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University Faculty Can Help with K-12!

I think many of us (including faculty at liberal arts colleges) hold a pretty outdated view of what goes on in different kinds of institutions. We tend to think that at the larger universities people walk into giant lecture halls, wax eloquent (or not) about loops and decision statements and stacks and queues, and walk out again, leaving behind a bunch TAs who try to finish up the "teaching" job. But there have been some changes in this model over the last few years. Yes, universities tend to teach much larger lecture classes than we do at small liberal arts colleges. Yes, they rely a lot on teaching assistants. But the downturn in CS enrollments nationwide has forced them to think a lot more about undergraduate CS education than they used to, and think about pipeline. And about what is going on in K-12, particularly in high school computer science.

So I was at lunch last week with several CS faculty from a state university, including the folks responsible for their undergraduate CS curriculum. And they started talking about the numbers of students entering their program, and then they started talking about who teaches high school CS in the local area. And then they thought "what if we invited all the high school CS folks to come here for a gathering?" Which led to the question of what the outcome of that meeting would be. Didn't take much to seed the idea that 1) getting all the high school teachers in touch with each other would be fabulous and 2) encouraging them to create a CSTA chapter would be great too!

I know times are tough, but it doesn't cost that much to provide coffee and lunch for a group of high school teachers. Nametags are cheap, and facilitating discussion is priceless. So if you are at a university or a college that has a number of high schools in the general area, start collecting names, pick a date, and invite some teachers over! If you are a high school teacher who really would like a way to get connected to other teachers in your general region, why not contact the university or college nearest you and encourage them to host a gathering.

Valerie Barr, Union College
CSTA Task Force Chair


Great idea Valerie! We really need to build relationships between the local colleges / universities and the teachers. I really hope your idea and experience catches fire!


In the Seattle area, the University of Washington has been invaluable in hosting CSTA meetings, hosting programming competitions, hosting trainings, introducing graduate students or faculty who could be effective guest speakers, etc. It has significantly reduced feelings of isolation for those of us who are high school CS teachers and allowed us to collaborate across campuses and plan the expansion of existing CS programs in our respective districts.

Of course, it takes a couple of dedicated faculty members, but the financial costs are trivial and the pay-off potentially significant as more and more students are aware of UW's program and applying for direct admission into the CS program.

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