Tomorrow we'll kick off cohort 3 of Hunter's Computer Science teacher Advanced Certificate program. That is, New York State's only currently approved program for working, certified teachers that leads to New York's new Certificate to teach Computer Science.
This is not our first rodeo, having gone through this twice already but there are a few differences this time out.
First off, we're going big. Cohorts one and two had about 20 candidates each. This time, we'll have around 55 teachers who will be joined by around 5 masters students. That's exciting but a little scary. I'm sure I've also mentioned before that a handful of our teachers are from the Dryden school district up around the finger lakes. I'm super excited that we're able to not only work with NYC teachers but also to help build the community beyond the five boroughs.
Bigger cohort means more instructors. Adding to the team this year is my long time partner in crime Sam. I wanted to include Sam from the start but unfortunately he was on sabbatical the year prior to cohort 1 and according to DOE rules (he's a K12 teacher) you can't work in any capacity during your sabbatical year. Sam's been involved in almost all of my teaching side projects along with JonAlf and Topher so it's great that we can get the band back together.
We're also adding on my friend and colleague on the Hunter CS side, William and I've been looking to be able to actually work with him for years.
We'll also have 4 TAs per class. That is going to be interesting. The TAs are undergrads - they're all terrific but it's possible that some of the candidates teach in the schools that the TAs attended. It'll all be good but it will be interesting.
As to running the show, we'll still use Zoom - one big Zoom when appropriate but breaking into groups of assorted sizes as appropriate from small breakout rooms to midsize "sections" for sharing. This will be a bit of an experiment but we'll get it right. One nice thing about teaching teachers is that they know when you're trying something new and if you're open and honest they'll help you to get it right. I think that's also probably something unique about our program. Since it's designed by and for K12 teachers and many of the instructors are K12 teachers we're all part of the same community. It's not a bunch of K12 teachers taking some classes taught by college people who have theories of how to teach K12. I mean, yes, we do have college profs involved as well but we also have K12 teachers, including myself who've walked the walk. The teachers in the program get this and know we're a family and our goal is to make the program as strong as possible, not only for them but for future participants.
Now, that might sound a little hokey but I really believe it.
Beyond Zoom we'll be using Slack for all discussion - much better than using Zoom chat. Besides the extra Slack features, Zoom chat goes away when the Zoom closes. Our Slack from even cohort 1 lives on and is still active. Truth be told, I prefer Zulip to Slack but we had already committed to Zoom which is fine.
The final piece for tooling is repl.it and that's been a game changer. During our first year, repl.it wasn't quite up to speed so teachers had to install environments on their own computers. This was at the start of the pandemic so it was 100% remote. Woof. All sorts of issues including some nice ones like a teacher with a DOE laptop that used to have Java on it but not any more (but the registry still had some hidden settings). Repl.it allows us to have one single consistent interface that everyone can use plus it integrates with GitHub. Of course, if a student comes in with a stronger background they can do their own thing but using repl.it has made things so much easier.
So, tomorrow at 9:00am we're off to the races. An 8 day all day programming class followed by 16 half days of more advanced programming along with 16 half days of CS teaching methods. In the Fall we'll do our ethics class and curriculum development and then finally topics in the Spring.
That will bring us to around 100 certified teachers.
Probably won't sleep tonight but looking forward to tomorrow.