Computer Science/Coding Education Graphic from SMU

Guest author: Shane Ryan; Community Manager, DataScience@SMU

DataScience@SMU, the online data science program offered by Southern Methodist University recently published a graphic detailing coding and computer science education in the United States and around the world. Despite the booming field and increasing job prospects for computer science professions, only 1 in 10 K-12 schools in the US have implemented coding education to their curriculum. In the graphic, DataScience@SMU highlights some of the obstacles to educating students in the US while showcasing other countries who have mandated computer science education as part of elementary or secondary curricula. Additionally, the piece details some of the challenges to teaching computer science while also touching upon the gender gap in the field.

Infographic can be viewed here.

CSTA Board of Directors Election (part 2)

As a follow-up to the reminder about the CSTA Board of Directors election, here are some notes from the Nominations & Elections Committee.

  1. We apologize if any candidates have had trouble submitting applications or experienced delays in receiving acknowledgements. CSTA is currently transitioning to a new association management system (AMS) and had some related technical issues for a period. If you have any problems in the future, please contact nominations@csta-hq.org or customerservice@csta-hq.org.
  2. There are five open positions up for election in 2016. Two other positions, School District Representative and Teacher Education Representative, were scheduled to also be open this year. This would have resulted in seven of ten elected Board positions being open at once. In situations where 2/3 or more of the positions are open, the Nominations & Elections Committee is charged with extending one or more positions by one year to ensure Board continuity. No Board member can have his or her term extended more than once.
  3. 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 2-3 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 22,000+ 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 22,000 members.  In addition, working closely with other amazing educators is rewarding in itself.

Details on applying for the CSTA Board of Directors can be found at http://csta.acm.org/About/sub/AboutFiles/Election2016.html. The deadline for submissions is January 31 (11:59pm PST), so don’t wait too long. Questions can be directed to nominations@csta-hq.org.

Dave Reed
Chair, CSTA Board of Directors

CSTA Board of Directors Election (part 1)

These are exciting times for CSTA, as we prepare to launch a new website as well as  initiatives centered on professional development, advocacy and equity. Why not take this opportunity to help shape the future of the organization by running for the CSTA Board of Directors? There are five open positions on the board this year, four representing  specific perspectives and a fifth, at-large position.

  • 9-12 Representative: A classroom teacher who is currently teaching computer science at the high school level.
  • At-Large Representative: An educator with responsibilities for K-12 CS education.
  • International Representative: An international (outside the United States) classroom teacher who is currently teaching or promoting computer science at the pre-collegiate level.
  • State Department Representative: An educator or administrator who reports to a state department of education and oversees, in some capacity, computer science education.
  • University Faculty Representative: A faculty member from a university computing department offering graduate degrees in computer science.

To apply for one of these position, you simply need to submit a resume and a brief application form – details can be found at http://csta.acm.org/About/sub/AboutFiles/Election2016.html. The deadline for submissions is January 31 (11:59pm PST), so don’t wait too long. Questions can be directed to nominations@csta-hq.org.

Dave Reed
Chair, CSTA Board of Directors

How I use CSTA

It is a wonderful time to teach computer science. Almost every day, there is a new tool or website or resource available to teachers for use in the computer science classroom. Sometimes teachers like me can feel overwhelmed. What should we use in our classroom? When and how? I use the CSTA community to help me answer these questions.
CSTA is the membership organization that connects me with other teachers. It provides me a safe place to share and learn from other teachers and understand how to use the many CS resources available to me as I try to stay afloat my other classroom expectations – assessment, standards, curriculum and more. I know I can rely on CSTA since it is tool and platform neutral and created specifically for teachers.
As part of my role as the K-8 board member for CSTA, I had to submit an article for the CSTA blog. Since I had nothing written up, I decided to submit this doodle that captures my thoughts on how I use CSTA. I made this on my iPad using an app called Paper. I am enjoying experimenting with this app, since like real paper, I can not type text, or copy and paste and that makes me think differently than when I am in a text editor. Please treat this as a quick doodle of my ideas and not as finished art work!
I hope this doodle will get you thinking on what CSTA means to you. Have you connected with teachers in your area at the local CSTA chapter, or online on the G+ community, joined the #CSK8 twitter chat, used resources on the website, or considered attending the next CSTA conference?  How do you use CSTA?
photo

Computer Science Goes Beyond Coding

CSTA’s very own Board Member, Sheena Vaidyanathan has been featured in a December edSurge article, titled “Computer Science Goes Beyond Coding.”

