Category Archives: Recruiting

I feel like I can do anything with this pin on! – CS Honor Society

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I am so proud to have inducted 17 students into the Powhatan High School Computer Science Honor Society!  These students have exceeded the academic requirements and have committed to serve their community by promoting computer science education!

Buffie Holley from Albemarle High School in Charlottesville Virginia is the project lead for this CodeVA founded honor society. Buffie and CodeVA have made this process easy and seamless. For more information, go to the CodeVA  honor society page. On this page, you will find the VA CS Honor Society Constitution, a template for the charter by laws, and the charter application.

I am so excited to honor my students that have worked hard supporting computer science education in our county. This has proved to be a great way to celebrate their accomplishments and passion.

After I handed out the initiation pins to my students, one of my female students said “I feel like I can do anything with this pin on!”.

I have spent the last 18 years teaching math and computer science at Powhatan High School in Powhatan Virginia. I currently teach Algebra 2, Exploring Computer Science/Game Design, and AP Computer Science. I also facilitate a Middle School Tech Club, Game Design and Tech Divas Summer Camps.

What Holds Girls Back from Computer Science – an update

A few weeks back I blogged about an infographic that was making the rounds.

I am so happy to say that the infographic has been updated:

Better, no?

I am so glad to see the update. Gone is the one of blame and the factual errors about the APCS exam. The whole tone reflects their stated purpose of “Teach Girls To Program Before People Tell Them They Can’t Do It”. Great approach.

I really love that they now include information on stereotype threat. Joanne Cohoon at UVA has done a lot of great work on this as it relates to females in computer science. It is her research at NCWIT the reference at the bottom. And while we are at it, have you been to a Tapestry Workshop? If not put it on your list for next summer, absolutely will change your teaching. Resources from past workshops are posted on the site, so you can read ahead,

Well done!

Created by Rebecca Dovi

I have spent the last 18 years teaching math and computer science at Powhatan High School in Powhatan Virginia. I currently teach Algebra 2, Exploring Computer Science/Game Design, and AP Computer Science. I also facilitate a Middle School Tech Club, Game Design and Tech Divas Summer Camps.

Top Five Industries Go Mobile

This is from Mashable’s Business Section. It lists the top five businesses that have embraced mobile technologies.

For high school students it raises some interesting questions about where they might be working in the future. Many of the kids I teach do not end up working in fields strictly defined as computer science, yet no matter where they go they will be using computing devices.
So what does that mean for our students? To be part of the group of people that have influence…the deciders if you will, means you need to have a specific set of skills. Last century it was literacy. To have a chance at being a person of influence meant you had to read and communicate well.

Clearly those skills are still crucial, but in the past few decades a parallel set of skill has emerged. Computing.

I don’t mean typing and application literacy. Beyond that students need to understand computing at a deeper level to be able to decide what problems computers can, and cannot, be used to solve.

That is why this graphic is so interesting to me. Think about your student planning on going into the restaurant/food industry. While mastery of a particular programming language may not be something they need I would argue that the underlying ideas and concepts of computer science will serve them well. That skill sets them apart in an industry that is becoming more and more reliant on computing devices.

It’s an advantage more of our students should be getting.

Created by Rebecca Dovi

I have spent the last 18 years teaching math and computer science at Powhatan High School in Powhatan Virginia. I currently teach Algebra 2, Exploring Computer Science/Game Design, and AP Computer Science. I also facilitate a Middle School Tech Club, Game Design and Tech Divas Summer Camps.

Why Teach Computer Science – Facebook Discussion

So last week on Facebook I posted this link: Teach US Kids to Code. It brought up a really interesting discussion between some of my former students about computer science classes.

Now back when I taught these kids (now very much grown up and in their careers) my focus was mostly code, code and more code. I am happy to say my teaching has grown since then. Our discussion centered on the fact that many kids just don’t “get” coding. They pointed out that half the kids in our classes never really moved beyond variables. And honestly this was my fault.

Without the broader context the abstraction of computer science can be overwhelming. Especially for an age group that has not necessarily hit the abstract thinking phase of development. Abstract thinking starts in early adolescence and continues until they are in their early 20’s. And as teachers we can’t control where they are in that spectrum.

What I can control are the activities and topics we do in class. By building a scaffolding through engaging activities you create a framework and a context for all these abstract things. Though practice comes understanding.

This leap from teaching code to teaching computer science has been the biggest development in my career.

NCIS

So here is what I wrote. It is the core of why I think every kids deserves computer science in school.

In a way it is asking the question from the wrong angle. For instance in Latin there is no expectation that every student become a master level linguist. There is an understood intrinsic benefit to studying something rigorous even if you do not hit mastery.

