Feedback from a private school teacher

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Selena Deckelmann

Sep 10, 2012, 4:36:12 PM9/10/12
I spoke with morning with Laura, the woman who commented on my blog post about the Djangocon keynote.

I asked her most of the questions from the pirate pad, and here were her answers:

Could you tell me about the classes you teach related to computers or computer science?

She teaches an introductory class on computer science to high-school aged kids. She also has taught computer graphics and animation. And like many CS teachers, she didn't go to school for CS, but has a PhD in English. 

If there's one thing you could change about your curriculum for that class (or classes) today, what would it be?

I asked this slightly differently -- I asked about curriculum development, and how she was handling getting the right kind of curriculum for her students. She brought up that in the private school she had to present curriculum to her board and get the entire thing approved. And for something like the "Exploring Computer Science" curriculum -- it was actually *too* detailed and too long for her to be able to get approval easily. She had to work through it, pick and choose the lessons that would work for her board and her students before she could get it through.

This was a very interesting take on the curriculum that no one had mentioned to me before. So... I'm going to explore this issue a bit more with her and find out how she went about piecing together the curriculum she's using today. 

Do you know any other computer science teachers?

Laura said that she's met a few other teachers, but finds it hard to stay in touch. Also, when she went to CSTA, it was very focused on Microsoft software solutions, which turned her off. She said that she had a hard time finding like-minded teachers. 

She also brought up a book project Greg Wilson is working on that's educators writing about CS teaching, oriented toward people like us. Her essay is due by the end of the week, and then the book should come out January-ish? (maybe earlier!)

How do you stay in touch with other computer science teachers?

We talked about this -- and she has a list of blogs of teachers and researchers she follows. I suggested that maybe we could create a planet-type aggregator of blogs like this, focusing on CS teachers.  AND we had the idea of creating a weekly roundup of CS education blog posts, articles etc to publish that could rotate from blogger to blogger. Something like this was created for database administrators and it's hugely popular. Just need a good name for it :)

What's your impression of open source software? Do you know any other open source software developers?

Laura is married to an open source developer and loves this world. She loves python and would like to find more ways of engaging folks. She recommended 'Program or be programmed' by Douglas Rushkoff. And she pointed out that CS teachers are hearing lots from researchers and professors in universities, but don't often have an opportunity to talk to *each other*. And, I'm paraphrasing her -- that often those researchers and professors presume to know exactly what it takes to teach kids, when they're not doing it themselves. She loves the idea of finding ways of getting CS teachers to be able to communicate directly with one another, and share what is really working in their classrooms. 

A huge barrier to sharing is that CS teachers are often teaching wildly different things. So one aspect of all this work is knowing that many CS teachers will feel as though they can't collaborate with one another because their core curriculum is based on things that few other teachers use. This is an interesting problem, and rather than focus on standardizing -- I wonder if we can come up with another way of helping the teachers collaborate across diverse curriculum.

Overall, I really enjoyed my conversation with Laura, and we agreed to start talking every two weeks about what we're both working on. I'm also inviting her to join this list. :)


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