The “teach kids to code” movement has many thinking that computer science is just coding. Often the two are conflated since coding is definitely the most visible component of computer science. It is the magic that turns ideas into products; it provides the motivation to learn computer science. Kids want to learn so they can make cool stuff that is meaningful to them.

Read entire article here.

The Big, Big Computer Science Gender Gap

Check out the recording from Edsurge on Air, “How the Other Half Learns to Code” https://soundcloud.com/edsurge/episode-40-why-there-are-so-few-women-in-computer-science-edtech-recap-1121

Hear interviews with students, teachers, and professionals on the state of, and strategies for impacting, CS gender balance. The revelations from the 6th graders are most interesting!

Are You Ready for Computer Science Education Week?

As I write this blog post, I am in the middle of planning for Computer Science Education Week. I have prepared my Eventbrite site (http://2015-hour-of-code-shhs.eventbrite.com) and have emailed the link to the principals of the neighboring schools. This year will be the third year that my computer science students and I have hosted a community Hour of Code event at the high school for elementary and junior high students.

Last year I was so overwhelmed with the number of attendees, I have decided to move the event from the two adjoining computer labs to the library where I can better manage a large group. I will have stations for each age group and a marker station where the students will create a light-up Christmas card. Laura Blankenship (CSTA board member) helped me with some suggestions. I also found on line the directions for a Christmas tree card (https://learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials/let-it-glow-holiday-cards )that I plan on using.

I am also planning on setting up three tables with old computers that can be taken apart. I will have index cards with pictures of the main parts and an explanation of their purpose. My students will be preparing the cards.

Finally, there will be stations setup by age groups for students to use the code.org tutorials (https://code.org/learn). The Computer Science students are looking forward to helping with the event.

For the high school student event, I have a local college student who will come to class to discuss her internship at an aerospace company and her experience as a college student. I have also requested skype calls from professionals in the computing industry at https://education.microsoft.com/connectWithOthers/techguestspeakers. I had two speakers last year that worked for Microsoft and they were so patient with my students! I will also play the morning announcement created by CSTA on Monday, December 7, announcing Computer Science Education Week (http://csta.acm.org/Advocacy_Outreach/sub/CSEdWeek.html). On the same webpage are video announcements if you have that feature available at your school.

I have another Hour of Code event planned for lunch for students on campus with my Computer Science students assisting. Additionally, my school district will be honoring Computer Science students at the school board meeting on December 8 in honor of Computer Science Education Week.

I am looking forward to a busy but exciting week.

Please share your plans for Computer Science Education Week.

Myra Deister
CSTA At-Large Representative

Why I Joined CSTA

I’m one of the co-chairs of the Membership Committee. While all the committees are responsive to members, it’s our job to think about who our members are, what we can do to support them, and how to grow our membership. I joined CSTA about six years ago when I got my first job teaching Computer Science and I had no idea how I was going to do my job, exactly. Sure, there were things online I could refer to, but I needed real people to respond to my questions and reassure me that I wasn’t going to totally fail.

Joining CSTA got me on the email list immediately, which then meant I had thousands of teachers with a variety of experiences that I could tap into. Even if I just read the emails and didn’t directly ask questions of the list, I could get all kinds of information. Joining also gave me access to resources like the standards, curriculum resources, and research. All of these were helpful to me as I planned my courses.

Of course, I wanted to meet some CS teachers in the flesh, so I signed up for the annual conference, which happened to be fairly close by that year. The cost was so reasonable compared to other conferences I had been to in the past. I also signed up for hands-on workshops that gave me in-depth experience that is hard to get outside of a college classroom. The other sessions gave me ideas and information that I use to this day. More importantly, I met people that I am still connected to and often look forward to seeing every year.

