All eyes looked up toward the ceiling as the steady hum of a high-flying drone videotaped the events in the large auditorium. The watchful eyes of the more than 300 computer science (CS) teachers and administrators witnessed how the new technology of the flying apparatus videotaped the general session of the inaugural WeTeach_CS Summit launched by The University of Texas at Austin’s Center for STEM Education. The educators gathered at the Summit, sponsored by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the Texas Regional Collaboratives (TRC), to explore new ways for them to engage and excite students through computer science. The drone demonstrated how new technology can improve existing tools – just as technological breakthroughs can improve CS instruction.
The inaugural WeTeach_CS Summit, June 7-9 in Austin, provided the opportunity for Texas K-12 educators to network, learn more about innovative CS tools and incorporate cutting edge curriculum to instruct their students. Over three days, attendees heard from expert speakers in general sessions, panel discussions, 56 breakout interactive presentations, as well as participate in a student expo “CS playground.”
“Launching the WeTeach_CS Summit was a response to the need for educators to learn collectively and share CS instructional methods,” said Carol Fletcher, PhD, deputy director of the UT Austin Center for STEM Education. “We were blown away by the positive feedback from participants including one teacher who said the Summit provided her with the most meaningful professional development she ever had because of the upbeat vibe, hands-on tools and truly inspirational speakers. She said it made her motivated and inspired to learn even more about programming for herself and her students.”
How is CS instruction actually “inspiring?” At the Opening Session, CS Teacher Joy Schwartz, Hardin-Jefferson ISD, described the CAD program she and her students used to create a 3-D printed prosthetic arm for a local, seven-year-old girl Izzy Miller, who demonstrated to attendees how she used it in her everyday life. Schwartz said, “My students and I had an amazing journey this past school year utilizing technology in our classroom. My hope is that other districts and educators will join us on this adventure, and make a difference in the lives of others.”
At the Lessons Learned from Successful Business Partnerships panel discussion, high-tech leaders discussed the vision each of their companies have to a broaden and diversify access to high quality CS for students because that is vital to the future success of American businesses. After viewing the panel session, a participant commented, “All in all, the summit meeting was great. It was very inspiring to see Microsoft, Google, Oracle, and AT&T all sitting at the same stage cooperating to make Texas computer science education a success.”
The session Is Computational Thinking (CT) an Old Idea in a New Package or a Profoundly 21st Century Creation?, led by Chris Stephenson, head of computer science education programs at Google, focused on how computational thinking impacts curriculum design and the challenges of implementing it into classroom practice. An attendee noted, “I learned about computational thinking dispositions, like confidence, persistence and ability to handle ambiguity. These are just as important as knowing control and data structures. I hadn’t thought of that before.”
Colleen Lewis, PhD, assistant professor of computer science at Harvey Mudd College in California, provided an energized presentation Expanding Access to CS: Why and How. She explained that 40 percent of CS majors at Harvey Mudd now are women and she encouraged Summit attendees to help continue to diversify CS-related fields by doing all they could in their classrooms to remove structural and cultural barriers to students’ access to CS. For tips on teaching CS, go to CSTeachingTips.org
A unique WeTeach_CS “playground expo” offered Summit attendees a way to observe student’s projects and bring the engaging, relevant and empowering opportunities to their own classrooms. Students from Pflugerville ISD, Austin ISD, Del Valle ISD, Belton ISD and Hardin-Jefferson ISD demonstrated the various robotic, video game design, coding and 3D printing projects they created.
The inaugural WeTeach_CS Summit’s success exceeded expectations with the amount of information exchanged, number of attendees, and positive feedback. The Summit was a first step in the Center for STEM Education’s ongoing mission to educate, inspire, and empower teachers so they can lead students beyond being just technology consumers to technology innovators and digitally literate citizens in general. Much more is in the works to prepare students for the estimated one million more technological jobs needed than there will be people to fill them in the next few years. The goal of helping Texas lead the way to train today’s students to be the technology leaders of tomorrow is vital. The WeTeach_CS Summit helped Texas school educators move one step closer to that target.
Thank You Presenters!
The WeTeach_CS Summit was a success in part thanks to the wonderful line-up of presenters representing the following organizations:
Google, Oracle, IBM, AT&T, the National Integrated Cyber Education Research Center, College Board, The University of Texas, Duke University, Trinity College, GitHub, Rice University, Code.org, NCWIT, EdTech, and DonorsChoose.org. Austin ISD, Round Rock ISD, Pflugerville ISD, TEALS, Project GUTS, Bootstrap, Exploring Computer Science, UT Dallas, UT Tyler, TACC, Hardin-Jefferson ISD, DonorsChoose, Harmony Schools, Lancaster ISD, Houston ISD, Whitesboro ISD, Aldine ISD, Region 18 ESC, Iraan-Sheffield ISD, Changing Expectations, TACSE, Valdosta State, Uteach, Sheldon ISD, Republic Schools, Milwaukee Public Schools, Muhlenberg College, Harvey Mudd College, Future of Privacy Forum, PRIVO, Lakehill Preparatory School, Towns County Schools, and 100Kin10.
The WeTeach_CS Summit was sponsored by the Texas Regional Collaboratives, which is headquartered at The University of Texas at Austin Center for STEM Education. The Center is a research, teaching, and service unit located in the College of Education. Its mission is to improve the teaching and learning of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Computer Science.
- WeTeach_CS CS Summit 2016
- Texas Regional Collaboratives (thetrc.org)
- Center for STEM Education