and want to share so that others may benefit, or are you presenting about your struggled and even failures so that other may learn and use your experience to leap pad their own ideas? Are there others with similar proposals?

If you are selected, what’s the reward? Vindication and validation that what you are doing matters, has value, and has been worthy of your time. Other professional in CS Ed have looked at what you do, and said, “Yes, this is something others need to know about and see.” What an honor to be part of the “leadership” of the conference. Those in the audience are there because they are genuinely interested in what you have to say. In some cases, this might the first people to hear about your experience. Those folks will challenge you on your ideas and ask you to help them explore the same thing. You will meet others who have the same unique passion and now, finally, you have others to collaborate with.

Now, here is the deal, I have submitted many proposals over the years. I have been rejected as often as accepted. In fact, I was rejected by CSTA several years ago– now I am a sitting board member. Go figure. Rejection is not to be looked at as a negative. A rejection is not saying your proposal is not good or not worthy. All it is saying is that there were other proposals which made more sense this year. Perhaps that exact same proposal is accepted immediately next year. Or maybe you go back, make some enhancement to the learning experience or project, and resubmit with an even stronger application. In some cases, you’ll get feedback from the reviewers with comments on the proposal evaluation.

But the best thing is you get one of those cool colored presenter tags for your badge.

See you at the CSTA annual conference in Phoenix, either from the podium or from the audience.

Doug Bergman headshot - Gr. 9 to 12 teacher representative

Doug Bergman – 9 to 12 teacher representative


Doug Bergman
9-12 Representative

Did you know? NSF programs for K-12 CS Education

It was my first CSTA conference(Omaha, NB: https://www.csteachers.org/page/2018conference) so all was new and exciting. I did peruse the exhibit hall when I first got there but didn’t spend much time. I went back the second day and wow! really glad I did. I spent a lot more time looking at each booth and talking with the people at places of interest. I learned A LOT!
While I don’t have the space to articulate everything I learned, I want to share one in particular that we might not think too seriously about.
The National Science Foundation booth was a natural for me to stop at – I was fortunate to have done 2 sabbaticals there during my career. It was great to visit with a former colleague and catch up on what’s new. I learned about 2 programs that I had not realized were applicable to the K-12 audience.

They are (quoting from the official NSF website):
STEM + Computing K-12 Education (STEM+C)
https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=505006&org=DRL&from=home
The STEM+C Program focuses on research and development of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches to the integration of computing within STEM teaching and learning for preK-12 students in both formal and informal settings. The STEM+C program supports research on how students learn to think computationally to solve interdisciplinary problems in science and mathematics. The program supports research and development that builds on evidence-based teacher preparation or professional development activities that enable teachers to provide excellent instruction on the integration of computation and STEM disciplines.

Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST)
https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=5467&org=DRL&from=home
ITEST is a research and development program that supports projects to promote PreK-12 student interests and capacities to participate in the STEM and information and communications technology (ICT) workforce of the future.
The ITEST program supports research on the design, development, implementation, and selective spread of innovative strategies for engaging students in technology-rich experiences that: (1) increase student awareness of STEM occupations; (2) motivate students to pursue appropriate education pathways to STEM occupations; or (3) develop disciplinary-based knowledge and practices, or promote critical thinking, reasoning skills, or communication skills needed for entering STEM workforce sectors.
ITEST projects may adopt an interdisciplinary focus that includes multiple STEM disciplines, focus on a single discipline, or focus on one or more sub-disciplines. The ITEST program supports projects that provide evidence for factors, instructional designs, and practices in formal and informal learning environments that broaden participation of students from underrepresented groups in STEM fields and related education and workforce domains.
Why should we care about these programs? While you currently may not have time to write or participate in one of these projects, please to keep your eyes open for the projects that do get funded to see what interesting new ideas and activities are being developed. We’re part of an important emerging core area in K-12 education. These NSF-funded projects should give us much to think about. And you never know when you might be able to contribute.
Hurray for all of the things we can learn from the Exhibit Hall!!

Jane Prey
ACM Representative


Jane Prey, ACM Representative

FORTIFYING OUR POSITION

This past week I was asked to fill in for a speaker, at the NGA 2018 Governors’ Education Policy Advisors Institute, that was not able to make it due to Hurricane Florence. First, let me extend my sympathies to those on the East Coast that were affected by the storm and resulting floods; my thoughts and prayers are with you and your families.

