University of Calgary

Professional development for computer science teachers

UToday HomeJune 28, 2012

Computer science high school teachers discuss the continuing gender imbalance and other issues at a series of workshops organized by Gerry Donaldson of the Department of Computer Science. Photo by Riley BrandtComputer science high school teachers discuss the continuing gender imbalance and other issues at a series of workshops organized by Gerry Donaldson of the Department of Computer Science. Photo by Riley BrandtAbout 35 high school Computer Science Education (CSE) teachers from all over Alberta are gathered at the University of Calgary and workshops located in the presenters’ schools during the last couple weeks of June to take part in a series of workshops sponsored by Google.

The CS4HS (Computer Science for High School) workshops include presentations by high school teachers, discussions on new and emerging computer science curricula, and an opportunity to network, says organizer Gerry Donaldson, the high school outreach consultant and instructor in the Department of Computer Science in the Faculty of Science.

“The single most important thing is networking,” says Donaldson. “Historically, and still today, the computer science teacher is the only computer science teacher in the high school, and they have no one to discuss the curriculum or teaching plans or whatever.”

He says the teachers really benefit from meeting colleagues and exchanging and sharing ideas. High school computer science teachers face a myriad of issues, including changing programming languages, no standard textbooks or other resources, as well as their courses being lumped in and sometimes lost with animal husbandry, financial management and other electives.

Donaldson — who was one of the first teachers in the province to teach with personal computers in high school in the late 1970s — says the teachers are also trying to address the continuing gender imbalance among their students. Gerry attended a similar symposium at the University of Alberta on Monday and heard identical concerns from that group as well.

“Typically at the Grade 10 level, we get about 20 per cent or even 10 per cent of females, right across the province,” says Donaldson. “That’s an ongoing issue that we keep discussing to try to come up with strategies. We have to drill into the junior highs to really attract more girls to computer science classes.”

The four two-day workshops started last week and will continue this week. Google’s education group has given grants for CS4HS workshops in Canada, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China, New Zealand, and Australia.