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March 31, 2012

Motivating Student Interest with Job Information

Need a little extra motivation to encourage young women (or anyone for that matter) into your CS courses? Take a look at the 25 Best-paying Jobs for Women reported by CareerBuilder:


Explanations of why women earn 81.6 cents for every dollar men earn, while making up nearly half of the workforce and graduating college at a higher rate than men, include the career choices women make. Women often pursue careers they find interesting and fulfilling over work that is lucrative. This crazy thinking needs to stop! It's time to point out to the young women in our schools that CS can provide careers that are interesting and fulfilling as well as lucrative.

Here are the top 20. It should be no surprise that five of them are pure CS and several others involve CS at a basic level. Share the list with your students and with their parents. Provide your counselors and principals with a copy of the article and have a chat with them about how students in your classes have a step-up toward these careers.

1. Pharmacists
Median weekly earnings: $1,898*

2. Lawyers
Median weekly earnings: $1,631

3. Computer and information systems managers
Median weekly earnings: $1,543

4. Physicians and surgeons
Median weekly earnings: $1,527

5. Chief executives
Median weekly earnings: $1,464

6. Nurse practitioners
Median weekly earnings: $1,432

7. Software developers
Median weekly earnings: $1,388

8. Operations research analysts
Median weekly earnings: $1,326

9. Human resources managers
Median weekly earnings: $1,273

10. Psychologists
Median weekly earnings: $1,244

11. Computer programmers
Median weekly earnings: $1,238

12. Physical therapists
Median weekly earnings: $1,216

13. Occupational therapists
Median weekly earnings: $1,193

14. Management analysts
Median weekly earnings: $1,174

15. Physical scientists
Median weekly earnings: $1,167

16. Medical and health services managers
Median weekly earnings: $1,166

17. Computer systems analysts
Median weekly earnings: $1,144

18. Architecture and engineering
Median weekly earnings: $1,140

19. Marketing and sales managers
Median weekly earnings: $1,127

20. Medical scientists
Median weekly earnings: $1,127

Pat Phillips
Editor, CSTA Voice

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

March 27, 2012

Why Aren't You Going to CS&IT

Once again this year, CSTA will be holding its annual Computer Science and Information Technology conference. It will be a fabulous event and the people who attend will give it rave reviews and will tell us it is the best professional development they have received all year and, for some people, ever. But as happy as I am that people will be glad they came, I cannot help but wonder and worry about the people who did not attend.

Every year CS&IT provides great workshops with content you can take directly back to your classroom. It provides great sessions with relevant information from experts and peers. It also provides downstreaming video of the sessions so attendees can catch any session they missed when they return how It provides opportunities for you to network and share strategies with others who understand and care about what you do.

So if this is the best opportunity you will have all year for great professional development, why aren't you coming?

And what could we do to make it more attractive and accessible to you?

Chris Stephenson
Executive Director

Posted by cstephenson at 11:14 AM | Comments (6)

March 24, 2012

Single Sex CS Education from the Student's Perspective

As a student at an all-women's college, there are no barriers to my exploration of typically male-dominated fields. Before taking an introductory computer science class, I had very little knowledge of programming languages and the internal processes of computers. So far, I have greatly enjoyed the class and plan to continue developing my skills in the field. However, I can't help but wonder whether I would have ever decided to take a CS class had I attended a coeducational institution.

How is a single-sex environment conducive to women entering CS? First, it erases any potential tension and distractions that may arise in a coeducational environment. It also allows women to see other women understanding the material and succeeding in the classes. Before I came to college, I never met a woman who had earned a degree in computer science and I had never considered pursuing a degree in a technical field. When I arrived, not only were all of the computer science majors women, so were those who had majored in mathematics, physics, and chemistry. Seeing such women graduate makes those fields all the more accessible to the next classes of students.

