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REACHING OUT TO CSTA's INTERNATIONAL MEMBERS

When you are a Computer Science teacher there is a universe of knowledge that you can transfer to your students, depending on the interest they show. You can teach how to code, design video games, robotics, Web design and many other things. The universal language for computer science software and applications is English, so when you are a computer science teacher teaching outside the U.S. or any other country where English is the native language, new challenges appear. Such is my case. I teach in a Latin American country where Spanish is the native language but my school is an American School and therefore 90% or more of the subjects are taught in English. What does this mean and why is it important?

As an American School, we have a clear mission to prepare our students to be able to succeed in any college or university around the world but because of our geographic proximity to North America, most of our students envision themselves in a college in the United States. For this reason, we teach the "American Way". This means that inside our campus, the English language and a U.S.-based curriculum are standard. At the same time, however, we must comply with national Education Ministry requirements.

As a Computer Science teacher, I deal with a triple threat very few teachers face:

  • I teach in a non-native language
  • I teach in a subject matter or field that is not very traditional or whose teachers rarely have the same type of qualifications required from other subject matter teachers in Latin America
  • I must work with software that is purchased almost exclusively in the original language it was designed.

  • In addition to these challenges, professional development in my area is scarce and basic compared to that provided for other subjects. So it becomes pretty easy to feel isolated and with no support system even in this social media and Internet era.

    So, what to do? I went to my old reliable friend, the Internet, and started researching for blogs, forums, or associations that would help a K-12 Computer Science teachers whether U.S. native teaching abroad or local teaching in English or in American schools. I needed to find quality professional development, standards that could grow with my school's expectations, resources and ideas to use with my students. I also needed all of these benefit to be accessible to all teachers, regardless of their location.

    Fortunately I found CSTA and I immediately applied to become an international member. Why was CSTA different than other associations? Although CSTA is U.S.-based, it supports more than 14,000 K-12 Computer Science teachers all around the globe. Within CSTA's webpage you can find a treasure of resources, articles, blog posts and documents to make your life easier and your class, better.

    Reading the posts in CSTA's Advocacy blog made me feel like I belong now to a larger community within my field and that the challenges and adventures that CS teachers live are similar no matter what part of the world you are in. I am not alone. I also found a set of standards that can be applied to any level my students are currently at and aligned with other sets of standards to make the CS instruction more complete and comprehensive.

    CSTA also offers great professional development opportunities especially during the CSTA annual conference. This conference takes place in the U.S. since the majority of the members reside there but, if, as an international member you are unable to attend, most of the information and presentations are later posted on the website and you can make great use of it. If you can get your school, your administration or department to send you to the CSTA Conference this summer, you are in for a treat. Check out the agenda on the website to know what will be going on. As a preview, I can tell you from my past summer experience that the annual CSTA conference is a great venue to make great connections with other teachers and supporters, attend hands on workshops and get a feel of what other teachers are experiencing in their classrooms or labs plus ways to approach different challenges we face every day as CS teachers. Every year CSTA invites great speakers and presenters to make the conference as broad and useful as possible. As far as professional development goes, it is a great opportunity to have some face time with leaders and advocates of CS education in K-12 with invaluable information to take back to your schools and students.

    CSTA also participates in several conferences sponsored by similar associations or affiliates in different countries and provides presentations so we keep in touch with our international audience to bring feedback and work on resources to support our international members.

    If you are reading this, you probably are a member already so it might seem that I am preaching to the choir but I am writing about it because it took me quite a while to explore all the information available for me by CSTA.

    Michelle Lagos
    CSTA-International Representative

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