December 8, 2020

Reflecting on Computer Science (CS) Education Week 2020 and its theme #CSForSocialJustice, I think about the many outstanding CS teachers that my colleagues and I work with in our projects, Beauty and Joy of Computing and Equitable CS Implementation in All New York City Schools.

During COVID-19, these teachers are working hard to reach and engage students. Their work is challenging, inspiring, and exhausting. I thank them for their commitment and perseverance. Beyond question, supporting these and other dedicated CS teachers nationwide is a key step to ensuring all students have opportunities to explore and enjoy computing and build critical skills.

Drawn from EDC’s CS education initiatives, here are three strategies to support CS educators:

  • Give all CS teachers and students opportunities to be active CS learners. Teachers need quality curriculum resources designed to broaden student participation in CS, as well as professional development that gives them time to experience the same CS activities and projects they will use with students. “Learning by doing” helps teachers and students appreciate how powerful and empowering coding can be—building problem-solving skills, sparking creativity, and writing programs to express and make what they want. These experiences are essential for countering narrow perceptions of what CS is and who engages in it.
  • Give all CS teachers ongoing opportunities to collaborate with their colleagues. To engage and inspire diverse populations of learners, CS teachers need time to reflect, plan, problem solve, and share successful approaches and challenges. They need structures that support ongoing collaboration to ensure that new practices and strategies take root. Fostering teacher leadership and establishing CS professional learning communities that encourage teachers to turn to each other for support are both promising approaches.
  • Give all CS teachers institutional support and a strong technological infrastructure. Without leaders’ agreement that CS education is a priority and it will be invested in, teachers face significant challenges. To ensure all students have a strong CS education, teachers and students must have the devices and bandwidth essential to explore CS. This is a key equity and access issue that remains unresolved—particularly for low-income communities in both rural and urban settings—and is exacerbated by the pandemic. Schools must identify and close gaps and design intentionally for diversity in CS education. “CS for Some” is not good enough. To achieve social justice, these and other challenges need to be addressed systemically.

Together, these strategies can help ensure that CS changes are deep, systemic, and sustainable—and make #CSForSocialJustice a reality.

Questions? Strategies to share? Please comment below.

June Mark, an expert in mathematics and computer science (CS) education, is dedicated to ensuring all students receive high-quality mathematics and CS learning that prepares them for college and careers.
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