Computer Science Teacher Alfred Thompson

This is Alfred Thompson's blog about computer science education and related topics. Alfred Thompson
Updated: 2 hours 41 min ago

Resources for Teachers and the AP CS Principles Tasks

17 November, 2017 - 10:17

If you are teaching Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles for the first time as I am you probably still have lots of questions about the performance tasks. I know I do. Well it look like Jill Westerlund has our back. She has a series of blog posts on the subject that look very useful to me.

Exploring & Creating 101 — Part 1Exploring & Creating 101 – Part 2Exploring & Creating — Part 3aExploring & Creating – Part 3

Check out her abstractingCS blog regularly. I do.

Building off of Jill’s work, has created an "Explore PT Survival Guide" that also looks helpful.

Categories: Planet

Joint Task Force on Cybersecurity Education Draft Report

15 November, 2017 - 01:56

The Joint Task Force on Cybersecurity Education is working on curriculum recommendations for post secondary schools but I think their work will be of interest to teachers of other levels as well. It is probably going to be interesting to cyber security professionals as well. Their latest draft report is now available for download and comments at CSEC2017 v. 0.95 Report

Take a look. More information at the Joint Task Force on Cybersecurity Education website.

The JTF was launched in September 2015 as a collaboration between major international computing societies: Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), IEEE Computer Society (IEEE CS), Association for Information Systems Special Interest Group on Security (AIS SIGSEC), and International Federation for Information Processing Technical Committee on Information Security Education (IFIP WG 11.8).

The JTF grew out of the foundational efforts of the Cyber Education Project (CEP).


The purpose of the Joint Task Force on Cybersecurity Education (JTF) is to develop comprehensive curricular guidance in cybersecurity education that will support future program development and associated educational efforts.

The curricular volume, CSEC 2017, is estimated to be published in December 2017.

Categories: Planet

Can’t We (Computer Science people) All Just Get Along?

14 November, 2017 - 00:17

There is some real momentum in growing computer science for all people in the US. Even the Trump administration seems to be behind it (more or less). The pot of money for funding CS for All initiatives is growing. It’s not growing as fast as the number of people who are trying to work the problem though so it is still something of a zero sum game. And there in lies a problem – in fighting. At this point I feel like we are becoming our own  worst enemies.

Lately it seems like far too many people are taking sides against other who really have the same goals. Work with the Trump administration or fight them on every turn? Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.  Work with industry supported programs or demand that companies give money without strings even if you are working in ways contrary to the company’s responsibilities to their shareholders and employees? Promote your own programs by attacking the motives and strategies of other programs? It’s getting as bad as the major political parties in some ways.

There are dueling blog posts, contentious discussions (fights) on Facebook groups and Twitter. It’s starting to get embarrassing. If the media took a close look at us we’d really be in trouble. It’s only time before that happens though.

I understand that lots of people have educational programs they really believe in. I understand that they really want others to use what they have developed, tested, and often have research to support. Great! But are we really well served when different groups attack others? I think not. Could money be at the heart of it all? I think perhaps it is. It often is when money is in short supply compared to demand. In the long run I think we’d all be better fighting for a bigger pie than a bigger piece of the existing pie.

And then there is the gender issue. Oh boy! Now make no mistake I think programs like Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code are great. They are important. I’ve been pushing to increase the number of girls learning computer science for a very long time. I think it is essential for society in general and computer science in particular.  I’m not sure that leaving boys behind should be a goal though and at times (especially if you are the parent of a boy) it looks like it is a goal.

The assumption that boys will naturally get into computing on their own without help is as much a sexist bias as any suggesting girls are not interested in computing. This is especially true in poor, rural areas and in areas where minority students are the majority.  Rural areas in general get overlooked as groups try to focus on large population centers and yet they have needs as great as any inner city.

Now I am not saying we should stop having programs just for girls. Or that we don’t need programs specifically for other traditionally under represented groups. They are necessary. But let’s not be unsympathetic to other parts of our population just because they happen to be white or male.

And I am not saying that people should not promote their own educational programs. The more the better. But let’s not build our own programs by tearing down those of others.

Let’s work together, learn from each other, support each other, and present a united front to help the greater goal. Computer science for everyone.