I found that, in particular, those women who had studied CS were very nurturing of younger students in the introductory classes. There were many times when my friends and I would be discussing what we learned in class and an older student standing nearby would join the conversation to answer our questions and recommend professors. There was also a student who created a Google Group in order to foster a supportive community for students interested in careers in the tech industry. The camaraderie in the CS department has been very energizing, and learning computer science in a single-sex institution has had an immeasurable influence on the confidence I have in my abilities.

Emily Grandjean
Wellesley College
Class of 2015

Posted by cstephenson at 08:27 PM | Comments (0)

March 22, 2012

Flexibility and Creativity in Teaching

Hack Education has an interesting interview with Laura Blankenship, a computer science teacher in Pennsylvania. I think it's great the flexibility Laura demonstrates - when Scratch wasn't working for her students, she switched to something that worked better for them.

This is an interesting silver lining to the lack of mandated standards in computer science - we often have the flexibility to change what we teach in substantial ways, such as switching from straightforward programming to a web-based approach and digital media, such as Laura did. I've long known flexibility was a key to great teaching - providing students with appropriately engaging challenges while teaching the important material. Of course, being that flexible has huge challenges!

If nothing else, I hope the interview gives you some creative ideas for things you might do with your students!

Michelle Friend
CSTA Past Chair

Posted by cstephenson at 01:12 PM | Comments (0)

March 20, 2012

What's the State of (CS Ed in) Your State?

The March issue of the CSTA Voice (see p. 4-5) includes a look at some state-by-state results from the 2011 National Secondary Computer Science Survey . As you might expect, if you compare the responses for any state to the national results (or compare one state to another), you'll find some interesting variations.

For example, students in introductory CS courses earn a wide variety of types of credit:
"Technology (38%) and Computing (36%) are the most common types of credit given for introductory CS courses, followed by Business (25%), but 69% of Georgia schools allow Business credit, 52% of Virginia schools give Math credit, and 58% of Colorado schools give Elective credit for introductory CS courses."

This variation is not surprising, since states also vary widely in the certification requirements for teachers who teach CS courses.

  • In Georgia's state-approved curriculum, CS courses fall into the Business and Computer Science department, but each course has its own list of certifications to which it's aligned. The first of three introductory-level courses earns credit in Career and Technical Education, and it may be taught by someone with certification in any of eight specialty fields (including CS, electronics, business, and IT), but other introductory courses have shorter lists of aligned certifications. (For details, see Georgia's Certification/Curriculum Assignment Policies System). Georgia's survey respondents also included Computing (38%) and Technology (31%) as possible areas of credit for intro-level courses.
  • Virginia's requirements (revised in 2011) for a CS endorsement (see p. 42) include coursework in Mathematics, Statistics, and four CS-specific areas, reflecting the same recognition of the connection between mathematics and CS as the schools' credit policies.
  • Colorado apparently has no CS endorsement, and decisions about teacher requirements for CS-related courses are apparently made at the local level. The only references to "computer science" or "computer programming" that I could find in any course or teacher standards on the Department of Education's website were in a list of 21st century skills for sixth and seventh grade Drama and Theatre Arts!.
  • The reasons for some other state-by-state variations are not so obvious (to me, at least). For example:
    I wonder what factors contributed to the wide range of rates (among schools that offer any CS course) of schools that offer AP CS: from 77% in Maryland to 9% in Kansas.

    Why is Scratch the most commonly-taught programming language in introductory CS courses in Colorado (the only state for which that is true)?

    Another puzzle: Most states' teachers reported that the greatest challenges in teaching CS were two of these three:

  • Lack of support / interest by school staff
  • Lack of student interest / enrollment
  • Rapidly-changing technology
  • So why is "Lack of hardware/software resources" considered to be one of the greatest challenges in Alabama, Kansas, Michigan, and Oklahoma, while "Lack of curriculum resources" was critical for teachers in Indiana and Washington? And why is Texas the only state whose teachers reported that "Difficult subject matter" was one of the greatest challenges?

    The results that were highlighted in the Voice article are only a few of the variations present in the state-by-state results; you may find detailed survey results for each of the 29 states with 15 or more respondents.

