CSTA Computational Thinking (CT) Task Force

Why was the Computational Thinking (CT) Task Force formed?

One of the primary purposes of the CSTA is to support K-12 CS educators. Thus, it’s important that the CSTA be aware of current developments in computer science education, including Computational Thinking (CT), so we can take advantage of new opportunities and new partnerships. The CT Task Force was formed to advise the organization about how to connect with and respond to new Computational Thinking initiatives.

Who are the members of the CT Task Force?

In July 2014, the CT Task Force re-assembled with these members:

Irene Lee, Chair (Santa Fe Institute, Project GUTS)
Fred Martin, Co-Chair (University of Massachusetts Lowell)
J. Philip East (University of Northern Iowa)
Diana Franklin (University of California, Santa Barbara)
Shuchi Grover (Stanford University)
Roxana Hadad (Northeastern Illinois University)
Joe Kmoch (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)
Michelle Lagos (American School of Tegucigalpa)
Eric Snow (SRI International)

What does the CT Task Force do?

This year, we are focusing on CT in K-8 teaching and learning. This is a pressing need, and we would like to understand the scope of what is being called “computational thinking” in K-8: how it is being defined, what tools and curricula are being used to teach computational thinking, and how it is being assessed. Task Force members also participate on related efforts, such as developing proposals for providing professional development in CT through the CSTA.

How does the CT Task Force serve the CSTA membership?

We serve the membership by:

1) Writing, publishing and disseminating papers on CT

2) Coordinating efforts to inform K-8 educators about CT

3) Making presentations on CT at educational conferences

4) Updating the CT webpage on the CSTA website

We welcome suggestions and contributions from the CSTA membership on ways the CT Task Force can better serve you.

The Certification Committee

The Certification Committee is primarily concerned with issues surrounding teacher certification for Computing teachers. Our most recent effort was the publication of the white paper, Bugs in the System: Computer Science Teacher Certification in the U.S.. This was a substantial effort of members from almost every state! You can see the state map that resulted from this work, where each state has a color code based on whether or not that state has a certification for HS, for MS or no certifications at all. One of the criteria is Computer Science as a required course, but not one state had that in 2013.

Currently, we are working on a public response to the Teacher Preparation Regulations being proposed by the U.S. Dept of Education. Public comments close on February 2, 2015.

On our website, you will find the Certification section at the bottom of the left side navigation. We currently have two links, one to the resources which include downloadable PDFs of our two white papers as well as information on a methods course for teacher prep programs. The second link is to an interactive map of the United States. Each state contains answers to three questions: Is Computer Science a required course? Is there a Middle School Computer Science teacher certification? and Is there a High School Computer Science teacher certification?  Soon, we will be adding a link to this page to allow our members to self-report changes to these questions for their state. Advocacy for Computer Science education is having an effect on this data, and we would like to keep this information current.

Who is on the Certification Committee?
Chair – Tammy Pirmann
Members – Deborah Seehorn, Aman Yadav, Stephanie Hoeppner, and Lissa Clayborn

Q&A: Running for the CSTA Board

The deadline for applying to run for the CSTA Board of Directors is rapidly approaching (Feb. 1).  In case you were on the fence about applying for the board, here are answers to five of the most common questions that potential candidates ask:

Q: How much work is involved in being a Board member? 
A: You have probably seen the phrase “the CSTA Board is a working board” in several places.  What this means is that members of the Board are expected to help carry out the business of the organization – not just advise or supervise.  This includes two face-to-face board meetings, one held in conjunction with the CSTA Annual Conference and another held in the late fall.  While these meetings are packed and productive, most of the Board’s business is conducted throughout the year by committees, with individuals working from home and coordinating via phone conferences. The time commitment can vary by task, e.g., the work conducted by the Elections & Nominations Committee is concentrated around setting up and running the annual elections, and is light during other times of the year. On average, I would guess that the workload averages out to 2-4 hours per week.

Q: Are Board members expected to cover their own travel expenses to meetings?
A: No, expenses for travel are reimbursed (within reason) following CSTA’s travel policy guidelines.  This includes travel, hotel, and meals at Board meetings.  It also includes expenses related to attending the CSTA Annual Conference, since Board members are expected to attend this event and help out by proctoring sessions and assisting with registration.  A copy of the travel policy is provided to all newly elected Board members.

Q: Why are there different positions on the Board, such as 9-12 Representative and At-Large Representative? 
A: The mission of CSTA is a broad one, promoting K-12 CS education and supporting the interests and professional development of our 18,000+ members.  It is essential that the Board have a diversity of perspectives and experiences to address the issues and challenges that arise in the organization’s business.  Each position has requirements to ensure that key perspectives are represented on the Board.  For example, the 9-12 Representative is required to be a “9–12 classroom teacher who is currently teaching computer science at the high school level.”  Once on the Board, all members are equal in status and welcome to contribute to all initiatives.