During the short time, approximately 23 hours, I had to prepare for my speech, I thought about “what do I want to discuss.” Of course, I could have presented the same “Computer Science in Arkansas” discussion that I have given so often that I recite it in my sleep, but I decided since I had gubernatorial policy advisors in the room, that I would issue a challenge, or what turned into a series of challenges. I will share some of those challenges and thoughts here.

While a good portion of the speech focused on the technological displacement, or in a positive light “emerging jobs creation,” I also reminded the group of the following:

“Exposed deficiencies in our educational system come at a time when the demand for highly skilled workers in new fields is accelerating rapidly. For example: Computers and computer-controlled equipment are penetrating every aspect of our lives–homes, factories, and offices.
We must emphasize that the variety of student aspirations, abilities, and preparation requires that appropriate content be available to satisfy diverse needs. Attention must be directed to both the nature of the content available and to the needs of particular learners. The most gifted students, for example, may need a curriculum enriched and accelerated beyond even the needs of other students of high ability. Similarly, educationally disadvantaged students may require special curriculum materials, smaller classes, or individual tutoring to help them master the material presented. Nevertheless, there remains a common expectation: We must demand the best effort and performance from all students, whether they are gifted or less able, affluent or disadvantaged, whether destined for college, the farm, or industry.
The teaching of computer science in high school should equip graduates to: (a) understand the computer as an information, computation, and communication device; (b) use the computer in the study of the other Basics and for personal and work-related purposes; and (c) understand the world of computers, electronics, and related technologies.”

When I informed the group that this was from A Nation at Risk published in April of 1983, I noted quite a few shocked faces. Then I asked the real questions. What has changed in education over the past 35 years? Has the role of teachers changed to better utilize the technology that is becoming not only more prevalent within our classrooms, but also increasingly crucial for students to learn before they are sent into a job market that demands they have an appropriate amount of digital literacy mixed with problem solving skills?

Many industry leaders I interact with say that the K-12, or even the K-16, system is not providing the workers with the skills they need. The current workforce has more computing power and digital resources at their disposal than at any time in history, yet we find that some just cannot or choose not to “get the job done.” Our industries do their best to provide the latest technology, a safe and comfortable work environment, and on-the-job training. They encourage, correct, direct, and support their employees, yet they still are often left with producers of subpar work. Why is this? Is it because we at the K-16 space have in many ways failed? I do believe that the fault has to partially lie at the feet of educators, and I include myself in that fault group. We are failing to produce more problem solvers than brain flushers.

What is the solution? It is to not teach (or at least teach as it is currently understood). A big part of the solution will be educators who become facilitators of learning. They will allow our kids to grapple and struggle with real problems on a daily basis; allow them to get frustrated occasionally and find a solution to that frustration on their own; and stop rewarding bad practices and mediocre effort in order to not hurt someone’s feelings. Industry doesn’t reward poor performance, so why should education establish this as an expectation within our students?

One of the reasons I love technology and computer science is because it doesn’t care about feelings. It expects and demands perfection because it knows nothing different. Students and adults who are programming computers have to be precise. They have to work out a way to a solution that works all the time. They have to try to break their own product through testing. These are all actions that develop communication, problem solving, self-reflection, and personal growth. Teachers moving to a facilitator mode, can leverage technology to meet the needs of our high performers, main stream students, and those that need additional support. This type of approach is what will produce a workforce that better meets the soft skill and technological prowess needs of our industries.

If we want the excitement and movement that is happening in the computer science education community to continue and have a positive long-lasting impact, we must each ask ourselves on a daily basis, “what am I going to do to ensure that the educational system undergoes radical positive change that will prepare our students to meet the needs of industry?” In short, what are we doing to make sure that in another 35 years, we are not still a nation at risk.

Anthony A. Owen
State Department Representative

What does it mean to be a Computer Science Teacher?

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a robotics competition with a team of students that I coached through the summer, and I was amazed by the feeling I got being in the same room as many other CS teachers. This got me thinking about the CS teacher profession. I believe that CS teachers are a unique breed. I’ve read so many articles, seen so many posts from other CS teacher friends and all have something in common, one way or another at some point the fact that it can be a “lonely” position is brought up.

Indeed, almost everywhere CS teachers may be the only one within their departments, their school or even their district. Honestly, CS is an amazing, beautiful and engaging subject but none the less not an easy subject to teach. Many of us who have embarked in this adventure for a while now know that being a CS teacher means you become a life time learner and that mapping a curriculum every 3 to 4 years is just part of the main to do list. Other subjects have many years’ worth of curricula with minor changes happening through the years, but computer science is constantly on the move and the content becomes obsolete fast. So, a lesson plan that might have worked wonderfully 5 years ago might not be useful now. Of course, there are the basics that are modified but not vastly changed. So, creating a curriculum is just part of our daily tasks.

