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C'est la Z

Who's missing from the picture

So, it's Computer Science Education Week. Full of rah rah events and everyone's gung ho about teaching computer science.

You all know that CS Ed is what I've dedicated most of my life to and maybe that's why I'm "not feeling it" in terms of CS Ed Week. Let me explain.

Yesterday there was a Twitter Conversation led by a "national panel of thought leaders in the field." Click on the link. If it's still active you can see the list of "facilitators" they were highligthing.

I know some of the people and heard of some of the names and I do respect some of them. The problem is that if you look down the list you'll notice something missing. There are zero K-12 teachers on the list. None, not one. Some of the people on the list taught in the past. I don't know how long and in what capacity, but there are no current teachers. None of us current teachers are worthy "thought leaders?"

This is a big danger with respect to CS Education. There are a small handful of us on the ground, actually teaching, with a strong CS background and with real successes.

I know there aren't many of us. People with a strong CS background that have decided to become career teachers but there are a few. Stuyvesant barely had a single AP CS class when I started teaching here and now we have nine teachers. We've exposed and inspired student after student to CS. People dismiss us -- "You're Stuyvesant, you have gifted kids." We do have great kids, but then why haven't programs like ours sprouted up at other high performing schools? I'd like to think I've had something to do with our success.

So, here we have an incredibly successful program but no one wants to engage us in terms of improving and developing CS Education. I know a handful of other great CS Educators around the country. They've similarly felt ignored, rebuffed, and unengaged.

I think the problem is twofold. First, our society has taken to blaming teachers for society's woes and places little value in what we do. Second, education is the one field that everyone thinks they're an expert in. You went to school so obviously you're qualified to teach. There's a huge difference in what I do and with giving a few guest talks.

I've tried to engage NYC's DOE a number of times. According to Mayor Bloomberg, the Academy for Software Engineering (afse) was my brianchild but the DOE didn't pay any regard to my early suggestions, I had no voice in the development process and when push came to shove, the DOE decided to hire a consultant with a track record far more limited than mine or my team's. I finally gave up asking how I would be involved.

I'm also a CSTA member. In fact, I'm a NY State CSTA Advocate. I've reached out for help and to offer it over the years but responses have been lukewarm at best.

I'm here, my colleagues are here. We want to do more but apparently educators need not apply.

Back to the Twitter Conversation. Here are just a few tweets and some comments:


More and more online resources like @codecademy mean computing clubs without a highly trained CS Teacher are possible. #csedweek


I like codecademy and like the fact that they're engaging educators, but when I read this it screams to me "doesn't get it." I just taught a lesson today that on the surface seems like it could be covered by some automated service but there's so much going on between the lines. It's like saying "we don't need history teachers, let them read a book or watch a movie." If the tweeter said that when commenting on teaching history, the tweeter would be laughed out of the room.


YES! RT @ruthef If we want CS teachers, we need to increase teacher pay and partner with industry to get tech into the classroom! #csedweek


It has more to do with the lack of respect payed to teachers. No matter how much you raise pay, it won't compete with private industry. Also, what makes a great tech person doesn't necessarily make a great teacher. You need that rare union of both.


One of the problems we have with CS Education is that not enough research is bring done. Not teaching or results. #CSEdWeek


Research? How about talking to the teachers on the ground and helping build more of them.


Encouragement works. There are amazing tech girls @superandomness @temiri Just awarded 310 outstanding girls #CSEDWeek


Yes, but who are you encouraging. I've had many NCWIT winners come from my program. Usually, the most deserving young ladies lose out to young ladies who are lesser candidates but better essay writers. In any event, we've already done the hard work at Stuy inspiring the kids. By the time NCWIT gives the awards, we've already done the hard work. How about helping us rather than taking credit for our work.

There are those of us out there who have succeeded in spite of a lack of support. Why not engage us, use as as models, or at the very least, study us and decide that we don't know what we're doing.

So, where does this leave us?

I'm still fighting the fight. I'm still trying to get NYC and Stuyvesant to recognize CS as a department and help me train teachers and build programs around the city, but I'm not hopeful.

Meanwhile the train lurches forward.

About a year ago I was speaking to a friend of mine who's well placed in the tech world. He had just met with a number of movers and shakers about CS and technical education. His take away: if we go the way they're looking to go, maybe we're better off not doing anything.

I share that fear. No one's pushing for CS Education harder than I am but I fear that we will get "CS Ed" as opposed to CS, much like many of us feel "Math Ed" has hurt math education in our country.

I'll close with the sentiment shared with my by another high level tech person after another meeting with movers and shakers. He told me:

"There are a small handful of successes, like you at Stuy, but basically, we're f*cked."
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