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August 27, 2008

CSTA Looking for Local Volunteers

If you are interested in working to improve K-12 computer science in your state, now is the time to get involved by working with your new CSTA local teacher leaders.

In January, CSTA was awarded an exciting new two-year grant with the overall objective of developing a cohort of K-12 teachers who will serve as educational leaders at the state level. Thirty-two people representing 17 states participated in a leadership-building workshop in July. The workshop focused on the leadership qualities needed for effective advocacy, identifying and building partnerships with appropriate stakeholders, and developing a toolkit of advocacy materials to be used in each state. (Individuals from the remaining states will be invited in winter 2009 to participate in a workshop during summer 2009 and continue their work through 2010.)

Since the workshop, participants have begun implementing outreach plans in their respective states focused on establishing K-12 computer science as an essential academic discipline and participating in a cohort online community to share experiences, strategies, and successes.

These local leaders are now working toward organizing local and state chapters of CSTA. CSTA chapters will meet on a regular basis, and address key issues such as community building, curriculum reform, and professional development.

In order for all of these efforts to be effective, members of the leadership cohort will be seeking volunteers to assist them. We will need the combined forces of all CSTA members in order for this project to be successful. For further information on participating states and contact information for local teacher leaders, please visit http://csta.acm.org

Gail Chapman
Leadership Cohort Coordinator

Posted by cstephenson at 08:23 PM | Comments (0)

August 22, 2008

Getting To Know the Freshman Students

Classes started at the University of South Carolina this morning, and I taught my first class at 9:30. Last year I taught our first-term (CS1) course because I felt it was (long past) time for me to get to know the freshman students, to try to understand why they were here in our classes, and perhaps to understand why there weren't more of them here in our classes. This year I promoted myself to teaching the second term course, and I spent a fair part of the summer getting ready to teach this, my 12th new course since 2001. It was a little scary last year teaching freshmen, knowing that they hadn't been born the last item I had taught freshmen. This year I see a lot of familiar faces from last year. Since I am teaching the only main section of our CS2 course, I know that these students are either happy to see me or else just gritting their teeth and hoping to get beyond me for next

Teaching these first two courses has given me a chance to see first hand what we do in the intro courses and to think about whether we are doing it right. I have long had some misgivings about the object oriented ideology; not that I am not willing to teach objects, but that I think students at this level need to see first and foremost that computer programs can be used to do useful things. Since students are naturally going to be making mistakes, the metaphysics of *why* we use objects will probably come to them after they make some necessary educational mistakes.

On Monday I will speak to our incoming class in our "freshman seminar" course. We created a one-credit course to try to get students introduced to the larger world of computing to which they will be exposed after they master some of the technical basics. If I thought I could get away with it, I would teach this using science fiction; by the time these students get to be my age in about 2050, they will be living in a very different world. It can't hurt for them to anticipate now what is to come by then, and the opening half-dozen pages of Charles Stross's *Accelerando* are only just barely fiction.

Duncan A. Buell
CSTA Board Member

Posted by cstephenson at 03:29 PM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2008

Where Did All the Years Go?

Today I enter my third decade in the teaching profession.

The first day of school is always an exciting one for the students, parents, and yes, for the teachers too. Our school has seven days of pre-planning before the students arrive. We have various tasks to do, including updating our curriculum maps, getting the computers ready, writing lesson plans and lots of meetings. Too many meetings!

Today, I'm ready to teach!

There have been many changes at our school. We had a 750 seat theatre built last year that has now opened up. There is also a new black box theatre for students and a new fitness center with state of the art equipment. My computer room was also carpeted over the summer and the sound of computers humming is very quiet.

The students seem eager to be back at school hooking up with old friends and anxious to make new friends as well.

This semester, I teach three sections of Web Design, one section of Honors Programming I, and one section of AP Computer Science. I'm using Moodle again this year and I am trying to get new teachers to use it as well. It is going to be very convenient to use because I built the course syllabus with links and files last year and now I just use it as needed.

This year marks the first year that my oldest daughter will be teaching kindergarten classes in Alexandria, VA. She went back to school recently at George Macon University to study elementary teaching because she got the teaching bug. She'll make a good teacher. I like to think that it runs in the family.

Brian Scarbeau
CSTA Board of Directors

Posted by cstephenson at 12:45 PM | Comments (1)

August 13, 2008

Setting the Tone for the School Year

For most of my teaching career I was on a 12 month contract because I was also the technology coordinator. That meant I was in the school building most of the summer. So for me the first day of school meant one thing - students! Being in a school that is empty of students can be a depressing time. The building is too quiet. The interactions are all with adults. Now there is nothing wrong with adults and I was always fortunate to work with talented, committed and interesting faculty and administration people. But there is nothing like interaction with students. When students show up for that first school day the energy is palpable. It is rejuvenating. It is exciting. For me there is nothing quite like it.

