Tuesday, October 03, 2017

CS Educator Interview: Saber Khan

I believe I first met Saber Khan over Twitter. Since them we have interacted in a number of ways on and off line. We met face to face for the first time this past summer at the CSTA Conference. To say we’ve had some interesting conversations would be putting it mildly. His was one of the first names that popped into my head when I decided to restart interviewing CS educators for my blog.

WHERE DO YOU TEACH? WHAT SORT OF SCHOOL IS IT?

> I teach at the Browning School, a K-12 independent boy's school in Manhattan, NYC.


HOW DID YOU GET STARTED TEACHING COMPUTER SCIENCE?

> I used to teach math and science and was very interested in tech. I became a tech integrator and teaching some tech classes where I really enjoyed teaching coding. Over the past past five years I taken a deep dive into learning and teaching coding.

DESCRIBE THE COMPUTER SCIENCE CURRICULUM AT YOUR SCHOOL. WHAT COURSES DO YOU HAVE AND WHAT ARE THE FOCUSES OF EACH?

> I am fortunate that we have a comprehensive tech education program at our school. Starting in kindergarten and all the way up to the Upper School we have dedicated tech classes that focus on CS, design and engineering. We have electives in CS and Engineering in the Upper School. I love teaching Python, JavaScript, Ruby with resources and programs such as CodeHS, Codesters, Ruby the Hard Way, etc. I have outlined our program here - https://medium.com/@ed_saber/k-12-tech-ed-w-computing-engineering-e552f8abb9e9

WHAT IS YOUR OVERALL TEACHING PHILOSOPHY? PROJECT BASED LEARNING? FLIPPED CLASSROOM? IN SHORT, WHAT MAKES YOUR CS PROGRAM “YOUR CS PROGRAM?”

> Learning together is essential, both because I am still learning but also it create a environment that supports risk-taking. Blended learning tools, such as CodeHS and Codesters, along with books and online tutorials and help sections such as Stack Overflow have been essential for me and my students. I explained this approach in a video with CS50 here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0I7wQhuHdI

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE IN TEACHING CS AT YOUR SCHOOL?

> We are fortunate in many ways, we have a strong team, good resources, etc. Our challenges are turning student learning into projects to share with a larger community. We have started a Tech Expo to create more excitement about sharing projects. We are also focusing more on creative coding with the p5.js library. On a bigger scale, we need to figure out and act on being a helpful and supportive member to the CS learning community. I put on the CC Fest event in NYC and LA to create a K-12 community around creative coding - http://ccfest.rocks.

CC Fests are organized collaboratively with a great group of people. In NYC I work with Danny Fenjves of Upperline Code,  Stephen Lewis of the Heschel School, Dan Shiffman of NYU and others. The LA version was organized with Jolina Clement of Archer School for Girls, Maxwell Bigman of Immaculate Heart, and Lauren Mccarthy of UCLA.  



WHAT IS ADMINISTRATION’S SUPPORT (OR LACK OF SUPPORT) LIKE AT YOUR SCHOOL?

> They are supportive and encouraging. The best thing they have done, aside from resources and staffing, is let us evolve as a department and let us find our focus on CS, design, and engineering.


HOW DO YOU MEASURE SUCCESS FOR YOUR PROGRAM? FOR YOUR STUDENTS?

> Good question, not sure this is the best answer but I look at enrollment in our elective class, which is going up. I also look at the quality of the projects and engagement in the Tech Expo. After a couple of years of doing that I think we have created an expectation about creativity and portfolios that will show the community what we do.


WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU LIKE TO TALK ABOUT REGARDING YOUR PROGRAM THAT I HAVEN’T ALREADY ASKED?

> I am always striving to build an inclusive and diverse CS ed community. I am excited to collaborate with anyone on that. Please get in touch.

THIS PAST SUMMER YOU STARTED #ETHICALCS CHAT ON TWITTER. WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO DO THAT AND HOW IS IT GOING?

> I think that despite good intentions we have not done a good job is showing our students the impact of computing. To support a holistic CS education we need to engage deeply in ethics and identity while we learn the tech. The #ethicalCS edchat is an attempt to build a community of teachers and experts that will work together to create this curriculum. This project is a collaboration with Jeannie Crowley (Ethical Culture Fieldston School), Kara Chesal and Aankit Patel (of NYC Department of Ed CS4All team). I outline our hopes in this Medium essay: https://medium.com/@ed_saber/ethicalcs-bring-ethics-identity-and-impact-to-computer-science-education-eae5a9d4682


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