    We invite your own comments and insights on the survey results for your state; perhaps you can enlighten the rest of us about special factors that have shaped CS education in your state.

    Debbie Carter
    CSTA Research Committee

    Posted by cstephenson at 02:59 PM | Comments (4)

    March 18, 2012

    Letting Students Explore Technology

    I use Greenfoot for one of my programming courses and last year support was added so that you could use a Kinect with Greenfoot to write interactive programs. While my students were not quite at that level I thought I would peak their interest and see what they would think of using a Kinect in class. On a day before a break I brought in a Kinect and loaded the sample programs that Greenfoot provides (http://www.greenfoot.org/doc/kinect). I let all of my computer classes play with it with great results. They laughed, tried different things, and even created contests. This day did not involve any coding but they used their creativity and problem solving skills. Here are my two favorite results (you may have to look at the sample programs to fully understand what they are doing but I think you will get the gist):

    1. There is a stick figure program that recognizes a person and then will allow you to "paint" on the screen. Students took this to a new level as a contest to see who could write the best word with the "paint". They even had a partner so when they had to stop writing to move their hand elsewhere the partner pushed the pause on Greenfoot and then pushed run when they were ready. For pictures, see:


    2. There is another program that drops balls and when the Kinect recognizes a person you can hold your arms up and catch the balls. With this program the students changed the image so they could catch all kinds of things. One pair of students changed it to an image of a man and then using some umbrellas in my room played on the song 'It’s Raining Men'.

    Click this link to see screen shots we took of a couple of the best words and the Raining Men.

    Letting the students try out technology and go where they want to go with it does get them excited and then they want to know more. They were looking at the code on their own and figuring out ways to change it to do what they wanted the programs to do. It was a great time of exploration and creativity. This is something I want to incorporate more in my classroom so that my students see the excitement of computer science and that they can do what they want with it.

    Stephanie Hoeppner
    CSTA Ohio Vice President

    Posted by cstephenson at 04:44 PM | Comments (0)

    March 15, 2012

    Literacy: Not Just for English Class Anymore

    Do you remember the "writing across the curriculum" push? If you've been teaching for more than about eight years, I'm sure you do - in addition to everything else we have to do, teachers across all curriculum were going to teach students to write. I believe my reaction may have been something like, "Why are they taking up my time doing the job of the English teachers who are trained for it??"

    Jonathan Osborne refers to my former attitude as the "vaccination model" where we think teaching certain skills is someone else's responsibility. (And notice how we computer science teachers feel when everyone else wants to push the computer skills into our curriculum!) Science teachers - and computer science teachers - believe that doing science is the most important part.

    Do It, Talk It, Read It, Write ItIt turns out that doing it isn't the only important part for understanding. It's equally important to be able to talk about content, read about it, and write about it. Not only is language how we communicate what we know and how we think, but it is how we are able to label our ideas and even come up with new ideas.

    Many of us have an intuitive idea that's true - we would not feel comfortable that a student who could write a program but not explain what it does or how it works had completely mastered the material. Unfortunately, few of us are trained in how to support students literacy practices in our disciplines - how to help them learn to read manuals or man pages or even newspaper articles about current events. Grading programs is hard enough, the idea of grading a substantial piece of writing can be very intimidating.

    However, those skills - the ones we often rely on the English teachers to provide - are just as important for computer science. Not only is there specialized vocabulary that the English teachers won't teach (called "Tier 3" by the researchers), but more importantly, there are words which are somewhat common, but have different meanings in different contexts (called "Tier 2"). Examples of tier 2 words are variable, theory, parameter. Tier 2 words are likely particularly hard for English Language Learners, yet we tend to ignore them in favor of tier 3 words which we know students won't know.

    The good news is that if you have access to an English teacher, they'd likely be thrilled to offer you suggestions of how to help students read, write, and speak well about computer science. What other tips do you have for supporting literacy in your classroom?

