Spanning the Chasm of the K–12 and Post-Secondary Relationship: Chris Stephenson in Blog@CACM

January 16, 2014 at 1:09 am 4 comments

Chris Stephenson’s blog from last month’s Blog@CACM highlights a significant impediment to progress in computing education.  CS Faculty in universities don’t understand K-12 education (and may not respect formal education at all, as discussed previously).  Education Faculty probably understand K-12 education better, but few of them are involved in computing education.  We in higher-education who want to help with the development of K-12 computing education need to understand the contexts and challenges of teachers — “know thy user.”

CSTA has served as a bridge between these two worlds, explaining each to the other and helping to facilitate greater understanding and better communication. For some post-secondary faculty, however, K–12 remains a foreign territory—little understood and not easily traveled.

When you talk to college faculty, they will tell you that working with K–12 educators can be exceedingly frustrating. Administrators and teachers do not return phone calls or respond to emails, schedules change with little or no notice, and teachers are resistant to spending out-of-school time on professional development opportunities and are averse to incorporating new technologies or teaching methods.

When you talk to K–12 teachers, they will tell you the post-secondary faculty are woefully ignorant of the realities of teaching in their environment. In K–12, most teachers teach six classes per day and an increasing number have no time in which to prepare lessons. Teachers don’t have phones. Some don’t even have desks. And very few have access to a networked computer on which they can answer correspondence during their teaching day. In many U.S. states, teachers do not make a living wage and so need to take second jobs and summer jobs to support their families.

via Spanning the Chasm of the K–12 and Post-Secondary Relationship | blog@CACM | Communications of the ACM.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Liza Loop  |  January 16, 2014 at 1:17 am

    Sad commentary on the state of K-12 education. Teacher isolation, underpay and overwork may be the norm, there are a few exceptions. It may be that CS for youngsters will have to come through non-formal educational channels such as city recreation departments, after-school programs and ‘middle colleges’.

  • 3. astrachano  |  January 16, 2014 at 1:30 am

    I think it’s not a coincidence that several of the folks working in computer science at the university level, who have experience in the 9-12 classroom, often find one another. I’d say I’m supporting CS Education Research rather than doing it. I’m a teacher/educator more than an educational researcher. In the past several years I’ve had many, many fruitful conversations with lots of faculty and teachers [using those titles to differentiate level]. But I’ve had some great, non-confrontational and supportive conversations with folks who, like me, spent several years teaching high school: Fran Trees, Joanna Goode, Gail Chapman, Pat Yongpradit, and others.

  • 4. Cecily Heiner  |  January 16, 2014 at 11:40 am

    This is a great post that touches on some of the important issues in the chasm between most K12 and university educators– I could probably extend the list to double the length. One problem that is not addressed is the lack of common community agreement on the sequence of knowledge that should be covered between 11-14(junior year of high school to sophomore year of college). Even in my relatively small state, I think there are at least 4 different programming languages taught in the introductory programming sequence with even more programming tools/IDEs, Sometimes I think it would be lovely to be a math educator– at least then I would know that calc came after trig, and the courses were not going to change significantly in the next 5 years. You also touch on professional development; unfortunately, most universities do not count doing professional PD for K12 teachers for very much when awarding tenure.
    In spite of the challenges, I have had a number of good experiences with K12 over the last year. I am working on the local implementation of ECS, and I took my programming languages students to the local high school to teach TouchDevelop for CSEd week. I converse with our State Office of Education liason regularly. I do think that it is easier to span the chasm if you understand both sides of the bridge.


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