Q: If I apply for a position, does that automatically mean I will be on the ballot?
A: Unfortunately, no.  According to the CSTA bylaws, the election ballot will list at most two candidates for each open Board position.  If more than two qualified candidates submit applications, the Elections & Nominations Committee is charged with selecting the two most outstanding candidates to be placed on the ballot.  Committee members independently rank the candidates using a rubric that considers factors such as leadership skills and experience, understanding of core issues in CS education, and alignment of goals to CSTA’s mission.  While this model does sometimes mean that highly qualified candidates do not make the ballot, it does allow for us to keep the ballot size manageable while still providing detailed statements from each candidate.

Q: Why should I consider running for the CSTA Board?
A: Serving on the CSTA Board of Directors is an extremely rewarding opportunity to give back to the teaching community.  Board members help to set the vision for the organization and work to promote CS education on a global scale.  Their work supports and provides professional development for CSTA’s more than 18,000 members.  In addition, working closely with other amazing educators is rewarding in itself.

Download the 2015 CSTA Nominations Form at http://csta.acm.org/About/sub/AboutFiles/2015Election.html.

Dave Reed
Chair-elect, CSTA Board of Directors

Better Know a Committee

This posting kicks off a new series of blog posts, intended to inform you, the CSTA membership, as to how your Board of Directors works. In brief, the CSTA Board of Directors consists of eleven members, elected by the general CSTA membership. To ensure a diverse set of perspectives and experiences on the Board, members are elected to specific positions: K-8, 9-12 (two representatives), School District, Teacher Education, International, College Faculty, University Faculty, and At-Large (two representatives). The Board members select a Chair every two years from among the eleven, who coordinates the Board’s activities.

The CSTA Board of Directors is a working board. Board members work closely with the Executive Director to articulate the vision for the organization, plan initiatives and activities, and help carry out the organization’s business. Much of this work is done through standing committees and task forces. Over the coming weeks, the chairs of the committees and task forces will be posting summaries of their group’s goals and activities. If you would like to know more about a committee or task force, or possibly volunteer to help out, please feel free to contact us.

Dave Reed
Chair-elect and College Faculty Representative
CSTA Board of Directors

Assessing Computer Science Education

With the current national focus on making computer science (CS) count as a high school math or science credit or as core admissions credit for colleges and universities, the first step is to examine CS assessment landscape in K–12 education. In particular, it is imperative to conduct a landscape study on how the key players (teachers and CS education researchers) utilize assessment in their work. As more and more states adopt CS as a requirement, quality assessment will be a necessity that not only measures knowledge, but also assess student conceptual understanding. Currently, the quality and state of computer science assessment is generally unknown and opinions differ on what is available to the K–12 community at a cost effective rate (or free) and is easy to implement and access. Furthermore, the open-ended nature of computer science tasks makes it imperative that assessments are carefully developed and they fit the philosophy of open-ended algorithmic thinking.

Why is assessment so important? Having students demonstrate their understanding of the topic is essential to their learning process. Assessment helps to evaluate the student’s understanding of the subject matter and provides instructors with evidence of whether or not their educational goals are being met – both as a formative and a summative tool. However, the use of different programming languages and tasks in computer science classrooms make it challenging to develop a standardized test. Hence, it is important that we develop an understanding of what assessments are available, the caliber of the assessments including validity and reliability of available CS assessment.

Given the role of assessment, CSTA with funding from Google is undertaking this important task of examining the assessment landscape in high school computer science classroom. To meet the objective, CSTA Assessment Landscape Planning Committee will conduct a study to learn more about how CS teachers are using assessment in their own classrooms both to inform day-to-day instruction as well as end of course learning outcomes.

Aman Yadav
Chair, CSTA Assessment Landscape Planning Committee

Inviting all “CS in K-8” Enthusiasts

So much has changed in the last five years since I started teaching programming to 6th graders in my district. At that time, it was considered outright strange for a public school district anywhere. Today, some large school districts like Chicago have added computer science (CS) to their curriculum, and entire countries are adding a required computer science class in the K-12 curriculum.

‘Why Should Fifth Graders Learn to Program?’ is an article I wrote in 2011 to help answer the question of why we must introduce CS in the early years. Today, that question has been answered many times over and in response we are flooded with resources from a wide range of “coding in K-8” experts.

Most K-8 CS teachers are not dedicated CS teachers, but classroom teachers or technology specialists who are “CS in K-8” enthusiasts. They find time to integrate CS into the curriculum or carve out a special class to add to the busy school day. These teachers are now deluged with the many ways to do what they love to do – bring the excitement of CS to all their students. How can they wade through this flood of resources to find the one that fits their needs, the one that is right for their class, the one that reflects their unique teaching style, or the one with the research or pedagogy piece they want? Maybe they want a tool that offers a blended solution, or one that maximizes creativity?

