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Do High School Computer Science Teachers Want a Professional Organization?

There is no doubt that High School Computer Science Teachers need a professional organization. We are often the lone voice in the wilderness, under appreciated by our departments, administrations, and districts. Yet, what have we done to improve our lot?

Typical high school computer science teachers are usually the only person at their schools who teach computer science. They may be in the Business Department, Math Department, or part of the Career and Technical Education department; but wherever they are, CS teachers are often alone. They may teach only one class of computer science and often have two or three other courses to prepare to teach. Their time is at a premium. Where do they turn if they have questions, experience difficulty with a topic, or need a new idea or activity to help their students better understand the material? There are resources, including the AP Computer Science Electronic Discussion Group, AP Central, International Baccalaureate Online Curriculum Centre, and our textbook web sites. However, these sources may not be time sensitive, or may require multiple attempts to find someone knowledgeable who can answer the question. High School Computer Science Teachers need answers now, not in two weeks, because in two weeks that topic has been left in the dust.

How can a professional organization help? Local chapters can provide personal contacts in the local area who can readily respond to questions. Periodic meetings can provide a forum to air difficulties or concerns, offer solutions, or find others who are experiencing the same problems. Chapters can also provide professional development on a topic if there is widespread need and an "expert" exists in the community.

What makes me think we do not want a local chapter? Let me give two examples to illustrate my point. Over the last six months, a two high school teachers and five college professors have worked together to create a local chapter in my area. We spent many hours planning for our first meeting, which was held at a local research center. We felt this would provide some professional development for Computer Science Teachers in current applications of computing and computer systems as well as providing the opportunity for local teachers to meet. We contacted over 50 high schools by email, often directly to the teacher listed as the computer science teacher. We emailed invitations 45 days in advance and again 10 days in advance. No one responded to either of the emails, and no new teacher attended. Our initial meeting consisted of the seven original members. My second example is from a different area. Again, a dedicated group met and laid plans to form a chapter. One of these members was transferred out of state. All efforts after this to hold a meeting to finalize the chapter plans and hold the first meeting have been unsuccessful. So I ask, are we really willing to do the work necessary to support a professional organization that will address our needs?

What can we do about this? Well, if you are reading this post, you already understand the benefits of CSTA and what it can offer. You want a local organization to provide support and professional development. Do your colleagues? What is the interest in your area? Start small. We have been holding a district wide forum for several years. Of the 10 teachers, four or five attend regularly; several others occasionally, and one or two never attend. We continue to meet to serve the needs of those who attend.

CSTA is an organization that exists to serve High School Computer Science Teachers. We can make CSTA the organization that will provide the service we need and want if we are willing to step up and shoulder some responsibility. Yes, High School Computer Science Teachers want a more localized service, but maybe more of us need to come forward to make this a reality.

John Harrison
CSTA Board Member


This is a great idea but should include other levels of computer educators: elementary and middle school/junior high.

Here's the problem. TIME!

CS teachers typically teach 3 or more preps and often have other responsibilities.

I'm a good example. I'm teaching 4 preps including 2 AP preps. I'm am also the campus technologist.

My district requires about 6 off duty days or partial days for the AP classes.

It makes it very hard to fit in anything else.

I should also add that it took me three days to get around to reading this article and I really wanted to read it.

Sorry to hear about the rough experience in your area, John.
I feel your pain. It has been a rough go starting our new CSTA chapter in Chicago.

However, we've had a decent amount of success with it. Our meeting attendance ranges between 10-20 and I really think it's helped to stir a lot of CS momentum in Chicago.

Our focus sounds a little bit different though. We don't view the meetings as an opportunity to serve the needs of the attendees, but for the attendees to help serve the CS community.

We recognize that not everyone can make all the meetings, or any meeting. So those of us who can, and who are motivated, are taking actions to help those folks out in other ways. In particular, we're using the CSTA backing to try to peddle some influence with local universities, school administrators, and policy-makers. Our ultimate goal is to get a CS requirement in place in the select-enrollment Chicago Public Schools (very good schools). We have a few local universities on board with us, and the feeling at the moment is that we're doing important work.

Also, it will take time. Most people teaching CS don't even know about the CSTA, and don't know there's a local chapter - despite our efforts. So, we'll just have to be patient.

Anyway, there's my $0.02 on how to make your local CSTA chapter experience better for those who come.

Baker Franke
Computer Science Dept.
University of Chicago Laboratory Schools

Yes, I do agree that an organization for a specific profession is important in developing further the skills and knowledge of a professional.

Yes, I do agree that an organization for a specific profession is important in developing further the skills and knowledge of a professional.

I am very happy when I watch educational institutions in the whole world
And please I would like to inquire about the existence of grants or free courses to learn the English language and computer networks through the Internet
I also respond in a manner would benefit me and I also advise to always
And thank all those who work on education

I really salute those computer science teachers. Thanks also for such excellent information about the compsci teachers..

Hello. I am a college English teacher in Japan (US citizen from Ohio). I have a question for the members of this group. I am looking for a high school level computer textbook to use with my Japanese students and wondered if anyone could recommend a good book to use, preferable one that comes with an on-line databank for making exam questions. Thank you in advance for any information you may have.

--Steve Lambacher

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