Categories: Planet

CS Educator Interview: Adam Newall

9 November, 2017 - 22:05
With increasing interest in computer science before high school these days you may have noticed that I have a number of K-8 teachers in this series. Several of them use Bootstrap in middle school. Bootstrap is a great combination of math and computer science. As such it fits easily into middle school programs.Adam Newall is the latest interview with one of these teachers.

BTW did you miss my interview with Emmanuel Schanzer who created Bootstrap?

I teach at Pembroke Community Middle School. A public school for grades 7 and 8.

I teach a math applications class and Bootstrap: Algebra as an elective.

My district was looking to add electives to our schedule as well as curricula that would would help our students master algebra.  Bootstrap fit that need perfectly and I've been proudly teaching it for the past six years.

My students have felt very successful using Bootstrap and are proud of the accomplishments they have made in math and computer science as a result of their coursework.  It's been incredibly empowering for all students who are interested in computer science to gain a foothold at such a young age that can propel them further into the field.

I think I would defy simple categories.  I teach math, but not as I was taught it.  A few colleagues and I have built a curriculum for our course, math applications, which every student in both 7th and 8th grade takes, that requires the students to think critically and problem solve, applying math skills they have already learned in their traditional math courses.  I teach computer science, but I'm not a computer scientist.  I am a lifelong learner in every sense and am always adjusting my practice.  I think my school sees me as a teacher who is willing to take risks and question everything for the sake of making it better.

I believe in the "upside-down" teaching model that empowers students to be part of the learning process.  I frequently use project based learning to present students with scenarios that are authentic to real life in order to help them "own" on a deeper level the math skills that they already know.  Bootstrap fits my teacher personality as it gives students the opportunity to ask the questions, to rely on their knowledge, to help each other, and to feel invested in their success.

I think that the biggest challenge in teaching at my school is our level of technology saturation.  I would love to see students in a one-to-one model some day where they each have constant access to a school-authorized device.

My administration is incredibly supportive of teachers and the directions that we see for our classes.  Teaching Bootstrap at my school is one example of my administration's support--allowing me to pursue my interests and take on a brand new subject area for our entire district.

I measure the success of my students first on their excitement and their confidence in using math and in computer programming.  I  then measure their success by the numbers from pre and post test data that shows they are able to apply their math knowledge from Bootstrap back into the math classroom.  Our program has been successful as we were able to offer the first computer science curriculum in our district which has grown into the Bootstrap: Algebra and Reactive curriculums in the middle school as well as a new computer science teacher at the high school who teaches to the AP CS test.  It's been awesome.

I've never felt more important than the days I'm teaching Bootstrap. I can see students who have one "aha" moment after another because they made a dog move across their screen or their player jump up and down.  Some students have blossomed as learners, finally feeling like they've found their niche and really beginning to engage in their own learning. Other students have grown in their persistence; they run buggy code and then go on to track it down time after time until it's perfect, no matter how long it takes.  That is a model in perseverance that will follow them throughout their education and change how they view the world.  They are learning to be superheroes and I get to know I put them on that path.

· School name and web site:
· Twitter: @mr_newall

Note: The index for this interview series is at and is updated as new interviews are posted.

Categories: Planet

CS Educator Interview: Mike Zamansky–the update

7 November, 2017 - 22:20
When I last talked to Mike Zamansky for this blog he was teaching computer science at Stuyvesant high school (one of New York City’s entrance exam high schools). Since then he has had something of a career change. Like many great teachers he was looking for a chance to make an impact beyond one school. But I’ll let him explain more.

Since I last interviewed you, you’ve had some big changes. Tell us about what you are doing today.
I left Stuyvesant a little under two years ago and I'm now at Hunter College, part of the City University of New York (CUNY).

At Hunter I have two primary responsibilities. One is to develop K12 CS Teacher certification programs. The other is to build an undergraduate honors program in CS, connect Hunter CS to the tech industry and basically give NYC students a first rate option for a CS education that doesn't require taking on a mountain of debt.

What made you decide it was time for a change?
I think I accomplished all I could at Stuy and it was taking too much energy to keep the program where it was let alone advance it. It was also clear that the NYC DOE wasn't interested in engaging Stuy with at the helm so it was time to move on. It was also time for others to take the reins there. I've been privileged to work with some amazing teachers at Stuy and it was time for them to take the program to the next level.

