Growing Up Leadership

I sat in a small conference room in the summer of 2009 with several other CS teachers from around the US. CSTA brought us all there for advocacy leadership training and the beginning of what some called a grass roots movement for CS. I remember feeling excited that there were all of these other people just like me – passionate about CS Education and who were interested in helping it grow however they could. We learned about advocacy at local, regional, and state levels. We talked about our struggles, the situation of teacher certification, whether or not our state recognized CS, and formed friendships that last till this day.

Through that week and a subsequent training the following year the Leadership Cohort was born (now called CSALT). Through these passionate people districts were changed, courses were added, local government actions were taken, some states passed resolutions about CS ED Week, and there were even opportunities where one or two spoke to National leaders. All of these things were accomplished by volunteers and the support of CSTA.

We were also encouraged to start local chapters. Some were able to do this and are still apart of the chapter’s leadership today. Others of this group has gone on to write curriculum, provide professional development to other CS Teachers, developed and pilot the CS Principles course (and others), have become leaders for CS in their state, have presented at many different conferences including our own CSTA Annual Conference, and still some have been elected to serve on our CSTA Board.

This is not to say that all of our great volunteers and CS advocates started this way; however, there is a strong core group that I can point to that all got their start in those advocacy leadership trainings.

Growing leadership is important for organizations to thrive. Creating lasting friendships and networks of people and resources is also essential. I have “survived” my years of teaching and advocating because of so many of the people that I met that summer. So I say thank you to CSTA for the foresight to start CSALT (formerly Cohort Leadership) and for continuing to support all CSTA members through the conference, other professional development, and the great network of people and support. I urge any of you to attend the conference, a local chapter meeting, or anything you can to be a part of the larger CS Education team.

Most of all I say thank you to CSTA for giving me a chance seven years ago to be part of the CS movement. I have learned beyond my expectations, worked harder than I would have ever imagined, and I have some lifelong friends because of it.

AppInventor Goes Local: adult students build an app inviting islanders to test their knowledge on the local dialect

I haven’t been shy to expose the insane decisions of the Greek Ministry of Education when necessary; one such time was 3 years ago, when the government removed the elective “Application Development in a Programming Environment” from 12th Grade Curriculum and the Greek University Entry Exams, in the context of a law ironically titled “New High School”. My writings reached EU headquarters in Brussels to no avail, but an e-mail I sent to the CSTA caught the attention of Chris Stephenson and played a decisive role in my being nominated and elected as International Representative on the Board of Directors. In 2014 I had an article published in the online edition of UK newspaper “The Guardian”; soon after the Minister of Education stated in public “the decision [of the previous administration] to remove the programming class option from candidates intending to study computer science was not only unacceptable, it has absolutely no ground on an international scale”. The class was eventually reinstated.

That said, maintaining an open mind commands giving credit when deserved, even to people or agencies with whom you have previously clashed. In the beginning of school year 2014-15 Computer Science teachers in Greece were happy to see that the 10th Grade CS textbook had finally been replaced with a completely new and updated version. But what really surprised us was that there was an entire chapter dedicated to the AppInventor environment, complete with examples and detailed instructions guiding students through all the stages of developing their first app.

I taught the book for the first time in an adult-learner setting in 2015-16; in the computer lab we used the MIT App Inventor tutorials on YouTube to quickly get a feel for the kind of stuff we could build (language was hardly a barrier as most Greek students have good working knowledge of English, plus the video-capture tutorials make it easy to watch video and pause in one tab while working in the other). After brainstorming an idea for our app, we decided to take last year’s 10th Grade Project a step farther by using the local dialect words they had registered on Wiktionary to build a multiple-choice quiz in AppInventor. We explored different formats and decided to go with the simplest, as the evening school students have practically zero free time for homework and all the work had to get done in a semester of two 35-minute sessions per week. Christos carefully made sure each question was a challenge with his tricky choices; Kostas quickly learned how to set up the components in “Designer” view and move the command blocks from screen to screen in “Blocks Editor” view with the AI2 “backpack”; Meletis, Kimonas and Philippos connected their Android devices to test the app and offer ideas and feedback. The quiz now comprises 20 questions with four choices each… next year we plan to take it even farther by adding more questions, levels of difficulty and – why not? – voice and illustrations for a rich multimedia experience. Soon we expect to have it published and live on Google Store: keep up with us by watching our blog (generally in Greek but we will include an English snippet for our AppInventor post).

