« March 2011 | Main | May 2011 »

April 29, 2011

Please Vote

The CSTA Board of Directors are elected for two year terms. And, as opposed to many corporate Boards of Directors, where the vote of the individual shareholder doesn't really matter, your vote does count.

By now, all members should have received an e-mail from electionbuddy.com providing you a unique url at which to vote. We have just sent out a second reminder to vote from this e-mail address. Please spend a few minutes to go to this url, look over the candidates, and vote for who you think will be best to represent you. If you did not receive an electronic ballot (a unique url at which to vote), please e-mail nominations@csta.acm.org.

Steve Cooper
CSTA Nominations Chair

Posted by cstephenson at 10:35 PM | Comments (0)

April 28, 2011

Equity Part 1: Why Should We Care about Issues of Equity

There has been an increased emphasis on equity issues in computer science education in recent years, supported largely by NSF programs aimed at broadening participation in computing. Yet, I have found that when folks talk about equity, they often have different viewpoints on why we should be addressing equity, what equity means, and how to achieve equity in the K-12 computer science classroom. Based on my experiences as an AP computer science teacher in a diverse high school, and involvement in the Exploring Computer Science program in Los Angeles schools, I offer my own viewpoints on what equity means to me in computing classrooms. This is the first in a series of blogs tackling these issues around equity in computer science, the most segregated subject offered in K-12 education.

Why should we address equity?
Though many cite economic purposes for working towards equity, I hesitate to use this reasoning as my central purpose for the equity-based work I do. Certainly, we are missing out on the creative potential of over 70% of the population when we continue with a vast under-representations of people of color and females in the computing industry. Also, these underrepresented groups are at a disadvantage personally if they do not have the sufficient preparation to become computer scientists, a growing profession with a higher-than-average salary for graduates with college degrees. But, this is not a particularly compelling argument to lead with around issues of equity except for those who are college CS professors or working in the industry. Then, to those outside of computer science, this economic/industry perspective is seen as a self-serving argument. Certainly, we don't argue for universal literacy in order to prepare children to be English majors or work as journalists, etc., but we believe everyone should have the opportunity to read and write because it is a fundamental skill needed to maximize opportunities and interests in our society. We need to back away from leading with an economic perspective as the reason to address equity issues for the same reasons.

For me, equity is a social justice issue, a new frontier in civil rights. As a community, we are arguing that computational thinking is an essential 21st century skill. So in this vein, we need to prepare all students to have this fundamental knowledge to be able to fully participate in society, including girls and students of color. As civil rights leader and the Algebra project director Bob Moses cautions, students of color will become "the serfs of the Information Age" unless we work for equal opportunity and access in computing education. If education is a fundamental human right in our country, then access and equity in computer science is certainly a part of the 21st century model of education that should support this purpose of schooling.

What about you? What is your purpose for addressing equity in computer science?

Joanna Goode
CSTA Board of Directors

Posted by cstephenson at 11:56 AM | Comments (0)

April 26, 2011

CS Sock Monkey Begins Work

Today, CS Sock Monkey launched an important initiative to support and promote computer science education in K-12.

In this role, Sock Monkey will have the opportunity to meet with many leaders in our community and to provide key insights on CS K-12 issues.

Here, sock monkey is congratulating Dr. Mark Guzdial, Professor, College of Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology on winning (along with his wife Barbara Ericson) the Karl V. Karlstrom Outstanding Educator Award from ACM.


Posted by cstephenson at 01:50 PM | Comments (0)

April 24, 2011

Don't Miss Your Opportunity to Decide CSTA's Future

The 2011 CSTA election is drawing to a close. As you are hopefully aware, this year's election has been run entirely online, providing unprecedented convenience to voters and significant savings to the organization compared to the days of paper ballots.

All of the election info, including the board candidates statements and proposed bylaws changes, have been up on the CSTA Web site:


since early March.

On April 4, more than 8,300 email ballots were distributed to CSTA members, with a personalized link to the ElectionBuddy election site for each voter. On April 25, reminder emails will be sent out to all members who have not yet voted, with the election ending one week later on May 2.

If you have not yet voted in the election, please take a few moments to do so before May 2. As this organization continues to grow, having the right people on the board and the right set of bylaws is essential. This is your opportunity to help decide the future of your CSTA.

The CSTA Board of Directors

Posted by cstephenson at 11:32 AM | Comments (0)

April 22, 2011

Will Rising Enrollments Stifle Partnerships?

