Friday, February 09, 2018

Priming the Computing Teacher Pump

Where are computer science teachers going to come from? That’s the big question. OK it is one of the big questions about Computer Science for All. Increasingly CS is moving to younger and younger grades and a lot of people are asking where those teachers will come from. Many teachers who teach computer science now don’t think of themselves as computer science teachers by the way. In elementary schools most teachers appear to think of themselves as grade level teachers. The generally teach most everything.

I believe we want computer science integrated in the elementary school curriculum and not just a subject taught by specialists. I was a computer specialist in a couple of elementary schools many years ago and while it was fun I think it would have been a lot more effective as a more integrated subject.

But anyway, back to the question, how and where and when are these teachers going to learn to teach computer science? There has long been some discussion about getting schools of education involved. Not much progress and most of the talk seems to have been among computer science education people.

Earlier I saw this post on Mark Guzdial’s blog - Finding a home for computing education in US Schools of Education: Priming the Computing Teacher Pump

So of course I visited the related website  - – to learn more. Some of the most amazing people in CS education are involved. I hope a lot of schools of education take notice and get involved. We need teachers prepared to prepare all students.

Priming the Computing Teacher Pump: Integrating Computing Education into Schools of Education

This report focuses on Schools of Education rather than Departments or Colleges of Computer Science/Computing for setting up CS teacher education.

We challenge US teacher education programs to innovate and integrate a new discipline into their programs. What we propose is nothing less than a change to the American Education canon. Such enormous change will require innovating in different ways, using different models and strategies, before we find models that work. The report, Priming the Pump, will highlight examples of integration from across the United States, and provide concrete recommendations for discussion.

With the expansion of computing education in mainstream K-12 schools, the current training mechanisms for teachers quickly will fall short of supporting a sustainable pipeline of teachers for the scale many cities and states have committed to.


Garth said...

It is interesting how ambivalent the School of Education at my local university is towards CS. It does offer a class on computer tech, basically a class on how to use computer gadgets and applications in the classroom. The K-12 prospective teachers have no required CS course. The CS department only this year built a course that would be useful for a K-12 teacher. The course is a bit more programming focused than CS focused than I would like but it is much better than the previous nothing. The big problem with our School of Ed is the professors. There is no one that is interested in getting CS into the program. CS is sort of equated to leaning to be a plumber, a worthwhile skill but still just that, a skill, and not something that requires their attention. I had a couple of discussions with instructors over there. They did not go well. I do not think this School of Ed is an exception in this attitude. In my semi-infinite wisdom I think I see the problem. All the professors are older than dirt. They went to high school with a slide rule. They like the way things are. Change requires effort. Since they are tenured effort is no longer required. OK, so that is a bit extreme (after all, we are older than dirt and understand the importance of CS) but I still think Schools of Ed need some fresh meat before we are going to see much change in how K-12 teachers are prepped.

Mike Zamansky said...

One of my two major charges and reasons for moving to Hunter College was to build Hunter's CS teacher prep programs. We've provided our materials to NY State and NY will be voting on CS teacher certification in a month or so - I think mid March but I could be wrong.

It was interesting to note that when I was up in Albany for the announcement of the proposal and opening of the comment period I spoke to some NYSUT people who were very much against the certification noting that "there are plenty of teachers currently teaching CS and doing a great job" while the UFT people seemed for it. NYSUT is the New York state union and UFT the city union.

We'll see how the vote goes and also if the credential is something like what we proposed or if it's going to be tightly tied to AP or something even weaker.

I think that the programs we put together hit the sweet spot of rigor, content, and pedagogy without more cruft than is required by the state. I think they're also the only programs that were developed in consultation with teachers, academics, and professionals from all across New York State.

Alfred Thompson said...

The NH certification adopted was written mostly by teachers. I think that was the right way to do it.

Mike Zamansky said...

That's a surprise - actually consulting teachers but its great to hear.

I agree that it's critical to have teachers steering the ship but how did they find sufficient public school teachers who actually know the CS? That's a big ask in a lot of states (and I think it's important that they be public school teachers since state certification would be for public schools).

I think that's what makes my proposal different from so much of what I've seen out there.

Alfred Thompson said...

Mike, our state is a small one and people know each other. The state department of education person in charge of putting together CS education standards and certification is a former HS CS teacher. He is also on the Board of the CSTA.

Mike Zamansky said...

That's terrific. A far cry from what I see in NY and in most states.

Garth said...

Montana department of education is pure political. It does not get involved with the little people that are in the classrooms teaching.