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October 30, 2013

Computer Science History

Computer science tends to be a very forward looking field. We are constantly looking at the newest things including the future of computers, of programming languages and paradigms, the future of applications and of careers. This is natural with the rapid pace of computing but we should also take care not to neglect the study of computing's past. The old saying that those who do not study the past are doomed to repeat it holds as true in computing as it does in other fields.

We can learn a lot about the future (and the present) by understanding how we got to where we are today and how technology has transformed how we did things in the past. For example, today cloud computing is the trend for the future but it also has parallels with several technologies in the past.

Cloud computing is in many ways similar to the earlier move to client/server architectures. In the past the clients and servers may have been local to each other or even different software on the same computer. Today, the user side is a web browser and the "client" is somewhere out there in a location you may not even know. The client server also has parallels to the early days of mainframe computing. In those days, data entered on block mode terminals or card punch machines was sent to remote systems in climate controlled rooms with limited physical access. Seems a lot like the huge data centers of today doesn't it?

There were also all kinds of issues, both technical and cultural, involved in all of these paradigms. many of them are relevant to today's technologies. But are our students aware of them? Often they are not. The generation that has been involved in computing for many years is reaching retirement and the institutional memory it holds is at risk if we do not pass it on to students today. The problem is that it is difficult to make time to fit computing history into existing curricula or courses. There is little room in an AP CS A course for it, for example. There probably is room for it in the CS Principles course and the Exploring Computer Science course, but we have to do integrate it carefully. A dry memorization of dates, names, and events is dull. It doesn't communicate the richness of the history and it bores students to no end.

There are many resources on the Internet for studying computing history. The Computer History Museum has numerous resources online. The ACM has also made all of the great Turing Award lectures available (in some cases as video) enabling computing pioneers to share what they know with future generations. And speaking of voices of the pioneers, the Computer History Museum has an Oral History collection with interviews and talks by some of the greats.

How can we use these resources in interesting ways? I think it may work best in the context of discussions of the future. Students are very imaginative in their thinking about the future. It would be worthwhile to challenge them to look into previous technologies and developments for parallel changes. Or to ask them to look at the work of pioneers and ask them to project those developments forward to today and beyond. Challenge them to think about the progression of technologies from the past into the future.

We add value to teaching when we go beyond the technology and into the consequences of technology. Students are interested in that. History can help them make sense of the present and the future. And that is something we need to do.

Alfred Thompson
CSTA At-Large Representtive

Posted by cstephenson at 02:26 AM | Comments (0)

October 25, 2013

A Nine Minute Revolution

Last year I showed my programming students the nine minute version of the video Code.org created and we talked about what they thought and if anything surprised them. It was a fairly productive conversation but I didn't feel all the students participated. This year I tried something different and announced that we were going to watch a nine minute video and then they were going to write down what they felt about it, if they agreed or disagreed with anything said, or just what their reaction had been. I did not tell them the topic or give any other description than that. I played the video for the calls and then told them not to talk to anyone but go to their response page and type something. Some of the quotes are below.

These are actual student quotes so some of the sentences are not structurally sound but I had told them I wanted reactions and comments not perfect paragraphs and I got just that.

Programming isn't always just in computers, its all around us, patterns, of numbers and letters, that go hand in hand to make up a code that means something greater."

"Before watching the video, I thought that Programming wasn't very useful in peoples everyday lives. And now I think that it actually has a lot of different uses in jobs and everyday life. I didn't know that it actually had that many uses and I also didn't know that a lot of famous people learned how to code in school and that not many kids are learning how to code because some schools don't offer the course where they go to. I realize that I'm lucky for being able to take this course and be able to learn how to code."

"After watching the video, my outlook on computer science and coding has now changed. I now realize that coding is a very important thing to learn and is a very useful thing to know how to do."

"What I thought about the video is that it was shocking how many people don't know how to program a computer. It was like why don't other schools teach this it is fun and easy and I enjoy it."

"One of the big things that got me was Gabe from Valve. That is my favorite game company. so hearing him say those things just make me want to be a programmer even more. i already love doing it but hearing him say that just lit the flame."

"I feel that making something on the computer do what you want it to is the coolest thing, because it's like you have the power."

"After watching the video my opinion on computer programming has swayed towards a new direction. Before, I thought computer programming was only for people who already had a lot of knowledge in that type of subject, and if it didn't come naturally to you then it would be very difficult or next to impossible to learn. The video made me realize that anyone who has the determination can be a computer programmer or even just have the ability to code."