Mark Guzdial's recent blog contained an interesting article from Eric Roberts:


Eric points out that CS enrollments at Stanford have rebounded to record numbers. Other responders to Eric's comments note similar improvements in numbers of students in introductory computing classes at other bellwether schools. While this is likely good news for the US economy, and for the colleges that have not cut their CS departments so as not to be able to handle the soon to be increases in students, it raises the point that CS enrollments in college are cyclical. Following probably 4-5 years after industry crashes and booms (once a student is in a program, (s)he is somewhat stuck when the tech sector tanks - conversely, when it rebounds, students who chose to enter CS spend 4 years completing their baccalaureate degrees prior to entering the workforce).

My fear, as we see this (hoped for) rebound in numbers of students at the collegiate level is that the colleges will "forget about" the needs of teachers and students in K-12. I believe that during this past tech-downturn, many colleges and K-12 schools began to meet, talk, and build partnerships. College faculty rightly recognized that K-12 students' insufficient exposure to computing was not making them more likely to sample computing classes at college. Certainly, many local CSTA chapters have significant higher ed contributions.

While colleges may well start to see this rebound in the number of students, the needs of K-12 educators remain, as do the challenges of exposing more K-12 students to high quality computing content. I think that the partnerships that have developed over the past several years should be maintained and grown, even if the colleges (temporarily) become less needing of the students from their K-12 brethren.

Steve Cooper
CSTA Vice-President

Posted by cstephenson at 11:03 AM | Comments (4)

April 20, 2011

Staying Current

I have been struggling recently with issues of funding at my school for my program. I know all schools are facing funding issues so I am not alone. Currently the textbooks that I am using in computer science have copyright dates of 2002 or older. So, I have been seeking other ways to keep my content and pedagogy current.

In a previous blog post I had written about a grant I received that partially funded digital computer science curriculum. That worked perfectly for my computer science classes not only because I use Moodle to house my curriculum but I could use it for 3 of my 4 classes. I also continue to peruse the A.P. listserv for mentions of teachers offering their successful lessons. If I can't use their lesson this year, I know I can use their materials next year.

I attended SIGCSE this year. I was able to make some contacts and attend workshops during which some wonderful ideas were presented. This is my first year attending SIGCSE so it was a little overwhelming. I did come away with many ideas. A few of them were: using Google Forms to check for understanding in the computer class, using Pex4Fun from Microsoft Research as a review, and ideas for using Google's AppInventor.

I also use Twitter to stay current. Through Twitter I have found an add-on to Google Docs for assessment called Flubaroo. (http://www.flubaroo.com/) It was created by a teacher to streamline assessment. I was also introduced to another freeware program, Hot Potatoes (http://hotpot.uvic.ca/ ). It allows me to embed warm-up exercises into my Moodle site in the form of crosswords, short answer, and jumbled sentences.

With shrinking budgets and no funding for professional development, how have you been able to keep your content and pedagogy current? I would welcome more ideas.

Myra Deister
CSTA Board of Directors

Posted by cstephenson at 01:43 PM | Comments (0)

April 19, 2011

Candidate: Gail Chapman

Last weekend I had the privilege to spend time with a young Latina woman, Jessica, who is currently a junior in high school, enrolled in the CS 1 course at her school, actively engaging in the college search and application process and considering a major in computer science. Presented with this opportunity I couldn't resist taking the time to find out more about what motivates her and what the key points were along the path to where she is now.

Listening to her story started me thinking about my own convoluted journey from high school Latin scholar and potential biology major to co-author of Exploring Computer Science and fierce advocate for equity and access to quality computer science education in K-12. Jessica's story was filled with forks in the road and potential "roads not taken". At each of those forks was a teacher/mentor who made a difference; some by what they said (or didn't say), some in more profound ways.

My story was also filled with those forks that included: High School Mathematics Teacher reconstituted to AP CS Teacher when the course was first introduced; Assessment Specialist for the AP CS exam and curriculum at ETS through 2 language changes (ah, yes, the language wars.); Coordinating professional development workshops and working with AP consultants at the College Board; and Director of Leadership and Professional Development at CSTA. And yes, for me there was also always a teacher/mentor who made a difference. Many of those people are current members of CSTA. In every case both for Jessica and for me came a sense of empowerment.

