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Does CS "Rock" for your students?

One of the more interesting pieces of non-solicited email that I received this morning offered to help me teach like a rock star. I have to admit, the promotional technique was catchy and the email itself was short enough to read in less than a minute. And yet it intrigued me. I often wonder if teaching like a rock star is what we need to do to engage our students in computing and computer science. It is certainly well-known that we do need to attract more students and more diverse students in our discipline.

Studies show that Generation Z students want to be fully engaged in the classroom and in their education. These Gen Z students are "digital natives" who have grown up with the Internet and multitasking. Computing has always been mobile for these students and information has always been readily accessible through the Internet. They are highly connected in their personal lives, and they expect to be highly connected in their education lives as well. These students do not learn by listening to lectures and completing worksheets. They learn by doing, and they learn by teaching and from each other. These Gen Z students are entrepreneurial and highly service-oriented. They are 21st Century learners, and they learn and work collaboratively. They seek to develop a broad range of skills to equip themselves for the workplace. These Gen Z students are in our CS classrooms today.

How do you engage Gen Z students in your classroom? Do you have students working collaboratively with a diverse group of students to solve real-world problems? Do your students teach other students (as well as teach you)? Are mobile computing devices and other computing technology readily available to your students in the classroom? Do you guide your students to engage in their own learning? Are you a rock star and does CS rock for your students? Are you allowing each of your students to be a rock star in the classroom? Do you have a flipped classroom? Can your students obtain new content through a Learning Management System and/or a video BEFORE they come to class so they can collaborate to problem solve in class?

We are so fortunate to teach a discipline that not only lends itself well to collaboration for problem-solving but really demands it. Computing technology is an essential and integral part of what we do. Our CS students should be actively engaged in their own learning in our classrooms. They should be using computing and computing technologies to solve authentic problems. We should be teaching like rock stars. Our students should be learning and evolving into rock stars. Entrepreneurial, collaborative, computational thinking, service-oriented rock stars. What great hope for our future.

Further information about topics noted can be found at these sites:


Deborah Seehorn
CSTA Board of Directors


Actually, I was just talking with some students in a real-life classroom about this very issue. They were enthusiastically lecturing me on why the US should stop Kony from exploiting children in Uganda. I asked them why "now" ---certainly, we (as a nation of news consumers) have known about this terrible situation for some time. Their answer was simple: it's all over Twitter, and that makes it relevant.

The talk transitioned to a more local and somewhat selfish topic: student interest in computing and mathematics, and how this might translate into enrollment. And they told me how they make decisions about what's relevant and/or interesting to them. I found their observations revealing: if it's on Twitter this morning, then it's on my list of things to do today. Conclusion: Make a short dramatic video, post it to U-Tube, concurrently generate interest on Twitter, and you're done.

They'll flock to your classes without knowing why.

Of course, they won't be able to understand what you're saying, unless you can somehow make it more entertaining than what's on their mobile devices at this moment. If it's not "trending", it's irrelevant.

So, unless the CSTA knows some hip and willing Internet content producers who are willing to take-on the task of re-habilitating Computer Science, re-forming its image so to speak, we are invisible and irrelevant.

Of course, success in this new world means a classroom full of students who are motivated by the next great thing that appears on whatever social media they happen to be using instead of listening to your presentation. So, I'm sure that these same Internet mavins will devise a way to make abstract algebra and denotational semantics "trend ...".

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