A lot of teachers in poor areas, remote areas, and areas were there is a low density of CS education can't afford to attend a conference like the CSTA Conference. And yet I feel like these are the teaches who could benefit the most for attendance. Especially in some of the remote areas where travel is expensive, school PD funding is limited or non existent, and CS teachers are the most isolated a trip to the CSTA conference could make a big positive difference.
Now there are some teachers (many in fact) who pay their own way to conferences including the CSTA Conference. Good for them. They have the money or at least enough so that they can set that as a priority. Other teachers have schools or districts who set aside enough money to give some sort of help (i.e.. money) to allow teachers to attend conferences and other out of district professional development. That’s even better! But not everyone falls into those two groups.
Many rural schools are hit with a double whammy in that they don’t have much (no where near enough) money to spend on PD (or even salaries) for teachers AND they are far away from anything so that travel is even more costly. For teachers in those districts/schools travel to a big conference can be prohibitively expensive. I don’t think anyone would suggest that those teachers have less need for PD either. In fact since they so seldom have any peers near them they probably need it even more. They also could really benefit with the networking that takes place at a professional conference. For computer science teachers the CSTA conference is unquestionably (in my perhaps biased mind) is the best conference for them.
CSTA doesn’t (as far as I know) have the money for this. Running the conference is hard enough as it is. Now I may get into trouble for this (this is my own personal idea that I haven’t discussed with anyone else yet) but I would like to see some of the computer industry giants put up some money for this sort of thing. How much would it cost? I’m not sure as I haven’t really worked the numbers but it seem like it would not be too expensive. A relatively small pot of money could be assigned for say 3 to 5 “scholarships that would be awarded based on some sort of criteria. Like what? I have a few ideas.
- Need based on some funding metric – hard to do in some ways
- No previous attendance at CSTA conference (or not within some time period)
- An application that shows a demonstrated willingness to learn and implement new things and personal innovation
- Stated administrative support though a willingness to allow the teacher to incorporate new ideas – we’re already assuming the school/.district doesn’t have money BTW
- A willingness to share what they learned in some way (local workshops, video messages, blog posts, some other way)