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May 29, 2013

Nanotechnology Careers

The career prospects look bright for CS graduates and according to the Kiplinger Management Group Letter there is an exciting reason for the news.

Amazing new computer chips are in the works as American chip makers, universities, and the US Government have ramped up semiconductor research and development. The new chips will revolutionize existing products such as mobile phones and medical equipment. Research centers are popping up across the US. Over $200 million in investments (public and private) will go to dedicated microchip research centers including the University of Michigan, Notre Dame, the University of Minnesota, the University of California at Berkeley, UCLA, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Nanotechnology will get a boost from all of this and this is great news for your students! Exciting new nanotechnology careers will emerge. Think about:

  • Human implants to deliver cancer-fighting drugs.
  • Bioelectronics in which microscopic circuitry is paired with biological components to create artificial eyes or repair spinal injuries.
  • Optoelectronics that include remote sensors and flexible 3D displays.
  • A quick web search yielded many sites on nanotechnology. I found this one particularly interesting for K-12 teachers. The National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN). In addition to resources for computer scientists, there are many classroom resources including curriculum resources, projects, and the Nanooze magazine for students. Most items appear to be created by teachers (many of whom have participated in Research Experience for Teacher (RET) programs in Atlanta, Phoenix, Santa Barbara, and Minneapolis).

    One more exciting topic for your CS classroom.

    Pat Phillips
    Editor, Voice

    Posted by cstephenson at 02:35 PM | Comments (0)

    May 22, 2013

    This is My Dream Job

    Long ago in a land far away (well, actually only about 2.5 hours east of here -- but definitely a very different day and time), I started teaching high school math (in a very progressive school system), and I thought, "This is my dream job." Every day was different and working with students and other educators was wonderful. Farther down the road in a new time and place, I started teaching computer programming to high school and college students, and I thought, "No, this is my dream job." Not only was every day different and the students were still fabulous, but teaching with computers was fun! They were actually paying me to have fun! Now, much later in my career path, I am no longer in the classroom, so I miss the students. However, every day is still different, and the responsibilities of my position are so varied that I am still enthusiastic about education -- specifically Computer Science/IT Education.

    My primary job responsibility is in the development and maintenance of our statewide IT curriculum. I have the pleasure of networking with business and industry partners and in working closely with teams of our state educators to develop or revise curriculum. That in itself is rewarding, challenging, and fun. We recently revised our very outdated Computer Programming I and II courses. The courses are being field tested in schools throughout the state this year. Last Monday, I had the pleasure of visiting a terrific high school in the southern part of our state. I was participating in a monitoring visit (monitoring and accountability are some of my other job responsibilities). What a pleasant surprise it was to me to visit both a Computer Programming II and a Computer Programming I classroom and to see the students actively engaged in programming games to test the computer programming coding skills that they had learned earlier in the year (C# and Visual Basic 2010). They were so engrossed in their work and having so much fun working, that I hated to interrupt them, but I did. I asked what they were doing (and all were able to articulate that quite clearly), and I asked if they liked the class (and they overwhelmingly said yes). Some of the students told me that they were going to college to study Computer Science, and some told me they were going to take another programming course or take AP CS. How great is that! I was able to see the "curriculum in action" with students who loved it. What fun! Almost as much fun as teaching it, but not quite.

    Responding to inquiries from stakeholders and interested parties is another fun part of my job. In January of this year, my division director forwarded me an email from a Russian Computer Science professor who was a Fulbright Scholar at the local state university. He wanted information about our Computer Science and IT curriculum, which I shared with him. He then shared a paper he had written about high school informatics in Russia. I read the paper and then we had the pleasure of meeting in person to discuss the similarities and differences between CS & IT in the United States and Informatics in Russia. Of course, the discussion included the new CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards. We had a delightful meeting (though occasionally I had to ask for him to repeat something he had said), but otherwise we communicated quite well. We decided that there were many similarities and some differences, and that both countries had room for improvement. (Which is a perennial state, as the CS and IT world changes constantly and poses a challenge to try to keep up to date!)

