Building a Pre-K to 12 Computer Science Program.

By Dan Blier, CSTA Board of Directors (District Representative)

It is that time of the year when we re-open our doors to our students for another school year.  With that in mind, this is a great time of the year to start thinking about what new computer science resources students will be introduced to this year.  As a district computer science curriculum specialist for Plano Independent School District in Plano, Texas, it is my role to work with teachers from Prekindergarten (Pre-K) through 12 grade to build a vertical computer science program. 

Building an equitable computer science program takes a great deal of planning and collaboration with others.  Input from teachers, campus and district administrators, parents, the District Board of Trustees, and community partners is an important part of this process.  The process requires taking a look at what resources are out there and digging into the state standards and CSTA Computer Science standards. 

For the past three years, we have been working in my district to develop a computer science program that will allow every student to have an opportunity to learn to code and prepare themselves for a career in computer science or that uses skills from the field of computer science. 

As we roll out new resources, we are constantly looking ahead to see what is our next step.  So far, this is what we have developed and what we have learned through this process.

Pre-K students have unique needs as many are not yet able to read or write.  We have decided to put Lego Coding Express in our early childhood campuses and elementary schools with Pre-K students.  Coding Express provides students with structured play while introducing some coding terms such as sequencing, looping, conditional coding, and cause and effect using some color-coded action bricks.

Our elementary schools are engaging students in coding during and after school.  Through our partnerships with the University of Texas at Dallas and other community partners, we are able to bring graduate students and professionals to our campuses after school at no cost.  During the school day, we are engaging students through interdisciplinary learning by combining computer science and math, science, social studies, and English language arts.  Resources like Code.org are great since they allow us to engage our bilingual students through the various translations available.  Last year, we created an Elementary Computer Science Cadre to help build this grade band of the program.  This group serves as voices on their campuses to help promote this program while helping us evaluate and develop curriculum over time.

Our Pre-K through second-grade students have been engaging with Blue-Bots.  Blue-Bots allow students to learn to code through the application of sequencing and looping.  We have placed Blue-Bot kits on all 47 elementary and early childhood campuses.  Our third through fifth-grade students are provided with more rigor by learning to code with Sphero SPRK+s.  These can be programmed using block-based and text-based JavaScript. 

We have purchased more Sphero SPRK+s for our 13 middle schools.  Initially, this is to provide our students with after school opportunities to learn to code or to engage students with coding through an existing class.  Having physical resources for students who are learning to code helps most students connect better with the concepts and see what the code does each time it is run.  Our goal is to introduce computer science courses to our middle schools in 2020-2021.  We are excited about adding a fifth year to our vertical high school program.

Our high school program is the most developed part of our program.  We offer on level, Advanced Placement, and International Baccalaureate at our various high school campuses.  Our computer science teachers are a very collaborative and supportive group of teachers.  Over the summer, our teachers work together to write the curriculum for these courses.  We schedule three full-day pullout days to continue the momentum throughout the school year.  Students have an opportunity to engage with our computing clubs that are very active in our region.  These clubs compete in Java programming competitions with peers from our neighboring districts.  Our three senior high campuses are known for bringing back trophies from these competitions.

Lots of work goes into building a district-wide computer science program.  We encourage you to check out the work our district is doing by visiting our website at https://www.pisd.edu/computerscience

Dan Blier
District Representative

Prayers, Meditations, and Reassurances

“Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.” – Jacques Barzun

This past Tuesday, the daily rituals my home had fallen into over the previous two or so months were interrupted. My wife’s alarm, sounding thirty minutes earlier than usual, was the marker that for the next ten months our lives would be changing into a different, but exciting routine. It was “back to school day” for Michele, a teacher and my wife, William, a 10th grader and our eldest, and Harper, a newly christened middle schooler and our youngest. Every day most of my deliberations and actions are for and with them. Maintaining their well-being always in mind, helps keep me grounded on those individuals that should be most important in my and other educational leaders’ work, students and teachers across our communities, states, nation, and globe. I once had a supervisor who would often say, “teaching is not a fallback position, it is first choice profession;” she was, and is still to this day, 100% correct. I wanted to use my blog posting this time to remind all of our wonderful teachers that they are in a profession that deserves high-regards, support, more often than not, increased compensation, and a regular “pat on the back.”

