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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

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