Archive for September 11, 2013

The need to make change in CS course expectations: To my daughter’s high school programming teacher

I’m teaching a TA preparation course at Georgia Tech this semester.  My students are PhD students who are learning how to be teaching assistants.  In a session on dealing with classroom behavior and FERPA, I introduced peer instruction — I put scenarios up on the screen with four or five choices of responses, and the students used clickers to choose what they thought was the appropriate response.  One of the scenarios was:

In a class discussion, a student starts yelling at another student: “You moron! C# is a terrible language for that! You should use C++!” What do you do?

I had a distractor that collected a surprising number of votes: “Just let it go – that’s the way CS students are.”  And after the discussion period — that one still got some votes.   The expectation that “That’s just the way CS students are” is surprisingly pervasive. Computer science teachers need to stand up to it, to demand change in culture and expectations.

Later in my class, the students are reading chapters of Diana Franklin’s new book.

So, you see, I was all too familiar with what my daughter was going through, but I was unprepared for the harassment to start in high school, in her programming class.I consulted with friends — female developers — and talked to my daughter about how to handle the situation in class. I suggested that she talk to you. I offered to talk to you. I offered to come talk to the class. I offered to send one of my male friends, perhaps a well-known local programmer, to go talk to the class. Finally, my daughter decided to plow through, finish the class, and avoid all her classmates. I hate to think what less-confident girls would have done in the same situation.My daughter has no interest in taking another programming class, and really, who can blame her.

via To my daughters high school programming teacher | USENIX.

September 11, 2013 at 1:07 am 2 comments


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