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July 30, 2009

Exploring Computer Science Curriculum Now Available!

CSTA is very pleased to announce the availability of a free curriculum now available on the CSTA website. The Exploring Computer Science (ECS) materials avalable at:


provide daily lesson plans and resources which support the teaching of six instructional units:

1) Human Computer Interaction;
2) Problem Solving;
3) Web Design;
4) Introduction to Programming;
5) Robotics; and
6) Computing Applications.

The curriculum adopts an inquiry-based learning model and each unit concludes with an in-depth project.

The instructional materials have been developed for high school classrooms in Los Angeles Unified School District as an instruction tool for introducing students to the “computational thinking” of computer science. Funded by a grant from the NSF, this curriculum is part of a University-District partnership to attract and retain more females and students of color in rigorous computing courses. Importantly, this curriculum was designed to accompany a model of professional development that focuses on both the content and pedagogy of the course. We strongly urge teachers to participate in related professional development before implementing any of these lessons in the classroom.

The University of California has notified us of their support for Exploring Computer Science curriculum and their intention to grant college admissions elective credit for students taking the course.

We would appreciate if you could keep us updated as to how/if you use this curriculum or distribute it to others. Our research team would like to be able to track the impact of this curriculum.

For more information on the Computer Science Equity Alliance, visit the CSEA website at:


For questions about the curriculum, please contact Joanna Goode at:


Joanna Goode
CSTA Board of Directors

Posted by cstephenson at 09:13 PM | Comments (2)

July 29, 2009

Building CS in South Carolina

This blog is like the blogs I have seen people writing in real time during conference presentations. I am writing this in the middle of our Advanced Placement Summer Institute for Computer Science. Our consultant, Richard de Paulo, is leading this institute for fifteen teachers, all but one from South Carolina. (He is at present talking about ArrayLists.) We haven't had a summer institute in the state for at least ten years, which may explain why our enrollments in AP computer science are not very high. Time to move things forward.

I have been working in the last few years to understand the decline in university enrollments in computer science, and I have come to the conclusion that to increase the number of university students we must improve what we do for computer science in the K-12 schools. Increasing the AP enrollments will not by any means be sufficient for declaring success in the world of computer science education, but it certainly seems to be necessary, and with fifteen more teachers in the classroom here in South Carolina, we can't help but see better times in the future.

(I have other irons in the fire, to be sure. But this is a blog, and thus is supposed to be timely and "current", and right now what is most current is watching de Paulo teach about teaching Java. I happen to have spent my last two years in teaching our first two semesters' courses, so this is very familiar material for me.)

Putting on this institute took some doing. Normally in South Carolina, the AP summer institutes are funded by the state. This year, there was no such money available, and at one point I decided we weren't going to be able to run the event. We were, however, able to get a new organization, the Consortium for Enterprise Systems Management, to replace the state funding and keep costs low for teachers and school districts. Finding the approved consultant was not exactly easy. There is only one consultant for computer science in the entire southeast region. After that, it was mostly a matter of getting out enough propaganda to be able to get an enrollment large enough to justify the class. Even in a bad economic year, we got a class of 15 teachers (plus one who had a family emergency this past weekend and couldn't make it).

I am hoping for good results in the long term. Tom Rogers, from Southside High School in Greenville, joined the CSTA Leadership Cohort this summer as a teacher leader for South Carolina, participating in the Leadership workshop. Together with the other teachers I have been working with, Tom will now have a sizable base from which to build a larger statewide network.

We have a good mix of teachers here this week. There are a few ringers, people relatively new to teaching who have run IT businesses or done computing in past lifetimes. And there are a few who have taught applications courses, but not programming, in the past. We won't get a uniform distribution of results from this summer, but we will have started to rebuild the interest in AP CS.

Duncan Buell
CSTA Board of Directors

Posted by cstephenson at 12:00 PM | Comments (0)

July 22, 2009

Summer Learning for Teachers

Many people believe that teachers have it easy in the summer since they have summers off. But, many teachers have very busy summers. Some teachers need to work another job in the summer and many teachers take workshops and go to conferences in the summer. I saw many teachers at CS&IT and NECC. In fact CS&IT had the largest number of attendees ever.