During a training that I participated in recently, part of the introduction/icebreaker activity included each of us drawing a card with a question that we were supposed to individually meditate on and then answer out loud for the group. The question I received was, “who was the best supervisor, professor, or teacher you ever had?” After thinking about it for a while, and remembering so many people who have been extremely influential during my life, my mind drifted back and focused on 10th grade and Mr. Jack Knight. Mr. Knight was my social studies teacher, but he was so much more. He was a great teacher, a true professional educator. As I consider his class now, from an educational leader perspective, I can confidently say he was a master of maintaining classroom discipline while engaging his students in their learning. However, beyond that, Mr. Knight, who had a family of his own, also took the time to get to know and appropriately befriend and mentor a young man who greatly needed it during that time of his life; if you need a hint, that young man was me. I will not go into my personal life, but just know that his extra time, deep caring, and daily demonstration of what being a good teacher and mentor should be, has had a profound effect on me to this day and probably been more influential in my life than he will ever realize.

As teachers, you all have an immense responsibility within your position of power. You have the responsibility to teach, but more importantly you have the opportunity to make a positive difference in the life of a child which will follow them into adulthood. I hope you will never forget these facts, and it is my desire that some who are not in the classroom will soon be reminded of it.

Tuesday morning as wife and boys left our driveway to embark on this year’s adventure, I said a short prayer. That prayer, which was for safety, a “good day,” meeting new friends, and connecting with a person who really needs it, was not only for the members of my family. It was for all students and teachers; it was for you! As you progress through these first few weeks of this new year, take heart in the words of Galatians 6:9.

Go make that positive difference that I know each of you can; I wish each and every one of you a phenomenal school year!

Anthony A Owen
State Department of Education Representative

Technology has Vastly Improved our World, and Artificial Intelligence Will Keep Making It Better

Check out these recent headlines about artificial intelligence (AI):

Artificial Intelligence and the Rise of Economic Inequality (2017)
Never Mind Killer Robots—Here Are 6 Real A.I. Dangers to Watch Out For (2019)
AI Greater Threat to Human Existence than Climate Change (2019)

These headlines are from reputable news sources, including MIT Technology Review. Is it just me, or has the media decided that AI will cause the end of civilization as we know it?

I’d like to suggest that exactly the opposite is true. In fact, owing to technological innovations, the quality of life has improved immensely—across all of the world. For example, did you know that:

  • Over the last 200 years, the fraction of people living in extreme poverty has dropped from 85% (in 1800) to just 9% (in 2017)?
  • Over this same period, the average life expectancy—worldwide—has risen from 31 years to 72 years?
  • Since 1970, the fraction of people who are undernourished has dropped from 28% to 11% (in 2015)?

All of these things are true (Rosling et al., Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think, 2018).

For all of us who are living reasonably comfortable lives, we owe this largely to the march of technologies which have made our lives massively better: providing abundant food, inexpensive clothing, affordable shelter, and sanitary plumbing.

Remember the Luddites? They were wrong. Machines have made our lives better. Representation of Luddites destroying a weaving machine, early to mid 1800s. Public domain image retrieved from Wikimedia.

What does this have to do with artificial intelligence? Let me suggest that AI is simply the current technology for building machines that are improving our lives.

Here are three big areas in which AI is making things better, right now: medicine, energy, and food:

In medical applications, AI-based software, working in conjunction with doctors, is analyzing lung nodules in CT scans, freeing up doctors’ time and lowering costs; achieving nearly 100% success in identifying breast cancer cells (better than doctors or AI alone); and preventing blindness, by automating the detection of eye diseases.

In energy applications, AI systems do weather prediction to allow more efficient utilization of renewable sources of energy; are deployed with sensors in environments to better control heating and cooling (e.g. saving up to 40% of cooling costs in data centers); and used in “intelligent energy storage,” a key part of the solution in deploying solar and wind power. In short, AI is integral in saving energy and making renewable energy effective at scale.

