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July 28, 2006

Tells Us What You Need

Our research has consistently told us that what teachers want and need are resources, resources, and more resources but it is not always clear what kind of resources are most helpful.

First, what you need depends upon what you teach. The kinds of resources you need if you are teaching an introductory computer science course are very different from those needed by someone who is teaching AP CS.

Second, teachers use different teaching strategies and the students in their classes are very diverse. This makes it challenging to ensure that the activities and outcomes are engaging and achievable for all students.

So how do we decide what kind of resources would be most helpful to teachers?
Well, I guess we ask.

Here is the situation.

This Spring we completed a terrific project with IBM involving the creation of three new modules for teaching and learning: a module on web design for introductory courses, a module on learning object oriented programming by designing a pong game for more advanced students, and a module on project-based learning for teachers. This project was a great success for CSTA and IBM and we would love to work together to create more of these resources, but we need your guidance.

We are not talking about textbooks, or whole courses here. Rather, we would like to develop units that address a select number of key learning outcomes and can be easily fit into your exiting courses. You can expect that each resource would include a teacher's guide, sample worksheets or assignments, a Powerpoint presentation on key concepts, and an assessment tool.

So here is your chance. Tell us what kinds of units would be most helpful to you and what key learning outcomes it should address.

We really want to know.

Chris Stephenson
Executive Director

Posted by cstephenson at 04:25 PM | Comments (5)

July 23, 2006

Expanding Communication

In my new role as CSTA's Publications Committee Chair, I have spent the last week thinking a lot about communication, specifically about what types of communication make an organization work and what types of communication our members might want.

Right now, CSTA communicates with its members (you) in a couple of different ways. This blog is great for letting you know what we are thinking and working on. The CSTA Voice is great for sharing articles, highlighting trends or best practices in CS education, and informing you of new research or upcoming events. Our current focus, however, is finding an effective interactive tool for communicating more immediately and directly with our members and helping our members connect more easily with each other.

My favorite form of communication is face to face. Unfortunately with 4500+ members spread across the globe its kind of hard for all of us to get together in one place at one time. And even then I believe that a formal "program" would be needed to help introduce people, connect people who are interested in the same topics, and start to build a community of our members.

One of our primary tasks when producing a community is interaction. How can those who have questions ask them? How can those who have knowledge share it? How can the leadership of the organization share important membership benefits and receive candid feedback about them? And how can we as a leadership understand what is most important in your little corner of the world?

I am working on some ideas, but I would love to hear yours. Please comment on this post, even if it is just encouragement to say that you are interested in an interactive tool.

Leigh Ann Sudol

Posted by cstephenson at 11:04 AM | Comments (2)

July 14, 2006

Computer Science & Information Technology Symposium

There was something about this year's Computer Science and Information Technology Symposium that made it feel really special but I cannot seem to put my finger on exactly what that was.

We have been doing the Symposium now for six years. Each year a dedicated group of fabulous volunteers gets together, and with help from our project manager, spends a whole year putting together a full day of professional development specifically designed for K-12 computer science and information technology teachers in conjunction with a national educational technology conference and each year, the Programming Planning Committee strives to outdo the results of the previous year.

There were definitely some changes this year though. First, the committee decided to provide more opportunities to allow teachers to choose the sessions that would best meet their needs. The number of breakout sessions was increased from three to four and an extra session was added to each breakout timeslot so that teachers had more choices per breakout. We also added a new two-part hands-on sessions on programming in .Net and another on wikis. The other important thing about the sessions this year is that the increased number of slots allowed us to create a better balance between CS and IT offerings.

Because presentations at CSIT are invitation only, the quality tends to be high, but several people have told us that this year they were outstanding. Ellen Spertus (sexiest geek alive) started the day off with a thoughtful and engaging presentation on the future of computer science education. Kevin Schofield (VP of Microsoft Research) gave us a wide-ranging and inspiring look at how computing is changing the world in key areas such as AIDS research. Jane Margolis also talked about her latest research focusing on encouraging more young women and minority students to study computing.

Another great thing about this year's symposium is that this time we had a whole team from Microsoft in attendance, giving presentations, attending sessions, and just talking to teachers about what teachers and students want and need.

If you did not get a chance to be there, you can still benefit from the Symposium by downloading the presentations available on the CSIT2006 website. Just go to the agenda and click on the session title (there are still a few late submissions to be added).

The even better news is that you can start making your plans to attend next year! Microsoft has already generously agreed to sponsor us for another Computer Science and Information Technology Symposium next year in Atlanta in conjunction with NECC! We hope to see you there.

Chris Stephenson
Executive Director

Posted by cstephenson at 07:33 PM | Comments (2)

July 04, 2006

Improving the NET Standards

As many of you probably know, ISTE's National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) for Students provide the gold standard by which the implementation of educational technology in support of student learning can be measured. What you may not know is that over the next year, ISTE is launching a national consultation process to "refresh" the Student standards.

Why, you might be asking, should we care? The sad truth is that these days there is an educational and attitudinal divide between those of us who focus on the use of educational technology across the curriculum and those of us teach computer science. The truth is, however, that our interests and fates are inextricably linked and it would make much more sense if we worked more closely together.

Despite our different focus, educational technologists and computer scientists are both committed to ensuring that students have the opportunity to benefit from educational technology and to acquire the skills and knowledge they need to survive in this increasingly global and technologized world. Where we falter, however, is in seeing the extent to which our goals will only be achieved by our comprehension of the importance of the full continuum of skills. It is simply not enough to teach students about and with technology, students need to develop the skills that will allow them to become the creators and innovators who will develop the new technologies we have only begun to dream of.

When the ACM Model Curriculum for K-12 Computer Science was developed, the authors believed it was essential to include the NETS as the foundational building blocks of technology knowledge for all students. As ISTE moves forward with their revisions, we hope that they will also incorporate the skills that we believe are critical to student success. We hope that they will take an opportunity to include computing logic and algorithmic problem solving into the NETS for grades 6-8, not just because these concepts are the fundamental building blocks of more advanced computing, but because they provide students with a powerful new tool for thinking about how technology can be used to solve real world problems. And if ISTE does this, we will commit CSTA to ensuring that teachers have access to a variety of age-level appropriate instructional materials that will help them introduce these concepts in engaging and relevant ways.

ISTE has begun this discussion about what students need to learn, and it is essential that computer science educators take part. Be part of this important event by completing the online survey at:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=390142293245

Students win when we work together.

It is that simple.

Chris Stephenson
Executive Director

Posted by cstephenson at 09:53 PM | Comments (1)