By: Amy Pavelich, Zulama Copy Editor
“Computer science is a liberal art, it’s something everyone should know how to use, at least, and harness in their life.” —Steve Jobs
To all educators who are dedicated to helping students realize their full potential: We’re asking you to take a hero’s journey, if you will. This adventure will reshape how you think, give you the ability to enhance your classroom experience, and propel your students into the future. Want in?
Your Call to Adventure
We call upon you to action: Challenge yourself to gain new and relevant skills through computer science professional learning and develop a stronger understanding of your mindset. These steps not only will help you discover more about yourself as a teacher, but also they will give you the tools to empower and engage your students.
Why Start This Journey?
The number of students seeking majors in computer science (CS) at colleges and universities is unprecedented and set on a trajectory that far exceeds previous trends. Kids want to shape their futures through CS because it’s part of their daily lives; they understand how it touches every discipline, that every field is an information field.
Average number of CS majors per unit since 2006. “Unit” denotes the administrative division responsible for the CS bachelor’s program. Source: Computing Research Association.
Despite the high demand for K–12 CS education, we face a shortage of both schools that offer CS and teachers who have CS experience. We know that kids yearn for computer science. In fact, students at Berea-Midpark high school recently proposed to their school board that it should offer a new CS course. By seeking out CS professional learning:
- You fill the gap where the shortage occurs. Getting certified to teach CS or to bring CS concepts into other classes shows that you are a leader in your school. It will encourage other teachers and administrators to champion your cause, explore CS with you, and eventually institute CS curriculum.
- You reach every student. CS is a fun and relatable experience for kids, especially when taught with a game design focus. By integrating what students are interested in, you’re offering them a deeper learning experience. You will see them tap into their own creativity as they work collaboratively and apply problem-solving skills to their work.
Equip Yourself with the Right Tools
Becoming Aware of Your Mindset
Your mindset is one of the most powerful tools you possess on this journey, in your teaching career, and in your own life. Like many teachers, you might be concerned about having adequate subject knowledge or suitable resources for teaching CS effectively. By exploring CS PD and applying a growth mindset to it, you will find these are exactly the tools that will prepare you to teach your classes with confidence and dexterity.
Take a moment to discover where your mindset falls on the continuum by taking this survey. Reflect on times when you have approached challenges with a growth mindset. How did that affect the outcome? How can you bring that mindset to new challenges?
Tips for Adjusting Your Mindset
A growth mindset isn’t a natural state of being. It takes practice and consistently renewing your efforts to work toward a growth mindset. Here are a few tips:
- See yourself as a learner. Like your students, you are capable of improving. Tap into your desire to transcend what you currently view as limitations. Being open to this idea is the first step on your journey.
- Be willing to try new ideas. Get out of your comfort zone and embrace setbacks along the way. See them not as a measurement or limitation of your intelligence but as jumping points you can learn from.
- Make time for self-reflection. So your new idea was a hit! Or maybe it didn’t go as planned. Either way, by focusing on what you gleaned from the process rather than on the end result, you will have a much more fulfilling experience.
Applying Growth Mindset in the Classroom
“Research also supports the idea that educator mindsets may influence the way they respond to students, which in turn has an impact on the students’ outcomes.” —Mindset Works
Like you, all students are capable of learning CS, even if they have different learning styles. With a growth mindset, you will have higher expectations of your students. Giving them “strategy” praise (emphasizing effort over ability) will result in better student performance, stronger motivation, and a perception that you truly care about them.
The next thing you know, the roles will be reversed and your students will be teaching you a thing or two about computer science! As Thomas Suarez reflects in his Ted Talk, “These days students know—usually know—a little bit more than teachers with the technology.”
Crossing the Finish Line
Answering the call to action will be a rewarding challenge and personally transformative experience. By applying growth mindset to your professional development, you attain a stronger belief in your own ability to grow with your students. Your confidence and enthusiasm help minimize the CS gap by influencing your peers to get involved in making this invaluable resource available to more students earlier in their educational experience. By teaching computer science, you’ll make learning relevant, providing students the vision of a future filled with boundless opportunities. So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to put on your hero’s cape and take the next step in your journey!
- These Ted Talks surely will get you thinking more enthusiastically about computer science education. In these presentations you will find a common thread of passion, excitement, determination, and an eagerness for challenge—the very hallmarks of a healthy growth mindset:
- Twelve-year-old app developer Thomas Suarez’s Ted Talk. How can you not feel inspired? He’s 12 and a self-taught programmer. What’s his secret? A strong fascination with technology. And not just for playing games, but developing them. Find out his approach to how he taught himself and his peers to become programmers.
- Linda Liukas’s Ted Talk. Liukas, founder of Rails Girls, provides insightful ideas about how code is a universal language for creativity and self-expression. Learn why she strongly advocates for a more diverse set of people to get involved with programming. You will discover how to break away from the common perception that computer science is just too “esoteric” and “magical” to be learned.
- For ideas on how to integrate the language of growth into teacher-student communication, watch this conversation between Zulama and Mindset Works.
- Teaching CS can and should be an inclusive experience for ALL your students. National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) is an excellent resource and has provided these helpful tips for making that happen.
- For more on growth mindset and ways to implement it in your classroom, check out NCWIT’s Tips: 8 Ways to Give Students More Effective Feedback Using a Growth Mindset.
- Take the Growth Mindset Survey if you haven’t already.
This post is part of a blog series in support of our new professional development opportunity, the Computer Science and Game Design Certificate, co-developed with the Computer Science Teachers Association. For more on the intersection of computer science and professional development, read the previous posts in the series:
- Make Computer Science Part of Your Professional Learning
- Why Game Design Is an Awesome Introduction to Computer Science
- When There’s a Will There’s a Way: Getting Creative with Funding Computer Science Education
- Five Ways to Make the Most of Computer Science PD
- How Games Can Bring Storytelling to Life In Your Classroom