"This opened my eyes to a possible career in my future. After watching this video I'm rather excited to learn about code."

"I think that everybody should have to learn how to read and write code because it can be very fun and people should learn to create parameters, methods and could have fun making websites and storyboards."

"Having the ability to sit down and use a computer is one thing but to actually be able to write a program is like 'having a superpower'."

"Coding can allow me to create anything that my heart desires, which is an incredibly powerful capability. To be able to make anything, gives you free reign over your creative mind, and allows you to express your ideas in ways you never could have before. this is a powerful, and wonderful ability, and I'm glad I have the chance to do it. Each time I watch the video, I become more inspired by the speakers."

I hope this small sampling captured the wonder and amazement some of my students had from the realization that our programming class is not just some random class they take for a technology credit. Having the students write down their reactions without talking to anyone gave me valuable feedback and ideas of what I will need do to keep the flame of excitement and amazement burning for my students.

So what does this have to do with advocacy? EVERYTHING! In nine minutes I was able to reach my students at a different level with a video geared specifically at them showing what programmers do, who can do it, and the need there is for someone to do it.

Can you imagine the possibilities if you showed this video to your principal, your school board, your community, your students' parents, or anyone willing to would watch? After seeing how my students respond, I plan to incorporate this video into our CS ED Week and reach beyond my own students. Maybe I can start a CS revolution in just nine minutes -just maybe.

Stephanie Hoeppner
CSTA 9-12 Representative

Posted by cstephenson at 11:57 AM | Comments (2)

October 18, 2013

CSEA Legislation Timeline

There is so much momentum around the need for more computer science education in the country's schools, and many organizations in addition to CSTA are now working toward getting more computer science teachers in more elementary, middle, and high schools. While there is no doubt that there is much happening in Washington, DC, at state and local education agencies and in state capitals on these issues, there is arguably some confusion about what is and isn't or has or hasn't happened this year.

So, here is a timeline that explains the constantly shifting surface that is CS education advocacy at the national level.

June 12, 2013
After months of pressure from the education advocacy community desperate for a revision to the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) formerly known as No Child Left Behind, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee passed a bill to revise the 11-year old law that included computer science-friendly provisions. It was passed via a partisan vote, although Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and the Ranking Republican, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), both said they hoped that a robust floor debate, including open amendments, later in the year might produce a bill that would win bipartisan support.

June 19, 2013
The House Education and the Workforce Committee approved an ESEA reauthorization package that was very different from the Senate bill approved the week before. The Student Success Act (HR 5), which was also approved on a party line vote, reflects a more conservative role for the federal government in K-12 education and does very little to support any specific subject or group of teachers, including computer science and computer science educators.

June 27, 2013
Representatives Susan Brooks (R-IN), Jared Polis (D-CO) and others introduced legislation that addresses the urgent need for more computer science education in the country's K-12 classrooms. The Computer Science Education Act (HR 2536) would strengthen computer science education by changing federal education policies to support providing access to computer science in the country's elementary, middle, and high schools.

July 18, 2013
In a rare moment of bipartisanship, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly supported a computer science amendment to legislation that would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Proposed by Representatives Susan Brooks (R-IN) and Jared Polis (D-CO), the amendment would improve K-12 computer science education policies by clarifying that computer science educators should have access to the same supports as their colleagues. (This amendment's provisions are different from those of the Computer Science Education Act.)

July 19, 2013
The House passed the Student Success Act after a very partisan debate, and only via a partisan vote. The bill includes the amendment approved the day before that clarifies that the bill's professional development programs would support computer science teachers.

August 1, 2013
Senators Robert Casey (D-PA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced legislation that addresses the urgent need for more computer science education in the country's K-12 classrooms. The Computer Science Education and Jobs Act (S 1407) would strengthen computer science education by changing federal education policies to support providing access to computer science in the country's K-12 schools. The bill is larger and more detailed than the House bill, but its goals are similar.

While June and July were very busy months for CSTA, Computing in the Core, and computer science education advocates, since then, not much has happened. For those who remember Schoolhouse Rock and the "I'm Just a Bill" episode, you know that the House and Senate have to approve the exact same version of a bill in order for it to be sent to the President and signed into law. That hasn't happened to the Computer Science Education Act, the Computer Science Education and Jobs Act, or the amendment that would help computer science educators that was included in the Student Success Act.

