Image problem

As I mentioned yesterday, I have very few students in my intro CS class, which doesn’t bode well for next year’s CS II class. I had yet another student come to me yesterday to see how she might take intro as an independent study. In talking to her, she reiterated what my CS II students mentioned, how useful and actually cool CS is. She wondered why more students weren’t aware of that. Me, too.

I need to make that a major goal this year to recruit more students to Intro, not just for the sustainability of my job, but because I really do think CS is important and cool. I already attend our open houses and other events where we advertise our programs to parents and students. I need to do more. But what? I am doing a CS Ed week event for the school. I am running two robotics clubs plus another tech oriented club. I’d love to do something like a mailer to parents but that seems a little out of the realm of “things we do” as a school. I probably need to take more advantage of our marketing department.

As more than one student has told me, CS has a bad rep. People think it’s too hard, that you have to be an obsessive mountain dew swilling weirdo to really succeed at it. And I’ve tried to overcome that image, but it’s been truly difficult. My students are poster children for how interesting, creative and diverse CS can be, but that message isn’t getting across. I have my work cut out for me.

2 Replies to “Image problem”

  1. Knowing the kind of school you teach at, I have to wonder if in addition to image, it has to do with college applications and how CS is viewed on them. I don’t know the answer to this question, but I know that people prepping to apply to super-elite schools usually have some scuttlebutt they’re following on what kind of classes they have to take (as early as freshman year and even below). My kids are still little, but I hear things about course sequences leading to various SAT II and AP exams and colleges that want you to take the “deepest”, “most-advanced” courses at your school.

    Is CS suffering because it’s competing as an “elective” filler class that doesn’t seem like it’ll flesh out a college application CV? And if so, can that be changed? (I think there is an CS AP test out there). Or is it unfeasible to imagine it changing (especially at a girl’s school). Then, are you competing with art & drama classes & other soft electives? I think CS is a tough sell in those circumstances, but maybe changing the name of the course could help? into something more elective-like and obvious what you will do? Say, an elective that promises a concrete goal of what you’ll produce? People know that for drama & art, but worry that CS will be about writing code about pascale’s triangle.

  2. bj, much of what you say is exactly the issue. We did eliminate AP courses, but this is our first year without them. It will take a while for students to think differently about what to take. I had a nice conversation with our college counselor about what I might do. She assured me that CS is not evaluated with art on a college transcript. The issue is fitting it into the schedule. I could argue to count it as math or science or argue for a CS requirement. That seems like a steep hill to climb right now.

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