Google’s mistake: CS teacher PD must be on-line only

December 20, 2013 at 1:13 am 4 comments

Google CS4HS program has had a big impact in computer science education in the United States.  According to the UChicago studies, a sizable percentage of all CS teacher professional development (PD) in the United States — 25% of all PD workshops were funded just by Google.

Google has changed the criteria for the 2014 offerings.  They will only fund all online courses.  Not so in Europe, where they are still funding face-to-face workshops.

This is a mistake for two reasons:

  1. We don’t know yet how to construct on-line CS teacher professional development that succeeds.  The drop-out rate for MOOCs is enormous, and teachers fall into the groups who most often do not complete, especially a CS-oriented MOOC.
  2. What we know about CS teacher PD says that you need to develop a community of practice, and you need to start it face-to-face.  CS is in a different place than most teacher PD.  Most teachers develop their sense of identity (which influences what professional groups they join, where they look for professional development, who they talk to about their classes) from their teacher certification: math teacher, reading teacher, science teacher.  Most states have no teacher certification for CS.  Lijun Ni’s work found that a community of practice was critical for establishing that sense of CS teacher identity.  How do you form it?  Many years ago, I got the chance to chat with Starr Roxanne Hiltz who did some of the earliest work with online teacher communities.  She said that it never worked when starting all online.  The teachers had to meet one another and establish rapport, and then the online component could take off.

Google can scale-up who gets “touched” by CS teacher PD, but will lose considerably in effectiveness.  I predict that the end result will be far fewer new CS teachers from the 2014 workshops than from previous incarnations of CS4HS.  I understand that Google is a company and has to control costs.  But the return on investment for this change will be drastically less — they will end up with fewer well-prepared CS teachers for their investment, not more.

Applicants must satisfy the following criteria in order to be eligible:

  • You must be affiliated with a college, university, technical college, community college, or an official non-profit organization
  • Your workshop must have a clear computer science focus
  • You must use Google products for content delivery
  • You must not cap enrollment

Please note:

In the US/Canada region for 2014, we will only be funding online courses (MOOCs) professional development programs

via CS4HS 2014-US/Canada.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ken Bauer  |  December 20, 2013 at 6:22 am

    Mark, first thanks for this post and all the ones before and that will come after. The best to you and your family in 2014.

    Now on to my comment: one tag I’ve started using on Twitter is #LearningIsSocial. Online resources (LMS, forums, blogs, MOOCs) are great sources of content delivery but for most people are still not able to create the same engagement that #FaceToFace does.

    I had this discussion just yesterday in a Google Plus community I am part of at my institution to drive innovation in education with technology.

    The conclusion I had there and am still fairly sure of is that there is a subset of us (humans, educators, choose your category) that thrive in an online environment and are able to share and communicate our ideas with others.

    So we (that subset) are different than most and we are outliers, the geeks, the ones our colleagues turn to when they encounter some new technology. Google is a company pretty much filled with those types of people (just guessing here) and perhaps they don’t grok the fact that not everyone is wired that way.

    Humans are social animals and learning is indeed a social process.

    Reply
    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  December 20, 2013 at 10:25 am

      Agreed, Ken — learning is a social process. Best wishes to you and yours, too!

      Reply
  • 3. Education is Social - Ken Bauer on Teaching and Technology  |  December 20, 2013 at 10:15 am

    […] rather than write about it here I will simply link to Mark Guzdial’s post from this morning titled “Google’s mistake: CS teacher PD must be on-line only”. I put my thoughts […]

    Reply
  • […] An important new working paper from the ExploringCS group asks the question: If we achieve CS10K, how do we avoid only having CS5K left after only five years?  This is exactly the question that Lijun Ni was exploring in her dissertation on CS teacher identity. […]

    Reply

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