Despite the pause in momentum, it is worth noting and celebrating that together, these actions represent a shift in the profile of K-12 computer science issues in education policy debates in Washington. Practically speaking, however, you are probably wondering what's next. The Senate needs to pass its ESEA reauthorization bill and still could do so before the end of the 113th Congress, which runs through the end of 2014. Then, the House and Senate would have to conference their two bills, which means try to bridge their significant differences to develop a single version of the bill that both chambers could pass and send to the President. Then, the President would have to sign it.

While the ESEA reauthorization process limps forward, CS advocates are pursuing a separate strategy on HR 2536, which amends the definition of core academic subjects to add computer science, defines computer science and makes a modest change to professional development provisions to clarify that CS educators should be supported. CSTA members and others can help. How? By asking their House representatives to cosponsor HR 2536. The bill has about two dozen cosponsors as of the middle of October, and needs 100 more to get the attention of leadership and force some action on K-12 computer science education policy. Ready to write to your Member and asking him or her to cosponsor the bill? Computing in the Core has pulled together the resources to help you do that.

Della Cronin
CSTA Policy Consultant

Note: Computing in the Core is a non-partisan advocacy coalition of associations, corporations, scientific societies, and other non-profits seeking to elevate the national profile of computer science education in K-12 within the US and work toward ensuring that computer science is one of the core academic subjects in K-12 education. CSTA is a founding Member of Computing in the Core.

Posted by cstephenson at 02:06 PM | Comments (0)

October 17, 2013

Injecting Serious CS into a STEM Course

My school district has a STEM course in the high school that is meeting the district's computer science graduation requirement. That means that the STEM students need to be meeting the CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards. Curriculum development can be quite the balancing act, especially in a course like this. How do you fit serious CS into a course that is already chock full of basic physics, engineering and math? Without adding any more time, of course! Here is an example of a unit I converted to include more CS.

Cell Phone Amusement Park
This is the first unit of the STEM 1 course. Students are introduced to the engineering cycle, the role of the engineering notebook, and how to read and create engineering drawings. I emphasize planning before building (I refer back to this when we get to pseudo code and programming).

The class brainstormed ideas for rides we could build with our materials (VEX robotics kits). They then broke into pairs and started reverse engineering their chosen ride, often using videos and photos found on the Internet. This stage focused on engineering drawings. We broke the ride into stages of development, starting with the base and how the motor and gearing would create the required motion. Once the teams built this first stage of the ride, I introduced them to the programming language we would use for the VEX, RobotC.

I introduced pseudo code as if they were writing specs for someone else who would do the programming. If they were too vague, I would give it back to them and say "I don't really know what you want me to do." When the teams shared their pseudo code, we were able to make a list of what they needed to know how to do in the programming environment. They wanted their motors to start slowly, and gradually ramp up to full speed, run at full speed for a set period of time, then slow down gradually to a stop. They felt that this is what a "real" ride does. Since the VEX motors can only take one value, power, I taught them how to use variables and loops to ramp up and ramp down. After writing some code and testing their programs, they decided they also wanted a start button, just like a real ride. Since touch sensors are binary, this led into a lesson on binary and sensor values.

After some more engineering and building and testing of the rides, we were ready to load some cell phones in. Why cell phones and not dolls or some other representation? The accelerometer data! We installed an accelerometer app onto our smart phones that allowed us to record the output of the accelerometer on our phones as a csv file. We had at least one csv file per ride, and each file consisted of many data points.

Analysis of large data sets is now naturally a part of the curriculum. The students collaborated to decide what makes a ride "fun" and how to use the sensor data to support that idea. I taught them various strategies to analyze the data according to what they came up with. At one end we had a ribbon for the best ride for thrill-seekers and at the other end a ribbon for the best ride for young children.

This unit takes the same amount of time as the Rube Goldberg machine unit it replaced. The new unit still contains all of the science, engineering, and math that the previous unit did, but it now also includes an introduction to pseudo code, programming in RobotC, variables, control structures, conditions, binary and analysis of large data sets!

Perhaps best of all, the students loved what they had made and are looking forward to our public display of the "Cell Phone Amusement Park" at our school on Halloween.

Tammy Pirrman
CSTA School District Representative

Posted by cstephenson at 02:40 PM | Comments (0)

October 15, 2013

Hour of Code Launches in San Francisco

Yesterday, Code.Org hosted an event in San Francisco to launch the Hour of Code program first introduced at the 2013 CSTA annual conference and in Myra Deister's blog piece last week. The goal for the Hour of Code is to introduce 10 million students to one hour of introductory computer science during Computer Science Education Week, December 9-15, 2013.