A computer science teacher may have different backgrounds. Some come from the CS industry and have a CS background, others are “imported” from teaching other subjects such as science or math and some have a technology education degree. I was searching online for a specific degree in Computer Science education and although you can easily find a master’s degree with a CS education concentration, I had a hard time finding a CS education bachelor’s degree. What most colleges or universities recommend is getting an education degree to later get a CS education master’s degree or have a CS degree and get a teaching license. All that is perfect, but I think that CS teachers need better training and just as I mentioned before it can become hard to teach a subject you are not properly trained for. I read this past week a post from a CS friend on Facebook that was asking mostly himself if he knew “too much” about CS to teach a beginner’s class, and I thought that this is the kind of things that make us unique. A math teacher will probably never ask themselves if they know too much math, or maybe they do, and I just don’t know.

A Computer Science teacher also becomes a “fix it all” individual, the teacher that quite possibly has a charging cable in their labs, knows the basics of fixing a computer and has students going into their class asking if you how to fix theirs.

Throughout the years organizations such as CSTA, ISTE, Code.org, Oracle, and the College Board among others have taken big steps to support CS teachers and making our jobs easier in the planning phase, prepping and the dreaded paper work part. Still, in our own hometown, there is yet a very small number of Computer Science teachers and that needs to change. Every time I have the chance to attend a conference, event, competition or workshop that is specifically for CS, that is when I feel I am home. I know that the people around me have the same challenges and successes, have the same feeling of sometimes teaching a lonely subject. So, getting this sense of community goes along way. I hope that at the rate CS education is growing around the world, that sense or community remains.


Michelle Lagos
Representative at Large

Increasing equity and inclusion in computer science education

Last month I attended my first CSTA conference. I LOVED the positive energy. From the keynote speakers to the exhibition space to the breakout sessions, everyone at CSTA2018 seemed genuinely happy to be together and they were clearly excited to share, learn, and ultimately do more for students.

My favorite part of CSTA2018 was the session with Andy (Andrea) Gonzales. In short, while in high school, she and a friend created a viral video game, won a Webby Award, wrote a book, were covered by multiple media outlets and now she is on a full ride scholarship to both UNC Chapel Hill and Duke. Impressively, she’s determined to leverage her space in the spotlight to do more for other young women like herself.

Andy talked about the exclusion she felt as a young woman learning computer science. She shared that the early support of an adult (her male summer camp counselor) was key to her success today. She described the misconceptions she had about computer science and the stereotypes that so many other young women and women of color struggle with. She emerged from her experiences more empowered and now wants to empower others.

Andy and her story are impressive. And yet, the thing that struck me the most about Andy was the response she garnered from the adults in the room.

Nearly all the questions Andy fielded from the audience of 700+ computer science education teachers and advocates were about they could do more to support girls and students of color in their computer science classes. How can I get more girls to join? What do you think I can do differently? Of the few girls I have in my computer science classes, how can I get them to engage more? How do I best support my students of color?

These questions clearly articulated the teachers’ desire to do more to help ALL their current or potential CS students succeed. They also illustrated the gaps that exist for teachers to find – and then implement – the resources that would help them reach this goal.

To be clear, I am not an expert on this topic. And in full transparency, I work for a tech company that is actively working on how it makes progress on diversity, equity and inclusion internally and how it can play a role in increasing equitable access to computer science education around the world.

I do know that there is a lot of good and important work that has been done on equity and inclusion in education broadly, and specifically in math and science. And while we are making progress, and there is a lot of great research on what the issues and challenges are in diversity, equity and inclusion in computer science, what I hear from teachers and others in CS education is that we still have work to do to make practical solutions easy for teachers to bring to life, specifically for computer science.

I know that by sharing a short list of resources, I am bound to leave things out. But with the goal to start somewhere, as I’ve been on my learning journey, others have told me that the following resources and information have been helpful in their work to support success for all students in their computer science classes and programs.

I’m sure you have some you want to share – please do! Post them on Twitter, tagging @csteachersorg with the hashtag #CSforAll so others can see them too. You can view all posts that use these two tags here.

Defining the issues:

Practical tools and resources for teachers and schools:

Recent blog posts by fellow CSTA board members:

Yvonne Thomas
Partner Representative CSTA Board