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Getting Out the Message

Since CSTA first came into being last September, we have been aware that one of our biggest challenges would be getting out the messages.

First we worked on defining who we are, which problems we are trying to address, and why we believe that CSTA is the organization to address these issues.

Here is how we currently define the challenges we face.
* The number of computer science teachers is decreasing overall, particularly within the high school and middle school grades. This means that fewer college students will be enrolling in computer science courses, and fewer graduates with computer science degrees are going on to earn their Ph.Ds.
* Minority students are dramatically underrepresented in K-12 computer science coursework. For example, less than 3% of AP Computer Science students in 2004 were African American.
* Women are underrepresented in computer science.
* Computer science is at a crossroads. A renewed focus on educational standards and accountability, particularly in English and math, has forced many schools to take resources away from computer science and other non-core courses.

And here is why we think CSTA is the right organization to address them.
* CSTA offers members access to curriculum standards, professional development, and other cutting-edge computer science resources that have not previously been available.
* CSTA provides a voice for K-12 computer science educators, representing their interests at all levels of the educational system and with the state and federal authorities whose policies impact educational content, practice, and funding.
* CSTA helps makes the case for computer science by pointing out its vital place in the world.
* CSTA works with teachers to build a community of educators who will offer each other the support, guidance, and resources they have sorely needed. Many computer science teachers are alone in their schools with no other staff in their line of work.
* CSTA provides a bridge between high school educators, university educators, and the high tech industry. This bridge enables these groups to share information about what students need to learn in their K-12 years to be ready to go into computer science majors in higher education and into computer science careers.
* The key resources provided by CSTA for teachers are the Java Engagement for Teacher Training (JETT) program and the Model Curriculum for K-12 Computer Science. With these and other materials to be developed, CSTA will be the source for information for computer science teachers and others interested in the field.

Next, we had to begin getting the message out. We have tried a number of ways to let teachers know that we exist and that we need them to help us build this community. Sometimes we have done this in fairly traditional ways. For example we have sent out information by email and direct mail, made conference presentations, and spoken to teachers at the many professional development events we sponsor (the JETT workshops and the Computer Science and Information Technology Symposia). Sometimes we take a more lighthearted approach, as exemplified in our tension-releasing squishy CS Rocks rocks.

We have also begun reaching out to key organizations that share our interests and concerns. To date we have held productive meetings with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Software Business Association, the Business Roundtable, and the folks working on the Teacher Quality Bill. We have also done interviews with key people in the media who are both knowledgeable about and interested in our issues and this has resulted in some excellent articles about computer science education.

Outreach and advocacy are just a part of what CSTA does, but it is a key element and we need to keep doing it.

We also need you to help us get these messages out to the people who count in your world: parents, principals, administrators, school district superintendents and others.

I would love to know what you have been doing to promote K-12 computer science. Let me know by posting a comment about the most ingenious method you have used to get out the message about computer science education. I'll even send the person who posts the best on their own CS Rocks rock.

Chris

Comments

Hardly revolutionary, but I talk about it whenever I can.

I did read this VERY FRUSTRATING comment from a blog, regarding a state DOE woman who doesn't think CS is important. (The writer is a CS teacher, previously in HS, now in MS):

Regarding the challenging idea from the outspoken woman: I have heard this recently as well. It seems when I have heard it that the premise is that computer science is kind of like engine mechanics or telephone science. We get by fine not knowing how your internal combustion engines work (at least on a practical level not knowing, we might know some basic theory behind how they work), yet we use the cars and other devices powered by engines every day. Similarly, we don't know how the messages in our phones get from one place to another, but we use them transparently. Computer science is the same, the general populous doesn't need to know much about computer science (beyond some very basic theory) and will be able to get along better not knowing about the details of how things work and just focusing on using the device. Sure you will need some people, computer mechanics for lack of a better word, to learn the details, but why waste the time and effort of the schools in teaching a niche product (you could argue that we ought to be teaching auto mechanics to all our students as more of them use cars than use computers...well, not sure more of them do, but you get the idea). Personally, I see some merit to the argument. I don't totally agree with it, but it has its points. I think at some point it will be a valid argument, but I don't think we're there yet.