In agricultural applications, AI is employed in computer vision techniques to improve crop health and reduce herbicide use; in harvesting-robots, which are reducing labor costs and increasing yields; and in precision-farming (e.g., providing farmers with timely and actionable information about how to combat a swarm of pests).

These are all fabulously good, amazing things that are making our world better and improving people’s lives.

Of course, there are challenges. Technology causes disruptions in work, as work previously done by people is done by machines (see Luddites, above). AI will cause the same. People will lose their jobs. New jobs will be created, but it’s not clear that the people who lose their jobs will be the ones able to fill the new jobs.

These societal challenges are best resolved with engagement in consciousness-raising and political action.

We have already seen positive change stemming from recent concerns with AI systems. Just 18 months ago, it was headline news that face-recognition systems often misidentified women and people of color.

Thanks to the work of activist reporters and many others (including those who were most adversely impacted), it’s a widely known issue. An entire community has formed to address issues of “fairness, accountability, and transparency” in AI; this group holds an annual conference. Microsoft has withdrawn its facial recognition database in response to these concerns, and IBM Research released a “Diversity in Faces” dataset to advance the study of fairness in facial recognition systems.

This is exactly what we would want to happen in a democratic society.

While we combat social injustices, we must take the long view. Artificial Intelligence will be part of the technologies we build to advance humankind and all the species which populate our world.

Let’s not fear AI; let’s embrace it. AI will save the world.

head shot of Fred Martin, chair of board of directors
Fred Martin, Past Chair of Board of Directors

My Summer PD looks like a Promising New Adventure…

The CSTA conference has been my summer PD for many years now, and it is incredible all the things I’ve been able to learn and bring back to my classroom for the new school year. This year I started thinking about this and how my instruction is always enhanced by the workshops and sessions I attend.

This year, I was looking for fresh new ideas. After teaching High School Computer Science for the last few years, this year I will be teaching Middle School. I needed ways to make my class engaging without eliminating the element of fun. I attended many great workshops and sessions at the conference but a session about Flipping, Agile and Gamification was particularly enlightening. This session talked about how to truly engage students and teach collaboration. It talked about adding game-like elements to projects and instruction to motivate and engage students. It was a great session given by Mr. Brandon Milonovich.

After the conference, I decided I wanted to learn more and felt I had a road to follow and a goal to meet. During my research, I came upon a book called EDrenaline Rush by John Meehan (@MeehanEDU) that talks about how to engage students using several elements that are used in Theme Parks, Mud Runs and Escape Rooms. This was a game-changer. I started planning my year with a new perspective. It talks about how “classroom walls belong to the learners inside as much as the teacher”. It talks about how your class needs a story. This book is not specifically about Computer Science, but it is so applicable.

I am using Avengers as my classroom theme this year. I am introducing middle schoolers to the Problem-Solving Process and how to apply Computer Science to engineering and I thought this will make a great story for my class. Some of the Avengers were born with their powers but others were self-made. Tony Stark is a great inventor and engineer who created Iron Man, Captain America was also made through science and innovation. This is opening a door for my students to become Everyday Heroes doing extraordinary things. They will have a mission to improve their world through Innovation, collaboration all using Computer Science Skills. They will feel they belong to a team with a purpose and a mission, all the while earning points and badges. Gamifying my class. I want them to think, ask, research & create using Computer Science skills.

I was really nervous and stressed about the move to a new division and now I am really excited to see all the great things my students will be able to do throughout this year. If you have the chance, please do not doubt to register for the CSTA conference 2020 in Arlington, Virginia. There has not been a year so far that I have not used some of the knowledge I got at the conference in my class the following year.

I will let you know how the adventure goes. To be continued…

Michelle Lagos
Representative At Large

Honoring CSTA’s Board of Directors

CSTA is proud to have a teacher-led Board of Directors that is focused on creating a strong environment to support our members. For the past 17 months, I’ve worked alongside these board members to reshape CSTA for growth through the launch of CSTA+ membership, introduction of a new website and member experience and expansion of the CSTA Annual Conference. 