For too many cs classes we have a kind of Jedi master approach  You will either become expert, or get nothing out of the experience. I think there is a valuable middle. 

I assume all of my students will engage with some type of computing device in their professional lives. Having some experience with programming means they have a better understanding of what these devices can and cannot do.

We’ve hit the point where cs is the magic trick…watch any old episode of NCIS to see that. For too many people you hit the button, magic occurs and answers appear. Any person with some cs experience knows how untrue that is, and how manipulative it can be.

We are at a point where you are either someone that understands this, or is getting tricked. It has become a basic literacy issue.

So no, many of my students will not master abstraction or recursion, but my classes also cover the culture of cs. They don’t have to get every nuance of programming to understand some of the science behind what we do.

And that knowledge puts them on the stage with the magician, maybe holding the hat but still on stage, rather than in the audience. Cs should be more than a fun show. We depend on these devices so much that cs is a core part of being a literate person of influence.

 

Created by Rebecca Dovi

I have spent the last 18 years teaching math and computer science at Powhatan High School in Powhatan Virginia. I currently teach Algebra 2, Exploring Computer Science/Game Design, and AP Computer Science. I also facilitate a Middle School Tech Club, Game Design and Tech Divas Summer Camps.

Recruiting for Computer Science – the AP Potential Report

For many high schools it is recruiting season. If you school has an AP program there is a little kown report, called the AP Readiness Potential, that can help you in attracting kids to your classes. This is an especially helpful way of identifying girls and other groups that may not already be taking your Computer Science classes.

Basically this report takes students’ PSAT scores and predicts the AP tests they are statistically likely to score well on. It is based on a past correlation between past PSATs and AP exams.

While we do not yet have this for APCS Principles, since no AP tests have been given yet, we do have it for the current APCS class.

A new feature is teachers can now log in to see the reports. To access the report you will need an access code. You can get this code from the person in your building that coordinates the AP exams. I find that person often doesn’t know about the report, or have any idea of how to find the code.

You can call to get your school’s code. The number is 866-630-9305. You just have to identify yourself and your school.

The login for the site is here. You’ll need an account for AP Central. Once you pull the report the site even has sample letters to send home to parents. I have found letters directly to parents to be a powerful way to attract kids to computer science.

Long term I am very curious to see how this test correlates for the new APCS Principles class. Since much of the assessment for this course will be written it will be interesting to see if a correlation with the writing section of the PSAT.

Created by Rebecca Dovi

I have spent the last 18 years teaching math and computer science at Powhatan High School in Powhatan Virginia. I currently teach Algebra 2, Exploring Computer Science/Game Design, and AP Computer Science. I also facilitate a Middle School Tech Club, Game Design and Tech Divas Summer Camps.

How *GIRLS* Hold Themselves Back from Pursuing Computer Science

Full disclosure – this is a rant. If you are not in the mood, keep browsing.

First, the facts here are a-OK.

“Changing the World Starts with Changing your Perception”. Quote from the bottom. I couldn’t agree more.

I can only hope the rest of this was created innocently and the blame the victim tome in unintentional. Because really, it is the girls fault that they experience these misconceptions?

So a little back story, I was one of these girls. I had programmed as a hobby for 5 years by the time our AP Computer Science teacher showed up to recruit in my precalc class. In fact I was probably one of the only kids in my school that had programmed at all – it was the early 90’s and my coding was definitely odd.

So why didn’t I sign up? Honestly it wasn’t any of what is listed below. I was a smart kit, a nerd. I went on to major in math in college – a predominantly male field. I had professors that openly said that girls didn’t understand math, and yet I stayed, because I am rather stubborn like that.

I remember sitting there thinking – there’s a class about this? Cool. Then he said the magic words “if you are good at math then you’ll be good at this”.

And that did it, I was out. At 17 I didn’t see myself as good at math, even though my 99% was one of the highest grades in the class. I studied hard, did my homework, therefore I had a high grade. It wasn’t innate ability, I just worked hard.

And this perception wasn’t my fault. Just like the stereotypes in this infographic are not the fault of the girls who internalize them.

And in full fairness it was in no way the fault of the CS teacher. I had him in AP Calculus the following year and he is a large part of my confidence in overcoming these stereotypes and becoming a math major in college. He was just doing what we did back then. I did it too when I started teaching cs, good at math = good at programming. We didn’t know better.

The saddest part is that I am not the only girl I know with a story like this. I have sent girls off to college, recently even, to hear them have the same experiences in their computer science courses. To be the one girl sitting in an auditorium and have a professor turn around and say to the group “Don’t worry, girls never get this” is inexcusable.