So there is a lot of work to do. I wonder if the emphasis on algorithmic thinking in the model curriculum can help people understand the importance of CS?

One of the factors that I play up in my recruiting with classes and also plan to develop in more detail for my guidance counselors (I am at a HS) is the fact that computer science courses are not just for computer science majors. There are very few majors in college in the mathematics or sciences that dont require students to take an introductory CS course.

As for the minority and gender problems, there are so many reasons why it appears that computer science appeals to the white male - I find my girls are timid and dont want to try something they see as hard and dont have any experience in, and therefore I give them extra encouragement and support. Word of mouth appears to also be a big factor in recruiting as well. This year I had an introductory class of 12 girls and 11 boys! I also had two hispanic girls in another class who were convinced that they were not being successful - and yet they earned the 3rd and 4th highest marks on the final exam. Sometimes a little extra encouragement and personal attention to the students who feel like they fall between the cracks can do wonderful things.

I must tell you, Michelle, that every time I hear that auto mechanics analogy, I want to gag. The question really is, what kind of foundational knowledge do you require as part of your education to allow you to explore your potential interests and abilities and to have a level of knolwedge requisite for all intelligent citizens. I would argue that it is just as important, in this increasingly technological world, to understand how computers really work as to understand the fundamentals of biology or physics and we never questions their apporpriateness as part of the curriculum. I will tell you that my experience dissecting frogs and cats in high school biology is far less relevant to my life today than my understanding of computing. And this is not just because I work in the field of computing education. I have worked as a radio news broadcaster, in public television, as a technical writer, as a textbook writer, and as the president of a publishing company and I have needed to use computing technology in every one of those jobs. And as a final note, I have to take my car in for servicing tomorrow, and not for the first time, I think it might have been a very good thing for me to have taken autoshop.

I think that there are a lot of applications where computer science, particularly the things taught in a programming class, can be used. Clearly information workers who use spreadsheets and databases benefit when they understand decision structures and Boolean searches. But even more basic are the problem solving skills that can be used by anyone who has a job involving thinking. I went on about this at more length in my own blog. But I feel strongly that a lot more students should take programming and computer science courses early.

Have you seen this before? It's a number guessing game: http://www.amblesideprimary.com/ambleweb/mentalmaths/guessthenumber.html. I guessed 24238, and it got it right! Pretty neat.

I took a break from my job at Cisco Systems and I moved from the corporate world to the teaching world. I taught a quarter at a community college and I noticed the problems that (I was educated in India) were there while teaching computers at college level here in the US. I am again going to teach in fall.

Students were not clear on many concepts in Mathematics and they were not interested in application of logic. I had to spend lots of time teaching 'basic' Math and Logic rather than spending time to teach about compilers and
the programming language concepts.

Why computers- the answer mostly was I loved to play games, write games, do animation. But when I said for that you need to understand something in Math - I could see their faces turning sad.

The K12 board needs to make school Math a little better. We (from Asia) do mug up a lot of multiplications tables and formulae..(which is not so good)but if we never had to use calculators for every little thing like here.
We do have an edge over the kids here because of the Math syllabus. Here the boards think too much and want to make it really really interesting and convoluted. The board first has to believe that the students do have to do- Math and it is a must and it cannot get interesting without working more on it.

I would encourage students by saying I will give you the logic..or explain the logic to me in words and then I will write the loops in pseudo code and they will do the actual code on the board.
say like For 1 to 100..walk through each student..Take his Science Mark and Add it to
Math mark.

I would also give problems where they have to
search in google and get todays date..Fun things that they can do.

I would give some puzzle to solve.

I am a teacher who has been teaching computer science to the high school students for the last 12 years. I have found that the students who are willing to study the subject lack confidence as they are not given the proper information or these students in their previous classes have not been taught the subject with full interest and the syllabus covered is very vague.Our subject needs more logic and we should encourage logical development from a very early age. I would be very greatful if I could do something to make our subject one of the favourites among the teens.

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