As educators we have opportunities to have a profound effect on future generations and also a great responsibility. Hundreds of seemingly small decisions and statements are made every day that can change the course for one student, a classroom, or a nation. The latest Taulbee survey shows an increase in the number of students in computer science and the number of computer science degrees granted. I hope that this seemingly good news doesn't stop the focus on K-12 computer science and in particular the focus on the need to broaden participation in computing. Broadening participation does not end with increasing numbers. As long as women and students of color continue to be underrepresented, we have much more work to be done. It is our shared responsibility.

If elected to the CSTA Board of Directors, I will work to ensure that equity is at the forefront of the decisions we make and continue to promote activities that empower teachers.

Gail Chapman
Candidate CSTA Board of Directors At-Large Representative

Posted by cstephenson at 12:52 PM | Comments (0)

April 18, 2011

Using Videos as a Way to Portray Computer Science Concepts

I teach an undergraduate outreach class. The goal of the class is to equip our undergraduate students with skills, ideas, and supplies to go out to K-12 schools and teach about computer science.

Students are divided up into groups and given projects to work on or jobs to do such as contacting schools, etc. We try to use items that already exist as well as creating some of our own. I am a big fan of videos that express computer science concepts in a unique way, especially the work that Tim Bell has done to put his CS Unplugged activities into video format. It should therefore come as no surprise then that one of the assignments my outreach class was given was to create a video that could be used by K-12 teachers to portray a concept and submit it to the SIGCSE video exhibition. If you would like to watch our video on recursion, visit this link: http://youtu.be/9n8aT0sQxjs or search for "The Recursive Case" on YouTube.

Another fun series of videos were shared with me this morning. Perhaps some of you have already seen this, but it is just hitting our inboxes in the Midwest. Looking for a new way to teach sorting? Give this a go:


I share these ideas with you, not necessarily to promote these specific videos, but to open dialog for others to share fun things they have seen!

So post away in the comment section and let us all know about some of your favorites so we call all fill our tool belts of resources!

Mindy Hart
CSTA Board of Director

Posted by cstephenson at 03:44 PM | Comments (1)

April 15, 2011

What the Future Holds

Recently I had an opportunity to attend the Tapia Conference and an interesting keynote given by Irving Wladawsky-Berger which provided interesting food for thought about the future of computing research and innovation.

"The digital technologies are to the 21stCentury what steam power was to the industrial revolution."

Wladsky-Berger compared the current and future level of change to that experienced during the industrial revolution which, with the development of steam power and machines, brought the science and technology to the physical world. Now he says, we are bringing these new technologies to both the physical and virtual worlds.

"Every time we think we've seen it all, something new comes along."

Wladawsky-Berger posits that we evolved from the industrial revolution to the new knowledge/information economy in the mid-90s with the advent of the Internet and the notion of a globally integrated world. As is often the case with these huge economic and social shifts, some of the consequences have been wonderful and some, very scary.

This new economy has resulted in a profound shift in North America from an agricultural and manufacturing economy to a service-oriented economy, with the majority of the economic value being produced in services including management, professional, and technical (35.5%); sales and office work (24.8%); and other services (16.5%).

Wladawsky -Berger noted that as the world's physical, digital, and financial infrastructures continue to converge, the problems we face in the future will be more complex and more community centered.

These convergences will require more students to think holistically about their education and career choices. They will need to understand not just how to solve complex computing problems, but how to bring the power of computational problem-solving to the mix of disciplines that will need to work together to develop the innovations needed to address these more complex but also more interesting problems.

Chris Stephenson
CSTA Executive Director

Posted by cstephenson at 01:55 PM | Comments (0)

April 12, 2011

Competing With or Capitalizing On Pop Culture

How do we try to encourage students to do computer science or engineering? How much does pop culture play into it? Does it hurt it? Can it help?

I recently found out that Mattel released a new Barbie - Computer Engineer Barbie:


I've never been into Barbie dolls, but I found it interesting. Would girls having (or even knowing there exists) a Computer Engineer Barbie help encourage more girls to get interested in the field? At least it brings awareness to the field. They'll know it exists. That's a start and maybe a huge one.

We need to have more examples out there for girls and boys to see. Back in the 1980s there was a show called Knight Rider featuring a car (named K.I.T.T.). The car came complete with a talking onboard computer capable of controlling every aspect of the car, with or without the driver's help. I have always wanted to have a car like K.I.T.T. New in-car technologies such as GPSs, self-parking, and emergency activated satellite tracking and calling are getting us closer to my dream car, but we are not quite there yet.

The other wonderful element of Knight Rider was that the person in charge of it was an amazing, intelligent engineer AND a woman. It was the first time I had heard of the term "computer engineer." They showed her working to solve problems and create features in a tangible way. Programming and engineering at its finest.