When I was connected with Hunter I saw two amazing opportunities. I've pretty much given up on the NYC DOE. I'm convinced that they're going to roll out CS4All hastily and we'll end up with bad CS for all. Poorly prepared teachers and a weak curriculum. I hope I'm wrong but I don't think I am. Regardless of what the DOE does, if a class has a strong teacher that class has a chance.
Hunter prepares about 10% of NYC teachers so if I can steer the Hunter CS Education programs in the right direction then we can have a sizable impact.

As to the CS Honors program, I mentioned above that the city needs a  great affordable option. I'm proud of my work at Stuyvesant and proud that I worked at a public school all those years but at Stuy I only had access to kids that passed the test. True, we started our non-profit to get to more kids but that was limited. I'm still working with a select group in the honors program but as I'm also working with Hunter CS in general, I can impact a much wider range of students. That's exciting.

You’re developing teacher certification programs in computer science and building an honors undergraduate CS cohort. Can you describe those two efforts and what you are doing to implement them in more detail? Are you part of the CS department or the education department? Or a foot in each?
My appointment is in the school of education. That was mostly because I don't have a doctorate and this made things easier. Right now most of my work is in the computer science department under the school of Arts and Sciences since we're waiting for approval for my teacher ed programs.

On the CS Education front, we've designed two programs - a Masters program in CS Education and a Certificate program for teachers already licensed in another subject area. Unlike some other proposed programs we don't offer courses tied to specific curricula (APCS-A AP-CSP etc.) although we do expose our teacher candidates to many of the current offerings. Rather, we are requiring courses that cover methods, and curriculum development along with a depth and breadth of content knowledge. Our teachers will be able to teach anything out there and also design their own experiences for students.

We're also trying to convince NY State that programs like ours are the way to go rather than quick slapshot professional development and scripted curriculum. This means that we've also had to work out a way to transition to new certification requirements over a period of years and also allow for dual certification (math -> CS, CS -> math for example). Of course it remains to be seen what direction NY State goes in.

On the honors CS front I've designed a new intro course for my students that combines Hunter's normal first year of CS with some software engineering best practices and a few extras. We also hold a number of special events. Last year and this we attended Catskills Conf -- one of my favorite events of the year - think "tech conference meets summer camp" and we've also had guest talks, workshops  and more. I'm also working on recruiting all my former students who are now in the tech industry to support Hunter CS and work with the students -- I'm hoping this will be a huge win for both Hunter and ultimately New York City. It's an easy sell -- help an elite private university and you're not really helping equity and diversity. Help Hunter and you're still getting great kids but you can make a big impact on both equity and diversity.

A lot of my time now is trying to get the word out and convince high schools that Hunter is a great option.

How is the college environment different from the high school environment? Both for teaching and for “overhead?”
Teaching is much more relaxed for me. I'm only teaching one class and it meets twice a week. That's both good and bad. That's a far cry from 5 classes of 32 a day 5 days a week. The overall schedule is much more flexible. At Stuy, even if I didn't have classes I had to be in the building. Leaving early for a meeting involved paperwork and approval. As a faculty member at Hunter, it's much more free. We're treated much more professionally than teachers.

A big plus for me personally is the level of support I'm getting at Hunter. Everyone between me up to and including our president is on the same page for CS and CS Education. At Stuy I had an amazing team and amazing colleagues but the administration was never all that supportive and don't get me started on the DOE.

The biggest downside of Hunter is that I'm much more isolated. I still have great kids but since my office is in the Ed department far away from undergrads I don't see them as much. Likewise professors aren't around the same way as teachers. I'm trying to convince the higher ups to find me a space near the students since I think that's really important as we try to build a positive CS culture but space at Hunter is hard to find.

What did I not ask you about that you would like to know?
I think that's about it.

Where online can people learn more about the programs your working on  at Hunter?
Unfortunately, Hunter's in the middle of reworking its web site so there's a freeze on adding new content. There's a bit of info on the scholars program at but nothing specific to the Daedalus program. Once we have final CUNY and state approval of our Ed programs, those will go up as well but that's still pending.

I hope to have more of a web presence on both soon.

Do you have a Twitter account, blog, and/or other social media that I could share with my readers?
Note: The index for this interview series is at and is updated as new interviews are posted.

Categories: Planet
ACCE Partners
ACCE Partners
ACCE Partners
ACCE Partners