With every new tool or resource that comes my way, I rush into an excited experimentation mode to see if I can use it. In my role as the district’s computer science integration specialist, I must do this research but not every teacher has the time. Often, even after my trying out the new tool, I am not ready to test it on my students. I really need is to just ask someone, Did it work in your class?

That is why I need a community of K-8 CS teachers where I can connect and ask these questions. What tool did you use for your second graders? How do you move from visual programming to text based coding and when? How did you convince your administration that the CS department should expand from its current size of one? What do you do with that kid who thinks they will never be able to code or the kid who thinks he should start with Java in third grade?. What are you doing to celebrate Computer Science education week?

I remember my excitement when I first found this CS teachers community at my first Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) conference. Since then, I have benefitted from connecting with these teachers by email or Twitter. I now carefully mark the conference on my calendar each year so I can meet more of these teachers in person. For those who have never attended, it is a must attend event for any CS teacher. Save the date – the next CSTA conference is July 13-14, 2015.

However, the conference is only once a year, and the questions and teacher community support is needed through the year. In addition to the CSTA local chapters, mailing lists, and Twitter, there is now an additional way to connect to this community at any time: a new Google+ community set up by CSTA for K-8 teachers.

As a K-8 teacher who has learned from this community and in my role as the new K-8 Rep for CSTA, I invite all “CS in K-8” enthusiasts to become a CSTA member as well as join the Google+ CSTA K-8 community. Introduce yourself, share a resource that worked for you, post a favorite student project, and ask those questions. You will be welcome. I hope to see you online!

Sheena Vaidyanathan
6th Grade Computer Science Teacher
Los Altos School District
CSTA Board Rep for K-8


Giving Thanks

Today in the United States is one of our national holidays, Thanksgiving. As part of my family’s tradition, we each share what we are thankful for. As I have been reflecting on all the wonderful blessings in my life, one that doesn’t get said often enough is my thankfulness for our members, and especially those who are our tireless volunteers.

Our members spend their days and nights helping educate K-12 students around the world in the joys of computer science. Being an educator is not a 9-5 job, it is comprised of long hours teaching, preparing lessons, parent/teacher meetings, planning meetings with administrators and co-workers, obtaining professional development, and reflecting on lessons learned inside and outside of the classroom. Educators are amazingly dedicated people, who put their hearts into sharing the subjects they love with today’s youth. There are no words of thanks passionate enough to say how deeply I appreciate what each and every one of you contributes to education and learning. You are incredible!

Those educators who volunteer for the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) deserve even more of my thanks. You are unflagging in your dedication to the organization, the work we do, and to make sure that each and every student who wants to learn about computer science is given the chance. You spend hundreds of hours each year making CSTA a vibrant, relevant organization. You help bring new resources and opportunities to all our members around the globe. All of this is on top of your day jobs, daily lives, and the other demands on your time. I, for one, know that without you, CSTA would not be the success it is today. So, from the bottom of my heart, my thanks to each of you for dedicating your time, enthusiasm, and passion to CSTA, for without you, there would be no CSTA.

If you celebrate Thanksgiving, or even if you don’t, I hope you too get the chance to reflect on the blessings in your life and know that the CSTA staff is deeply grateful to have you not only in the organization, but also educating our youth.

Gratefully yours,

Lissa Clayborn
Acting Executive Director
Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA)

Call for Nominations: Announcing CSTA Board of Directors Elections

Application Deadline: February 1, 2015 (midnight PST)

Term of Service: June 2015-2017

The following CSTA Director positions will be vacated on May 31, 2015. We encourage interested CSTA members to apply or to encourage other qualified members to submit an application. Late nominations will not be accepted.

The CSTA Board is a working Board. All Directors are required to attend two face-to-face Board meetings per year (including the combined Board Meeting and CSTA Conference on July 12-17, 2015) and are expected to contribute meaningfully by participating on at least two committees. Directors are required to participate in the following Board events in Grapevine, Texas:

  • July 12, 2015: New Board Member Orientation
  • July 13-14, 2015: CSTA Annual Conference
  • July 15, 2015 CSTA Committee Meetings
  • July 16-17, 2015: Full Board meeting


  • K-8 Representative (1 position): a classroom teacher who is currently teaching or promoting computer science at the pre-high school level.
  • 9-12 Representative (1 position): A 9-12 classroom teacher who is currently teaching computer science at the high school level.
  • At-Large Representative (1 position): An educator with responsibilities for K-12 CS education.

CSTA is dedicated to promoting diversity in K-12 computer science education as well as on its Board. We strongly encourage all qualified individuals to apply. The Nominations and Elections Committee of the CSTA Board will select the two best-qualified applicants in each position for inclusion on the ballot.

