What I Learned from Computing in Schools Efforts

May 22, 2013 at 1:12 am 4 comments

I just did a Blog@CACM post on my experiences at three meetings over the last two weeks, learning about efforts to get computing into primary and secondary schools in two countries (Denmark and England) and in two US states (South Carolina and Maryland).

Here are those four big lessons (with more detail in the post):

  • It’s easier to have something in place and then improve it, than to convince others that computing should be squeezed in.  
  • Industry voices matter.
  • Public policy support goes a long way.
  • Economics isn’t the only argument.

 

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Kathi Fisler  |  May 22, 2013 at 6:13 am

    Hi Mark,

    Do you have a sense of the relative roles of top-down (district-driven) versus bottom-up (teacher/parent driven) efforts in making headway on pre-college CS? In thinking about your economics point, it seems different arguments might resonate with different stakeholders. I’m also just thinking about strategy when making a case for CS (either in general or for a particular program)—to what extent should we engage the teachers as a way to get into districts versus targeting the districts? Obviously, both are needed long term, but are there patterns to where the successful efforts are starting?

    Kathi

    Reply
    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  May 22, 2013 at 7:03 am

      Hi Kathi,

      Really interesting question! My guess is that it’s context-dependent. Both the Denmark and Maryland events had a lot of teachers, so they’re both trying to build bottom-up as well as top-down (where top can be national or state or district, depending). Simon said that the CAS effort was going for several years (presumably, made up of teachers) until the government really got interested after Eric Schmidt’s comments. Georgia started top-down with the state Department of Education support. Now that the state support has disappeared, everything keeps going because of all the CS teachers in the state. I’m not sure that Georgia would have worked bottom-up since there weren’t a lot of CS teachers when we started, but it would be interesting to wind back the clock to try it another way. The top-down public policy part makes everything move faster.

      I don’t know of any effort that’s started with parents. It may be too hard to mobilize them.
      Cheers,
      Mark

      Reply
    • 3. Neil Brown  |  May 22, 2013 at 11:28 am

      In the case of CAS in the UK, I believe that both bottom-up and top-down (what I call a pincer movement) were required. It started with a bottom-up group that was primarily teachers, and that was effective for setting up training and coordinating, but the big changes only happened after lobbying central government (top-down). But the lobbying was partly legitimised by CAS having a lot of computing teachers as members — and government took a lot of notice of noises from industry, as Mark mentions. If either the teachers or the lobbying had been missing, I don’t think CAS would have been nearly as successful.

      Reply
  • 4. Neil Brown  |  May 22, 2013 at 11:25 am

    A quick plug for our SIGCSE paper all about CAS, if anyone wants more detail about what has been happening in the UK/England: http://academiccomputing.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/computing-at-school-at-sigcse/

    Reply

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