As they rotate off of the CSTA Board of Directors, I’d like to thank these outgoing members for their years of dedication and service: 

David Benedetto, At-Large Representative

Doug Bergman, 9–12 Representative 

Bryan Twarek, School District Representative 

I’d like to congratulate K–8 Representative Vicky Sedgwick on her re-election to another term and to Jane Prey and Bobby Schnabel on their re-appointments. I’m glad that we’ll be able to continue the work that we’ve started together. 

With change comes new faces and fresh ideas to CSTA’s Board of Directors. Welcome to our newest members:  

Art Lopez,  9–12 Representative

Michelle Friend, At-Large Representative 

Dan Blier, District Representative 

As we begin a new fiscal year, I look forward to continuing to work with the Board to further CSTA’s mission.

Jake Baskin
Executive Director

CSTA: CS for ALL, Equity Access, and Bridging Gender and Diversity Gaps

My name is Art Lopez, and it is an honor and privilege to have been elected to serve on CSTA’s Board of Directors as one of the 9-12 representatives. I would like to share with you a story of my journey and involvement with CSTA and Computer Science Education.

I have been teaching for 31 years in a variety of educational settings (middle and high schools and higher ed). Nine years ago, one of my high school students approached and asked me, “Mr. Lopez, why does Torrey Pines and La Jolla High Schools have computer science courses and we do not?” I replied that the student had asked a very good question, and conducted my own research on how many computer science courses were taught in my district.

The Sweetwater Union High School District is located in the South County of San Diego, and includes the border between San Diego, CA and Tijuana, Mexico. It has 13 high schools, 11 middle schools, 42,000 students, 70% diverse, 50% English Language Learners, 50% free/reduced lunch program participants, and not a single school taught a computer science course.

I realized that the students of my district were not being given the same educational opportunities and exposure to computer science education as those students in more privileged communities; I wanted to change this and provide them the same equity access to CS education and the opportunities that the field presents. In our world today, computing and computational thinking is just as important for our children to learn as the “three R’s” (Dr. Beth Simon of UC-San Diego).

I did not have a CS background, but, fortunately, I encountered an opportunity and became involved with a CS education program at UC-San Diego and the San Diego Supercomputer Center through a NSF grant by Dr. Jan Cuny. I discovered that CS education was seriously lacking in public education, and that only one in 10 high schools across the country offered CS courses. Furthermore, a main goal of the NSF grant was to broaden participation of under-represented groups in computer science, both women and ethnically diverse students, and provide equity access of computer science courses at ALL high schools (Dr. Jan Cuny, NSF Program Officer).

Through this new network, I discovered CSTA and joined to connect and network with others on teaching CS. It was a small but passionate and dedicated group interested in providing CS education for all students in the region of San Diego.

Since 2011, I have been engaged and collaborating/working within the CS education community at national, regional, and local levels, including teaching and creating/modifying/providing curriculum and best teaching practices. I also embed strategies for diverse populations for computer science education teachers and undergrads interested in teaching CS.

I have been fortunate to work with so many great people within the CS community; I wanted to share out what I have learned with others in my local area, coordinating and providing CS educators professional development/networking opportunities, access to free curriculum/instructional materials, and connections with industry partners interested in CS education. I immediately thought of the CSTA-San Diego Chapter as being the focal point for accomplishing this goal.

Unfortunately, during 2016- 2017, our local CSTA chapter had met only once. I reached out to our university partners/colleagues and some members of CSTA-San Diego; we created a new board, and worked on the “re-booting” of our chapter. Since then, we have had six general meetings with an attendance of between 50 to 80 CS educators from K-12, higher ed and industry members; the goals of our chapter focuses on equity access, bridging gender and diversity gaps, and providing engaging, rigorous, and all-inclusive CS curriculum (Dr. Susan Yonezawa, UC-San Diego): CS for All.

Because of these efforts, my district this year will offer over 60+ CS courses: AP CSP at 12 and AP CS A at eight high schools, and seven middle school CS courses. CSTA’s role cannot be understated for our members and the children and adults we teach. I want all of you to know that I will do my best to be all-inclusive and be your voice, working and serving with our board of directors, staff and the members of our CSTA community in addressing the issues of equity access, bridging gender and diversity gaps, providing CS FOR ALL, as well as resources and professional development/networking opportunities for our members.

