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C'est la Z

When the students know more than the teacher

We've heard it many times with computer science - "the kids know more than the teacher."

On the one hand, the truth is that this isn't so much the case. Kids might use computers all the time but they don't necessarily know much about them or about computer science (link 1, link 2). Then you have students who think they know all about CS but really don't. They might have picked up a bit of coding somewhere but more often than not, the knowledge is pretty superficial.

On the other hand, you do have some cases where the students or a subset of them do know more than the teacher. As K12 CS Education is fairly nascent many of our teachers are brand new to the subject matter. You might have kids who's parents have a background and teach them, kids who's previous school had a solid program or you might have some kids that are in that minority of people who can do it all on their own.

In some cases, this problem will work itself out over time. States are starting to require certification to teach computer science. Some of these states have requirements that when met will result in teachers who have a solid background in CS. In these cases, the problem will eventually mostly be solved. Of course this will take years if not decades and in states with weaker requirements the issue will never disappear.

The issue of having students knowing more than the teacher isn't always a problem. A solid teacher can make sure a kid that's ahead of the class doesn't dominate and intimidate the rest of the class and as long as the teacher adds some value to that student things can work out.

In any event, I was thinking earlier today that as our subject area gains traction and starts to mature, perhaps we can learn from other fields where students knowing more than teachers is not that uncommon.

The subjects that come to mind for me are art and music. Even though NY has decimated it's programs, there are still a few out there. When I grew up and also through my children's years in school there were always students in all our music classes that were exceptional and well beyond their respective teachers.

I never gave it much thought until now.

I know that the disciplines are different but I wonder if there's something us CS teachers can learn from music and art teachers in terms of dealing with this issue.

Just some food for thought.

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