Kostas appinventor

(Camera-shy Kostas enters the questions in Designer view and then programs in the Blocks Editor”)

 

Meletis-Kimonas-philippos

(Meletis, Kimonas and Philippos check out the questions for the quiz while Christos (in the background) takes a break)

In closing my last post as a Board Member of the CSTA, I would like to extend my congratulations to the new International Representative, starting July 2016, Miles Berry, and wish him the best of luck and success in his efforts. Miles, keep an eye on the situation in Greece as the third administration in three years prepares once again to downgrade the role of computer science teachers, amidst a six-year-strong financial crisis that would only benefit from the advancement of coding and other labour – as opposed to capital -intensive fields of financial activity. Sometimes the only argument we need to promote the teaching of computer science is plain common sense; and sometimes common sense is so hard to find…

Mina Theofilatou
Kefalonia, Greece

Computer Science for All – Are We Asking the Right Questions?

Every two weeks, the CSTA K-8 task group hosts a twitter chat using the hashtag #CSK8. These twitter chats help teachers like me connect with other computer science education enthusiasts; they offer us a place to share and learn new ideas for our classrooms. Since I am part of the CSTA task force that hosts these chats, I have learned a lot on how to run these twitter events. Picking the right questions for a chat is key to its success.  The questions must provide the right amount of structure and be interesting so that all participants contribute to the chat. This is difficult since we do not know who will actually join the chat.
The chat on Feb 10 was on the new initiative proposed by President Obama called ‘Computer Science For All’ (To read more on this initiative, see  “CS for All”  and  Watch the president’s full remarks here). The chat was moderated by another CSTA Task force member Vicky Sedgwick and myself.
Computer Science For All initiative is still in the early phase, with of course no clear idea on whether it will ever be approved. However, the initiative has opened up the discussion on computer science access to a wider audience, and it was a perfect topic for our chat. Vicky and myself struggled to come up up with the best set of questions and we were modifying them as the chat progressed.   Selecting the right questions to ask on this topic helped us think more on the big question – how do we really provide computer science education to all? Here are the questions that we finally used on this chat. Take a look below –  what would be your answers?
  • Q1: Obama said “we have to make sure all our kids are equipped for the jobs of the future.” Is this really why #CSforALL is needed? #csk8
  • Q2: Why should #CSForAll be a federal initiative? Can’t we just rely on state/local/industry/non-profit efforts? Pros/Cons? #csk8
  • Q3:  How will we find teachers for #CSForAll & what is needed in terms of professional development & teacher credential programs? #csK8
  • Q4: There are currently many states with their own CS standards & more writing them. How does this affect #CSforAll or does it? #csk8
  • Q5: How would you spend $4 billion? What is most important? K-8/High School/PD/In-school programs/AfterSchool programs/Diversity? #csk8
If you are interested in reading the conversations on this topic (or other topics), check out the archives of the #CSK8 chats at the CSTA K8 G+ community at https://plus.google.com/communities/111803101139836526905/stream/00a8a67d-804b-4ee1-9c95-0852dfa0b171
Do you think we are asking the right questions? If you had five questions to ask on this topic, what would they be?

2016 CSTA Board Election — One More Day to Cast Your Vote!

The 2016 election for five open positions on the CSTA Board of Directors runs through March 22. If you were a CSTA member as of February 16, you should have received an email from ElectionBuddy.com with a personalized link to the online ballot. If you didn’t receive the email, contact customerservice@csteachers.org.

The CSTA Board of Directors consists of eleven voting representatives, elected by the more than 22,000 CSTA members worldwide. The candidates for the 2016 elections are:

  • 9-12 Representative: Stacey Kizer, Chinma Uche
  • At-Large Representative: Myra Deister, Michelle Lagos
  • International Representative: Miles Berry, Michael Jones
  • State Department Representative: Anthony Owen, Doug Paulson
  • University Faculty Representative: Darcy G. Benoit, Fred G. Martin

Full details about the election, including statements by the candidates, can be found online at http://www.csteachers.org/page/boardelections.

Dave Reed
Chair, CSTA Board of Directors

A History of the New Math (and lessons for CS Ed)

Spines of New Math paperbacks from the 1960s (courtesy wikimedia.org)

Spines of New Math paperbacks from the 1960s (courtesy wikimedia.org)

Many of us remember the New Math from personal experience. I do from elementary school in the 1970s in West Hurley, NY.