As part of the Hour of Code, participating educators, classrooms, and students will have a chance to win a variety of prizes. Support materials for educators, including self-guided tutorials, are also being made available to enable any educator, regardless of prior computer science experience, take part.

One of the most interesting elements of yesterday's launch was a panel moderated by CSTA member Professor Helene Martin from the University of Washington and featuring Microsoft's Brad Smith, Google's Maggie Johnson, HVF President and CEO Max Levchin, and California State Superintendent Tom Torlakson.

Maggie Johnson of Google noted that the current computer science pipeline problem is really one of supply and demand, with too few students graduating to fill the available jobs and a lack of understanding of the wide variety of careers available in the field. She also noted the critical importance of better engaging all students to ensure that future industry design teams are truly diverse.

Microsoft's Brad Smith urged states to move as quickly as possible to enact new legislation to allow high school students to count computer science as as a math or science graduation credit. He also urged the federal government to increase HiB visa fees and use these fees to create a national education fund that would provide states with funding for critical initiatives such as computer science teacher training.

California State Representative Tom Torlakson noted that his state is 40th in the nation when if comes to ensuring that student have access to needed hardware and software and that now is the time for states to ensure that "no child is left offline". He pledged to urge schools in his state to participate in Hour of Code.

Code.org's Hadi Partovi also announced the impressive list of industry sponsors who have come onboard to offer prizes and help publicize Hour of Code via their websites. Clearly this is an event that has significant buy-in and support from industry.

With the Hour of Code program, Code.org has the potential to focus unprecedented public and media attention on CSEd Week and to promote computer science education in ways ACM and CSTA only dreamed of when we began Computer Science Education week in 2009. And while it might be tempting to think that your individual contribution and commitment to CS Ed Week are no longer important in the face of all this new attention, the truth is that you are more important than ever. CSEd Week is, and will always be, the best possible time to share what you do in your classrooms every day to prepare your students for the future.

So celebrate it proudly and let us know what you plan to do.

Chris Stephenson
CSTA Executive Director

Posted by cstephenson at 07:11 PM | Comments (1)

October 10, 2013

Standardize Your (CS) World

Standardize Your (CS) World

Anyone even remotely connected with K-12 education knows the pervasive emphasis on standards in the education world today. One huge focus in today's K-12 education world is the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), sometimes referred to as Common Core standards. Other national standards for K-12 education include the Next Generation Science Standards which have recently been completed and are now being adopted by some states. And of course, we also have our CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards, published in December 2011.

The national Common Core standards have taken some pretty big hits from critics throughout the country. Some politicians don't think the federal government should be dictating what is taught in state schools. Of course, the CCSS initiative was a state-led initiative, led by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, and not led by the federal government. There are also some pretty big misperceptions about exactly what the standards are. Some educators and others interested in education fear that the standards dictate exactly what is to be taught and how it is to be taught. In reality, "The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn." These educational standards help teachers ensure their students have the skills and knowledge they need to be successful. The standards help teachers "by providing clear goals for student learning." There is nothing in the CCSS that dictates how teachers are to implement the standards (though certainly some teaching strategies may need to be adjusted). If you have not already done so, you can read much more and find interesting facts about the Common Core State Standards at the website: http://www.corestandards.org/.

The CSTA Curriculum Committee has had the opportunity to receive feedback on the CSTA K-12 CS Standards from many people on various occasions. Some of the feedback the committee has received has indicated that there is a belief that the CSTA Standards are the CS curriculum that is to be taught in our schools throughout the nation. In fact, the CSTA K-12 Standards provide goals for student learning (what students are expected to learn at the different educational levels K-12) just as the Common Core State Standards do. The standards are not the curriculum itself, but merely a roadmap or blueprint of what the teacher is to cover in his or her class. The CSTA K-12 Standards do provide a scaffolded learning progression of computer science standards for students from kindergarten through the 12th grade. If students are not exposed to the content of one of the standards at the recommended grade level, it is absolutely acceptable for the students to have instruction on that standard at the next grade level, so instruction flows smoothly and students do not have gaps in their CS instruction. If you are not familiar with the CSTA K-12 Standards or wish to learn more about them, you can access them on the CSTA website on the standards webpage: http://csta.acm.org/Curriculum/sub/K12Standards.html.