    Michelle Friend
    CSTA Past Chair

    Posted by cstephenson at 06:10 PM | Comments (0)

    March 14, 2012

    Buckeye Top Fifty

    Communication is an important part of every aspect of our lives, especially when choosing a career. Recently, Kelly Flowers, guidance counsellor at West Muskingum High School in Zanesville, OH, sent out an email communicating the top fifty high-wage occupations that are in demand for Ohio.

    Attached to this email was a chart:


    listing the top fifty high-wage occupations which are in demand for the period of 2008 to 2018. Since my son is a freshman at West Muskingum High School and hasn't decided on his future after high school, I decided take a look at the information.

    The bottom of the chart lists the occupations for the Information Technology, Engineering, and Science fields. I didn't find it surprising that eight of the fifty occupations were technology related. High demands occupations in Ohio include:

  • Computer Software Engineers,
  • Network Systems and Communication Analysis,
  • Computer Systems Analysis,
  • Network and Computer Systems Administrators,
  • Computer and Information Systems Managers, and
  • Database Managers.
  • When I read this list, I thought about all of my colleagues around the state who preparing students for these occupations and wished that there was some way I could pat them on the back for their efforts. The average annual earnings for these occupations range from $41,746 to $111,821 and the total annual openings for the occupations range from 138 to 22,090. These are occupations can enable our students to make a decent living for themselves in difficult economic times, in our state and across the country.

    Thinking back to my original idea of how important communication is, I decided to forward this information to the guidance counsellors at my school and to ask our school librarian to make a poster size copy of this chart to hang in my room. I want my students to know about the opportunities in the Computer Science work force. Maybe more of them will consider this as their career path.

    Thank you Kelly Flowers for making me aware of this very valuable information.

    Dave Burkhart
    Task Force Chair
    CSTA Board of Directors

    Posted by cstephenson at 05:28 PM | Comments (1)

    March 12, 2012

    Make a Difference

    n January 2008, CSTA launched the CSTA Leadership Cohort. The goal of the cohort is to identify and support two teacher leaders in each state who are working to improve K-12 computer science education. Among other responsibilities, cohort members work in their respective states to establish K-12 computer science as an essential academic discipline. The cohort members participated in CSTA Leadership and Advocacy workshops and have helped to strengthen the CSTA leadership by identifying and building partnerships with appropriate stakeholders, and by working toward organizing local and state chapters of CSTA.

    Information about the cohorts can be found on the CSTA web page at:


    Presently thirty-three states have cohort representatives. Although many of the cohort members have been instrumental in initiating local CSTA chapter formations, many CSTA chapters have been started by teachers like you, non-cohort members that are interested in improving and promoting K-12 CS education. CSTA now has 35 chapters, including two Canadian chapters. You can make a difference. Join your local CSTA Chapter. A list with chapter contact information can be found at:


    You don't see a listing for a chapter near you? You can make a difference. Why not take the first step yourself.

  • Talk to your colleagues that are interesting in CS education
  • Plan an organizational meeting to chat about your interest in forming a local CSTA chapter.
  • Set a date and time for the initial meeting.
  • If you have the interest, we will help you get started. Send an email with your ideas to:


    Join with the cohort members and the current CSTA Chapter members and make a difference!

    Fran Trees
    CSTA Chapter Liaison

    Posted by cstephenson at 08:40 PM | Comments (2)

    March 10, 2012

    Thinking Big About Computer Science Education

    Thinking big about computer science education means thinking about how we can guarantee that every American student has some formal computing education. There are many ideas for how we can go about doing this, but there are two tightly-coupled fundamental problems that must be solved if we're going to realize this dream: where does computer science (CS) fit in American education and who will teach it?

    The first problem is viewed as a zero-sum problem. If we propose adding CS education somewhere (anywhere) in the system what will we lose? Should CS replace some existing course or content? Should it be added on top of everything else we ask our students to do? I think that the CS teaching community (myself included) has difficulty being sensitive to this issue. I often catch myself operating under the assumption that it is a priori obvious to everyone that the world would be a better place if students learned some real computing in school. The reality is that very few people (and let's focus here on school/district leadership, policy makers, and stake holders) have a visceral sense of what good and real computing education is or looks like because, of course, it's likely they never had it themselves.