I loved it. I learned that the decimal system is arbitrary and numbers could be expressed in any base. That was fascinating.

Of course, I was the kid who learned his times tables for fun.

The New Math emphasized understanding the rule-systems that underlie numbers. In elementary school, it constructed the very concept of number with set theory rather than by rote counting.

There wasn’t a focus on students being able to do arithmetic computations. This upset people, and by the 1970s, the New Math was under attack.

The “back to basics” movement re-established an emphasis on computations in the 1980s.

As described by Christopher J. Phillips in his book The New Math: A Political History (The University of Chicago Press, 2015), it’s not a coincidence that this is the same decade in which the country elected Ronald Reagan as president.

Phillips cogently makes the case that the rise and fall of the New Math movement traces our cultural mores and larger political beliefs about who should be making decisions in our society.

Going back two thousand years, Phillips shows how the argument about how mathematics should be taught has been a proxy for a conversation about how people should be taught to think.

For the developers of the New Math, their approach would help American citizens be critical and creative thinkers—what was required to counter the Cold War threat of a dominant Soviet Union.

Indeed, the federal funding that was leveraged in the 1950s to build the New Math movement was appropriated as literally a matter of national defense. This was followed by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in the 1960s, which continued the federal government’s role in fostering national education curricula.

The consensus that the federal government should be deciding what’s taught in our nation’s schools frayed with the cultural changes in the 1960s and collapsed with the horrors of Vietnam in the 1970s.

As we work towards making computer science a first-class citizen in the pantheon of school teaching and learning, what lessons can we draw from the rise and fall of the New Math?

Computer science is a liberal art—not just a vocational skill. It’s true that becoming accomplished as a software developer is a path to a good career, including good pay. And it’s true that there is a social justice dimension to broadening participation in computing—everyone should discover whether they love computing and then have access to these career paths.

But the reason to institutionalize computer science in K-12 is deeper than that. It’s because computing is beautiful and powerful—like all forms of knowing and doing.

We must go beyond the zero-sum game. One of our big challenges is creating time for teaching and learning computing. We don’t want to create winners (computer science) and losers (other areas of study).

It seems clear that infusion approaches—integrating computing into other subjects—will be an important part of the future.

It’s a team effort. One of the big take-aways from Phillips’ book was the reach of the School Mathematics Study Group—the organization that was created to develop and support the New Math. Curriculum writers from all over the country were involved in creating the reference texts; these individuals then served in leadership roles in the adoptions in their home states.

Most importantly, now we live in a time where everyone’s involved in curriculum decisions, particularly parents.

We need everyone together to make this happen.

P.S. I highly recommend Christopher Phillips’ book. His writing is clean and compelling, and the story is engaging and compact. He also published an essay-length version of his thesis in the New York Times on December 3, 2015.

Better Know a Committee – 2016 edition

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. Following a tradition begun last year, the chairs of the various CSTA committees and task forces will be posting brief reports in the Advocate. Keep an eye out for these reports in the coming weeks to stay informed about current CSTA 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.

  • Communication & Publications: Stephanie Hoeppner (smhoeppner@gmail.com)
  • Curriculum: Deborah Seehorn (deborah.seehorn@outlook.com)
  • Equity: Alfred Thompson (act2@acthompson.net)
  • Funding Development:  Fred Martin (fredm@cs.uml.edu)
  • Governance: Myra Deister (mjdeister@fjuhsd.k12.ca.us)
  • International: Mina Theofilatou (theoth@otenet.gr)
  • Membership: Laura Blankenship (lblanken@gmail.com)
  • Nominations & Elections: Deborah Seehorn (deborah.seehorn@outlook.com)
  • Professional Development: Tammy Pirmann (tpirmann@gmail.com)
  • Research: Aman Yadav (ayadav@msu.edu)
  • Teacher Certification: Tammy Pirmann (tpirmann@gmail.com)
  • Assessment Task Force: Aman Yadav (ayadav@msu.edu)
  • Chapters Task Force: Fran Trees (fran@ftrees.com)
  • Computational Thinking Task Force: Irene Lee (lee@santafe.edu)
  • K-8 Task Force: Sheena Vaidyanathan (sheena@computersforcreativity.com)

Dave Reed
Chair, CSTA Board of Directors

Do You Have a Professional Learning Network (PLN)?

