Skip to main content

C'est la Z

CS Teacher Prep - the big picture and the long game.

Time to follow up on my last post and all the surrounding discussion. To be honest, I was a bit surprised at first to see that many posters were all for what I consider a weak program. I think all of us agreed that you want and need a gentle entry - you have to be accessible to teachers with little or even no prior computer science experience but I was taken back by the number of teachers who thought it was fine to have a graduate level program where the teachers end up with no more knowledge than a high school student taking APCS-A.

Some teachers stated that they "were able to learn it all on their own." Others thought it was "enough for what I teach." Many lamented that if it's too hard nobody would become CS teachers - something I addressed in my last post.

I realized that many were viewing this from a very narrow lense - the lens of their own experiences and not looking at the big picture or the long game.

First thing to realize is that once a college creates a program it's unlikely to change it whole hog. If a college has starts with a strong, rigorous certification program it will likely stay strong. A weak one will stay weak. My go to example, although not for a program is the old CISCO curriculum. The plan was to start teachers with basic training and they'd mind the store while students took computer based triaining models. I kept hearing that they'd ramp up the teacher training later. It never happened. Some teachers knew real networking already and some did indeed learn it on their own but too many were just long term babysitters. Once programs are in place, they don't instantly morph into stronger programs. You'll get some tweaks here and there - I've already put in for some changes to my program but you won't see wholesale change.

if our weak CS program is enrolling teachers and you don't hear crazy complaints you can bet it's not going to get stronger and teachers with the best of intentions to learn more will frequently find that life gets in the way.

The second thing to look at is the fact that this is a long game and current non-CS teachers teaching CS is a temporary state. I'm currently running a cohort of 21 teachers with experience ranging from around 5 to 20 years. They're not going to be teaching forever. In my opinion, right now they fill a critical need - build a cadre of super knowledgeable amazing teachers in NYC who can host student teachers, run workshops etc but the truth is, future generations of teachers won't come from other subject areas. They'll come from preservice programs - people who explicitly have decided to become CS teachers from the start.

That's the long game and the big picture and those teachers need quality programs. If our colleges create weak programs we'll be left with an eternity of under prepared teachers. If we have strong ones, as teaching CS becomes a career path similar to teaching math or science we'll have well prepared teachers.

This is the crossroads we're at in many states. Will we do it right? I'm not particularly optimistic. My feeling is that just like in other subject areas there will be some strong programs out there and plenty of jokes. All I can do is worry about my little corner of the world so I'll do what I can to make sure teacher candidates at Hunter have the best possible experience and are as well prepared as they can possibly be.

comments powered by Disqus