Art Lopez
9-12 Teacher Representative

Chapter Leadership Summit – 2019 CSTA Annual Conference

On July 7-8, chapter leaders from more than 60 CSTA Chapters came together for the Chapter Leadership Summit at the 2019 CSTA Annual Conference. This two-day event provided chapter leaders with educational sessions and specialized training on various topics. It also provided an opportunity for chapter leaders to meet and connect with CSTA Executive Director Jake Baskin, as well as the CSTA Staff and the Board of Directors. The Summit ultimately gave chapter leaders the opportunity to foster an exchange of ideas and information while also developing leadership skills.

Some highlights from the sessions at the Chapter Leadership Summit:

Opening Session and Q&A

In these sessions, CSTA Executive Director Jake Baskin and members of the Board of Directors reviewed the mission and goals of CSTA and summarized the future direction of the organization, all the while answering questions from chapter leaders.

Chapter Rubric and Chapter Self Assessment 

CSTA Director of Education Bryan “BT” Twarek introduced chapter leaders to the Chapter Rubric. The rubric will be used to help chapter leaders assess the areas of strength and growth for their chapter. Chapter leaders were given time to review the rubric and then an opportunity to discuss strategies and plans of action with other chapter leaders.

Chapter Finances and Chapter Grant Program

Michelle Page, CSTA’s COO, presented valuable information on Chapter Finances and the Chapter Grant Program. She provided details on how to manage chapter finances and discussed potential future opportunities to benefit from CSTA’s non-profit status. She also reviewed the criteria of the CSTA Chapter Grant Program, the types of programs and events that earn grant funding, and creating a plan for applying for the next round of grants.

CSTA’s New Web Platform & Chapter Marketing Success

Stacy Jeziorowski, CSTA’s Marketing and Communications Manager led two very informational sessions during the Summit. One of her sessions was dedicated to CSTA’s new web platform, Member Nova. Chapter leaders were presented with the features and advantages of using CSTA’s new web platform and had the opportunity to start their website onsite. In addition,  current chapters that have already made the transition to the new web platform spoke about their successes and ideas. Stacy’s second session was dedicated to Chapter Marketing. During this session, chapter leaders were introduced to the CSTA’s chapter branding guidelines, as well as had the opportunity to develop a simple marketing plan for their chapter that would increase their chapter’s digital presence. 

Chapter Fundraising

Daniel Rosenstein, CSTA’s Manager of Philanthropies and Community Partnerships, offered a session on leveraging the unique and creative ways that chapters can raise money while increasing brand awareness. Chapter leaders also had the opportunity to set an annual fundraising goal and create a plan to meet this goal.

Chapter Workshop-in-a-Box

Chapter leaders were introduced to the Workshops-in-a-Box by a team from NCWIT. The Workshop-in-a-Box session was designed to assist chapter leaders in offering timely and relevant professional development to their members, as well as offer strategies that could be implemented in their classrooms immediately.

Introduction to Grassroots Advocacy

In this session, chapter leaders received a crash course in grassroots advocacy, including how to talk to elected officials, build coalitions, and develop policy recommendations. Chapter leaders also learned about the Code.org Advocacy Coalition’s nine recommended state policies that expand access to computer science and why equity-based policies create better outcomes for all students.

Chapter Leader Networking

There were also several opportunities at the Summit for chapter leaders to network with other chapter leaders and hear about the incredible work that is being done in chapters across the US. During the Chapter Spotlight sessions, chapter leaders discussed relevant ideas and strategies on increasing membership, keeping members active/engaged, and hosting events that other chapters could try in their own chapters. The Leadership (Un)Conference sessions provided an opportunity for chapter leaders to suggest topic ideas that they wanted to discuss and connect with other chapter leaders with similar interests, challenges, or contexts. The Meetup Chapter Role session allowed chapter leaders to connect with other leaders who have similar roles/responsibilities and receive answers and support for problems/issues they’re experiencing.

