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Teaching Teachers

Our goal of introducing programming and algorithms starting in elementary school depends the creation of a very strong computer science curriculum for K-12 and having well-qualified, knowledgeable teachers to teach the material. Although we already have proposed a general-purpose curriculum for K-12 computer science, the issue of finding qualified teachers remains to be addressed.

Unfortunately, schools cannot compete with industry and universities for the people best suited to teaching programming and algorithms. Fortunately, there are several paths that schools can embark on to ensure the excellence of their computer science teaching staff:

  1. Educate the existing computer science staff. Most of the existing computer science staff at the elementary, middle, and high school level are inadequately prepared to teach both programming and algorithms. Most schools' idea of computer science is learning how to use applications like Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The rest make some attempt to teach computer science, but the teaching staff rarely knows much more than their prescribed lesson plans. To this end, we propose summer workshops for teachers involved in computer science education. There could be a summer workshop for each grade or school level (i.e. elementary, middle, high). Additionally, we propose the formation of a special committee for teaching computer science at lower school levels. This committee would ideally be composed of respected college educators from top computer science schools worldwide, as well as researchers into early acquisition of computer science such as Michael Tempel and Michael Fellows (see Works Cited). At the beginning, the workshops would be led by the committee members, focusing on the techniques needed to teach the subject matter and discussing different student learning styles. The teachers will also be taught to use the appropriate tools (e.g., KTurtle for teaching Logo or Eclipse for teaching Java). As time goes on and teachers gain experience, the workshops would have a greater emphasis on collaboration and discussion of effective lesson plans and teaching techniques. Note that these sorts of summer workshops already have been initiated, such as that led by Michael Tempel and Elizabeth Mauch.

  2. Hire undergraduate or graduate level computer science students from local universities. These students should have had teaching experience at the college level as teaching assistants, or at the very least adequate and solid knowledge of the topics being covered. Several students from universities like Stanford, MIT, Berkley, and many others, would be willing to volunteer to teach computer science topics at local schools. Most such students are more qualified than school teachers who may not have had programming experience besides that taught in the workshops we propose. As incentive for college students to participate in such a program, we also would suggest some amount of remuneration to encourage the students. If the public schools do not have the fiscal resources to support such a program, then universities could pick up the bill. Specifically, universities could give a small scholarships to students who are helping teach computer science at local schools. Such compensation should pose no problems for universities like Stanford whose endowment funds are billions of dollars.

Early Acquisition of Computer Science · ©2008 Justin Solomon and Peter Rusev