    They know that computers and technology are important, but lack the confidence or experience to declare what they want in their schools. It's difficult to pull the trigger on a big decision when there's so much indecision in the air. This perhaps explains why our nation's current efforts at CS education look like scatter shot. So by asking, say a school principal to add a computer science requirement, they may intellectually understand the argument, but they can only viscerally feel the potential loss: it's either replacing something (a loss of that thing) or piling on more (a loss of free time and resources). And if you try to claim there isn't a loss, you're not being honest with yourself, and they won't believe you anyway. It's a big ask of an administrator who will get all the flak resulting from the perceived loss, and all of the flak that seems to naturally go along with disruptions or changes to the system.

    At the same time, if you manage to succeed in adding a CS requirement you're likely screwed for another reason. Who will teach the classes? Many schools in America do not have anyone on their staff qualified to teach CS and schools that are lucky enough to have a computer science teacher probably only have one of them. If you just added a graduation requirement at a high school, how are you going to handle teaching a real CS class to all of those students?

    So the zero-sum problem is tightly coupled, in a chicken-and-egg way, with the rather large problem of not having enough teachers: we can't add CS courses because there are no teachers and we can't get teachers because there are no CS courses. We've been spiraling around these two fundamental problems for a long time with seemingly little progress.

    But in Chicago we think we found a way in. Right now, with the help of three local universities and funding from a National Science Foundation CE21 grant, the Chicago chapter of CSTA is helping to develop 75 Chicago Public School teachers to teach Exploring Computer Science (a real CS curriculum) that is being implemented in those teachers' schools as a required course. Did you hear the part about required? Did I mention this is happening right now?

    How did we do it? We found schools that did not have the zero-sum problem. Career and Technical Education (CTE) schools around the country have students on a track for some kind of technical education. In Chicago there are about 35 of these schools and many of the CTE programs live as a sub-program within the local schools. They are not separate schools. All CTE students in Chicago were required to take a "classic" tech ed course for a year (basically Microsoft Office certification plus a few other tech literacy things).

    What we saw were teachers in rooms with students and computers in a required course that wasn't really doing that much for the students or the teachers. Through our advocacy work we were able to convince the director of the CTE program in Chicago to change this required course (common to all the CTE programs) into a "real" computer science course. And that's how it started. We chose to teach the Exploring Computer Science curriculum because of it's fantastic professional development model and I would describe the early results as transformative. Most of the teachers love teaching the class and now feel like they're making a difference in their students' lives rather than treading water in a classic "applications" course.

    Are they "real" computer science teachers? Yes. But they're different than the computer science teachers that we in the CS community are used to and that's something we have to get used to but also what's so great. These teachers are going to be able to reach students of all races, genders, creeds, and socio-economic status for the precise reason that they're nothing like, well, me. I'm seeing it happen before my eyes and it's amazing. The potential impact of this project is huge. In a few years time, we will have hundreds of computer science teachers teaching a required CS course in Chicago Public Schools.

    So, I'm writing this as a piece of encouragement to you other potential cs advocates out there. Please steal our idea. Even beyond CTE schools, many schools have some kind of tech literacy requirement. If schools in your area have teachers in rooms with students and computers and aren't teaching CS because the teacher just needs help learning how to teach CS content instead of tech ed, let's go after them. If we can find schools where the only issue is professional development for the teacher and not trying to find a place for a CS class, that's something we can do. And it's something that school leaders are more receptive to. They all want to improve existing courses and staff.

    Our project in Chicago is the culmination of a relatively small group of people who love teaching computer science and kept trying to figure out ways to have a larger impact beyond the walls of our schools. I should point out that we failed in many attempts to impact the Chicago Public School system. But we kept plugging away and looking for ins. We got there by welcoming teachers and local college professors into our chapter, and requesting meetings with officials and anyone who would listen to our passionate pleas for more and better computer science. We got bounced around a lot, and you will too. But eventually you end up talking to the right person at the right time and quicker than you can believe you've made a difference. It can be done. And you are the one to do it.

