Lessons learned from ECEP: How do we change a state? (plus Resources for Teachers) #CSEdWeek

December 13, 2013 at 1:59 am 2 comments

I wrote up a report on our Summit on Computing Education in South Carolina for Blog@CACM (and here’s the link back to my original post on the summit). It went well, in that we got the kind of attendees we wanted and had the kinds of discussions we wanted. I was particularly pleased with the energy up through the final session.

Barbara Ericson did a nice job of collecting a bunch of URL’s to resources for new Computer Science teachers, and then created a PowerPoint tour of them. I’ve posted these on a new Resources for New CS Teachers page here on the blog.

I learned a lot at the Summit. The issues in South Carolina are different from the ones in Georgia, and they’re different again in Massachusetts and California. That’s what’s making this ECEP Alliance work interesting and complicated.

What’s interesting is that we’re starting to see some common themes. I wouldn’t call these experimental results, since you can’t easily do experiments comparing states. Instead, these are some observations from our first four case studies.

Having a statewide organization is an enormous advantage: We work in California through Debra Richardson who heads up an organization called ACCESS with an Executive Director focused just on CS Ed in the state, Julie Flapan. ACCESS is about making computing education policy reform happen in California. That’s a huge advantage — a single point of contact to other efforts, a coordinating point for the state.

We started work in South Carolina because of IT-oLogy, a public-private partnership for advancing IT. As we started planning for the summit, we realized that we need more connections, so we formed a Steering Committee with representatives from across the state, from the Department of Education, to high schools, from Universities to private industry. That Steering Committee was very helpful in getting the word out about the summit and helping us to understand the issues when assembling the program.

Statewide meetings and summits help to make things happen: We launched the higher education part of Georgia Computes in 2007 at a meeting for CS department representatives from across the University System of Georgia. The summit in South Carolina has really got discussion going there (here’s a nice piece in the Columbia The Free Times after the summit). Massachusetts just held a statewide meeting of everyone offering CS professional development across the state. These meetings aren’t a waste of time — they get people focused on the issues, at high-bandwidth, and attract attention to the issues.  We’ve already been contacted by people in other states who want to organize similar summits.

A full-time statewide organizer is key: We couldn’t have done what we’ve done in Georgia without Barbara Ericson. Having full-time staff has similarly been key in Massachusetts, California, and South Carolina. Maybe you could you get a state to reform its computing education without a full-time person, with volunteers contributing their time. We’ve just seen how valuable it is to have a professional being the point of contact and focusing on making change happen.

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