C’est la Z: a computer science teacher’s blog

Mike Zamansky is a very experienced and highly-regarded computer science teacher in New York, and founder (I think?) of the upcoming New York City Academy of Software Engineering (here’s Joel Spolsky on the topic). Imagine, then, my delight at discovering that he’d recently started blogging again.

I love his latest post on teaching:

I’ve been thinking a lot about my career as a teacher recently. I decided to leave industry over twenty years ago. As teachers, particularly teachers with technical backgrounds we leave a financially lucrative field to enter one with very few financial rewards. It’s also a field very much under attack, particularly in recent years. […] So, what do I get out of the deal? Well, when I hear form my graduates, I know that I’ve made a difference. Also, the friendships I’ve developed over the years.

His other pieces are great, too — thoughts (with starter code!) on a software engineering class project that teaches design through implementation, some reflections and suggestions on the Stanford profs’ CS classes, and some details of a lesson module he developed to teach 2-D arrays (again, with code). Fantastic.

“Computer Science is not Digital Literacy”

Jodie Fraser:

Digital literacy means the the skills and confidence to take an active role in engaging in networks, and in shaping and creating opportunities – social, political, cultural, civic, and economic, and we shouldn’t be collapsing these broader rights into the relatively narrow concerns of computing science as a curriculum area.

Article via Fraser Speirs (that’s a lot of Frasers). Mildly surprising, to me at least, is his strong support for the argument raised in the link article, given that he’s a programmer and Computer Science teacher. This piece of his on “technology for subjects not traditionally well-served by technology” may serve to explain why, but I’m still trying to digest all of this.

BBC: ICT to be replaced by CS in schools

From September, England’s schools will offer computer science classes instead of ICT (a.k.a. IT ‘skills’ such as PowerPoint and Excel):

The current programme of information and communications technology (ICT) study in England’s schools will be scrapped from September, the education secretary will announce later. The subject will be replaced by compulsory lessons in more rigorous computer science and programming.

Not sure how they’ll start this up so quickly, given this glaring problem:

“There are, of course, significant challenges to overcome, specifically with the immediate shortage of computer science teachers.”

See also this Guardian article: “Out of 28,000 teachers who qualified in 2010, just three individuals had a computer-related degree.” Similarly the case here, although the return of A-level Computing should imply that NIE will be doing something about training CS teachers.

I’m still on the fence about whether CS absolutely needs to be taught at a pre-tertiary level. There was some interesting discussion on this recently between a couple of Mac developers — see this blog post by Guy English on “Scripting is the New Literacy”, a response to this piece by Daniel Jalkut encouraging everyone to “Learn to Code”.

(News via Matt Johnston.)