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Support Your Local Teachers

Since our keynote address at SIGCSE in Houston last month, Chris and I have had an influx of people -- both at the K-12 and at the post-secondary level -- contact us to find out how they can best help CSTA and its mission to strengthen K-12 computer science education.

As we pointed out in our talk, one of the biggest problems facing K-12 computer science teachers is that they are typically a "department of one" in their schools. They have no community of colleagues with whom to share ideas. They feel that they are the lone voice for computer science in not only their schools, but often in their districts as well.

If you are a college or university educator, here's one way you can help out your colleagues in K-12. Get in touch with the computer science teachers at your local schools. Invite them to an evening get-together where they can meet their fellow teachers in computer science.

When planning a local meeting, here are some ideas to help get you started:

1) Keep the meeting short. K-12 teachers are extremely busy people. After they go home, they'll probably spend an hour or two grading papers or preparing for the next day's classes. Use their time wisely. A good meeting will last about an hour, ninety minutes maximum.

2) Have some sort of presentation. This doesn't need to be long (thirty minutes tops) or even extremely formal (but it should be prepared in advance rather than off-the-cuff). For example, you might share a nifty assignment or an interesting teaching technique, tour the university computer science research lab, or demo some captivating samples of student work. As your meetings progress over the year, get everyone involved and let the ideas flow from *within* your community!

3) Allow time for everyone to get to know each other. While you should spend a couple of minutes on formal introductions, the vast majority of this time should allow for people to network and just chat. It's also good to have some of this informal time at both the beginning and end of the meeting (the time at the beginning accommodates those late arrivers who get stuck in traffic; the time at the end allows for discussion of the presentation).

4) Provide food! Not only is it a good attendance motivator and helps to relax people, but it also provides dinner for those busy, busy teachers (see #1 above).

Let us know how CSTA can help you facilitate this process. Strengthening our interactions as a community of computer science educators will not only benefit all of us individually, but will improve computer science education as a whole.

Finally, write and share your stories! Your successes will inspire others.

Robb Cutler
Chair, CSTA

P.S. And if you're a K-12 teacher reading this, contact a computer science professor at your local college or university. Tell them about this article and ask them to help!

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