The Field of CS Ed

For Computer Science to be introduced and integrated into all K-12, the field of Computer Science Education needs to continue developing. Last Thursday, ~40 CS Ed star players met to share their “playbook” for advancing the game. I was fortunate enough to attend the release of their report entitled “Priming the Computer Science Teacher Pump”. (I definitely felt like a teenager who snuck into a nightclub — really awesome gathering, but wondering the whole time when I would be bounced for being out of my league.)

As I have worked in the profession of education, I have been impacted by the peripheral roles that ‘support’ teaching — advocates, trainers, administrators, policy makers, curriculum writers, etc. But, I’ve never before considered the role of defining a “field of study.” As I read this report, I was continually struck by the various systems that are forming in support of the field of Computer Science Education — researchers, publications, professorships, degree tracks, certifications, etc.

Computer Science is more than just a skill set leading to a narrow career track — a technical field — it is a “literacy” that everyone should have a fundamental understanding of. Ever wonder why a ‘techie’ can assimilate new computing software and devices so much faster? It’s not because they are a ‘natural,’ they are more computationally literate.

“Every teacher, regardless of subject area of specialization, has taken math or history as a part of their academic experience and so has a general contextual understanding for what topics are taught in K-12 and how they might integrate with each other. In contrast, CS is unique in that there is no shared understanding of even the most basic principles (imagine if the general population had never been taught addition).”

The report paints a very exciting picture of what CS Ed can become and what it could look like from preschool through advanced scholarship. As folks are stating, there is a lot of work to get it there.

Here are some of the items that I particularly found of interest:

  • Most teachers are lifelong learners, so “the most critical need for a teacher just starting to learn CS is a sense that they can learn what they need and they can become highly-capable teachers. A teacher who learns a lot but is not confident will not succeed in the classroom. A teacher who is still learning but has confidence in her ability to learn CS can be productive in the classroom.
  • A distinction is drawn between a narrowly trained CS teacher (maybe just 2-weeks of PD training on a specific cs class curriculum) and a ‘generalist’ CS teacher. Training should not end at the boundaries of a course; more content knowledge and more general pedagogy are needed. “At the moment there are little to no options for… teachers to continue to seek content and pedagogical knowledge… Math or Science teachers have the ability to return to schools of education for master’s degrees or advanced certificates to increase their content and pedagogical cores, yet there are very few options for CS teachers to do the same.
  • Mike Z has discussed this quote: “content area courses for computer teacher development… do not have to be courses designed for CS majors”.
  • Teachers are not the only ones in need of CS training. Most school administrators, policy makers, and ed profs don’t yet possess a fundamental computational literacy. We can’t wait a generation for CS educated individuals to enter these positions.
  • I was a little disappointed that the report’s contributors list did not include school district administrators (employers of the ‘cs teacher pipeline’ product), or even classroom teachers (the substance of the ‘pipeline’).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s