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September 25, 2008


CSTA has just added an RSS feed for its news updates on the homepage. If you already have an RSS reader either installed in your browser or through a service like Google reader, just use the orange icon to have your reader include our news!

If you don't have an RSS reader set up, you should consider it! It is a great way to have updates from your favorite web sites sent to you like email. Rather than having to navigate the web, you can simply choose to have your favorite news, blog posts, or other RSS-enabled information sent directly to your reader.

There are RSS reader programs that install directly to your email or you can use something like Google reader to help you organize the feeds. I suggest you check out Google reader or just do a search for RSS reader and the name of your email client in order to see what is available.

If you are interested in a way to have our CSTA news sent directly to your email, you can check out the blog post I did a while ago about RSS. It provides a link to a tool and directions that allow you to send any RSS feed to your email inbox.

Leigh Ann Sudol
CSTA Volunteer

Posted by cstephenson at 10:22 AM | Comments (0)

September 16, 2008

Getting Moms and Dads Involved

I am excited by the explosive growth in our Georgia Tech computing workshops for Girl Scouts.

We started working with the Girl Scouts in 2005. I had been interested in using LEGO robots to introduce computing to kids but was worried about research that showed that in mixed gender groups boys often took over. One year at SIGCSE I saw a poster about the LEGO robots and asked the presenter if she had this problem. She said, "No, we are at an all girls school."

I contacted the local Girl Scout Council and they already had LEGO robots and laptops but nobody knew what to do with them. I suggested that I bring female undergraduate computing majors to help with Robot workshops and we started with volunteers.

In 2005-2006 we did three weekends where Dads go camping with their daughters and we had them program pre-built LEGO robots. We also offered two 4-hour workshops where the girls could build and program the robots. We also trained camp counselors to offer the robots at one Girl Scout camp that summer. About 190 girls got an introduction to computing from these activities in 2005-2006.

In 2006-2007 we again did three weekends with the Dads and girls. We offered three 4-hour robot workshops and our first workshop on Alice. We trained camp counselors to do the robots at one Girl Scout camp that summer and also lent the Girl Scouts PicoCricket kits and they used these at another Girl Scout camp. About 372 girls got an introduction to computing from these activities in 2006-2007.

In 2007-2008 we received an NSF Broadening Participation in Computing grant which meant that we could pay students to help at our computing workshops. We did four weekends with Dads and their daughters with LEGO robots, three weekends with Moms and their daughters with PicoCrickets, and ten 4-hour workshops in total using LEGO robots, PicoCrickets, Scratch, and Alice.

We also targeted Hispanic Girl Scouts. We went to a local Elementary school for three weeks in a row and introduced the students to computing using PicoCrickets and LEGO robots. We also bused in Hispanic Girl Scouts for one of our 4-hour workshops at Georgia Tech. Again the Girl Scouts offered LEGO robots at one summer camp and PicoCrickets at another. About 1595 girls got an introduction to computing from these activities in 2007-2008.

For 2008-2009 we are planning on doing the Dad and Me and Mom and Me programs and have fifteen 4-hour workshops scheduled! One of the cool things is that originally we had 12-20 girls at a computing workshop and now we get 60 at a time with a waiting list. Only about 25-30% of the girls have been to more than one computing workshop so we are still reaching new girls. Our Girl Scout Council of Greater Atlanta, Inc. has about 40,000 girls in it so we still have many more girls that we hope to reach.

We do a pre and post attitude survey and are finding that we can change the girls' attitudes towards computing in just these 4-hour workshops. We are getting the most statistically significant changes in attitudes with our PicoCricket workshops. We also get some statistically significant changes in attitudes with Scratch and Alice. We are currently not getting any statistical significant changes in attitudes with the LEGO robots.

I particularly like the events with the Dads and Moms and their daughters as research shows that one way to get girls interested in computing is to get their parents to support it. At these events we hand out career brochures from the Computer Science Teachers Association ("Consider Your Future in Computing"), ACM ("Computing Careers and Degrees") and the new "Talking Points" from NCWIT. It is fun to see the Dads' faces as they talk to the female undergraduate students and find out that they are majoring in Computer Science or Computation Media at Georgia Tech. You can tell that this surprises the Dads!

For more information see:


for pictures from our Girl Scout workshops and our pre and post attitude surveys. See


for the CSTA career brochures we hand out. See


for the Talking Points from NCWIT.

Barb Ericson
Director, CS Outreach
College of Computing
Georgia Tech

Posted by cstephenson at 12:30 PM | Comments (0)

September 11, 2008

Leadership Cohort Activities in Gwinnett County, Georgia

I began this school year with a renewed spirit, after having attending the Leadership Cohort in Chicago, IL this summer! It was so empowering to be amongst folks with like minds and a passion to grow our computer science programs at our schools.

