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Ensuring Teacher Voices Are Heard

This is an exciting time for CS education. There seems to be a growing national consensus that achievement in the sciences is critical both for the next generation of students and the future well-being of our country. Hopefully, CS has a place at that table. Thanks to a variety of efforts from corporations like Microsoft and Google and professional associations like the ACM and CSTA, computer science education seems to be gathering steam and legitimacy in the public sphere. Our collective efforts for advocacy, curriculum development, research about learning, and good teaching are having an impact.

But excitement is tightly coupled with an element of anxiety. What is there to be anxious about? A grassroots effort with a growing head of steam on its way to the mainstream can only sustain momentum for so long. At some point, at some unpredictable and probably imperceptible moment in the future, the steam will taper off, the effort will slow and we'll be left with whatever we created along the way. I think we're approaching that moment. It might be a few years away, maybe more, but we're way closer to that moment now than we were five years ago. There is so much swirling around CS education now, the proverbial iron is hot, and we need to make sure we strike.

I don't intend to be ominous. I'm neither futurist nor soothsayer. But CS has picked up steam before, in the 80s, before my time as a teacher. Computers and computer programming were the wave of the future! (See: Pappert) What happened? By the early 90s, computing was on its way out of the schools. We lost ground. The steam wore off. Computer science receded to the fringe. We can argue about why that happened, but I'd rather make sure that this time, while we've got a head of steam, we leave behind some structural or institutional permanence, so that the when the steam tapers off, as it inevitably will, there will at least be some more significant residue of good, rigorous, computing education in all schools.

One way to ensure some permanence, in my opinion, is to empower teachers, not just vogue curricula. Current CS teachers must be involved in helping us move toward the future. And right now, sadly, though perhaps predictably, the voices of people with the most vital information about the state of computing education, we the teachers, are out of the loop. I would like to change that.

And I would like you to help me.

I'm working with the Center for Elementary Math and Science Education (CEMSE) here at the University of Chicago to ensure that teachers' needs and voices will contribute to the information used to by the decision- and policy-makers who are doing much of this new K-12 CS curriculum development. Our project at CEMSE is to collect data on the landscape of computer science teacher professional development in high schools. A large part of that is to develop a robust understanding what teachers are experiencing in schools.

We have created a very brief (10 min or less) but very important survey that I'd like you to fill out that will help describe what's really going on in schools. This information will be widely disseminated, it will be used, and it will matter. So please join me in collecting this information so that teachers' voices will be heard and we can contribute to making a lasting impact on the present CS Education movement while it's gathering steam.

Oh, did I mention that we're giving out $50 gift cards? For every 100 people that complete the survey, we'll pick two at random from amongst all respondents to get a $50 card. So the earlier you complete the survey, and the more teacher friends you get do it, the more chances you have to win!

So, help us support you the right way. Thanks for your time. Yours in solidarity,

Baker Franke
Computer Science Teacher
University of Chicago Laboratory Schools
Center for Elementary Math and Science Education

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