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What’s Changed and What’s Stayed the Same

As I drove home from the 2014 CSTA Annual Conference last week, I reflected on how things have changed in my 33 years of teaching computer science. CSTA is beginning its 11th year and it has been an invaluable resource for those of us who remember the days when there was little to no support from anyone in our field. It is still too hard for us to make sure that others in our school communities know and appreciate how important computer science is, but at least we have each other.

Every time I attend any form of Professional Development, I am overwhelmed with how much I still don’t know about. In just the past 5 years, I’ve learned SNAP, HTML and JavaScript, C# with XNA Studio, Greenfoot, Calico including Scribbler robots, Scratch, Alice, Processing, GameMaker, Python 2.7 and 3.3, AppInventor, and much of the content for the new AP Computer Science Principles course. The AP Computer Science A course has been taught in Pascal, C++, and JAVA with object-oriented programming being a brand new paradigm. However, what I learned in high school in 1973 about using 3 control structures and lists/arrays to represent data is still the foundation for any program development. Designing algorithms is still the hardest part of programming and using pencil and paper still works better than simply starting to code. My involvement in the American Computer Science League reminds me of this as students use newer languages to solve hard problems, but still need to know about computer number systems, recursive functions, graph theory, bit strings, prefix and postfix notation, binary trees, stacks and queues, FSAs & regular expressions, Boolean algebra, and digital logic gates.

As Michael Kölling said in his closing keynote, “Every generation needs a new language. Languages grow or die.” He didn’t mention how exponential the growth is. The Hour of Code did wonders in promoting computer science and CSTA has been instrumental in equipping teachers of all ages and levels K-12 to keep pace and make a difference for the next generation.

Carlen Blackstone
Computer Science Teacher, Emmaus High School

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