Nominations deadline: February 1, 2015.

How to submit your application

1. Download the 2015 CSTA Nominations Form at http://csta.acm.org/About/sub/AboutFiles/2015Election.html.

2. Complete the Nominations Form.

The form includes the following information:

  • Position for which you are applying
  • Your Name
  • Address
  • School or Employer
  • Current Title/Role
  • Email Address
  • Phone Number
  • Personal Statement that explains your motivation and why you are a strong candidate (limited to 130 words).
  • Answers to the following four questions (no more than 100 words each):
  • ​What experiences and/or interests in K-12 computer science/information technology education qualify you to serve as a leader for the organization?
  • What previous experience do you have with CSTA?
  • ​What leadership skills do you have that would enrich the Board and the organization?
  • What do you think are the most important issues for K-12 computer science education?

3. Submit the completed Nominations Form and your current résumé of experience to the Elections Committee by emailing them to nominations@csta.acm.org. The documents may be submitted in Microsoft Word or PDF format; PDF is preferred.

Each candidate’s personal statement and answers to the four questions will be posted on the CSTA website and included on the ballot. Statements will be truncated at the word-count limit if necessary. The candidate’s résumé will not be made public.

Ballot distribution: The election will take place online, beginning April 2, 2015. All CSTA members in good standing will be eligible to vote.

Voting deadline: The election will close May 4, 2015.

Election results: Results will be posted by May 15, 2015.

Please send election related questions to:

Deborah Seehorn, Nominations and Elections Committee Chair, nominations@csta.acm.org

CSTA Chapters and CSTA International Affiliates

CSTA Chapters:

CSTA supports the development of regional CSTA Chapters. A CSTA chapter is a local branch of CSTA designed to facilitate discussion of local issues, provision of member services at the local level, and to promote CSTA membership on the national level. We have 52 CSTA Chapters in 35 states and 4 CSTA Chapters in Canada. The current list of chapters can be viewed at: http://www.csta.acm.org/About/sub/CSTAChapters.html. The goals of a CSTA chapter include holding regular membership meetings and regularly communicating with the chapter membership. Many chapters find it helpful and rewarding to provide professional development activities for their membership.

CSTA International Affiliates:

Due to international laws relating to fiduciary responsibility for chapters, CSTA is unable to support the formation of chapters in countries other than the U.S. and Canada. As part of its commitment to meeting the needs of CSTA members and developing a strong international community of computer science educators, CSTA encourages affiliate relationships with similar organizations in other countries. A CSTA international affiliate is a sister organization committed to supporting improvements to pre-college computer science education at the national level. We have established an international affiliates program and provided a comprehensive guide on affiliate formation. Information on becoming a CSTA Affiliate member at: http://csta.acm.org/About/sub/Affiliates.html.

Both the CSTA Chapter application and CSTA International Affiliate application can be found on the CSTA Web site. We encourage your active participation in supporting CSTA through chapters and affiliates.

Submitted by Fran Trees, CSTA Chapter Liaison

Report on the CSTA Annual Conference

This past July 14-15, 326 attendees converged on St. Charles, Illinois, for the 2014 CSTA Annual Conference. This number continues the impressive growth of the conference, representing a roughly 20% increase from 2013. On Monday, 12 professional development workshops were offered, six in the morning and six in the afternoon, with a total attendance of 386. Tuesday was filled with 24 presentations across a variety of topics, including a new feature this year: 20-minute mini-sessions that focused on innovative classroom practices. Keynote addresses by Yasmin Kafai and Michael Kolling were thought provoking and inspiring.

Putting together the conference is the joint effort of a large community. The program committee (Dave Reed, Doug Peterson, Duncan Buell, Tammy Pirmann, Philip East, Patrice Gans, Kristen Fisher, Dan Wheadon, and Chris Stevenson) has the challenging task of selecting the agenda for the conference, with the help of a large corps of reviewers. Lissa Clayborn and Tiffany Nash organized and ran the event logistics, and onsite volunteers, led by the Chicago and Chicago Suburbs CSTA chapters, kept everything running smoothly.

If you were able to join us in St. Charles, we hope you had an outstanding experience. If not, you can still take advantage of much of the professional development. Many of the speakers’ slides are already posted on the CSTA Web site and more will be posted soon. In addition, many of the sessions were videotaped, including the keynotes, and these will also be going up on the CSTA site in early September. If you are looking for an activity for an upcoming CSTA chapter meeting, showing a session video and basing discussion on it is a great option.

We are always looking for your feedback and ideas to make your CSTA Annual Conference even better. Feel free to post your thoughts here, or contact a member of the program committee directly if you prefer.

Dave Reed
2014 CSTA Annual Conference Program Chair
College Faculty Rep, CSTA Board of Directors