To illustrate my point, I will share an interesting blog post that I read earlier this fall. The author provided three analogies demonstrating the distinctions between standards and curriculum:
1. The standards are like a map (Google map cited in the article) that provides the destination (the standards), but giving multiple routes (the curriculum).
2. A standard is like a bar set at different heights for high jumpers in track and field. There are many ways for the jumper to master clearing the bar, and those ways are like the curriculum.
3. The required dimensions for a football field in the NFL and the NFL rules are like standards. Each NFL team has a different playbook, and those playbooks are like the curriculum.

The map analogy and the two sports analogies provide a good way to visualize the differences between standards and curriculum. You may find the blog post by following this link: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/engagement_and_reform/2013/08/standardsnot_curriculum_three_analogies.html?cmp=ENL-EU-VIEWS2.

In my "day job" as a curriculum consultant for the state education department, I am quite familiar with standards. We have state standards for all of our courses, and where national standards are available, our state standards reflect those national standards. Other educators are becoming more familiar with standards and the need to have them as well. The CSTA K-12 CS Standards have proven to be useful for many of our members; not as a CS curriculum, but as a roadmap or guideline in setting local and/or district CS curriculum. Read about (or listen to) some of the success stories that CSTA members have had with the CSTA Standards at the links given below:

  • Google Hangout webinar featuring Kelly Powers and Padmajh Bandaru of Massachusetts detailing how they aligned their existing computer science curriculum to the CSTA K-12 CS Standards: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJSN4RQCpkE&feature=youtu.be
  • CSTA Advocate Blog posting by Tammy Pirmann, CSTA District Representative, from Springfield Township, Pennsylvania sharing how she used the CSTA K-12 CS Standards to expand the CS curriculum offerings in her district: http://blog.acm.org/archives/csta/2013/08/
  • CSTA Advocate Blog posting by Stephanie Hoeppner, CSTA 9-12 Representative, and Ohio CS teacher explaining how the CSTA K-12 CS Standards and crosswalks helped her with the new testing requirement to be used as part of the teacher evaluation system in her state: http://blog.acm.org/archives/csta/2013/09/
  • If you have not already "standardized your CS world" yet, take a look at the CSTA Standards and the associated resources available on the CSTA website. The standards and the resources can be your roadmap and travel guides as you create curriculum to align to the standards, or as you align your existing curriculum to the CSTA Standards and/or other national standards. Happy motoring!

    Websites and Web Resources cited:

    Common Core State Standards
    http://www.corestandards.org/

    CSTA K-12 CS Standards webpage on CSTA website http://csta.acm.org/Curriculum/sub/K12Standards.html

    Standards Not Curriculum: Three Analogies http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/engagement_and_reform/2013/08/standardsnot_curriculum_three_analogies.html?cmp=ENL-EU-VIEWS2

    Kelly Powers and Padmajah Bandaru webinar:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJSN4RQCpkE&feature=youtu.be

    Tammy Pirmann's Blog Post Using CSTA K-12 Standards to Create Curricular Choices August 14 http://blog.acm.org/archives/csta/2013/08/

    Stephanie Hoeppner's Blog Post State Assessment Requirements and the CSTA Resources, Sept. 5: http://blog.acm.org/archives/csta/2013/09/

    Deborah Seehorn
    CSTA State Department Representative, Chair
    Curriculum Committee Chair

    Posted by cstephenson at 06:55 PM | Comments (1)

    October 08, 2013

    2013: The Summer of CS

    As we launch into a new academic year, I can't help but be excited by the amazing momentum I am currently feeling in computer science education.

    This past summer marked a steady march forward by hundreds of computer science teachers as they joined professional learning communities to further build the knowledge and skills to broaden participation in computing for students. The Exploring Computer Science program offered eight weeklong summer institutes across the nation. The Computer Science Principles program expanded its number of pilot teachers and offered intensive professional development for dozens of teachers. Never before has such a cohesive and large-scale effort at broadening participation taken hold in our community.

    And the conferences! The CSTA Conference was a huge success and included a variety of workshops and sessions for attending participants. At the AP Annual Conference later the same week, leading computer science education supporters stood together during the keynote address to introduce the new AP Computer Science Principles course to the national education audience. Following this keynote, the largest contingent of CS teachers to ever attend this conference carried this momentum into several sessions related to CS Principles and Exploring Computer Science.

    There was even national media coverage as the Today show covered Code.org's mission to further expand and broaden computer science teaching and learning for all students.