It is important to meet students where they are and their point of reference. Having students meet and shadow real computer scientists and engineers is great, but this is not possible for many students.
So we need to highlight and emphasize these examples we see in the media (movies, television shows, etc.). They may not be perfect, but at least students can recognize them.

Barbie might not be showing what a computer engineer does, but at least she seems to be thinking about something besides marrying Ken. Perhaps Engineering Barbie can peak student interest and get a discussion going. Here's hoping!

Shirley Miranda
CSTA Board of Directors

Posted by cstephenson at 06:17 PM | Comments (0)

April 08, 2011

In Praise of Brevity

For those of us at universities, the school year is winding down. I am teaching our second semester course this spring, and I usually try to add some off-syllabus material at the end about Java Swing, layouts, event handling, and other things involved in programming window popping and GUIs. I have in the past used the first 15 pages or so from a book that doesn't happen to be the textbook for the course, because that particular book happens to have the simplest, quickest, cleanest introduction to the topic of any text I have seen. And I have felt that excerpting 15 pages from a standard 500-plus book was legitimate fair use and did not create a copyright infringement problem.

However, when I went looking this semester for my book, I find that I have loaned out the book; I don't have a copy, and I can't find a copy in any of my colleagues' offices either. And I can't find the photocopy of the excerpt; that must be buried in a file cabinet that got reshuffled when I moved offices.

No problem, or so I thought. There is a new edition of the book that has come out, and I do happen to have a copy of that.

Or so I thought. Trouble is, the authors apparently couldn't let well enough alone. The beauty of the earlier edition's text was that it presented just enough to allow one to start doing Swing. Not all the bells and whistles were there, but there was enough to allow one to start with some basic programs, and then, with some effort in reading the Java documentation carefully, to expand on the basics to do more clever things. It was from that short excerpt that I started and then built out a Sudoku solving program with clicks and colors and logic. (I find that nearly all puzzles can be solved with an essentially greedy approach.)

The new edition, though, has expanded 15 pages into about 70. Yes, this is a lot more complete, but it's also a lot harder to teach because it covers lots of details along the way, where the earlier edition just hit the high points.

Sometimes less is more. I find it hard to justify maybe three weeks of a semester just on the niceties of changing colors on windows, or showing how to make the lyrics of a Lada Gaga song flash on and off in a script font while the song is playing in the background. This is cool stuff, but it's not really what our students need as core material. I would rather give them examples of the half-dozen options of The Big Picture and then let them explore details on their own.

Sometimes less is more.

Duncan Buell
CSTA Board of Directors

Posted by cstephenson at 04:00 PM | Comments (0)

April 06, 2011

Message from Dave Burkhart

Hello Everyone

As one of the candidates for the CSTA Board of Directors, I am writing to ask for your support in this election.

When someone is first elected to the CSTA Board of Directors, she or he might think that what we do is sit around and give our opinions, but my experience as a Director has taught me that this Board is different from those of organizations because it is a "working Board." This means that the Directors participate directly, not just in the policy making, but in managing projects and creating new resources intended to help us meet our mission and serve our members.

Serving as the Chair of the Membership Committee, I've come to realize not only how large our membership has become (more than 8300 members!) but how diverse. We have members from every level of education, from every kind of teaching situation, and from over 100 countries. So figuring out how to continually improve how we meet the needs of all of these members is a big job that requires hard work by both Board and staff members.

The Member Satisfaction Survey is one of the most concrete examples of how CSTA continually monitors the usefulness of our current projects, the needs of our members, and their suggestions for new resources and services. This survey (and your participation in it) allows us to ground our decisions and activities in real data. It also gives us a good idea of where to put future resources to provide more or improved member benefits.

As a candidate for the 9-12 Representative position, I promise that if I am elected, I will to continue to work to find new and better ways to serve your needs and to make sure that your voice continues to be a driving force for everything that CSTA does.

If you are a CSTA member, you should have received an email from ElectionBuddy that provides a link to the online election ballot. Please take the time to review the candidate materials:


and the information about the proposed changes to our by-laws:


And be sure to cast your vote before the election closes on May 1, 2011.

Thanks very much.

Dave Burkhart
Sheridan High School

Posted by cstephenson at 12:40 PM | Comments (0)

April 05, 2011

Message from Patrice Gans

My name is Patrice Gans. I'm running for the position of K-8 Representative on the CSTA Board of Directors and would like to introduce myself and ask for your support.

