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The Power of Partnership

At this moment I am sitting in a meeting room in Portland OR surrounded by one of the most motivated and skilled work teams that I have had the pleasure of working with. This team consists of three teacher volunteers from CSTA (Margaret Butler from St. Francis High School in CA, Joon Yee Chuah from L. B. J. High School in TX, and Anita Verno from Bergen Community College in NJ) and three curriculum specialists from IBM (Jane Balin from CA, Cheri Borchardt from TX, and Bunny Taylor from GA). Our task, for the next four days, is to produce three brand new resources for computer science educators.

This project came about as a result of discussions we began with Robin Willner of the IBM Foundation many months ago. IBM was interested in working with CSTA to address the needs of K-12 computer science educators. One of the things that we agreed on very quickly was that teachers need access to more and better resources to improve student learning and also to allow them to continue to enhance their own teaching skills. And so, with funding from the IBM Foundation and help from several IBM resource people, we assembled a collection of learning materials that IBM had already created and put together a team. Our goal is to produce three new classroom-ready resources that address specific learning outcomes identified in the ACM Model Curriculum for K-12 Computer Science Education.

We began our meeting yesterday with each team member presenting an in-depth review of the example resources and a proposal for new resources that could be created. When the presentations were complete, the entire team decided that we would begin with three major themes and build a new resource for each that would draw on, enhance, and add to the original materials, The themes chosen were: principles of web design, object oriented programming, and project-based learning. The team divided into three work groups and by the end of the day each work group had produced and presented its project plan.

From now until Thursday afternoon, the groups will be working frantically to achieve their ambitious plans. The entire team will then come back together and each group will present its new resource for review and feedback. The resources will then be distributed to pilot schools who will continue the feedback loop to help us ensure that they are truly useful for teachers and students. Finally, the resources will be made available free of charge to teachers by both IBM and CSTA.

I think that this project is an excellent example of how professional organizations such as CSTA and major industry partners such as IBM can work together to do good things for education. We did not go to IBM hat in hand asking them to just write us a check. We asked for much more. We asked for a relationship. We asked them to share the time and expertise of their employees and consultants. We asked them to listen to teachers about what kinds of resources would be truly useful to them. And of course, we also asked IBM for staff and financial support. And here we are in Portland.

This is the true power of partnership, the power to bring people together, to create something new and useful, to share a commitment to teachers and students.

CSTA is a fairly new organization as educational associations go, but we believe in partnerships and we believe in our ability to work with companies such as IBM and Microsoft (who provides funding for our Computer Science and Information Technology Symposium). We know that there can be pitfalls to these relationships (being perceived as being under the influence of any one vendor) but we try to be sure that we begin with a shared understanding of our mutual goals and limitations. We know that the issues we need to address are too big for any one organization to take on alone. We need support from all levels of education, from industry, and from state and federal governments.

We know that supporting K-12 computer science is the key to future technological innovation and economic viability, and we are hoping that as more people come to understand this, they will join us in this partnership. It is truly a win-win opportunity.

Comments

Sounds like some pretty exciting things going on these days. Hopefully more people and companies in the computer industry will come on board.

This is a very good initiative. I hope this partnership will help to reduce gender unequality specifically unequality between wealthy and poor people, unequality between towns and villages and unequality between men and women in the use of ICTs. Thank you.
Haoua TAGO KONE
Burkna Faso (WEST AFRICA)

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