Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson

This is Alfred Thompson's blog about computer science education and related topics. Alfred Thompson
Updated: 25 min 21 sec ago

Ideas for Computer Science Teachers from CS Teachers

16 August, 2017 - 05:29

For me one of the big benefits of social media is getting and sharing ideas from other computer science teachers. Blogs, Twitter, and Facebook are regular sources of good information. I’ve got several to share today.

It starts with Kimberly Laron’s Facebook post on a teaching aid for number systems. I’m always looking for new aids for teaching binary and the like. Her Google Sheets tool is pretty cool.  I made my own version for Excel because I’m an Excel sort of guy.

Then there are the cool images that Jill Westerlund shares on her blog at Say it better with Boolean && binary. She has a bunch of them and both shows images of how she is using them and direct links so you can download copies of them for your own use. Check them out. I’ll be using several of them in my own lab.

Another favorite thing is new projects or new takes on older projects. Doug Peterson who had a recent birthday wrote about the Birthday Project. Maybe you’ve used on or maybe not. In either case Doug’s take on it is a great read. Plus he links to the Wikipedia article on the Birthday Project for more information.  But there are more links than just that one. Visit Doug’s post for more.

Categories: Planet

#BUILTBYGIRLS Challenge - for teen girls with startup ideas

10 August, 2017 - 23:27

This looks interesting. Know a girl with entrepreneurship dreams and ideas?

#BUILTBYGIRLS is looking for the next wave of startup founders and change-makers. Are you building a mobile app, hardware device, robotics project, game, or something no one has invented yet? Does it have the potential to succeed in the real world?

Wow us with your product concept, designs and working prototype for the chance to win $10,000. Finalists will get the trip of a lifetime to San Francisco to pitch in front of expert girl judges, tech moguls and industry experts.

Are you ready to build the next big startup?


Girls 13-18 years old who can participate in SF from 9/14-20, 2017. Open to teams of up to 4.

Categories: Planet

How To Retain Computer Science Teachers

8 August, 2017 - 21:56
One of the big topics around computer science education is the shortage of teachers with enough CS knowledge to properly teach the subject. One fear is that anyone well enough versed in computer science to teach it is likely to leave teaching for industry. Mike Zamansky addressed this a bit recently with his post On Retaining Teachers. And earlier in Will we lose CS teachers to industry? This sort of discussion comes up a lot. The typical "answer" advanced is higher pay. Sounds great but not really practical.

Union rules in most public school systems prohibit paying premiums for different subject teachers. Where rules don't often custom or a systemic view of fairness (all teachers do the same job regardless of subject) prevent different salaries. If that is out, how does a school or school system retain teachers.

Mike Zamansky in his posts suggests non financial benefits for teachers. New electives for example. Letting teachers teach courses they enjoy is a good incentive. In the case of computer science teachers I can think of other incentives. Of course everyone is different and is motivated in different ways. So what seems good to me may not make everyone happy enough to stay. But I think they'll appeal to many.

Really things boil down to treating computer science teachers with trust and respect as well as giving them the tools to do their job better. For example, do computer science teachers have administrative privileges on the computers in their lab? If not, why not? One would expect that a well prepared CS teacher should be able to safely handle that responsibility. In fact it is often necessary for them to experiment with new tools and teaching techniques. Keeping administrative access from them shows a lack of respect and trust. That will make anyone feel less valued.

How about keeping teaching labs up to date? Yes it costs money but if you want students to be current then the equipment they learn on should be current. Plus making CS teachers find work around and hacks to deal with inadequate computers leads to frustration and discouragement. And by the way, the CS teachers should be consulted on decisions about computers and software for their labs. Believe it or not stories of teachers returning from summer break to find that PCs have been replaced by Apple Macs or Google Chromebooks are far to common. This is incredibly disruptive and makes for serious stress and aggravation for teachers.

Professional development is another area where CS teachers can use some support. While most systems have some money for professional development but teachers are not always encouraged to apply for it. With CS constantly moving regular PD is really necessary. Unfortunately it is not always close or inexpensive. Conferences like CSTA are wonderful but often districts are unwilling to pay the full cost (transportation and housing are the big costs.) These events are great for teachers but not all teacher can afford to pick up the slack on their own. Not on a teacher salary. Schools need to invest in CS teachers.

Related to both professional development and new electives (there are huge opportunities for CS electives that appeal to teachers and students alike) is some funding for new equipment for teaching. Not just the previously mentioned lab computers but things like Micro:bits, robots, quadcopters, and other electronics that can make CS more interesting and even more cross curricula. Different teachers have different interests and encouraging them to follow those interests and bring them to their teaching can be very motivating. And help with retention.

So that's my bit of brainstorming on the subject. What do you think? If you teach CS what sorts of thing motivate you to stay teaching and stay are your present school? What sorts of things make you want to leave? Maybe we can help our administrators out with some ideas.

Categories: Planet

Twitter Chats for Computer Science Teachers

7 August, 2017 - 22:33

With the isolation that many computer science teachers feel social media can be an important part of both building community and professional development. Recently I have focused on blogs (Five Must Read Blogs for Computer Science Teachers ) and an online forum ( An Online Forum for Computer Science Educators ). Today I'd like to list a few useful Twitter chats.

  • #csk8 5pm-6pm Pacific Time every other Wednesday during the school year. This is a must attend chat for CS teachers in pre-secondary education. I get a lot out of it myself FWIW.
  • #ethicalCS 5pm PT/8pm ET Wednesdays during the summer. I'm hoping it continues as discussions so have have been fascinating.
    • #caschat 8-9 pm London time, during term time.Hosted by Computing At School in the United Kingdom. Lots of value for those of us in other parts of the world as well.
    • #PiChatUSA Thursdays 8:30-9pm Eastern Time, if you use Raspberry Pi. in class you'll want to join this one
    • #InfyEdChat 5 PM PT / 8 PM ET Mondays. Each chat is hosted by a different person and very well run. I hosted one myself back in July 2017 Always interesting chats.
    • #TynkerChat Mondays at 4pm PT / 7pm PT for a 1/2 hour. very useful for people who use Tynker in their classroom.

    The Exploring Computer Science people are running their first Twitter chat tonight at 5PM Pacific time. Follow at #ECSedu

    Personally I really like Twitter chats. I've really found a bunch of people to learn from through these events. And of course learned a lot from them.

    BTW I recommend checking those hash tags from time to time when there are not formal chats going on. People often use them to signel information of value to others who participate in these chats regularly.

    Categories: Planet
    ACCE Partners
    ACCE Partners
    ACCE Partners
    ACCE Partners