Closing Session

Finally, in the closing session, chapter leaders had the opportunity to put the tools and resources they have gained throughout the Chapter Leadership Summit to use. Chapter leaders used this time to map out what their chapter hopes to accomplish over the next year.


This event could not have taken place without all the hard work of Chapter Relations Manager Leslie Scantlebury and her Chapter Leader Task Force.

Kristeen Shabram
K-8 Representative

Are You Ready for #CSTA2019?

I am counting down the days to the 2019 CSTA Annual Conference. How about you?

My countdown actually began at the start of the month when we held a special #csk8 Twitter chat about Getting the Most from #CSTA2019. Here’s some of the wisdom shared during and after the chat to help you make the most of the conference!

Why should CS teachers & teachers of CS attend the 2019 CSTA Conference?

For me, a CSTA conference is THE place to be because I don’t have to search the schedule for sessions that are CS related – they’re ALL CS related.

This will be the largest CSTA Annual Conference ever. Come & make history with us!

I think CS teachers & teachers of CS should attend #CSTA2019 because it’s a great opportunity to network. I always meet so many amazing educators at this conference and gain a plethora of resources to use in my classroom.

I went for the first time last year, and really felt like it was the BEST PD/conference I attended all summer. We have so much available freely and online, but there was just something AWESOME about connecting with other CS educators in person.

If you’ll be in Phoenix before Tuesday when sessions begin and you’re not attending pre-conference workshops or the Chapter Leadership Summit, what can you do to get your learning started and/or to network with fellow attendees?

Visit the exhibit hall on Monday afternoon and evening – yes, it’s open before the conference officially starts and during the conference, of course!

My favorite thing before sessions start on Tuesday are the Birds-of-a-Feather sessions on Monday evening – casual conversations with like-minded CS educators! Yes, you can go to these even if you didn’t register for any workshops.

Come early and earn a certification in the Certiport Lab which is open on Monday from noon – 5pm and during the conference, if you aren’t in Phoenix early.

Don’t forget the Welcome Reception on Monday evening starting at 5:30pm.

How do you choose from the 40+ sessions, 3 mini-session blocks w/8 minis, and 12 posters at #CSTA2019?

Posters are new this year. Definitely stop by these to see the amazing projects that CS teachers are doing in their classrooms.

Go for variety. Try some sessions that include ideas/topics that you may have never considered.

If you are attending with others from your school or district, split up and attend different sessions and share what you learned!

Use the filters on program to search by keyword for topics and grade levels.

I’m a planner and like to go through the program before a conference and make a list of all of the sessions I would like to attend and that apply to the grade levels I teach. I can’t possibly go to them all but I can use the list to check for resources that may have been shared later.

What suggestions do you have for networking and social activities after conference hours?

There will be a Whiteboard in the registration area where you can add after hour plans or see what others are planning and sign up if you’re interested in joining. Make sure to check it out!

Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself & to network with others. CSTA Conference attendees are the best! Ask around as to what is going on. Just do it!

Grab some peers to network and celebrate Taco Tuesday. It’s a great way to experience Phoenix like a local!

If you’re doing something with a group, invite someone new along.

Is there anything else you would like to share about getting the most from the 2019 CSTA Conference?

Make sure to exchange contact information with people that you meet at #CSTA2019 … maybe even bring a business card with contact information that you can hand out.

I LOVE learning about awesome, free curriculum available to all CS educators. We will have an incredible array of offerings for our kiddos right at our fingertips in the exhibit hall. The exhibitors do a great job showing off those tools!

Go up and say “hi” to people. Don’t be afraid to join a discussion!

Be sure to play the Conference Game. Not only will it be lots of fun but it will give you reasons to talk to people!

Don’t just sit with friends at meals. Find someone in a session you attend to have lunch with or ask to join others at a table.

There you have it … some crowd-sourced ideas to help you have a great CSTA 2019 Conference. I thank the #csk8 chatters for their ideas and their ongoing support of the #csk8 Twitter chat. I can’t wait to see them and all of you in Phoenix! If you’re not able to be there, make sure to follow all the fun on the #CSTA2019 hashtag!