Before anyone can answer that question, a definition is needed. According to Brianna Crowley in her article, 3 Steps for Building a Professional Learning Network, at http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2014/12/31/3-steps-for-building-a-professional-learning.html , “A professional learning network is a vibrant, ever-changing group of connections to which teachers go to both share and learn. These groups reflect our values, passions, and areas of expertise.”

I started thinking about my PLN after Brandon Horn on the AP Computer Science Facebook page asked for suggestions for additional information and support for current and new AP Computer Science Teachers. He said he usually recommends the AP CS Community on the College Board site, the AP CS Summer Institute, the AP Computer Science Facebook group and the local CSTA chapter, if there is one. In a comment, I suggested the CSTA Listserv (I am one of the moderators).

This question, I feel is more important to those of us who are the “onlys” on our campus. What do I mean by the “onlys”? “Onlys” are the only computing teacher on campus. For those of you who are one of those, who do you turn to for advice?

For me it depends on the class I am seeking advice for. I teach 4 different computing classes: Visual Basic, Computer Science Principles, AP Computer Science A and Computer Science AB. For general advice, I will look to the CSTA Listserv. For example, in October, I was told that I needed to decide on new furniture for the lab and only had a few days. I turned to the CSTA Listserv and asked what furniture the members had purchased recently that fit their needs. I received several responses that helped me to quickly make some decisions.

In another situation when one of my students asked a java coding question that I did not readily have an answer, I turned to the AP Computer Science Facebook group and received responses very quickly. When I needed to write a Computer Science Principles Final Exam, I turned to the CSTA Listserv and several teachers responded with help. I appreciated it so much! I have asked questions on Twitter when I want to incorporate an ed tech tool into my computer science classes. Also, I always leave my local CSTA chapter meetings with some great ideas! All of these groups are my PLN.

Who is in your PLN? Please share so we can all grow ours.

Computational Thinking — What does it mean to you?

How do you integrate computational thinking (CT) concepts and strategies into your teaching? Have you heard your colleagues talk about it and wondered if they have accurate and useful understandings of how CT can be used across the curriculum? Are you curious about how other schools, or even other countries, are implementing CT strategies? Wondering where you can get more information?
Well, consider the March issue of the CSTA Voice as your CT 101 Primer! Take a look and then let us know what you’re thinking about the topic.

  • Take a step back to the conceptual foundations of CT with a review of the “roots of CT” with Irene Lee, Co-chair of the CSTA CT Task Force.
  • Discover how England is embedding CT into the national computing curriculum with John Woollard, leading member of Computing At School (CAS).
  • Compare the problem-framing strategies that help students connect math to everyday problems with MEAs (Model-Eliciting Activity) to CT strategies with Fred G. Martin, Co-chair of the CSTA CT Task Force.
  • Explore the list of CT resources gathered by Joe Kmoch, CS consultant and retired educator.

AND OF UTMOST IMPORTANCE…

  • VOTE! Read the statements from the 10 candidates running for the 5 open seats on the CSTA Board of Directors in the March Voice. The affairs and property of the Organization are managed, controlled, and directed by a Board of Directors elected by you. A huge amount of work through committees and task forces is also completed by these Board members.
  • REGISTER for the 2016 CSTA Conference. Read more about the plans for “Making Waves in San Diego” in the March Voice.

Pat Phillips, Editor
CSTA Voice

DRAFT 2016 CSTA K-12 CS Standards: We need your feedback!

No one can doubt that it is an exciting and busy time to be a K-12 computer science educator: an announcement from the White House about the new CS for All initiative, a new K-12 CS Framework under construction, an emphasis on cybersecurity education in the K-12 classroom, new curriculum products, new computer science standards in Arkansas, Florida, and Massachusetts (to name a few states), computer science for all New York City students, and professional development opportunities for CS educators. Scarcely a day goes by in the news/media without some mention of K-12 computer science education and what it should look like.

The CSTA K-12 CS Standards Revision Task Force members have been diligently working to revise the 2011 CSTA K-12 CS Standards to ensure they are current, valid, and the best they can be. The task force members very much appreciate all of you who took the time to provide us with input on the 2011 CSTA K-12 CS Standards during the public feedback period in September – October 2015. Your input, along with the draft K-12 CS Framework and practices, standards from other states and countries, and related national standards informed the task force members as they revised, deleted, and added to the 2011 CSTA K-12 CS Standards. You may view the standards development process on the CSTA Standards Webpage. The first DRAFT of the 2016 CSTA K-12 CS Standards is ready for public review and feedback. We need your assistance once again!

