A week of PD again: not what I want but the only show to be had

I spent last week in Butte MT at a Mobile CSP teacher training/PD.  MCSP uses App Inventor as the language.  I like and dislike App Inventor.  I really like the fact kids can easily get an Android app on their phone that actually works.  Super cool.  I am not so crazy about the drag-and-drop format of the language.  It is great initially for small programs but it hits a wall pretty quickly.  I really wish there was a line code mode like MakeCode.  I cannot squawk to much, the price is in my budget range.

My biggest gripe about the week long PD was that it was a how to program and how to use the MCSP curriculum, not a how to teach problem solving, nothing on program troubleshooting, no pedogical ideas, none of the real classroom teacher needs.  There were two groups in attendance, beginning CS teachers, mostly business teachers which are the largest group in the state of Montana that are certified to teach CS courses, and one out of the twenty who were experience CS teachers (me).  (For further reading on this gripe see http://blog.acthompson.net/2018/06/teach-me-how-to-teach-not-what-to-teach.html and http://cestlaz.github.io/posts/pd-for-cs/#.Wz1DitJKhP.)  I knew what I was attending, this is the same group I was with last summer for a week long Python PD.  I attended knowing ahead of time what the theme was going to be.  But I always hope.  The best thing I get out of these is the networking with other teachers.  Admittedly I am by far the most experienced in the classroom but that does not mean there are not some excellent teachers in the group and some excellent ideas in the room.

It would seem about time a PD designed around problem solving, program troubleshooting, pedagogy, project based programming, what languages are good for teaching what, tech issues and so on was offered.  Admittedly I do not know where the instructors or the money for this would come from but it is time to start working this out.  The course for the last two summers were funded by an NSF grant.  A pretty big grant because it paid the attendees $1000 for the week and paid for rooms and per diem.  I need to figure out this NSF grant thing.  I also need to research and write up a course (maybe just plagiarize the heck out of Doug Bergman’s “Computer Science K-12”.  It is way up in Montana, who would know?).  Since next school year I am teaching 6 preps and doing the IT thing this may take a while.

It was very interesting talking to the teachers and their relationship with their IT departments.  Two of us were from private schools.  No problems there, I am my school’s IT department and the other was a school even smaller than mine so the IT was very informal.  The public school CS teachers all seemed to be in a state of war with their IT departments.  Any requests are automatic “No”.  One teacher was not allowed to use Raspberry Pi (What is the plural of Pi?  Pis?  Pies?  Something new to ponder.) because the IT director did not know what they were.  Using YouTube is a major hassle.  I know of at least three ways to make select YouTube videos available to teachers.  It seems their IT departments could not be bothered to find a solution.  I do not understand this.  Public schools seem to be terrorized by the possibility little Johnny might use a school computer to do something bad that they have reached the point where little Johnny has trouble doing anything on a school computer.  I mentioned to one teacher how I get laptops donated from businesses and just give them to the kids to keep.  The idea seemed totally out there to them.  Public school is just getting weird.

3 Responses to “A week of PD again: not what I want but the only show to be had”

  1. Alfred Thompson Says:

    Several times I have done training for teachers in Visual Basic. I feel terrible today that what I was teaching was almost all about using the language and libraries. I tried to teach some trouble shooting and share some ideas about how to teach (at least in the longer workshops) but really it was too much like what you describe.

    Now in my case I was teaching mostly experienced teachers and content was what they probably needed most at that time. But I wish I had been able to teach more of the how to teach. Other than by example. I hope I was a good example.

  2. zamanskym Says:

    Here are some of the public school issues here w/r to IT:

    1. Staffing is hard – the pay is horrible for what you’re doing so it’s hard to find anyone who’s any good given what you can get outside of the school system. This isn’t the same as arguing that a CS teacher might teach instead of going to the private sector because those are different jobs for different pay. In the case of IT staff the pay is better in the private sector for the same work.

    The best you can do is get someone young and energetic who’ll learn on the job but you’ll cycle through them as their skill set goes up.

    2. Overworked – at one point, I counted Stuy to have over 300 computers (PCs and Macs), at least three networks including our student network, the DOE IBM Token ring network and a third private network. This isn’t counting the internet connection I maintained. We had a single person in charge of all of this

    3. Being pulled in multiple directions – IT people at Stuy are being pulled in one direction by the DOE (no youtube, lock things down), the teachers, and the school administration.

    It makes for a tough situation in the best of circumstances.

    That said, I’ve worked with some IT people in public schools who were great people and some who are absolute jerks.

  3. gflint Says:

    I agree with 1, 2 and 3. I am part of 1. A math teacher with no IT training, learning as I encounter problems. I teach at least half time so 2 is an issue. When the network goes down I leave my students in the care of the teacher next door and head for the server room. Not a good solution. One year I was full time IT. When everything was working I was bored. As for 3 there are solutions to almost all access problems but 1 and 2 come into play.

    I used to have monthly in-service meetings with all the local school IT folks. We would sit and chat about difficulties we have encountered. It was a great leaning event. (The organizer transferred so the meetings quit. Bummer.) I did get a sense for the public IT attitude from these meetings. They were afraid to do anything without multiple levels of approval. CYA was the theme at all times. Sad.

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