CS Teacher education and blogs

One of my problems/worries in this job has been my total lack of programming teacher education. I became a programming teacher because back in ’82, in the school where I got my first teaching job, the math teacher was the programming teacher. Not that they had a programming teacher at that time, they just had 2 TRS-80’s in the math room that nobody know what to do with and thought having a programming class would be a good idea. With only 25 kids in the high school it is amazing how fast you can get a course up and running. The rest is history. In the 28 years since (egads!) I have had one college level programming class, a Java class that I could have taught better that the instructor. The lack of upper level programming experience is not what bothers me, learning a language just requires some time and a couple of books. What bothers me is never having seen a good programming teacher at work or really knowing how to teach programming (curriculum, pedagogy, all that good stuff). To get a CS certification in Montana is really a bit fuzzy. I got mine because of that one 3 credit programming class and having worked in a programming business for 6 months (not as a programmer). Montana offers no CS methods courses in any of its colleges. Most of the “CS” teachers in the state teach applications and are business teachers. Those of us that teach programming, as far as I have been able to determine, have the same basic back ground as that I have and learned to teach programming when given a programming class to teach. For many years this lack of background was a great bother. Once the internet got going I was not quite in limbo and I became a little more confident that what I was doing was not going to scar students for life. Now that CS teacher blogs are becoming more common I can actually talk to high school programming teachers out there to get ideas and I can compare notes. Alfred Thompson’s CS Teacher blog is the first blog I ever started following and I think has led me to every other blog I watch. Contrary to what Montana’s Office of Public Instruction thinks, CS is simply growing too fast, and becoming too significant a high school course topic, for its teachers to be hanging out in knowledge limbo. Until proper CS teacher education becomes a necessity in Montana (unlikely and a topic I can rave about for pages), following and communicating through blogs has to be my primary learning source. Thank goodness there are some sharp people out there that like to talk.

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