Please take a little time to review the revised standards and complete the 2016 CSTA K-12 CS Standards Feedback Form. This will provide the CSTA Standards Revision Task Force members with constructive feedback that will assist us as we seek to refine the standards and make them most useful for K-12 educators. You will have the opportunity to give us detailed feedback on individual standards in each of the grade levels (Level 1, Grades K-5; Level 2, Grades 6-8, Level 3A, Grades 9-10), Level 3B (Grades 11-12). You will also have the opportunity to provide feedback on all the standards for a grade level within a concept area. (The draft K-12 CS Framework Concepts are Computing Devices & Systems, Networks & Communication, Programs & Algorithms, Data & Information, and Impacts of Computing.)

Feedback for this initial review period will be accepted from February 16 through March 3, 2016. The task force members will analyze this feedback and refine the standards. CSTA is committed to an iterative process that allows multiple drafts and revisions before publication. We anticipate another review period sometime in the spring of 2016, as the project budget allows. Our goal is to release the revised standards at the 2016 CSTA Annual Conference.

We want your feedback. We need your assistance. Please thoughtfully complete the CSTA K-12 CS Standards Revision Feedback Form. This initial feedback on the standards will be accepted until March 3, 2016.

Thank you for your time, expertise, and enthusiasm in supporting K-12 CS education.

Deborah Seehorn
CSTA Board of Directors Past Chair
CSTA K-12 CS Standards Revision Task Force Co-Chair

Tammy Pirmann
CSTA Board of Directors District Representative
CSTA K-12 CS Standards Revision Task Force Co-Chair

Website Links

Computer Science for All https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/01/30/computer-science-all

K-12 CS Framework http://k12cs.org/

2016 CSTA K-12 CS Standards Revision Task Force http://www.csteachers.org/?StandardsTaskForce

CSTA K-12 CS Standards Revision Process http://www.csteachers.org/?StandardsProcess

2016 CSTA K-12 CS Standards Feedback Form http://www.csteachers.org/?SubmitYourFeedback

2016 CSTA Annual Conference http://csta.acm.org/ProfessionalDevelopment/sub/CSTAConference.html.

 

 

 

Three student videos that you do not want to miss!

Most of you have probably seen the results of our latest Faces of Computing video competition themed around Computing for the Common Good, and I’m sure you’ll agree that the winning entries delivered powerful messages. The High School division brought in some really outstanding projects and it was a tough decision for the committee to make. Despite the fact that they didn’t make the prize, these two videos are winning material and definitely deserve special mention.

Camille Burke of Oak Knoll School in Summit, NJ held a brainstorming session with her class before they divided into groups to make their videos. The students then generated their own ideas and created a storyboard and script. Each group designated specific tasks to specific students (Director, Videographer, Actor, Film Editor etc.). In the process of making the video, her students learned how important technology really is and how big an impact it has on our lives: “Our storyline was inspired by our school and the huge part technology plays in the atmosphere. But it’s not just about learning or having fun; technology can be used to help others. Our school emphasizes the importance of service and we wanted to convey this message to others around the world.”

The end result is a fast-paced video that vibrantly demonstrates a multitude of ways in which computing has made a valuable difference in their lives.

On the other side of the US, Catherine Wyman from Xavier College Preparatory in Phoenix Arizona says the theme of “computing for the common good” was a natural fit, as the school continually focuses on service. Her students were inspired by the “Draw my Life” videos on YouTube and learned how to create the whiteboard animation by trial and error: “after planning the pictures we had to engineer a tripod – using a biology textbook, rubber bands and tape! – to keep the camera steady while filming. Then it was edit, edit, edit till we got it right. It was a challenge, but also a lot of fun. We really enjoyed the opportunity to be creative”.

Watch the video and learn how computer-programmed ICDs have saved the lives of thousands of people.

Finally, I couldn’t help sharing this video with the Advocate readers: the winners of the Elementary division send a special message to CSTA members around the world!

Congratulations to all the teachers and students who sent in their entries, thank you for showing us how your communities use computing to make the world a better place… and keep up the amazing work!

Mina Theofilatou
CSTA International Representative
Kefalonia, Greece