I currently teach K-8 technology and computer science at the Fraser-Woods School in Newtown, CT. I am very interested in promoting computer science in K-12 education and believe we can achieve this by

  • increasing participation in CSTA from K-12 educators,
  • advocating for national educational standards which include computer science, and
  • creating a computer science curriculum which engages students in the elementary grades.

    I believe computer science, which is at the core of the development of new technologies, should be taught to all students. Teaching computer science is essential to the development of critical thinking and problem solving skills. Computers are an integral part of life in the 21st century, and our schools have an obligation to prepare our students for this future.

    As an elementary school technology teacher, it has become apparent to me that students develop their love for computers and their desire to explore their capabilities during their elementary school years.
    Traditionally, students are first exposed to computer science in high school AP computer science classes. However, I believe it is extremely important to grab students' attention long before their first AP course. Consequently, I believe that the age which students are taught critical computer skills is an important issue. Any venue which introduces younger students to basic programming concepts while, at the same time, igniting their curiosity and imagination would be an ideal addition to the elementary education curriculum.

    In regards to advocacy, we should push for legislation that requires computer skills in the K-12 curriculum. A bill had been proposed, The Computer Science Education Act (of 2010):


    but did not make it past committee. I believe a more united effort is needed for this to come to fruition.

    I have been working with my local CSTA chapter in Connecticut to advocate for computer science educational requirements. It would be an honor to have the opportunity to represent the K-8 community on a national level, and I'd greatly appreciate your vote during the CSTA board elections.

    Let's work together to make computer science a vibrant addition to our schools. Together we can be instruments for change for our students and society.

    Patrice Gans
    Technology Teacher
    The Fraser-Woods School

    Posted by cstephenson at 02:55 PM | Comments (1)

    April 04, 2011

    Do You Have a "Split Personality" in Your CS Classroom

    Sometimes it feels like you are up against a brick wall. Your own principal threatens to cancel your AP CS course due to low enrollment and budgetary restrictions. It's funny (or not) how the enrollment minimum keeps increasing each year. Two years ago a course would run with 8 students. Now, the minimum is 18. This, and various other budget issues put your job in jeopardy.

    So you convince the administration to offer your AP CS course. Of course, for this to happen, you agree to teach the course in the same room and at the same time as your Intro to CS course (a course in a different language).

    What other teacher in what other discipline would agree to do this?

    Would the AP Chemistry teacher agree to teach AP Chemistry at the same time and in the same room as an introductory chemistry class?

    Does the Spanish teacher teach introductory Italian in the same room at the same time as AP Spanish?

    What other disciplines are asked to do what you are asked to do? Who wins in a situation where the teacher is asked to do two jobs at the same time? What does it mean to "win" or to "lose"? How do you keep your sanity? Are the students getting shortchanged? How do your non-computer science colleagues feel about this?

    If you are a teacher experiencing a "split personality," what are your secrets to success?

    Fran Trees
    CSTA Chapter Liaison

    Posted by cstephenson at 03:12 PM | Comments (2)

    April 01, 2011

    Candidate: Dr. Veronica McGowan

    Editor's Note: Candidates for the upcoming CSTA election have been invited to post brief blog statements so that members can have a chance to get to know them a bit better.

    Hello CSTA Members,

    I am running for the Collegiate Faculty Representative position on the CSTA Board and welcome correspondance with you. I am an assistant professor in the Computer and Business Information Systems Department at Delaware Valley College and highy invested in improving computer science education in American settings.

    I have taught computer science and have served as a grade level and special education teacher at various school districts in Southeastern Pennsylvania. I am certified in both Elementary Education and Special Education for grades K - 12. My industry experience was as a programmer for the Internal Revenue Service in Philadelphia. My primary academic focus is programming and Web design.

    I have recently graduated from Widener University's Doctoral Program in Academic Leadership. My dissertation addressed faculty perspectives on the effectiveness of the e-assessment tools of a content management system for improving selected student-based factors. My research interests include improving teaching and learning in computer science and mathematics classrooms, curriculum development, and educational technology strands such as course management systems, academic and institutional promotion and use of Webpages, and serving students in online settings.

    I also serve as the Post-Secondary Representative for the board of the Special Interest Group Computing Teachers of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and sit on the Editorial Review Board for the Journal of Computing Teachers and the International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education.

    Thank you for reading my profile and have a pleasant conclusion to the spring semester,
    Veronica McGowan

    Posted by cstephenson at 12:23 PM | Comments (0)