TITLE: Sharing Skills and Joys with Teachers AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: July 04, 2010 3:49 PM DESC: ----- BODY: For many of the departments in my college, a big part of summer is running workshops for K-12 teachers. Science education programs reside in the science departments here, and summer is the perfect time for faculty in biology, physical science, and the like to work with their K-12 colleagues and keep them up to date on both their science and the teaching of it. Not so in Computer Science; we don't have a CS education program. My state does not certify CS teachers, so their is no demand from teachers for graduate credits to keep licenses up to date. Few schools teach any CS or even computer programming these days at all, so there aren't even many teachers interested in picking up CS content or methods for their own courses. My department did offer a teaching minor for undergrads and a master's degree in CS education for many years in the 1980s and 1990s, but the audience slowly dried up and we dropped the programs. Still, several CS faculty and I have long talked about how valuable it might be for recruiting to share the thrill of computing with high school teachers. With a little background, they might be more motivated -- and better equipped -- to share that excitement with their students. Google CS4HS logo That's what makes this summer so exciting. With support from Google's CS4HS program, we are offering a workshop for middle and high school teachers, Introducing Computing via Scratch and Simulation. Because there are not many CS-only teachers in our potential audience, we pitched the workshop to science and math teachers, with a promise that the workshop would help them learn how to use computing to demonstrate concepts in their disciplines and to build simple simulations for their students. We have also had some positive experiences working with middle-school social science students at the local lab school, so we included social science and humanities teachers in our call for participants. (Scratch is a great tool for story telling!) Our workshop will reflect a basic tenet my colleagues and I hold: the best way to excite people about computing is to show them its power. Our main focus is on how they can use CS to teach their science, math, and other courses better. But we will also begin to hint at how they can use simple scripts to make their lives better, whether to prepare data for classroom examples or to handle administrative tasks. Scratch will be the main medium we teach them, but we will also point them toward something like Python. Glitz gets people's attention, but glitz fades quickly when the demands of daily life return to the main stage. The power of computing may help keep their attention. Google is expanding this program, which they piloted last year at a couple of top schools. This year, several elite schools are offering workshops, but also several schools like mine, schools working in the trenches both of CS but also teacher preparation. As the old teachers' college in my state, we prepare a large percentage of the K-12 teachers here. The grant from Google, awarded through a competitive proposal process, helped us to take the big step of developing a workshop and trying to sell it to the teachers of our area. We were not sure how many teachers would be willing to spend four days (three this summer and a follow-up day in the fall) to study computer science. The Google award allowed us to offer small stipends to lower the barrier to attendance. We also kept expenses low by donating instructor time, which allowed us to offer the workshop at the lowest cost possible to teachers. They result was promising: more teachers signed up than we have stipends for. Next comes the fun part: preparing and teaching the workshop! -----