As the Program Specialist for High Schools in Gwinnett County, Georgia, I serve as a liaison between the Computer Science teachers and the Director of Technical Education, Computer Science, and Apprenticeships. During the week of pre-planning, the Assistant Principal of Curriculum at my school stopped me in the hallway and asked me if I had any ideas about how I could possibly help to increase the number of students in the Computer Science program. I said, "Do I?!" He came into my classroom and I told him about the cohort, and all of the activities that we'd done to that end. So, we both left our little impromptu meeting feeling very encouraged. As part of an aggressive recruiting program this year, I will be at the feeder middle school's Orientation Night, equipped with a Smartboard showing some Greenfoot programs, Scratch animations, and Alice movies. I will also take along a couple of Lego NXT robots. The idea is to get the upcoming freshman class students "amped up" to take computer science courses as early as their first semester in high school. To get some of the current students at the school interested in our courses, I'm going to work with teachers in other disciplines to create projects that incorporate computer science in their other courses. For example, one year, one of the Foreign Language teachers and I created a project in which my Advanced Web Design students created a Flash matching game to help with Spanish vocabulary. We each had our own rubric to grade the project, and the students were very proud of their work. I will also recruit more female students by going to the softball team and cheerleaders, and encouraging them to register for computer science courses with a "buddy". There's been some research that indicates that female students feel less isolated in a computer science course when they take the course with a friend. I've done this before, and it seemed to be true.

This summer, my goal is to facilitate 2 or 3 Computer Science camps at one of the local middle schools, to teach upcoming 7th and 8th graders Scratch, Alice, and Lego robots. I will also speak with the Program Specialist for Middle School Computer Science as well, to see if he'd be interested in participating in this project with me.

I'm very excited about my endeavors this year, and I'm hopeful that my efforts to create "One Voice" are successful.

Michelle Venable-Foster
South Gwinnett High School
Math / Computer Science Teacher
Program Specialist for High School Computer Science
Gwinnett County, Georgia

Posted by cstephenson at 08:50 PM | Comments (1)

Maryland and Technology Literacy

So the people in the computer science field are constantly asking "Where do we fit in terms of technology literacy?" Some believe that every student should have some programming experience, while others believe that it should be selective students that get that instruction. (how we select is a whole different argument)

Maryland has adopted learning.com's Tech Literacy assessment according to this article in order to gauge how well their 7th grade students are doing in acquiring 21st century skills. If you go to the TechLiteracy assessment modules page you can see the core skills they are working on.

It is anextensive list in terms of applications usage, but is lacking in the more conceptual knowledge (except the social and ethical tabs). Lets consider what would happen if we added another box: Computer Science. What 1 sentence description would you provide for the module? What elementary and middle school examples of computer science skills would you want all students to have? (answer one or both, doesn't matter - I'll post my own ideas later in the comments to let people think about what they value before they see what I do).

Leigh Ann Sudol

Posted by cstephenson at 06:34 PM | Comments (0)

September 10, 2008

Leadership Cohort Activities in Ohio

I am very excited to be a part of the CSTA Leadership Cohort. I was impressed at the workshop this summer with all of the insights into CS education, where we have been and where we hope to be. We are doing our best in Ohio to advocate for CS education. Our two main goals are to set up a CSTA chapter and have a CS emphasis one day at our state wide Etech conference.

My colleague Angie is working with contacts in Central Ohio to host a first CSTA meeting which hopefully will lead to the formation of a chapter. We have both been working on our Etech conference emphasis. It is a 3 day event and I am working with one of the program coordinators to have one day offer a computer science session for
each time slot. We are working with a professor and a couple other CSTA members along with ourselves to write proposals for sessions. Our topics are most likely going to include Alice, Scratch, CS Unplugged, Phidgets and some other topics. We want to offer sessions that will offer free solutions (or minimal cost) to add to school
curriculum. Our plan is that other CS educators will walk away from that day with a handful of ideas and resources plus our commitment to continue helping them advocate for CS in their school district. Our goals are lofty but are in the process of being realized.

We appreciate all the support we are getting and the excitement that is passing from us to those we come in contact with. Hopefully our efforts will help promote our "ONE VOICE" for CS and bring support to those trying to keep computer science in the schools.

Stephanie Hoeppner
Clermont Northeastern High School
Angie Thorne
Hilliard Davidson High School

Posted by cstephenson at 01:30 PM | Comments (1)

Leadership Cohort Activities in Georgia

I was asked to address all the teachers in my county (Fulton) in Georgia towards increasing teacher training and collaboration for teaching CS courses. Our county Department Chair, for Career Tech, Business and Computer Science at the county, asked me to conduct a survey on what kind of interest teachers would have towards being more successful in teaching CS courses. The choices offered had a wide range of courses from AP Computer Science to Introduction to Computer Programming. The response was awesome. Most teachers said they felt lost and responded that the training would help a lot. In Fulton (my county) since last year all students K-12 have an early release day once a month (Sept., Oct., Jan, Feb and March). Teachers are expected to use this extra time toward Professional Learning and counts towards adding to their PLUs. I am cashing into this and offering training in different CS courses. I plan to start with AP Computer Science (only because I have other teachers with whom I collaborate with and I have most success teaching this course).
This kind of project is the first of its kind. I am not sure how things will turn out. I guess I will solve the problems as they come along. As I progress, I will keep you posted of my successes, frustrations and failures.

Deepa Muralidhar
Northview High School
Johns Creek Georgia

Posted by cstephenson at 01:28 PM | Comments (0)