Computer Science Teacher
Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

July, 2007

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    ClubTech - Technology Programs from the Boys and Girls Clubs

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    Last week I met with someone from the national headquarters of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America to learn about their ClubTech programs. These programs are designed to teach young people technical skills and to integrate technology into the core program areas of participating Boys and Girls Clubs. The two programs have their own web sites. One called YNet for teens at http://www.bgcayouthnet.org/  and one for members ages 6 to 12 called YNet Kids Town at http://ynetkids.bgcayouthnet.org/.

    These programs include:

    • Skill Tech & Skill Tech II which introduce kids to software, hardware and network as a way to introduce technology.
    • Digital Arts Suite - This program builds 21st century workplace skills using tutorials in Web and graphic design, digital photography as well as music and movie making.
    • Digital Arts Festivals that allow club members to participate in local, regional and national competitions using the skills they learn in the Digital Arts Suite program.
    • NetSmartz - This program which I have blogged about before offers training to kids about how to be safe on the Internet.

    A lot of great stuff here and I am proud to say that Microsoft is a major sponsor of this program.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Why would you want to teach high school computer science?

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    Brian Scarbeau and I had an interesting conversation in Atlanta last week. Brian blogged about some of it. One of the concerns we both have is the shrinking pool of high school computer science teachers. A friend of ours just left teaching to take a job in industry. (of course I have done the same thing I admit.) Many of the computer science teachers we saw at the CS & IT symposium and that I saw at NECC last week are older. Not old really but a lot closer to retirement than to the beginning of their career. A good number of great teachers have retired in the last couple of years and that will only continue in the near future.

    So who is going to take over for these teachers. In far too many cases no one is. There are schools where the computer science program has basically died after a teacher has retired because there was no one to replace them. We don't see a whole lot of young people moving in to take their places. There is a growing shortage of teachers in general of course. And high demand jobs like math and science teachers are leading the list of specialties in short supply.

    Let's face it, if you really know your stuff in computer science you can make some good money in industry. But even if you feel a calling to teaching (and I feel it still and hope to get back to it some day) the system doesn't make it easy for you. There is no national standard for certifying computer science teachers. And in fact more states than not have a complete mess when it comes to certification for CS teachers. Often one has to be a either a math (ok close) or a business (what?) teacher to teach computer science. There is seldom a stand alone CS teacher certification. In fact if there is one I am not sure I know where it is. How do you even know what/how to prepare?

    There are a bunch of problems here. At yet teaching high school and even middle school students (some people love teaching middle school others prefer other grades) computer science is a wonderful, enjoyable and rewarding career. But it is hard to communicate that in a society that keeps score based on income. We really need to find a solution here and not just for computer science education but for education in general.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Computer Science Research Surveys - Please Help

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    One of the problems the whole field of computer science education faces is a lack of good data. Data on a lot of various subjects. Lack of data makes it hard to understand what is going on and how computer science is taught. And in fact there is a lack of information about why students should study computer science. I've been asked to help promote a couple of research projects that I think could be very helpful.

    The first is a survey of software development tools and programming languages that are being used it actually teach computer science in K-12. This project is being run out of Drexel University and has the support of the Computer Science Teachers Association.

    We would like your help with a survey on the subject of K-12 teachers or administrators who use software development tools/programming languages. We wish to gain a better understanding of activities, challenges, and needs in this area. We seek your assistance because your teaching background and experience in software development/programming will provide us with invaluable information about this topic. To access the survey, visit https://websurveyor.net/wsb.dll/32487/TeacherSurvey.htm. Participation is anonymous and voluntary and should take about 20 minutes of your time. If you have any questions about the survey, e-mail your questions to wanda.m.kunkle@drexel.edu.

    If you are teaching using software development tools and programming languages in K-12 please participate in this survey.

    The second survey is sponsored by the Girl Scouts and NCWIT and looks to find out more information about women in the Information Technology field. If you are a woman working in IT please try to find a few minutes to help with this research.

    What influenced you to pursue a career in information technology? What could we learn from you and other women working in IT that will increase the number of girls and women who are interested in the field?

    The K-12 Informal Education Hub of the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), led by the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA), is conducting a three-phase study to determine what experiences or factors influence females to pursue work in information technology (IT). Study results will help guide efforts to increase the number of women entering the IT field.

    This 20 minute survey is intended for women who work in IT. For the purposes of this study, IT is defined as all forms of technology used to create, store, exchange and use information in all its forms; the design and use of computers and communications to improve the way we live, learn, work and play. If this describes your work, please consider participating in the study by completing this survey. Your responses are anonymous and the results will only be reported in aggregate form.

    Please follow the link to the online survey:

    www.erasurvey.org/input/womeninit.htm

    We would appreciate your help in disseminating the survey to as many technical women as possible. Please forward this email to other women you know working in IT.

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