After the conference, I found my local CSTA chapter, and became a regular attendee at their meetings where we could have regular conversations about teaching CS or hear speakers talk about different aspects of teaching. I’m still a regular participant in my local chapter, and its members are friends of mine that I regularly rely on for advice and who I look forward to seeing at our monthly meetings. It’s great that I don’t have to wait for the next annual conference to talk with fellow CS teachers.

I have joined many professional organizations over the course of my career, but more than any other, CSTA feels like home. CSTA people are my people. I know when I am with them, they’re going to understand me and be willing to help. Many CS teachers are the only CS teachers in their schools or even districts. Having an affinity group like CSTA can make teachers not feel like they’re not so alone. Just that is extremely important for teachers.

As a co-chair of the Membership Committee, I ask you to think about what membership in CSTA means to you. What has being a member given you? As you think about it, you might be surprised to find out how much you benefit from your CSTA connections. And if you’re not a member, what are you waiting for? Join now!

CSTA High School Survey Results Are In

The Research Committee has been analyzing the High School survey results from May and below are some of the highlights. A detailed Summary of Results is available on our website.

  • 51% of the survey respondents have computer science teaching experience of 15 years or more
  • 45% of the teachers reported that computer science courses make up 50-75% of their teaching load.
  • 66% of the teachers reported that they are offering a CS principals course
  • 79% of the teachers reported that they offer the APCS A course.
  • 68% of those who offer APCS A course reported that half of their course enrollment are female, and between 20-40% are underrepresented minorities.
  • Majority of the teachers (68%) also reported that CS enrollment has increased in the past 3 years

These statistics are encouraging for the outlook of CS education and what is going on in the High Schools at this time. However, this data is self-reported and we need to examine ways to triangulate the numbers, especially the APCS-A enrollment numbers. We encourage you to view the full summary.

The Research Committee,

Stephanie Hoeppner & Aman Yadav

Artificial Intelligence, Art and Collaboration: Interview with Dr. Kenneth Stanley, UCF

As Computer Science teachers, we can all testify that we have spent hours developing our “hard skills” and using them in the classroom and beyond. Chances are a STEM professional will have been nurtured on computational thinking, mathematics, science and the like, often neglecting the importance of communication, social grace, friendliness and other EQ-related traits. Lately however there’s been a lot of talk about the importance of “soft skills” in the new workplace and “collaboration” is the new keyword in STEM circles. The title of this New York Times article by Claire Cain Miller “Why What You Learn in Preschool Is Crucial at Work” may seem perplexing at first glance; however the reader will soon realize that the fundamental social skills we learn in our early years are equally as important in landing a fulfilling job as our technical expertise. Says Miller: It’s the jobs that combine technical and interpersonal skills that are booming, like being a computer scientist working on a group project.”

A short while after reading the NY Times article, I stumbled upon an interesting video that reverberated the same concept: the talk is titled “Why Greatness Cannot be Planned” and was delivered by Kenneth Stanley last month in the context of the “Collaboration and the Workplace of the Future” summit in Washington DC. Stanley is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at the University of Central Florida and one of the creators of Picbreeder, an online collaborative art application that allows pictures to be “bred” almost like animals. I asked Dr. Stanley if he would be willing to be interviewed by e-mail for the CSTA International Community… here’s what he had to say:

Dr. Stanley, I am the International Representative of CSTA, an Association of Computer Science Teachers from all over the world. We’re a diverse community, and we’re looking for ways to build bridges of communication. Is diversity an asset or an obstacle when it comes to collaboration?

Thank you Mina for the opportunity to address the CSTA. I think most professionals would agree that diversity is an asset and I certainly count among them, but the interesting issue is why diversity is so important in particular in creative endeavors. What we’ve found in our research is that a critical component of a successful creative system is its ability to cultivate diverse stepping stones. By stepping stones I mean ideas that lead to other ideas. Creativity in a collaborative group tends to break down or converge prematurely when for example only the stepping stones approved by the leaders or through consensus are brought up for consideration. That premature convergence happens because there are not enough jumping off points to allow the group genuinely to explore the space of possibilities. Unfortunately, as a culture we often strait jacket innovation through just such consensus-driven processes, leading to less creative exploration.

