Archive for February 7, 2011

What’s the argument for becoming a computer science teacher?

At the CE21 community meeting, I met Aman Yadav, an assistant professor in educational studies at Purdue.  He’s actually teaching a CS methods course (how to teach CS effectively), in a program that teaches pre-service high school teachers!  How exciting!  He only has one student.  Aman says that he doesn’t know how many semester that they can afford to offer the class with so few students.  The one teacher he has is a math education major, who is taking a minor in CS education.  Nobody there is going after CS education as their main focus.

We were sitting at breakfast Tuesday morning with Wayne Summers, my collleague at Columbus State University where they have a program to give teachers an “endorsement” (a kind of certification that comes after a teacher’s initial certificate in teaching math, science, business, or whatever) to teach high school computer science.  He had one student, but she dropped out in the first semester.

I mentioned in a previous blog post that UTeach has been in existence for 14 years, but only has had 7 graduates who focused on teaching computer science.

I believe that this is our greatest challenge to CS10K, the NSF goal to have 10,000 teachers in 10,000 high schools able to teach quality computer science by 2015.  (We have about 2,000 APCS teachers today.)  Where will we get the teachers?  What’s our argument for becoming a computer science teacher in high school?  CE21 might help us create more in-service and pre-service teacher education programs, but it’s not like we are filling our current capacity.  Where are we going to get those 8,000 additional people who want to become computer science high school teachers?

Barb and I are trying to get Georgia Tech to propose a UTeach Replication site to create more CS teachers pre-service, but it’s a hard argument.  There is funding available, but it’s based on the number of students taking the program.  What if we go to all the effort to write the proposal, define the program, and create the classes…and we only get 1-2 students.  We’d get very little funding, and we’d produce very few new high school CS teachers.

Brian Dorn found in his work that graphics designers have all kinds of unfavorable opinions about computer scientists.  “They’re old and nerdy and boring,” said one study participant.  Why should high school teachers have more favorable impression of computer scientists?  Lijun has pointed out that high school teachers worry (correctly) about taking on a field that requires constant updating and new learning.  Why would they want to become one?

For me, this is the biggest challenge.  If we build it (a CS teacher development program), they likely won’t come.  How do we change the odds?

February 7, 2011 at 9:08 am 28 comments

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February 2011

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