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Promoting Computer Science

Computer Science is an elective class in my high school district and in many other districts. The simple truth is that elective teachers must promote their courses to attract students. This year I have begun early promoting computer science. My promoting activities began during Computer Science Education Week and are continuing until student registration which is the beginning of March.

During Computer Science Education Week, I hosted an open house in the computer lab offering food, door prizes and tours during lunch time using my computer science students as “tour guides”. During Winter break, I mailed over 150 letters to parents of students using the AP Potential List inviting them to Open House and to consider enrolling in Computer Science. (AP Potential is a research-driven, free Web-based tool that will help you identify AP students that have the potential to score 3 or above on the Computer Science A AP test . My Open House activities included a continuous presentation displaying student work and showing the CSTA Computer Science Education Week movies. Additionally, I gave away candy and computer science wristbands. Current computer science students volunteered to pass out brochures and speak to attendees about computer science.

During the next few weeks, I will mail additional letters home explaining the computer science program and the advantages of enrolling in computer science. The letters will be mailed to parents whose students have received grades of B or better in Geometry for the fall semester.

Recently, a discussion about promoting computer science appeared as a thread on the AP Computer Science A Discussion Board. There were many good suggestions that I had not considered. Some of the suggestions were:

From Baker Franke, University of Chicago Laboratory High School (Chicago, IL)
Small thing I did that garnered some attention: I invented an award at my school called "Achievement in Computer Science". Then I shelled out $500 to make a fancy looking plaque and hung it in the halls. I retroactively decided former students who should have won the award had it existed and put their names on the plaque to get it started. Since I hung it up, student interest has piqued and now other departments are copying me.

From Kathleen Weaver, Hillcrest High School (Dallas, TX)
I volunteer around the school a LOT. All the other teachers send their students to me with computers questions, and especially password reset questions. I do the website for the PTSA. So EVERYONE knows me and knows I know everything about computers. I also mentor the Robot Team, and encourage the kids to drive the robots down the hall.

In the past I would attend the lesser sports. I haven't had to do that in awhile, but go to the sports and watch ones that others don't go to. Go to open house, go to PTSA events, etc.
Word of mouth is the best thing ever.

From Rebecca Dovi, Patrick Henry High School (Ashland, VA)
I do a lot of art in Computer Science projects and hang them in the halls. So we do one around recruiting time where the prompt is "I use computer science to..."

The fold a 3x5 index card in half - do a collage about their theme on the outside and then finish the sentence inside. It is interactive and we get lots of kids stopping to look.

Also - where I can I let my current students sell the program. This year we invited kids with high PSAT scores into the lab for ice cream sundaes and a tour. I let my kids show off what they do. I then mail home a follow-up letter to parents. Saying things like "your student has been nominated for computer science" plays well.

Personally I wear my robot skirt every time I go out and volunteer - but that might not be your first sartorial choice.

In other words, I try to have a high, visible presence with excited kids

From David Herman, New Albany High School and Eastland-Fairfield Career & Technical Schools
1. Create a CS/STEM Girls Club! Ask a few girls to bring some like-minded friends to a meeting. Challenge them to support each other in their CS/STEM excitement, promote and recruit, and find ways to support Middle School girls to ensure they maintain their CS/STEM interest in the face of peer (and often parental) pressure.
2. Promote the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) "Aspirations in Computing Annual Award Program". As girls start to win National and State awards, promote the heck out of it in local and school media.
3. Involve your students in free third party CS/STEM activities, then publicize their involvement and results. Examples:
IBM Master the Mainframe competition
Zero Robotics (NASA/MIT) programming challenge
US Air Force Discovery Lab "Virtual Reality Academy"

I am looking for more ideas. What have you done that has been successful?

Myra Deister
CSTA At-Large Representative
Sunny Hills High School
Fullerton, CA

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