Where is the computer science at ISTE?

My prime focus at Microsoft is K-12 computer science education. While I am very interested in various areas of using technology in education I basically get paid to promote Microsoft programs and products in computer science. It’s become harder and harder for me to justify attending the annual ISTE conference because there are fewer and fewer computer science educators attending. I see this as a much larger problem than just “poor Alfred doesn’t get to go to ISTE” though. I see it as a real problem for computer science education.

There are some great events for computer science educators. The CS & IT Conferences (hope to see you there next week) is the one national K-12 CS education conference and professional development event. SIGCSE, still heavily university targeted, has some great things for K-112 computer science educators. But we’re missing a lot of people at these events. Some of the best and most innovative teachers we have attend those events. I love them! But we’re not reaching the administrators and technology coordinators and curriculum specialists who are much more likely to be at ISTE.

When I was a technology coordinator attending ISTE (then called NECC) one of my primary goals was to gather information for faculty across the board. I looked for the technology hardware and software for the infrastructure for sure but I was also looking for curriculum materials that many other teachers could use in their courses. I also looked for policy information and trends in technology education. Is computer science on the rise or the decline for example.

I’m told that this year ISTE had two regular sessions, one poster session and one workshop that were computer science related. I’m not sure if this included the SIGCT meeting or not. That is tiny for an event the size of ISTE! What is an administrator to make of that?

SIGCT-icon-mdSIGCT: Computing Teachers Special Interest Group tries very hard. I try to be active with SIGCT myself as time permits  but I REALLY appreciate the volunteers who put in a lot of time making things work. But we are facing a downward trend in that as fewer CS sessions are accepted (or even allowed) fewer submissions for sessions are being made.

BTW you don’t see ISTE listed among the supporters of Computing in the Core either. That blew me away when someone pointed it out to me recently. You’d like to think they would be right in there with us. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics  and the National Science Teachers Association are there.

Enough about why we want ISTE more involved – what’s in it for ISTE? Quite frankly the computer science educators of today are turning out the software developers, computer scientists, and technology experts that all the rest of the people at the ISTE conference are going to depend on in the future. Where will be technology in education if there are not computer scientists and developers to create the innovative products and tools of the future? In my humble opinion ISTE needs to jump on the computer science education band wagon and help us get more computer science education in our schools. Not just for us but for all of technology in education.

BTW I am speaking for myself and I don’t know if Microsoft management agrees with me but I hope they do. Smile