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September 27, 2005

Worth the Cost of Membership

CSTA has now just reached its first birthday and, looking back on the year, I am feeling very good about what our dedicated staff and volunteers have accomplished.

We began the year with a big to do list.
* Start new organization for computer science teachers
* Get members
* Do good stuff for members
* Reach out to K-12 teachers across the world
* Reach out to university folks to help ease communication and bride gaps
* Convince corporate sponsors that this organization is worth supporting
* Write a strategic plan
* Write grant proposals to ensure long-term viability

Because we really wanted to give our members a chance to get to know us, we instituted a one-year free charter membership for both individual (teacher) and organizational (school districts, universities, research organizations, corporations) members.

Here are some of the things that we promised our members that we delivered on.
* Provided a free copy of A Model Curriculum for K-12 Computer Science
* Provided a free "csta.acm.org" email forwarding address
* Provided online training courses through the Sun Academic Alliance
* Provided access to the Career Resource Center
* Provided Table of Contents alerts for new material in the ACM Digital Library
* Provided online access to Crossroads magazine and the TechNews and CareerNews online IT digests

Here are the things we were not sure we could promise, but we did them anyway.
* Created the Voice, CSTA's quarterly newsletter to all our members
* Provided 60 workshops for AP teachers in partnership with The College Board and universities and colleges across the country
* Provided two of several planned virtual e-binders of research on key issues in K-12 computer science education (Equity, Teaching Strategies)
* Provided two full-day Computer Science and Information Technology Symposia for over 200 teachers
* Set up an Advisory Council of high level leaders in academia and industry to help guide us and keep us connected with the professional world around us
* Organized an international panel on K-12 computer science curricula in the US, Canada, Israel, Scotland, and South Africa for NECC
* Provided new support documents for the ACM Model Curriculum for K-12 Computer Science Education to help teachers effectively implement the curriculum
* Created a new position on our Board of Directors for someone who would advise us on how to reach out to computer science educators around the world and how to better support our international members

And here are just some of the things we are planning to do this coming year.
* Develop a national web repository of classroom learning resources and professional development materials
* Provide localized workshops for pre-AP teachers across the country
* Provide new resources to give students a better idea of the kinds of opportunities computer science provides and why it is important to take computer science in high schools
* Create an on-line repository of teacher-created learning materials focusing on cyber education
* Create a database of teacher certification requirements by state
* Produce more resource documents to help implement the model curriculum
* Present a even better Computer Science and Information Technology Symposium
* Continue to work with other organizations and with our corporate partners to support computer science education

In the next little while we will be asking our members whose charter membership has expired to renew their membership in our organization. To encourage them to do so, we are offering two years of membership for the price of one ($30).

We hope we have done enough to earn their continued support.

Posted by cstephenson at 08:19 PM | Comments (6)

September 09, 2005

When the World Intervenes

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own challenges that it is hard to extend our focus beyond our immediate concerns. For some reason, though, just when we are buried about as deeply as we can be in the issues of the moment, something comes along and hits us over the head and reminds us of the limitations of our viewpoint. This summer there have been two events that have brought this home to me in a profound way.

On June 28, I took part in a special panel session at NECC focusing on international perspectives on high school computer science curricula. This session, chaired by CSTA Curriculum Committee Chair Anita Verno and sponsored by the National Science Foundation, is part of a larger project to help us find successful models for developing and implementing a national computer science curriculum.

The panel featured several speakers from different countries, each of which had already begun implementing a comprehensive curriculum for computer science. Anita spoke about CSTA's efforts to support the ACM Model Curriculum for K-12 Computer Science, Dr. Judith Gal-Ezer discussed Israel's highly successful CS curriculum, Jackie Martin described Scotland's national curriculum, Mike Chiles addressed South Africa's new national curriculum, and I spoke about the comprehensive curriculum implemented in Ontario, Canada, in 2000.

As each speaker addressed the implementation phase of her/his curriculum development process, it became increasingly clear that countries who were further ahead in this effort than the United States had discovered several key factors that needed to be in place in order for the curriculum to succeed. These included a reasonable implementation time line, access to adequate resources (functioning hardware, support materials, textbooks), and professional development for teachers.

All of these are important considerations for CSTA to address as we attempt to improve computer science education. But something else happened at the presentation. Mike Chiles, the Director of Information and Technological Services at the Western Cape Education Department in South Africa, reminded us, in the gentlest of ways, of the cost of focusing too closely on our own concerns. South Africa, he explained, faces a unique challenge in its efforts to ensure an adequate supply of trained computer science teachers. The HIV/AIDS pandemic raging across Africa is taking the lives of so many teachers, and so many technically skilled people in business and industry, that it is not possible to find enough teachers for the classrooms. And then it hit us, speakers and audience alike. It is not just some "them" dying in a far away place. It is "us." Teachers are dying. And I do not know what to do.

And now, we have a similar reminder much closer to home. A part of this country lies in ruins, families lost, homes destroyed, children, adults, and even pets displaced and afraid, their lives in tatters. This hurricane and its aftermath are testing as at our most foundational level, and in a country as generous as this, I do not believe that the people will be found wanting.

In Texas, everything is big, including the hearts of its people, and our friends at TCEA are already putting together a Task Force to help schools get their technology back up and running. This is the right thing to do. To offer what it is we know how to do best in the service of others. And I have promised TCEA's Executive Director Ron Cravey (cravey@tcea.org) that CSTA will be there to help in any way that we can.

Right now, there are important things that you can do. Donate money to the Red Cross, to the Salvation Army, to the Humane Society, and to the many organizations that are tending to bodies and souls. Organize something in your school, your community, or your city. And when we let you know how you can help us help them, please answer our call.

There are things we can do to help and doing something is always better than doing nothing. Find a way to show how thankful you are for all that you have by helping those who now have nothing.



Posted by cstephenson at 01:14 PM | Comments (0)