    Taken together, this incredible wave of success is an indicator of the incredible collaboration and commitment by teachers and other educators to strengthen the curriculum, pedagogy, and policies of computer science education.

    I can't wait to see what comes next!

    Joanna Goode
    CSTA Equity Chair

    Posted by cstephenson at 01:51 PM | Comments (1)

    October 07, 2013

    What Are You Doing for Hour of Code?

    That was the question I was asked in an email from a colleague who teaches in a neighboring district. I had thought about it but not in depth. It had been mentioned on Twitter and I had planned to hold two half-hour lunch periods of introduction to computer science parties in the lab during Computer Science Education week. My computer science students assist with walking the students through a simple coding exercise. I felt if I held it after school I would not have many students participate. However, over the last few days I have been thinking more about it. What if I contacted my principal and the PTA president and got them on board? How about California Teachers Association (CTA) or my local teachers association or even the National Education Association (NEA)? Maybe I could contact the local assemblywoman or the local community college computer science chair and get their support. My head started to spin.

    For those of you who have not heard of Hour of Code, I should explain what is going on. It is part of Computer Science Education Week http://csedweek.org/ and is a combined effort by Code.org and csedweek.org. On the webpage it is explained as: "It's a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify 'code' and show that anyone can learn the basics to be a maker, a creator, an innovator."

    When you visit the website click the "Learn More" button which will take you to a page of resources. I plan to print the letter to give to my principal when I have my meeting to discuss what we can do as a school. I will also use their other resources when I contact CTA and NEA.

    The day after the email from my colleague, I participated in a Google Hangout with my local CSTA Chapter President. I posed the question to him about what the chapter could do for CS Ed Week and Hour of Code. He suggested that we add a blog to the chapter website and invite members to write about their plans for this event.

    I am beginning to formulate my plans. It is not too early to start. What are you doing for CS Ed Week and Hour of Code? We need to work together to help each other plan successful events to grow our programs.

    Myra Deister
    CSTA At-Large Representative

    Posted by cstephenson at 12:30 PM | Comments (0)

    October 03, 2013

    Confessions of an Elementary Computer Science Teacher

    After teaching computer science and technology for over 13 years and not even reaching my forties, I started wondering how my teaching methods and style have changed throughout the years. I have written many anecdotal notes regarding my experiences and adventures in computer science teaching, hoping to use them one day and this seemed like a good opportunity to share some of those thoughts.

    I've made many changes over the years, not only in how I teach, but also in what I teach. Because both computer science subject matter and technology change almost every day, keeping up to date on both is a major challenge for Computer Science teachers. In addition, the rate at which my students grasp the information I am providing is also increasing. The combination of these factors can sometimes feel overwhelming.

    Although the standards for K-12 computer science have remained relatively constant over the years (allowing for revisions to keep up to date), the data required to address these standards has changed enormously. When I first started teaching, the hardware used to teach computer science was very limited. My school would basically use very basic Windows-based personal computers. Any programming language that I wanted to use had to be compatible with Windows (web-based programming was not even a dream yet). Because the programming languages we used were not kid friendly, we never considered teaching computer science to students not yet in high school. As a result, our elementary students learned only basic applications and touch-typing. With the growing availability of more varied hardware and programming language tools for education has now opened the doors for computer science courses in elementary school.

    Now, students are able to learn coding even with a tablet or mobile device. This means that the level of knowledge that I must now possess and master as a computer science teacher, has been raised tremendously. I have to know what is out there and constantly be prepared to answer any inquiries that my students may have, even if it means that sometimes I have to tell my students that I must do some additional research before I can give them an accurate response. There is a greater responsibility to stay relevant, informed, and up to date and to filter what is potentially beneficial for kids of all ages.

    There can be no doubt that this rapid rate of change is impacting what happens in my elementary classroom every day. My curriculum now includes topics such as computational thinking, robotics, video game design, coding and app building. Yes, it is stressful teaching in a field that is constantly changing, but it is also exciting and rewarding. I thought that being a CS teacher in the year 2000 was exciting because I was teaching my students the information for the "future". Now, 13 years later I still believe that been a computer science teacher is the most exciting job there is because I am truly preparing my students for the future.

    It is cool and challenging to have this great responsibility of navigating with my students through the uncharted waters of continuous change.

    Michelle Lagos
    International Representative
    CSTA Board of Directors

    Posted by cstephenson at 03:24 PM | Comments (1)