As I ponder the 20 years of previous SIGCSE’s I have attended, ACM’s annual Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education technical symposium, I’m struck by the promise of number 21. A recent look at the program showed a wide array of sessions directly related to Computer Science Principles (CSP) and Exploring Computer Science (ECS) and other sessions indirectly related because of their relevance to secondary school computer science teachers. There are CSP and ECS sessions in all of the possible categories: papers, workshops, panels, and special sessions. In fact, there are so many, that although I was originally going to list them here, I decided to provide the link to the conference website and encourage you to look for yourself.
Why am I even bothering to point this out? A little history may be useful here. When I attended my first SIGCSE in 1994 I was disturbed by the fact that there were virtually no K-12 teachers in attendance. As it turns out, this wasn’t too surprising given the sessions in the program. In those days, finding even a token session related to Advanced Placement Computer Science was a challenge, let alone something more generally applicable to K-12. Some of us, including many college and university faculty interested in this issue (many of whom are part of the ECS/CSP community), set out to change that and finally succeeded in getting support for a K-12 day with some special sessions included in the program. This effort produced some success—at least in some years—but nothing sustained. The vicious cycle of too few K-12 teachers, not enough to draw them there, teacher funding issues, and the like left us feeling frustrated and wondering what strategy to try next to build the community that we knew was necessary to really make a difference.
And then came the first glimmer of CS10K—a call to action from Jan Cuny, a program director for the National Science Foundation’s Broadening Participation in Computing program. From that point on, there has been a slow but steady change—almost imperceptible for awhile, a few more teachers at a time—until last year the buzz around CSP and ECS started to become electric. For me, the most obvious turning point was during a panel describing the results of the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute’s (UEI) and Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education’s (CEMSE) study of the current landscape of PD. The room was filled with K-12 teachers and those teachers had a voice. They spoke to university faculty with force about their issues and the practice of teaching. Community is an amazing thing.
The 2014 SIGCSE program is a tribute to the hard work of this as yet small, but very mighty community that has poured their efforts into ECS and CSP. If you attended last year, do so again and if you didn’t please join us and add your voice.