In any case, an important corollary to the insight that diverse stepping stones foster innovation is that of course diverse people are the most likely to generate diverse stepping stones. And that’s a good thing, because the divergence of ideas in a diverse group means that the possible avenues for exploration multiply and expand. So while you may decide individually to pursue a line of inquiry that I never would, in the end your pursuit is good for both of us because your idea could be the stepping stone to my next major discovery. In that way, it’s a good thing that you and I are different because it allows us to lay stepping stones that neither of us would have respectively encountered without such diversity.

(By the way, the research I cited is disclosed in our new book by the same name as the talk you mentioned, Why Greatness Cannot Be Planned: The Myth of the Objective, which is available online at http://www.amazon.com/Why-Greatness-Cannot-Planned-Objective/dp/3319155237 or http://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319155234.)

I had never heard of Picbreeder before, and I was really excited to see an application that applies Artificial Intelligence algorithms to such a universal theme as art. Have you witnessed collaboration patterns developing among users of the site? 

We have indeed gained some deep and interesting insights about collaboration from seeing how users behave on Picbreeder. One of the most interesting is that it is important to protect individuals in a collaborative setting so that they can follow their own radical intuitions for a significant time without interference from the group. That is, the most successful collaborations on Picbreeder result from chains of users who individually pursue their own directions eventually to hand off whatever they discover to the next user in the chain. In other words, even in a collaborative setting, periods of individual autonomy play a critical role.

Another insight from Picbreeder is that people almost always benefit from the discoveries of other people quite different from themselves (which ties back to the diversity issue).   For example, someone on Picbreeder bred an image that looks like an alien face, which I personally later bred into a car. Interestingly, I would never have bred the alien face myself, but somehow the car I did breed only became possible because someone else bred the alien face. So in aggregate collaboration is feeding effectively off the collective sharing of stepping stones among many diverse users.

I believe you will be happy to learn that CSTA has a chapter in Florida… and I’m sure you know UCF hosts an annual High School Programming Tournament. What lessons can we learn from the collaboration between K-12 and higher education institutes for the future generation of computer scientists and tech professionals? 

It’s nice to hear of CSTA’s Florida chapter. This is a big question with many possible answers. I think effective teaching at the K-12 level often involves inspiring passion for a subject in the students. That is, it’s a lot easier to learn when you care about the subject matter.   In that spirit, the cutting edge research that happens in higher education can serve as an inspiration for younger students that demonstrates to them just how exciting a particular subject can become down the line. Picbreeder, which packages some pretty advanced technology into an intuitive and entertaining visual form, is an example of how it’s possible to present the cutting edge in a way beginners can appreciate.

On the other hand, the unbounded curiosity and yet-to-be-indoctrinated thinking of K-12 students can also push those in higher grades in new directions. I have the pleasure right now of hosting a 12th-grade participant in one of my lab’s projects. His questions are sometimes so surprising and unanticipated that they pull us back to confronting basic assumptions that we long forgot we had. In that sense, I think the undergraduate and Ph.D. students in my lab are learning perhaps as much from him as he is from them. K-12 students remind those of us long lost in the esoteric details of advanced fields why we were originally inspired to engage those fields in the first place.

Many thanks to Dr. Stanley for the inspiring interview… interestingly enough, even though the original purpose of this post was to reach out to our International Community, I believe his insightful comments touch base with anyone seeking ways to blend a tech-oriented background with the social skills so crucial for collaborating in diverse settings. It’s food for thought.

(which brings us to the next item on my international “agenda”: food! This video portrays a graduate from India who decided to pursue a computer science master’s degree in the USA… apart from the cutting-edge technology, he chose the country for its food! Like art, a topic as universal as food can only spur new opportunities for collaboration; we’ll explore them in my next post for the CSTA international committee).