I have been teaching workshops for high school computing teachers the last few weeks at Georgia Tech. I have enjoyed showing the Computing in the Modern World teachers PicoCrickets, Scratch, and Alice. Teachers enjoyed creating animations and games in Scratch and Alice as well as learning kinesthetic activities to teach computing concepts (like those from CS Unplugged and Berkeley's KLA group). See:




This week I am teaching Beginning Programming teachers using Institute for Personal Robotics robots and Media Computation in Python. Today they were working on mirroring images and some of the teachers got very excited when they figured out how to mirror top to bottom or how to create an image collage. See:




Some people have claimed that we shouldn't teach programming, but just computing concepts in order to attract more people to computing. I very much disagree. Getting a program to work gets people excited about computing. Learning about computing without doing any programming seems like learning about science by just reading about it and not actually doing any science. One of my daughters loves to do experiments, but came home from elementary school saying that she hated science. The problem was that they didn't actually do any science, but only read about it.

Barb Ericson
CSTA Director

Posted by cstephenson at 10:25 AM | Comments (1)

July 20, 2009

Computer Science Certification-Why We Need to Care

First, I would like to encourage all of you to read the CSTA publication: Ensuring Exemplary Teaching in an Essential Discipline: Addressing the Crisis in Computer Science Teacher Certification

As we know, there is a crisis in computer science teacher certification. This crisis can be attributed to two key factors:
* a lack of clarity, understanding, and consistency with regard to current certification requirements
* where certification or endorsement requirements do exist, they often have no connection to computer science content.

What follows is, in my opinion, a ridiculous situation being experienced by a person who is currently in search of a high school computer science teaching position in New Jersey. Unfortunately, this situation and similar situations are not uncommon.

Background and Experience:
Mathematics and Computer Science, Explorer Scouts, Summers 1976 and 1977.
Independent Computer Programmer and Consultant, 1984-1997.
B.S. Computer Science, Marquette University, 1991.
High School Certification in Computer Science, Mathematics, and History,
Cardinal Stritch University, 1997.
Wisconsin Licenses 1997-2002, 2002-2007, 2007-2012.
M.S. Computer Science Education, Cardinal Stritch University, 2004.
AP Computer Science Reader, 2006-2009.

Notes on certification
Wisconsin created certification in Computer Science in 1983. While relatively few Schools of Education offer CS certification, it is a recognized field.

This person's other certifications are as "add-on minors"; that is, he took enough courses to have had an undergraduate minor in mathematics and in history, but did not take them at the right time to add them to my undergraduate degree.

For personal reasons, this person is moving to New Jersey.

Attempts to certify in New Jersey
Wisconsin offers reciprocity with very few other states. New Jersey is not on that short list.

New Jersey does not offer High School certification in Computer Science. The closest thing is Vocation School certification in Computer Technology.

Based on numerous discussions with people at the New Jersey Department of Education, those who teach computer science in New Jersey usually have certifications in either Mathematics or Business. They have suggested that he return to school to earn a second Bachelor’s degree in a certifiable subject area.

More attempts
Not getting any answers by telephone this summer (the number for the New Jersey Department of Education is only open from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and is almost always busy), he has spoken with two people at the Morris County New Jersey Office of the Department of Education. They have suggested that the Department of Education is extremely busy with renewals and initial certifications right now. No one in Trenton will see people. If you want to find out how to certify, you need to fill out the online application, pay the $190 fee, and then they will consider answering your questions. (If you cannot be certified, then they will refund $120 of the fee.)

Temporary solution
For now, it appears that his best options are to either teach at a private high school or teach as an adjunct at a college or university.

He has accepted a position in a private high school in New York to teach one section of AP CS and also an adjunct position at a 4-year university in New Jersey teaching a CS 0 course. He will be spending more time commuting than teaching!

Because they cannot be certified as computer science teachers, new teachers and those teachers like the person described above, find that they must first meet the certification requirements in some other discipline, requiring them to develop and prove teaching proficiency in a field in which they may not actually wish to teach.

It is absolutely essential that all computer science teachers, new and veteran, have adequate
preparation to teach computer science successfully. The background information described above clearly indicates adequate preparation to teach computer science. But because there is a significant lack of consistency in computer science teacher certification standards in the United States, he is unable to hold a NJ teaching certificate.

Our ultimate goal is to ensure that the standards for computer science teachers are clear, consistent, and are uniformly implemented in the United States as well as in other countries. It is critical that the standards described in the CSTA publication mentioned above be universally accepted and applied to the licensing of high school computer science teachers.

I thank Lon Levy for sharing his story.

Fran Trees
CSTA Chapter Liaison

Posted by cstephenson at 12:24 PM | Comments (4)

July 17, 2009

Second Leadership Cohort Workshop

We just finished up a trip to Chicago for the second Leadership Cohort workshop. Going back for the second time help us to solidify many of the ideas that we put into practice over the last year.