    Soon after I met with my Russian friend, I was asked to meet with a Japanese Computer Science Professor in my role as the CSTA Curriculum Committee Chair as well as the CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards Task Force Chair. We met briefly at SIGCSE (though we saw each other in breakout sessions quite frequently throughout the conference). We also had a discussion noting the similarities and differences between Computer Science in the United States, and Informatics in Japan. Once again, we found many similarities in the two countries. We also had a delightful conversation before heading off to enjoy SIGCSE. Again, what fun to meet such diverse people who share the same priorities and passions for computing education as I do.

    One area where both Russia and Japan seem to have a bit of an edge on us is in the integration of informatics throughout the curriculum, from the lower grades through high school. But we are working on that! Every day articles find their way to my email box and tout successes in computing education in the K-12 spectrum. Many of the newest developments are in K-8. What an exciting time to be a CS/IT educator! Every day is different. There are advances in computing technology and computing education every day. And the students are so motivated to learn computing. They just want current, relevant curriculum that provides them authentic experiences. That is our job. My primary job is coordinating teams of teachers to develop that curriculum and then providing professional development for our educators so they can facilitate the delivery of that curriculum. Even though I only get to see and work with students on an occasional basis, I do get to impact what is taught in their classrooms. I do get to meet and talk with interesting people who also love computing. This is my dream job.

    Deborah Seehorn
    CSTA State Department Representative, Chair Elect
    Curriculum Committee Chair

    Posted by cstephenson at 12:13 PM | Comments (0)

    May 20, 2013

    Meet The Statistically Average Computer Science Teacher

    Every two years, CSTA conducts a survey of current computer science teachers. We have an excellent response rate and now that the results have all been tallied, I would like to introduce you to the "average" Computer Science teacher (statistically speaking).

    The average Computer Science teacher is a white male who has been teaching for more than 15 years and has been teaching Computer Science for about 13 years. He is a member of CSTA.

    He teaches in a public, suburban high school with approximately 1500 students in grades 9 through 12. Almost 300 of those students speak a different language at home. He is part of the Business Department and teaches Computer Science courses full time. His state and district have no Computer Science standards.

    His school offers Computer Science at the pre-AP level. The 25 students enrolled in his Computer Science elective will earn a Computing/Technology credit for the course. Three of these students are female and three represent ethnic minorities. In this class, he teaches problem solving, programming in Java, and the social and ethical issues related to the field. He's never even heard of the proposed AP Computer Science Principles course, not surprising in light of the fact that his school does not offer AP Computer Science A. He also teaches elective courses related to web design and development.

    What does he think of his enrollment numbers? He believes there are students who would like to be in his classes who aren't. He thinks these students are dealing with full schedules and the perception that electives are not as desirable on a transcript.

    His biggest challenges to teaching Computer Science? Lack of interest in the subject -- from both the adults and the students at his school.

    He would really like more time for professional development, as long as he can find a workshop or seminar that is relevant, nearby and inexpensive.

    Are YOU the average Computer Science teacher? Leave a comment below and share your reactions!

    Tammy Pirmann
    School District Representative

    Posted by cstephenson at 03:29 PM | Comments (8)

    May 15, 2013

    Random Hacks a Great Success for Students

    Great experience! Provided teamwork for all of us! It made us work super hard! Really Fun!” exclaimed Isabel, age 11. Fun and hard work are just the words teachers yearn to hear from their students. Over the past year, I've been searching for the perfect experience for my students, something that would inspire them while providing a challenging and fun introduction to the power of computer science. I think I finally found it.

    On Saturday, May 4, after months of preparation, my Random Hacks of Kindness Junior event finally unfolded. Over thirty students, along with computer science professionals, subject matter experts and humanitarians converged at my school in Newtown, CT, to create smart phone apps. According to the parent organization, Random Hacks of Kindness, this was the first time ever that young people came together to "hack" for humanity.

