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October 25, 2007

Using Technology to Teach Computing

We all know that teaching computing involves instructional activities on the countless and varied aspects of technology. But how do you use technology to teach computing?

I know teachers who record all of their programming technique demonstrations so that students can revisit them as many times as they want. There are teachers who would be lost without the ability to communicate online with students and parents about assignments and class activities through any number of tools. Wikis and forums add depth and inclusion to classroom discussions when all students feel free to participate. The opportunities for teaching computing, or any course for that matter, with technology are endless.

We'd like to hear about and share with CSTA members your experiences in teaching computing with an effective technology tool or strategy. Please share your success stories here.

Pat Phillips
Editor, CSTA Voice

Posted by cstephenson at 01:54 PM | Comments (3)

October 22, 2007

Update from the Hopper Conference

I have just attended my first Grace Hopper conference organized by the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology. The conference sold out with over 1400 people attending. There were a few brave men at the conference but the vast majority of the attendees were women (they even changed some of the men's bathrooms into women's bathrooms). It was amazing and exciting to see so many technical women in a variety of shapes, colors, ages, and backgrounds. I was impressed with the energy, enthusiasm, and depth of knowledge.

The keynote speaker was Donna Dubinsky who is the founder of a new company Numenta that is trying to design a computer system that reasons using a model based on the neocortex of the brain. She was also president and CEO of Palm and had also co-founded Handspring.

Jeannette M. Wing from Carnegie Mellon University gave a very interesting speech about some of the great open questions in computer science such as, "What is computable?" and "What is intelligence?" I was standing behind Turing Award winner Fran Allen in line for drinks and got to ask her, "what attracted her to her career in computer science at IBM". She said that she had big student loans and needed the money!

One of the interesting comments I heard was from a student who said that she was surprised at the number of older women at the conference. Many of the students didn't know who Grace Hopper or Anita Borg were. I had an interesting talk with Kathryn Kleiman about a documentary that she is working on about the female programmers of the ENIAC and how they have never really gotten credit for their work. You can learn more about the female programmers of the ENIAC at www.eniacprogrammers.org.

There is a documentary fundraiser on Thursday, November 8th 2007 from 6pm – 9pm, at the Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California. Tickets are $100.00 each and you can register at www.google.com/events/eniac.

Everyone has heard of Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs but very few people know about the important contributions of women in computer science. We need to do a better job of recognizing the contributions of women in computing and in educating both men and women about the role women have played in computing!

For more information on Grace Hopper see http://gracehopper.org/2007/about/grace-hopper/.
For more information on Anita Borg see http://anitaborg.org/about/history/anita-borg/.
For more information on the ENIAC programmers see http:// www.eniacprogrammers.org.

Barb Eriscon
CSTA Certification Chair

Posted by cstephenson at 02:30 PM | Comments (0)

October 11, 2007

Interesting Article on the Job Market

One of the things we frequently hear from our members is that kids are avoiding computer science courses because they belief that there are not any jobs. We now have more evidence that this is not the case.

Recently, the Chair of the CSTA Advisory Council, Dr. Debra Richardson, sent me this article by eWeek reporter Deborah Perelman that shows that job opporunties for computer science graduates are actually on the rise and so are the salaries.

The article CS Degree Starting Salaries Up 15% Since Bust was published October 5, 2007 in eWeek.

To quote Perelman: "In addition, some of the highest salary offers among all college majors, exceeded only by a few in the engineering field (chemical, computer, electrical and mechanical engineering, specifically), went to graduating computer science majors. Computer science majors saw a 4.5 percent increase in salary offers between 2006 and 2007, bringing the average to $53,051. The increase for information sciences and systems graduates was even greater (5.9 percent), resulting in an average offer of $49,966."

This is a great article and you should definitely read it, and perhpas even print off a copy for your school's guidance counsellor, or for the members of the PTA.

Chris Stephenson
CSTA Executive Director

Posted by cstephenson at 06:14 PM | Comments (1)

October 05, 2007

What School Counselors Need to Know About CS

On September 12, 2007 Dr. Debra Richardson, Dean of the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California at Irvine, addressed the University of California High School Counselors and provided the following very valuable information about why computer science is so important.

I want to talk to you this morning about the importance of computer science and information technology education for the next generation.

As you're all aware, everyone's life and work are touched by technology. Technological advances impact all disciplines, which requires interdisciplinary collaboration in research imperatives as well as in education. Interdisciplinary education is a real need for students venturing out into today's global industries.

I'm going to repeat a somewhat controversial quote, but it's something that is echoing the halls of higher education today: Computing and information "is the liberal arts education of the 21st century - the skill that can be universally applied across domains to help solve the toughest scientific, economic and social problems. Nurturing and energizing the next generation of liberal arts specialists will bring about new dreams and new discoveries."

It was Dan Reed, Director of the Renaissance Computing Institute who I first heard say this, and it's just so true. Today's college graduates simply can't call themselves properly educated for the 21st century if they don't have appropriate fluency in computing and information technology.

The Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences prides itself on delivering an interdisciplinary education focused on computing and information technology and how it affects the other disciplines. Our research emphasizes how technological advances improve quality of life and foster economic competitiveness, and this extends to the curriculum we deliver. Today's global industry has become more dependent on students having a multi-disciplinary skill set, and all of our majors target that mix.

Undergraduate work in CS/IT prepares students for a broad range of careers (such as business consulting, software development, systems analysis and administration, and even teaching) and also to attend professional or graduate school.

Now some of you may be saying, "I can't send my students to computer science, there are no jobs." Yet, contrary to the off-shoring hype, the job market in CS/IT is seeing an upward trend. The design and innovation jobs remain here in the U.S. and that's what we train our students for. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor projects that five of the ten fastest growing occupations for college graduates are in the CS/IT sector with over 2 million new jobs in the this sector expected by 2014.

The CS/IT discipline appreciates, seeks out and is made stronger by diversity - diversity of experiences and perspectives, and in gender and ethnicity.

As counselors, you are in a unique position to encourage young people to explore their interests and talents for CS/IT study. Send us your high-achieving students, with or without previous exposure to the field, who are driven by analytical challenges, are creative and design-oriented, and enjoy working with others on team-based problem-solving.

As counselors, you are able to help identify curriculum needs and changes at your high schools that will help increase your students' exposure to and strengthen their skill set with CS and IT concepts.

As counselors, you belong to an important collective of UC partners who are helping tomorrow's educators, doctors, business professionals, leaders and informed citizens to find the path, setting and method that best fit their interests, aptitudes, educational and career goals.

Debra Richardson

Posted by cstephenson at 11:56 AM | Comments (0)

October 04, 2007

South Carolina Takes Ambitious Leap

About six months ago, a group of department chairs, university and technical college faculty, teachers, and parents in South Carolina came together with the goal of bringing back the enrollments in undergraduate programs in computing. Now with the support of the South Carolina Superintendent of Education, Dr. Jim Rex, they are moving ahead on an ambitious plan to revamp high school computer science in South Carolina. Duncan Buell, Chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of South Carolina gave me the following update on the Computing Competitiveness Council's plan.

Our committee's goal is to improve students' future employment opportunities and South Carolina's share of the knowledge economy. Over the last few months we have developed an analysis of why computing education may be the way it is and a plan for changing the situation for the better.

One of the problems we see is that although there are departments of math, science, and business, there is no "department of computing" in the high schools, and thus there is no focus and no champion of computing per se. Over the long term we hope to change that situation, even if only to create virtual departments of computing comprising faculty from other departments. We feel we have made a major step forward in this direction in that the major guidance brochure for the STEM disciplines now features computer science prominently along with mathematics, science, and pre-engineering.

We have also, at least in the Columbia area where USC is located, identified a school district willing to work with us on curricular issues and program development. In South Carolina, high school students choose a major. Last week the district and I worked out a major in computer science that will be advertised as one of the STEM disciplines. At USC, we are also developing a variation of the ACM/CSTA Level II course that will be suitable for distance delivery and satisfy a state computer science requirement that all too often has turned into a computer literacy requirement.

We also intend to create a distance delivery version of the course and thus to mitigate problems with rural schools and the difficulties faced by school districts in justifying the staffing of computing classes with teachers. The other university participants in the CCC are currently searching for suitable districts in their regions of the state.

Finally, we will be planning teacher preparation courses for summer 2008 both in the new Level II course and in Advanced Placement Computer Science, whose enrollment has shrunk in South Carolina to less than ten percent of that of AP Calculus. As our plans develop, we will be asking the state for support for teachers to induce them to make the effort to prepare for teaching these classes.

Overall, our goal is to coordinate the presentation to students and parents of the message about computing as a discipline and computing as a career and to provide schools with the documentation, support, and teacher preparation necessary to deliver that message. It's a tall order, but if we do not participate, then we can't very well complain about what message does get sent.

Duncan Buell

Posted by cstephenson at 02:48 PM | Comments (0)

October 02, 2007

If We had a Million Dollars or Even Two

"What would CSTA do if it had unlimited financial resources? What projects would it undertake that would truly improve K-12 computer science education and address our current enrollment crisis?"

CSTA is now beginning its third year of operations and once again we are doing extensive strategic and financial planning. Yesterday I presented an early draft of our sustainability plan to the CSTA Advisory Council and the Council members asked me these questions.

First, it is important to note that I am quite conservative when it comes to fiscal planning. I don't like to spend money I am not sure we have. Also, I think that after having spent more than 20 years in K-12 education, I am so used to being told we have to do more with less, I have forgotten how to dream really big.

So I am turning this question over to you, the real experts, our member and colleagues in K-12 and asking for your ideas and dreams.

If CSTA had unlimited funds, what could we do that would truly impact K-12 computer science education for the better?

Chris Stephenson
Executive Director

Posted by cstephenson at 05:10 PM | Comments (3)