At this second CSTA Leadership Cohort Workshop, teachers from 31 states were kept very busy exchanging ideas and strategies for computer science (CS) education advocacy. We had the privilege of being a part of wonderful conversations taking place between diverse groups of people with different state issues. Discussions involved how to best advocate to teachers, district personnel, community, and professional groups all the way up to legislative members.

Probably the greatest outcome from the workshop is that there were teachers from K-12 addressing issues together in a positive, forward-thinking process. Teachers from the Midwest were working through solutions with those from the East coast as well as other regions. All of us came together with the larger issue of promoting CS education regardless of specific situations in local schools or states. While there will always be passionate differences in CS education, for three days everyone was focused in the same direction with a common goal: promote and grow CS education.

It is great to be a part of an organization that makes leaders of its members!

Your four faithful friends

Renee Ciezki,
John Harrison,
Stephanie Hoeppner,
Deepa Muralidhar

CSTA Senior Leadership Cohort Members

Posted by cstephenson at 11:31 AM | Comments (0)

July 14, 2009

Fulfilling Expectations at Our Annual Conference/Symposium

One of the things I love best and hate the most about my job is reviewing at the evaluations for our annual conference. I love it because it is so clear from the evaluations that we are doing something right. I hate it because we never get it absolutely perfect.

This year we held our 10th annual Computer Science & Information Technology Symposium on June 27 in Washington D.C. We knew we had a very good agenda because we had terrific speakers (all of whom, by the way, donated their time for the day). We also knew we had an enthusiastic audience because we had to close registration early when we reached our capacity of 200 attendees.

But as usual, I spent my day in a state of panic. What if we have technical issues? (There are always technical issues at a conference!) What if a keynote speaker doesn't show up, or pranks me with an email two days before the conference saying she isn't coming? (Yes, this actually happened!) What if they hate the food? (This simply cannot happen because our project manager Barb Conover always makes sure we provide a fabulous feast.)

The truth is, our speakers, volunteers, and Board members are so smart and so steady, they can weather any potential disaster. But you know, I worry. That's my official job for the day.

And when I read over all of the evaluation forms, I feel incredibly relieved. Our attendees are so generous with their praise and good will. But I also feel a little sad, because sometimes the attendees make really good suggestions that we cannot accommodate. This year, for example, a couple of our attendees suggested that we have all of the presentations from all of the speakers available for download before the conference. This is such a good idea, and heaven knows, we have tried every year to do this. But the simple truth is that most of our speakers are still tinkering with their presentations up until the last minute, so the best we can do, is get them to send them to us after the conference so we can post them on the website. (And hey, if you still have not sent us your presentation...people are waiting!)

If you didn't get the chance to join us in D.C. this year, I hope you will be able to attend next year. Because even if we never get it perfect, it is still, as one attendee said "a fantastic day of professional development with wonderful opportunities for networking with other teachers and outstanding presentations".

Chris Stephenson
Executive Director

Posted by cstephenson at 04:07 PM | Comments (1)

July 06, 2009

A Computer Science Honor Society: Is it Worth the Work??

Over the last couple of years, the question of whether CSTA should initiate an honor society for high school computer science students has been raised a number of times, both by members of the CSTA Board of Directors and by CSTA volunteers.

At our most recent CSTA Board of Directors meeting, the issue was discussed again at length thanks to a report prepared by CSTA Vice-President Steve Cooper. Among the many considerations, the Board members discussed how such a society might function, its purpose, and related costs (both direct and indirect).

While a number of the Directors thought that it would be a good idea to support such a society, several key questions remain unanswered. As always, CSTA places a priority on projects that support and sustain both our mission and our members, so we would really like to know what you think about any and all of the following questions.

How would a CS honor society support CSTA's mission of supporting the teaching of computer science and other computing disciplines?

Do CSTA members feel the need for a CS honor society?

How would a CS honor society help CS teachers meet their classroom goals?

What would members expect of such an organization?

What would a Computer Science Honor Society look like?

Is a CS honor society something that CSTA members would embrace?

Would members be willing to help raise funding and provide volunteer support for such a program on a on-going basis?

Forming a student honor organization within CSTA would be a huge project and your feedback on these questions is critically important. Please share your ideas (pro and con) on the topic.

Pat Phillips
Editor, CSTA Voice

Posted by cstephenson at 01:56 PM | Comments (0)