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Become a Computer Science Education Advocate!

Join Me! Become a Computer Science Education Advocate -- With Some Help, Of Course

At CSTA's Computer Science & Information Technology conference this year, Cameron Wilson, who is the Director of Public Policy for the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), and I talked to a riveted audience (trust me, they were riveted) about how to be a computer science education advocate. Cameron and I shared stories and witty repartee (link to presentation), and I hope that those in the audience came away feeling like they can and should take on advocacy.

While Cameron works daily in Washington, DC on policy issues important to ACM and the Computing in the Core Coalition (CinC), which he played a large part in starting, my day to day responsibilities are similar to so many of my CS educator colleagues. My first thought of the day is often, "I have to teach in 30 minutes and I have very little prepared." I like to think that Cameron and his like-minded colleagues at CinC are waking up thinking, "Today I have to change federal education policies to make room for computer science in K-12 classrooms." Last year, the Computer Science Education Act (S. 1614/HR 3014) was introduced in Congress on a particularly good day for CS advocates and CinC.

Like you, I spend most of my time thinking and worrying about my courses and my students, but I also share Cameron's concerns about the future of computing in the country at a time when only nine states count it as a graduation credit. Very few students graduate from high school with CS, because at the moment there simply is no place at the table for CS in American education. And, while the STEM education community points to the 9.2 million jobs that are expected to be in those fields in the country in 2020, they don't mention that half of those jobs, HALF will be in computing.

Computing in the Core and its members are working in Washington, DC to change K-12 education policies that marginalize the teaching and learning of computer science in the country's classrooms, but it is important that state legislators and leaders hear what is at stake and how they can help, and it is the educators working in local schools that are the experts on these issues.

I know how daunting it can be to get nudged into advocacy, but I assure you, you know more about how important computer science is to our young people and the country than any elected official. To help you get started, the CinC team has pulled together a state policy reform toolkit that I think can get you started:

  • Usage guide to help you use the other parts of this toolkit,
  • A sample letter that computer science education advocates like you can use to ask state legislators to introduce state versions of the Computer Science Education Act,
  • A draft of a state version of the Computer Science Education Act that can be shared with state lawmakers, but will likely need tweaking, and
  • A set of talking points that support the need for acting on this important issue.
  • Also, hosting a CSEdWeek event (http://www.csedweek.org/forms/sign/pledge-step1) this year (check out our event planning toolkit), is a great way to introduce computer science education to your community and local lawmakers. You should really try it.

    It is local concerns and requests that can be the most powerful in policy changes. I came to advocacy after some pushing and pulling, but I know it is where my voice can be the most powerful in the growing movement to improve computer science education across the country. I hope you'll join us.

    Baker Franke
    CSTA Leadership Cohort

    Originally posted on August 28, 2012, at csedweek.org.

    Comments

    I know how daunting it can be to get nudged into advocacy, but I assure you, you know more about how important computer science is to our young people and the country than any elected official.

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