Archive for October 13, 2011

Learning how to prepare CS HS teachers: Why computer scientists have to get involved

I just got my October 2011 copy of IEEE Computer and was pleased to see published my piece on “Learning how to prepare computer science high school teachers” (the last Word draft version is here, but the published version is severely proofread and much better).  I tell the story of Barb Ericson’s “Operation: Reboot” (moral of the story: The best teacher preparation doesn’t help if there are no teaching jobs), Lijun Ni’s study of DCCE teachers (following the Disciplinary Commons of Josh Tenenberg and Sally Fincher, led by Ria Galanos and Briana Morrison) (moral of the story: It’s hard to be a CS teacher, but model teachers and a community really helps), and Klara Benda’s study of on-line CS courses for full-time teachers (moral of the story: We need a new model).

I’m also trying to make a meta-argument: Computer scientists have to get involved.  If we just leave computing education to the existing education system, we’re going to end up with more applications classes — there’s a clear and evident need for such classes, and because we hide computing so well from the application user, it’s not clear and evident that there’s anything deeper (or that there’s any use for it).  I used the analogy yesterday to agriculture and biology.  Teaching agriculture is obviously useful, but it may not have been obvious 150 years ago that studying biology would lead to bigger, better, deeper ideas.  We had a recent visitor, a Chair of another CS Department, who said that he wouldn’t let his faculty get involved in high school CS education efforts, because, “We don’t have that kind of expertise.”  That’s not the point — the point is to inform the process about our expertise.  To quote my own article:

In addition to more well-trained high school computer science teachers, we need more education research that is informed by understanding how CS is taught, what current practices are, and what’s important to keep as practices change.

Upcoming lots of travel:  I leave tomorrow for the SIGCSE Board meeting in Charlotte over the weekend.  I will be at Rutgers for a guest lecture next Tuesday 18th October.  Friday the 28th, I’m visiting DePaul for another guest lecture.  I am taking Barbara to Florence, Italy 2-9 November to celebrate a birthday with a zero in it. And Barb and I (with our daughters) will be giving talks in Melbourne, Adelaide (three in one day!), and Sydney, Australia, leaving 15 November and returning 26 November.  (I will actually never see November 16 this year — it won’t be on Earth on that day. Weird!)  I may not be able to keep up my daily postings during some of this travel (and I have that 3rd edition Python book to finish before 15 November, too).  Thank you for your patience and ongoing interest!

October 13, 2011 at 11:17 am 8 comments

What if you built a Volunteer Run School of Education–and nobody came?

First, I’ll give you the blog quote, then my response (below):

What if edu-passionate volunteers from around the world banned together to…

Build an open licensed, free, multilingual virtual school of education driven by the principles of peer learning.

Facilitate the free exchange of knowledge and ideas between educators in a context that positively transforms teacher and student practice, learning and engagement.

Codify existing educational best practices into a series of experiences that provide foundational knowledge of how to be an effective teacher.

via A Volunteer Run School of Education? | Dot Learnt.

Here’s my response (which isn’t showing up at Dot Learnt — maybe deleted as spam?):

Why would any teachers come? Yes, some might — the most active, the most excited, the most passionate. But they’re not the problem. How could you package teacher professional development so that it’s easily accessible, engaging, and no-cost (or as they’re finding in LAUSD, you have to pay the teachers to get them to attend)? You make a difference, at-scale, by engaging lots of teachers, not just the few who will voluntarily take the classes.

If you compare this to professions like law or medicine, the practice pays for the practitioner to seek out professional development (often at really nice locations!). But teachers are expected to work long hours at night, on their own time, for professional development? The sustainability problem with the volunteer school of ed idea is not to keep the volunteers producing, it’s to get teacher-participants.

October 13, 2011 at 9:00 am 3 comments


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