Teaching Teachers Computer Science

If you’d asked me 3 years ago if I’d be teaching other teachers how to do anything related to programming any time in the near future, I’d have told you no way.  But yesterday, that’s exactly what I did. CSTA Philly invited me to do a workshop on Python, and I did, and I actually knew more than the people around me, which was weird.  I mean, they could have taught me a ton about Java or C or whatever their language was, but very few knew anything about Python.  I showed them Calico, the IDE Mr. Geeky helped to develop and used by many schools.  There are several libraries specific to Calico that I think are great for teaching.  I showed off the Myro library for manipulating robots, and the Graphics and Processing libraries for creating graphics and animations.  I actually heard one person say, “This is really fun!”  Which is exactly why I use it with my students, too.

Yes, I’m excited that I’ve reached a level of proficiency that means I have some knowledge to share, but more than that, I’m developing a community of people with whom I can learn.  I had fun working with them because as a group, they were willing to try things, just poke around and see what happens.  While we’re all at different types of schools, we share many of the same issues getting Computer Science recognized, recruiting students, and developing appropriate curriculum.  The problem of recruiting women and minorities to CS is one everyone is struggling with and I’m happy to see so many teachers really thinking hard about how to address this problem through recruitment and curriculum.  I think K-12 teachers are ahead of college professors here.  Maybe it will trickle up.

I was exhausted at the end of the day yesterday.  I stopped by school after the workshop and chatted with the handful of colleagues who were around.  Although I’m enjoying the time away, I was reminded of how much I enjoy my work and how much it’s my colleagues that remind me of that.  I’m headed back later this week to catch up with folks over lunch.  I’m very much looking forward to it.  I’ll still get my rest and relaxation in, but when the school year gets here, I’ll be ready.

2 Replies to “Teaching Teachers Computer Science”

  1. You said ” The problem of recruiting women and minorities to CS is one everyone is struggling with and I’m happy to see so many teachers really thinking hard about how to address this problem through recruitment and curriculum. I think K-12 teachers are ahead of college professors here. Maybe it will trickle up.”

    College professors have been struggling with the problem for 30 years. Many, many initiatives have been tried. Most have failed. I don’t think the K–12 teachers are ahead of the professors here—they’re just not burned out yet.

    I think a large part of the problem is cultural, and that a lot of the cultural mindsets are hardened in middle school, so it may well be the case that K–12 teachers can make progress where professors have failed. I hope so, anyway.

  2. Yes, they have been working on it for a long time. Maybe what I’m sensing is what you’re saying, a kind of resignation. Research definitely shows that mind sets are set earlier, so that elementary and middle school are probably better times to catch students’ interest. Luckily I don’t have to deal with gender balance per se, just getting more students period (all girls).

    The K-12 teachers I’ve met definitely seem fired up about it, which is great to see.

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