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Our Graying Population

Yesterday I attended the Computer Science & Information Technology Symposium that was held at the Omni Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia. For the past several years, I've been a speaker at this event and this was the second time that I've attended as a registrant.

I always look forward to this event because it gives me a chance to see some old friends and to meet new friends as well. In addition, it helps me learn new ways to teach computer science education. I attended sessions on robotics, the Grid World Case Study, programming with Alice, and on XNA. The Computer Science Teachers Association sponsored the event along with the support of Microsoft Corporation.

One quick observation that I made as I looked around the ballroom at the keynote sessions was that there are no young computer science teachers in the group that attended. In fact, the youngest that I saw in the crowd were Microsoft employees.

I've talked to several computer science teachers in past years who have retired and have told me that their school could not hire another teacher to replace them and that they don't teach computer science at that school anymore. How sad for all those students who have the desire to learn about computer science education.

Much has been advertised about the lack of IT workers in the workforce and I was thinking yesterday about the future if there are no qualified computer science educators to teach our students in private and public schools.

Sure, there are industry professionals who have made the leap from industry to the classroom successfully but there are many that don't too. I was talking to Linda Hayes who I've worked with on the Board of Directors at the Florida Computer Science Teachers Association and she told me that Kennesaw State University in Georgia where she now works has a program to help new computer science teachers who have worked in industry. According to Alfred Thompson who works in Academic Relations for Microsoft Corporation, Kennesaw has the only program that does this. I asked Alfred if there are any colleges/universities that are training college students on how to be a computer science teacher and he wasn't aware of any.

Teaching computer science to students is very rewarding. I've been doing it for over 20 years. I left teaching after receiving my advanced degree to work in industry and I went back to teaching after a couple of years of working as Director of Education for a trade association and as a Systems Manager for a large CPA firm. High school students are a great deal of fun to be around I guess.

As a newly elected Board Member to the Computer Science Teachers Association I will do my part in trying to promote professionals to go into teaching. As a professional, try to even mentor a high school student as a start. Contact your local high school to see what you can do to promote computer science education.

Some day, you might experience the fun that I have working with teenagers.

Brian Scarbeau
CSTA 9-12 Teacher Representative

Comments

I, too, made the transition from industry to teaching. In my case it was almost by accident - I got a job working as a system and network engineer at a school and when a teaching position opened up, I decided to go for it. I've never looked back - working with kids is so much more fun.

I think you hit the nail on the head with citing the schools themselves as part of the problem. If schools aren't hiring computer science teachers, then we have a huge problem. I would never have thought of pursuing a CS teaching position, it had to be easy to find.

In my school, we have volunteers from industry come in to help support several of our clubs, such as the Tech Challenge group. I think many schools would love to have that kind of support. I would love to have volunteers come into my class and support the kids when they're debugging - some days one of me isn't enough. My volunteers don't have to be programmers, they just have to be calm and know that a solution is possible with some persistence.

I think that computer science is very important and i have thought about doing it in the past, that is before i failed technology. I agree that it is hard to find good teachers to replace good teachers, especially when they are teaching such a subject.

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