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C'est la Z

Professional Development - APCS-A, similar and beyond

A while ago I wrote about our plans at Hunter to run professional development for CS teachers. Specifically, running once a month sessions for teachers who teach APCS-A, similar and beyond.

The idea started as a joke but morphed into a legit idea.

I was talking to some friends about CTLE hours and how ridiculous the system is. NY State teachers need 100 hours of CTLE credit (PD hours) every so many years. It's something of a scam for a few reasons. First, two of the biggest providers are the NYC DOE and the UFT, the teacher's union. I've been told they both charge money for many CTLE credit bearing activities. That certainly doesn't seem kosher – your boss and your union set up a system to charge you to keep your job.

Well, it turns out that Hunter is certified to issue CTLE credits so we joked that we should get dinner and hang out once a month and call it professional development. We were only half joking - whenever you get a bunch of teachers in a room they talk shop and that is actually the best PD there is. Upon talking among ourselves and also to other teachers we realized there was a legitimate need for PD for teachers who were beyond the basics and so we turned this silly idea into the real deal.

Last Thursday we had our first session. We had about 25 attendees for a three hour session.

I can't tell you if it was any good - you'll have to ask the participants, I can tell you what we did and what we plan moving forward.

We started with a content piece. I ran through this lesson (or this one) where the students find the mode of a list, realize it's a slow (n^2) algorithm and then refine it to a linear solution. The key idea is to give the students an intuitive feeling for run time issues and also to introduce them to hidden complexity.

After this we had dinner, provided by our friends at Google. Over dinner the teachers talked shop. In addition to getting to know each other, their programs, and their classes we also asked them to consider these three items:

  • What are things that cause you difficulty that you'd like us to cover?
  • What are things you wish you knew about that you'd like us to cover?
  • What are things you're comfortable with that you'd be willing to share with the group?

After dinner we circled up and JonAlf presented the way he set up student note taking in his class.

Finally, we discussed next steps - specifically what we came up with for those three bullet points above.

I like the idea of having at least one short content piece, one short pedagogy piece and a deeper dive at each meeting. For the first one, JonAlf and I had to guess as to what might be useful and at the appropriate level. We advertised for teachers who did APCS-A, similar, or beyond but I'm sure we had teachers for whom the mode lesson was a bit too advanced to do without scaffolding and also some for whom it was way to simple. As we continue to meet, we'll nail down the right level and the right activities.

The real hope is that many of the participants will become regulars and together we'll turn this into both an amazing once a month activity and also a community of teachers.

Right now, I'm looking for companies who want to feed us and possibly provide space so if you know of any, hook me up. We're also collecting feedback and ideas from the attendees.

We're targetting February for our next session followed by March, April, May and possibly June.

In the meantime, stay tuned.

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