« Why Words Matter: Technology is not the same as Computing | Main | Computer Science Curriculum in our High Schools »

My Voice

I look forward to it every couple of months. I've been receiving the CSTA Voice since I
became a member back in 2005. For years, being a member of CSTA meant getting my
newsletter, filling out my end-of-year renewal form, and responding to the occasional
survey. Sure, I felt like I "belonged," but I left the advocacy up to the professionals. Life
was good.

That changed a couple of years ago when my school administration decided that we no
longer needed a Computer Science department. I kept my job, and for the most part,
taught many of the same courses after being merged with the Science department, but I
felt that I had been stripped of my identity as a Computer Science teacher. Following the
merger, enrollment numbers in my classes were the lowest ever. Fewer and fewer students
were aware of the staggering demand predicted for careers in the computing field in just a
few years. Why was my message not being heard?

I saw in the Voice that teachers from 19 states had been chosen to attend a leadership
workshop where they would develop advocacy plans for their respective states. My state
was not listed. There I sat, isolated, with a wilting Computer Science program at a school
with no CS department, in a state lacking a CS certification area (much less a graduation
requirement). Not only was my voice not being heard, but I had no idea what to say or how
to begin.

The one thing I could depend on in those days was my CSTA Voice. When I read that there
was a second leadership workshop and that my state was included this time, I turned in my
application and wished for the best. A few months later, I was at a conference center in
Chicago, surrounded by 50 other educators who wanted what I wanted -- to further the
teaching of computing in our schools.

The workshop was a 3-day menagerie of brainstorming, note-taking, networking, planning,
and occasional sight-seeing. We learned about stakeholders, partnerships, outreach
strategies, and most importantly that we are all in this together. We worked with
representatives from states facing issues similar to our own, and we discussed ways to
make those situations better. The most important thing I left Chicago with, though, was my
voice.

The CSTA Leadership Cohort Workshop taught me that I have a voice. I found that I am
surrounded by allies, resources, and solutions free for the asking. With just a little effort, I
was able to organize a CSTA chapter in my own state! Representatives from higher
education, industry, and K12 schools are now working together to identify long term goals
for the future of computing education in our state, and I started this conversation!

If you can hear my voice, know that this is something that you can achieve, too. Put down
your newsletters. Close your web browsers. Get out there and start organizing! If a mild-mannered computer scientist can start this discussion in a state with fewer than 13 schools offering AP Computer Science, imagine what you can achieve in your own back yard.
---
Daniel Moix has taught Computer Science at the Arkansas School for Mathematics,
Sciences, and the Arts since 2003. He was recently elected President of the Arkansas
chapter of the Computer Science Teachers Association. His favorite color is #6495ED.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)