    Baker Franke
    CSTA Leadership Cohort

    Posted by cstephenson at 01:04 PM | Comments (1)

    March 08, 2012

    Teaching with Lousy Health

    There are about 1800 students at Henry M. Gunn HS (Palo Alto, CA). Enrollment in CS has grown from 90 students three years ago to 110 to 130 last year to 190 this year. This has enabled me to be a full-time CS teacher (I remain in the Math department and am happy to be a member thereof) and to have a colleague teach a section of CS.

    Growing the program has been a real team effort. My colleagues in the Math department have been outstanding in handing out literature and encouraging the students to enroll in CS classes. Teachers in some other classes have let me come in and talk about the advantages of learning computer science during high school. My engineering colleagues and I have sorted out pathways for kids who have a strong interest in the T and E parts of STEM (see http://paleyontology.com/engr). The administration has been incredibly supportive.

    I have also been fortunate enough to teach in Google's CAPE program the past two summers. If you are a high school teacher and you are serious about getting kids excited about CS and giving them opportunities to be creative, CAPE is fantastic. Yes, the stories about the food at Google are true, but they are relatively uninteresting compared to the intellectual capital of the people and the teaching resources that were provided. It was a lot of work, and it was incredibly fun. (Google is hiring for 2012; see http://www.google.com/edu/cape/ if you are interested.)

    So, life has been terrific. It has also been exhausting. And that can be a problem if one has Crohn's Disease, an affliction I have had for my whole life. Since last June, I have had a kidney stone, two Crohn's Disease flares, and a bout of shingles that forced me to stay home for about five weeks. All of this is part of life and the show must go on.

    During the five weeks I had shingles, the question for me was how to proceed, given that I could not go in to school to teach. There was no way that I was going to let the CS program decline; not after all the effort that it took to get it where it is.

    What I am about to describe is not rocket science. It's easy enough to do. It's just a matter of doing it.

    Making Lemonade

    There is an old adage: "When life throws you a lemon, make lemonade." If these health problems had happened to me 25 years ago, before the Web and Skype, the CS courses might have been in jeopardy and certainly would have been without a teacher. I have posted my courses on the Web since I got to Gunn, so students know where to find the things I expect them to do even if I am not present. It has been nice to leave the following lesson plan for substitutes: "The homework is online and the students know where to find it. Please make sure they do not take liberties by playing games, using Facebook, etc." The Web is a game changer and it's easy to edit content remotely in case I need to alter the pace of the course.

    Despite missing over a month, I never needed to slow the pace of instruction. That is largely due to Skype. Many of my colleagues know about Skype as they have used it to do video calls to family. (If your in-laws are in Australia as mine are, it is sweet to avoid long-distance charges.) What people may not know is that, in addition to being able to show one's face over the Internet, one can also choose to show what is appearing on the monitor. So, I Skyped into the classroom to deliver lectures, with actual code being presented live to the students.

    To arrange this, the technical requirements were:

  • LCD projector (the expensive part)
  • Computer connected to the LCD projector
  • Speakers attached to the computer
  • Microphone to capture student questions/comments
  • Internet connectivity
  • (Preferable) Video camera to see the classroom
  • The IT team at Gunn was superhuman and incredibly understanding and accommodating and made sure all of the above were working. They helped the subs set up the teacher computer and log on to Skype, which might have been the biggest problem as having an IT person in the classroom meant being away from something else that was important. Note to everyone: be nice to the IT people. Good IT people (and we have some great IT people at my school) can be lifesavers.

    We had everything but the video camera in place (we did get a camera for one session, but it only captured about half of the students), so the substitutes were asked to help call on students who had questions. I lectured approximately once per week per class, which is what I do normally (more on that another time). Students worked in groups and helped each other out, but some also sent me email during class if they had questions. I could not properly monitor what students were doing, but the stories I received from subs and administrators suggest that they were generally on task.

