Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Freedom To Teach Computer Science Our Way

Mike Zamansky had another interesting post (CS - it isn't all that) that got me thinking. The last three paragraphs started me going. For example

As CS becomes more part of the system I expect teachers to have less freedom in what they teach and how they teach. As a community we might be able to steer the ship towards keeping the good stuff but then again, we might not.

In talking to a lot of teachers at CSTA 2022, I realized that most CS teachers have a lot of freedom in what they teach as CS and how they teach it. Other than the Advanced Placement courses there are not many real limits on what and how we teach CS. One teacher said “as long as the students are happy I’m left alone.” That is both exciting and scary.

It’s exciting if a teacher with good content knowledge and skills in CS pedagogy says it, Scary if that is not the case. And the later is probably more common than the former. Of course there is a positive move in standards development and teacher certifiably rules that is trying to fix the problem of “anyone can teach CS.”

That has its risks as well. While most standards programs I am aware of are deeply involving experienced CS educators in their development, once standards start getting implemented by bureaucrats all bets are off. Standards can be inspiration or shackles. They can include people who are good at passing tests and exclude qualified people who don’t fit in the usual boxes.

Many, dare I say most, education administrators don’t really understand computers let a lone what it means to teach computer science. That is the source of some of our freedom but can also be a source of constriction if effective advocates for specific curriculum and teaching resources convince them to push things top down on classroom educators. I see it all too often “My administration wants me to use [some well sold curriculum]. Is it any good?”  Seems to me that excluding subject matter experts in the school should be making those decisions not people inexperienced with teaching the subject.

How we teach today is going to be influential If we teach everyone well we are more likely to keep some freedom in how we do things in the future. People tend to teach the same way they were taught. Given how much we still have to learn about how to teach CS we need to avoid that trap AND to promote a growth mindset that is open to new ways of teaching and learning.

It will be hard to keep computer science from being constrained in someone’s idea of neat little boxes. That is what bureaucrats like to see. As CS continues to grow we have to be flexible and we have to promote the need to be flexable to all the publics we deal with.

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