Vicky Sedgwick K-8 Teacher Representative

Still Failing at Fairness

Equity – or the lack thereof – is a challenging thing to talk about. For people who recognize it’s a problem, it isn’t necessary to reiterate, because they’re already aware of the problem. People who don’t think it’s a problem tend to zone out – “this again?” – or be unconvinced.

Issues around gender inequity in schools first came to public attention in the mid 1990’s, when Myra and David Sadker published Failing at Fairness, which showed that girls were being subtly discriminated against in schools, even by well-intentioned teachers. Initially there was a lot of fanfare, and I remember teachers really thinking about trying to have more equitable classrooms. One of the major points of notice was inequitable participation in class discussions – the Sadkers really demonstrated that boys got called on more and got more teacher interaction than girls did. This is still happening, even after decades of teachers trying to be more equitable.

One interesting finding has to do with the perception of who talks more. A friend of mine kept track of who talked, during a discussion between her high school students. At the end of the discussion, she asked students who had talked the most, and everyone (boys and girls) agreed that it had been one girl. It turns out that nope, several boys had participated more, but no one perceived them as speaking as much as they had. This is backed up by research – people overestimate how much women speak and underestimate how much men speak in public.

A recent study looked at the interaction of gender and race in student participation in middle school classes. The headline “How White Boys Become Geniuses” is a hint to the findings. It stuck out to me because the findings are so similar to our perceptions of computer scientists. Sure, we all agree that girls can do it, but all our cultural references of geniuses are men, usually white men. From the article: “This research has broader relevance for explaining men’s dominance in fields that place a premium on what is perceived as “raw intelligence.” And it provides insight into how they gain entrance into the C-Suite. As one teacher said, “Jacob’s a full-package kid. He’s super nice, he’s brilliant and he’s a well-rounded kid. He likes sports and all this stuff . . . He’s going to be the next Elon Musk or something,” implying that Jacob, a white boy, is destined to become a CEO.”

It seems to me that it is even more crucial to overcome this tendency in computer science than it is in disciplines with less of an ingrained stereotype about who is a genius. The question is how? Twenty years of little progress suggests it is hard, but one way is to start by counting – count who you call on, count who calls out and how you handle it, count the number of complements you give students. In Better, Atul Gawande suggests that a fast and easy way towards improvement is just to start counting things you think need improvement, and go from there. What can you count?

Michelle Friend
At-Large Representative

The AP Reading

For the last week, I have been at the Advanced Placement (AP) reading for the CS Principles course in Kansas City, part of a few hundred readers that evaluate the performance tasks submitted by students. It’s an incredible experience in many ways!

For those new to the CS Principles course, it is a breadth-first introduction to computer science emphasizing creativity and collaboration across topics like data, the internet, and the impact of technology in addition to programming. With a goal of increasing access to and success in computer science for underrepresented students, the course is an engaging introduction to computing that reached almost 75,000 students in the 2017-18 academic year.

But 75,000 students means 150,000 performance tasks to grade! Each student submits a programming project and write-up, the Create performance task, and a computational artifact and write-up on a computing innovation, the Explore performance task. Along with 100+ readers in Kansas City and hundreds more grading tasks at home, we’ve been able to see the incredible impact this course has had on students.

The AP reading process includes training on student samples so that readers can grade the tasks using a rubric as consistently as possible. After that, the readers grade…and grade…and grade some more. We’re here in Kansas City grading performance tasks 8 hours a day – which can be grueling! – and then there are speakers and professional development options in the evening. But the readers are all very positive, excited about the work they see from students, and they play a key role in what makes this course a success.

As a college professor, I used to think grading was the worst part of teaching. However, this is different. There is a lot of value for someone who teaches the course in seeing the fine details of how the rubric is applied, common student misconceptions, and then using that knowledge to improve their instruction. And of course there’s the community. Where else besides the CSTA Annual Conference do you have the chance to connect with computer science teachers from across the country who are so passionate about bringing CS to all students?!

I leave Kansas City tomorrow in awe of the incredible work ethic as well as the care and consideration that teachers bring to the AP reading. The CS Principles course would not be the success it is without them.

Jennifer Rosato
Teacher Education Representative