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

March, 2008

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Passion Quilt meme


    Yeah I used a Microsoft image but the view of the mouse and the books connected was irresistible.


    It's Information; Learn it; Use it!

    Megan Golding tagged me for the Passion Quilt meme.

    The rules:

    • Post a picture from a source like FlickrCC or Flickr Creative
      Commons or make/take your own that captures what YOU are most
      passionate about for kids to learn about…and give your picture a short
    • Title your blog post “Meme: Passion Quilt” and link back to this blog entry.
    • Include links to 5 folks in your professional learning network or whom you follow on Twitter/Pownce.

    My 5 tags are:

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Is Computer Science Enrolment Heading Up?


    The Computer Research Association (CRA) has a new report out on computer science enrollment. The discussions online are a real mix of the glass being half full and half empty. If you look at the long term you see things like enrollment dropping about 70% in the last 7-8 years. Articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education and Computerworld are reporting the long term picture and are pretty much in the doom and gloom school of thought.

    On the other hand Inside Higher Education is looking closely at the most recent year's  numbers and suggesting that the decline may be over. This year's numbers are up slightly (at least at schools that offer graduate as well as undergraduate programs in computer science). Personally that is not enough to prove to me that things are moving up but it may indicate that the fall has been stopped.

    The Inside Higher Education article is more valuable (I think) because it also highlights some of the things that schools are doing to attract and retain more students. Computer forensics is a new and growing area for example. Places like Bryn Mayr has a three year old computer science major and one of the things they are doing is using robotics. They are part of the IPRE program with Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech has done a lot to revise their curriculum and besides robotics they have a pretty cool media computation program that is attracting a lot of students.

    Of course game development is getting to be a big deal in a lot of places as well. Multi disciplinary programs that involve fields as diverse as biology, psychology and even theatre are showing more students the relevance of computer science far beyond "just" programming.

    I'm not sure that I agree with Giselle Martin of Georgia Tech when she says that "Computer science is the new sexy" but maybe - just maybe - that is coming.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Big Money for Teachers or for Technology


    There is an interesting new charter middle school opening in New York City that promises to pay teachers $125,000 a year plus the potential for bonuses based on student performance. There was an interesting article on the school in the New York Times last week. The focus of this school is attracting the best teachers and not technology or other "extras."

    The founder is quoted in the article as saying “I would much rather put a phenomenal, great teacher in a field with 30 kids and nothing else than take the mediocre teacher and give them half the number of students and give them all the technology in the world”

    There is a lot more to this school than just high teacher pay though. Teachers will work longer than average days, spend six weeks in the summer working on training and planning. There is more as well. The school's web site makes interesting reading.

    There is some more discussion about this school with an emphasis on leaving out technology at the U Tech Tips blog. Not surprisingly there is some skepticism about this school on a number areas. The teachers using doesn't like the idea of there not being a union to "protect" teachers from the principal. Advocates for technology are worried about the lack of it at this new school.

    This brings up the interesting questions about what is technology really good for in schools. Can good technology make up for average or below average teachers? What about the technology in the hands of the best teachers? Is that a "force multiplier" that means more than just quality teachers?

    I tend to think that the best teachers can make a huge difference with or without technology. But judging the effects of this school will be difficult. How much of any improvement in student performance (assuming there actually is any) could be impacted by longer schools days as much as by better teachers. What will the impact of larger class sizes be? Will the combination of the best teachers and longer school days make up for larger classes or will the larger classes mean more discipline problems and a shortage of individualized instruction?

    In the long run I think the most interesting question is will larger salaries even when coupled with longer work days and work years attract enough of high enough quality teachers to make a big difference in education? As an aside I wonder if the best teachers will, eventually, demand technology to make better use of their own time and supplement the traditional teaching tools in use today?

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