So, how can you really help? Lets start by not blaming the girls.
How Girls Hold Themselves Back from Pursuing Computer Science [INFOGRAPHIC]
This infographic by Play-i. Play-i is creating a programmable robot that teaches computer science to kids ages 5+ in a fun, accessible way. To get updates, sign up here.

Created by Rebecca Dovi

I have spent the last 18 years teaching math and computer science at Powhatan High School in Powhatan Virginia. I currently teach Algebra 2, Exploring Computer Science/Game Design, and AP Computer Science. I also facilitate a Middle School Tech Club, Game Design and Tech Divas Summer Camps.

Google at Grace Hopper

I was at Grace Hopper two weeks back as a part of the CSTA leadership Advocacy meeting. As always lots of great information.

I spotted this video posted in LinkedIn earlier today – it is a great view of the types of jobs available in tech, and how girls fit in to the picture.

Google Loves Grace Hopper

Created by Rebecca Dovi

I have spent the last 18 years teaching math and computer science at Powhatan High School in Powhatan Virginia. I currently teach Algebra 2, Exploring Computer Science/Game Design, and AP Computer Science. I also facilitate a Middle School Tech Club, Game Design and Tech Divas Summer Camps.

Five Things YOU Can Do To Help Computer Science Education

This week Time magazine ran an article: Can We Fix Computer Science Education in America? You should go read it. No problem, I’ll wait.

The tech industry is one of the few bright spots in a dim economy. So why aren’t we teaching kids the skills they need to participate in it?

Indeed.

The good news is there are a lot of folks out there working on this.

There are of course there are programs like Exploring Computer Science and the new CS Principles pilot that offer curriculum and training for teachers trying to build computer science in our schools.

But the real question is what are YOU doing? This issue impacts all of us. It is not OK to just sit there hoping someone else is plugging away at this. Seriously, Cameron Wilson‘s great, but he’s pretty busy already. Five things you should do NOW to help computer science education:

  1. Get every kid you know under the age of 10 hooked on Scratch or Alice or even QBasic. Let them play, and ask questions, and show off what they make.
  2. Ask if computer science is in your local schools – then ask why not. Oh, and don’t just ask about your school…ask about that other one, down the block. The urban/rural/under-served school. Those kids need this too.
  3. Stop blaming guidance counselors and administrators and every other bogey man out there. No one likes whiners, and those folks are busy worrying about dropout rates and intruder drills and grumpy parents. Give them something to value in computer science. Positive energy breeds long term success. Make the Computer Science program something they can brag about.
  4. Go to a CSTA meeting. No local chapter? Start one – it’s super easy.
  5. Select one:
    1. If you are in Virginia – comment on the new technology SOLs. Not sure what to say? How’s this: Computer Science is the discipline underlying all innovation, especially in the STEM fields. Our students need to move beyond just working on learning computer applications to learning the computer science topics that will build their success in school and future careers. Computer Science should be included in the Computer Technology SOL’s.
    2. Don’t live in Virginia? First, yes our standardized tests are called SOL’s. No, that is not a joke. Second – find your state standards. Is computer science in there? Just figuring out where you state stands is a great first step.

So my question for you – what are YOU doing?

Created by Rebecca Dovi

I have spent the last 18 years teaching math and computer science at Powhatan High School in Powhatan Virginia. I currently teach Algebra 2, Exploring Computer Science/Game Design, and AP Computer Science. I also facilitate a Middle School Tech Club, Game Design and Tech Divas Summer Camps.

CS Principles in a Nutshell

NCWIT site @ CS Principles
Don’t know why I had never spotted this…it is the best quick summary of the CS Principles pilot I have seen so far.

Created by Rebecca Dovi
I have spent the last 18 years teaching math and computer science at Powhatan High School in Powhatan Virginia. I currently teach Algebra 2, Exploring Computer Science/Game Design, and AP Computer Science. I also facilitate a Middle School Tech Club, Game Design and Tech Divas Summer Camps.

Why you Need a Popcorn Maker

Ok – I know, this is not exactly a programmable device.

But, I am assuming you want to get kids into your lab. I spent $20 on this last year and it has by far been the best piece of equipment I have added to our lab.

Why?

  • Teenagers like food
  • I have never in 16 years had a kid allergic to pop-corn
  • It is cheap food, and I am a teacher…enough said
  • As a mom I like that popcorn is relatively healthy. We eat it plain – no junk added. They grumble, but they still eat it.
  • The aroma brings kids in from the hall. I have at least two kids in my classes this year that first came to the lab for the popcorn

Created by Rebecca Dovi

I have spent the last 18 years teaching math and computer science at Powhatan High School in Powhatan Virginia. I currently teach Algebra 2, Exploring Computer Science/Game Design, and AP Computer Science. I also facilitate a Middle School Tech Club, Game Design and Tech Divas Summer Camps.