    This seems to be confirmed by the results. The students were able to keep up and perform at the same level as students in previous years. There may be exceptions to this, but they are not apparent to me. I am still trying to sort out what that means. (If the lectures were good for the students, they were therapeutic for me. We humans are social creatures and the boredom level was just awful.)

    The feedback that I received for using Skype was wonderful. Various administrators were complimentary and occasionally brought in people to watch parts of my lectures. Students sent me emails, saying that it really helped. I got an email or two from parents who had shingles and were thrilled that I was doing lectures despite the illness. And one of the subs left me a poem and an autographed Tim Lincecum poster. (I am not making this up. It's really neat.)

    Josh Paley
    CSTA Leadership Cohort

    Posted by cstephenson at 01:00 PM | Comments (0)

    March 06, 2012

    New Education-Related Tools

    Last month I attended the Consumer Electronics Show, the largest annual convention held in Las Vegas. The 2012 CES featured more than 2,700 vendors, 1.8 million square feet of exhibits and 140,000 attendees. While there were many, many interesting new products, redesigned products and vendors that spent time talking to people about their products. For me, the interesting part of the activity was speaking with educators that are now using some of these new products in their classrooms or learning environments and finding out the effect of their use on their teaching and student learning. The Education-related products I found most interesting were:

  • LectureTools is a web-based product that allows you to prepare interactive lectures and elicit real-time feedback via the internet. Students can view them on a computer or smartphone. Most of the educators found this product as useful in both asynchronous and synchronous environment.

  • MyScript from Vision Objects in France are products that convert handwritten notes and equations to text on smartphones and tablets. In speaking with several high school teachers, the general consensus was the assisting students with the translating and converting equation and texts to other apparatus.

  • Although there were eight teachers with whom I discussed these items, I would be interested in knowing if others are using either or both of these products and the experiences they have had with them.

    Gladys Phillips-Evans
    CSTA Board Member

    Posted by cstephenson at 12:49 PM | Comments (0)

    March 03, 2012

    Teachers: It's Okay to Ask For Help!

    I recently participated in a workshop held during SIGCSE 2012 in Raleigh, NC. The workshop was designed to expose beginners to a tool that will help students learn to program and to get excited about computer science. I am neither a beginner nor an expert on this tool; I attended the workshop to reinforce my skills, learn new tricks, and to share some wisdom I've gained. While this particular teaching tool has many online tutorials and active user groups, since it's new, not all of the tutorials are well-written and some of them skip some necessary steps. I have spoken with teacher after teacher who says they benefit from a demonstration or hands-on session. Once they see the basics, they can then easily follow the tutorials or create their own lesson plans and strategies.

    Often, during workshops such as these, teachers have questions about the installation of the tool and associated devices, especially since many of us have tight restrictions in our computer labs. (I was extremely interested to find out that even some college professors have strict limitations on what they can and can not install in their labs. I, naively, thought this fight was limited to K-12 teachers!) One workshop participant mentioned her difficulty with the use of this tool in her lab and someone quickly responded, "Use Macs, you won't have any problem at all." This knee-jerk response hit me hard. The person who said it perhaps doesn't realize that 1) not all schools have Macs, 2) even if the teacher or school has money to buy Macs, sometimes districts won't let schools or teachers make their own decisions on what they can buy, and 3) maybe the teacher/school doesn't wish to use Macs (yes, there are those of us out there that actually enjoy using PCs). Regardless, this answer wasn't helpful in any way. And perhaps obtaining the answer to this question was the main reason this teacher came to the workshop!

    Teachers, it is okay to ask for help with the little details. I would be super disappointed to hear that a teacher gave up using this tool simply because of having difficulty installing the tool or getting started. And I would be even more disappointed to find that someone felt their question was too simple to ask and feared being mocked. If you encounter a person who won't help you work out the kinks, then ask someone else. For every person who finds themselves too busy to answer a simple question, there is another person out there willing to help.

    We are teachers after all!

    Ria Galanos
    CSTA 9-12 Representative

    Posted by cstephenson at 06:18 PM | Comments (0)