    When I had first learned about Random Hacks of Kindness last summer, I was drawn to the organization's mission of "creating a self-sustaining global community of innovators building practical open technology for a better world, and to ensure their work creates impact in society." But I was not sure how I would pull off such a lofty goal with 4th – 8th graders, whose primary use for computer is playing games. Would it really be possible to convince them to give up a Saturday and spend it indoors, working with strangers to help others? I am thrilled to say the answer is yes!

    I relied on my previous experience with a similar event for college students this past December at Trinity College. The day went off without a hitch. I contacted local charitable organizations and invited them to participate in the event. As a result, I had representatives from Ben's Bells, Newtown Kindness, Polar Bears International, American Diabetes Association, Autism Speaks, and The Newtown Animal Center. These charities were selected from my students' interests and passions. I also contacted a variety of high schools, colleges and universities from across Connecticut to ask for their assistance by providing mentors. Students and professors from Quinnipiac University , University of Hartford and Trinity College's HFOSS gladly agreed.

    All of the participants in RHoK Junior found the opportunity to work on real-world problems to be both inspirational and challenging. The students were thrilled to be working side-by-side with the subject matter experts and computer professionals. According to Christopher MacNamara, a 4th year at Fraser Woods Montessori School, "I liked that we got to create Apps and had a chance to help the community". This was music to my ears. The students enjoyed the challenges set before them and realized the importance of creating computer applications that served a bigger purpose than just entertainment.

    Now that we know that Random Hacks of Kindness Junior events can be as successful as the ones for adults, I am sure more will follow. Discussions are already underway to create a weeklong event next summer at Quinnipiac University.

    Jamesan, a college student from the University of Hartford, summed it up perfectly "This app development teaching idea is totally amazing in my opinion as it teaches kids the power that they have, shows them that the possibilities are limitless with computers". Exactly!

    For more information about creating a Random Hacks of Kindness Junior event at your school contact Thea Aldrich, from Random Hacks of Kindness at thea.aldrich@secondmuse.com.

    Patrice Gans
    CSTA K-8 Representative

    Posted by cstephenson at 03:41 PM | Comments (1)

    May 13, 2013

    New Study on Student STEM Interests

    I recently came across an interesting publication that looks at patterns in STEM education and it provides some surprising insights into students' interests in STEM education and career pathways.

    The report Where are the STEM Students is jointly published by myCollege Options and STEMconnector. It profiles the national high school student population (by graduation year) including more than one million students interested in STEM careers. The element of the report I found most interesting details the national trends in STEM among female and under-represented minority students.

    The study results indicate that female interest in Engineering increased after a significant dip between 2001 and 2005 but that it seems to have leveled out at about 3% of the high school population for the 2012 to 2016 graduating classes. Female interest in Technology showed a similar drop beginning in 2001 but that drop lasted much longer and the numbers did not begin increasing again until the graduating class of 2013! And despite this increase, the percentage of female students indicating an interest in careers in Technology remains below 2%.

    The results for under-represented minority students are very mixed and somewhat surprising. According to the study, since the graduating class of 2000, African American student interest in all STEM disciplines has dropped by nearly 30%. After reaching a high of just over 28% in 2001, African American student interest began a significant downward trend, bottoming out in 2004. Despite a bumpy trajectory since then, the numbers have never really recovered beyond 22%. While African American students' interest in Engineering continues to plummet, interest in Technology is showing significant improvement and is now trending toward its previous (2000) high of 10%.

    Reported interest in STEM by Hispanic students also bottomed out at 22% with the graduating class of 2004. Interest among Hispanic students, however, seems to be trending upward despite another minor dip for 2009 with 27% of students graduating in 2016 expressing interest in STEM courses and careers. (The report did not include the discipline-based results for Hispanic students.)

    Interest in Engineering remains highest among American Indian students, with the graduating class of 2016 reaching an all time high of 17%. And despite a dip that reached bottom (4%) with the 2010 and 2011 graduating class, student interest in Technology is also trending steadily upward, reaching between 9% and 10% among the 2016 graduating class.

    Chris Stephenson
    CSTA Executive Director

    Posted by cstephenson at 01:44 PM | Comments (0)