As a teacher the first day of school is a chance to set a tone for the year. I don't just mean the laying out of rules (though that is especially important in lab-based classes) and outlining the curriculum for the year but establishing a feeling of collaboration - a goal of learning together. I get excited about what I am teaching and I want to share that excitement. I see each new school year as ripe with opportunity for teacher as well as students to learn new things, to do interesting things, and to create new partnerships for learning. That is the tone I always tried to set for the school year. I'm not sure I always succeeded but that was always the goal.

This year I don't have classrooms of my own. I will likely not even be in a school on their first day. I'm on a number of advisory boards for computer programming/computer science programs at high schools near me and the meeting invitations are already coming in. So I know I will get some first day of school reports very soon but it is not like being there. I am seriously thinking about dropping in on some teachers I know just for the experience. We'll see about that. But over all I have a personal goal to visit more classrooms this year. If I can help out in a classroom that is great. Speaking to students is a very grounding experience and one I really believe helps the speaker as much as the listeners.

My wife and son are both teachers and are deep in the throes of preparing for the start of their school year. While they are enjoying the last of their summer vacations they are not facing the start of school with dread but with anticipation. I have to say that I am excited about and anticipating the new school year as well. A lot of teachers I work with made plans to learn new things over the summer and I look forward to hearing (and helping where I can) how those new things work when introduced to the classroom and students. The preparation is nearly complete. The planting is about to start. What sort of growth will the school year bring?

Alfred Thompson
Academic Relations Manage, Microsoft Corporation

Posted by cstephenson at 11:49 AM | Comments (0)

August 11, 2008

Myra's First Two Days Back at School

I am looking forward to my two first days of school.

The first day I return is a work day for teachers. I enjoy listening to all of the news that is presented that day such as the new babies and new marriages that have occurred. My principal is now using PowerPoint so he can incorporate the pictures of all of the events, as well as new staff members. We will then move on to meetings. I haven't figured out why it is referred to as a work day because I never seem to have time to work in my classrooms.

What I consider my second first day of school is the first day of student attendance. I am also looking forward to this day. I am planning on using Alice/Media Computation in my A.P. Computer Science A class this year and I am excited. The enrollment is down this year, the first time since I have been teaching this class, so I am hopeful that using this curriculum will help boost enrollment and student understanding.

Last year I had used a CMS in my computer classes and I want to continue using a CMS this year. However, I am running into some snags. I used Angel CMS last year which was offered free through the county office of education. This year, I recently discovered that they plan on charging which will cost about $180. With the budget crisis in California, I know my school won’t be able to pay for it. I had hoped to set up a Moodle server, but the school server I was going to use has been loaned to our district office. With the first day of school a little over 2 weeks away, I am not sure what I am going to do yet, but I am sure I will figure something out.

I have several new strategies I want to use with my Trigonometry classes. I attended a session at NECC that incorporated technology into a Trigonometry class. I plan to use some of those ideas this year to make trig more visual using Flash and Geometer’s Sketchpad. In addition, during the Alice/Media computation workshop, Steve Cooper demonstrated an Alice project that would be perfect for my trig class. It involved planets, ellipses and parameters. This will be a great way to introduce parameters to my students. They never seem to understand why a parameter is needed. Another piece of technology that I want to try with my trig students is blogs. I read about using a blog on Mr. Higgins' Blog in a math class. He has a different student post their class notes each day for other students to review. I would like to try that this year.

I hope that I can apply all of the ideas I plan to this year. I know they will benefit my students.

Myra Deister
CSTA Board Member

Posted by cstephenson at 05:04 PM | Comments (0)

August 09, 2008

Dreaming of a New School Year

It is hard to believe that it is already time to turn our minds to the new school year.

For some, there is almost enough time left to do all of the projects we promised to do around the house. For others, it is a mad dash to get everything ready for the students. This is especially true for those hardy souls who have been working all summer to set up new servers and labs or get the old equipment ready to take one more year of student "love".

Where ever you are along this spectrum, it is likely that you are meeting the new school with both joy and trepidation and that you have dreams of your own that will come into fruition or die as this year moves through its paces.

The new school year can always be a fresh start, a new beginning, a chance for us to grow together with our students.

So tell us. What do do you wish this year to be for you and your students?

Chris Stephenson
Executive Director

Posted by cstephenson at 01:24 PM | Comments (0)