Posted by CSTA Conference Committee on May 31, 2023
Whether you’re struggling to recruit students for CS classes or you’re looking to create a concrete support network for your department, we have session recommendations for you.

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According to the Landscape Survey of PreK-12 CS Teachers in the United States, “Many CS teachers are the only CS teachers at their schools, so they don’t have typical support structures or colleagues with whom they can easily collaborate. CS teachers in low income and racially diverse schools have fewer physical resources, professional support, and CS teacher peer support to do their jobs effectively.” CS students may find themselves in a similar boat, with only 53% of high schools offering a foundational CS course. While numbers have improved over time, white and male students still held the highest percentage of students who take the AP Computer Science exam as of 2021. 
It’s clear that computer science education still has a while to go in terms of equity, accessibility, and teacher support. At the CSTA 2023 Annual Conference, we gather the world’s largest computer science department and present on a multitude of topics designed to help you grow your own skills as well as your students’. Whether you’re struggling to recruit students for CS classes or you’re looking to create a concrete support network for your department, we have session recommendations for you. 

More Than Preparing for Jobs: STEM and Computer Science for Student Empowerment

Our first featured session is presented by Jacob Adams and Melissa Toohey during Breakout A, 11:55 a.m. ET. Come learn how to implement culturally relevant, sustaining, meaningful, and authentic STEM and CS learning.
A common narrative is that students need CS and STEM education in order to prepare for “the jobs of tomorrow.” While tech industries have a major stake in creating a career pipeline to meet their future economic needs, many students are more invested in their present reality than in hypothetical future jobs. What if educators and the tech industry shifted their paradigm to empower students to use their CS and STEM skills here and now? What if students were encouraged to create technology that would improve their current lives, communities, and world? This session explores how educators can implement meaningful and authentic STEM learning to help students create positive social change.
The grand challenges of our time—Earth’s rising carbon emissions, water crises in cities like Jackson and Flint, the crumbling US infrastructure, etc.—disproportionately impact Black and Latinx communities, and all require STEM-based solutions. Students understand that they are inheriting an imperiled country, planet, and economic system. In this session, teachers are encouraged to focus on students’ backgrounds and culture, immersing them in a liberatory process and pedagogy that aligns STEM learning experiences with social change.

Leverage Local Businesses to Create Work-Based Learning Experiences

Presented by Kyle Kuhlers and Samantha Dahlby during Mini Session A, July 12 at 1:50 p.m. ET, this presentation focuses on what to do and where to start with business-to-education partnerships. 
This session offers ideas and examples of business-to-education partnerships that can provide students with real-world experience. We’ll cover day-long events, senior capstone work-based learning experiences, and everything in between.  The Waterloo Career Center partners with local companies to provide day-long work experiences and ongoing internships for high school students. Students build professional relationships with industry partners and get hands-on experience before, during, and after taking classes in computer science and information systems. These experiences can help students discover their passions and gain crucial insights into the practical applications of the subjects they’re studying.

Engage School Counselors as Allies to Increase Student Access to CS Education

Kelsey Kman, Ruth Kyle and Tom Kyle present 10 key strategies for collaborating with school counselors to promote computer science education and careers during Mini Session B, July 12 at 2:20 p.m. ET. 
School counselors are eager to direct students to viable education and career opportunities. This presentation will share 10 key points for building collaborative relationships with counselors that align their professional responsibilities with the goal of increasing student access to computing. School counselors are uniquely positioned to guide students in their course registration and post-secondary planning, and they can be powerful district-level advocates for more computer science offerings. Learn how to make school counselors your allies in the effort to expand access to CS and create diversity in CS education and careers.

Recruiting, Retaining, and Advancing Students in Computer Science

Ajayi Anwansedo empowers teachers with an innovative approach to attracting, retaining, and advancing diverse students in computer science. Check it out during Mini Session B, July 12 at 2:20 p.m. ET. 
Are you having trouble attracting students to your computer science classes and programs? Do you find it difficult to retain students in your classroom? This mini-session helps CS teachers think through recruitment and retention strategies, with an eye to helping students advance from school CS classes into computing majors and related professional fields. We will discuss some of the barriers and stumbling blocks for students to enter and stay in the CS field, and we’ll present effective strategies that CS teachers can use to recruit, retain, and advance their students in computing. Participants will leave the session with tools, ideas, and resources to use in their CS classrooms and programs.

Making Student Work Public: Using Competitions to Attract and Retain Girls in CS

Kaylla Torres, Lisa Hauser,  and Amy Renshaw use art-infused CS lessons and all-girl coding competitions to attract and retain girls in grades 3–12. Learn how during Breakout E, July 13 at 11:00 a.m. ET. 
Code/Art’s national coding competition prompts and free teaching resources help engage female students and students from historically underrepresented groups in CS studies. Since 2016, Code/Art has been holding free online coding competitions for girls in grades 3–12, as well as providing teacher training and free curriculum related to the competitions. Code/Art’s project-based learning strategy has helped to engage students from historically underrepresented groups in CS. In this talk, Kaylla from Code/Art will show educators how to access free introductory Code/Art lessons and help female students enter our free online national competition.  Thousands of K–12 teachers across the country have used Code/Art’s self-portrait lesson to motivate and empower their students. Over 1,500 girls in grades 3–12 have gone on to enter their coded self-portraits into Code/Art’s national all-girls CodeYourSelf competition. Students who make their best work public, either through school gallery walks or Code/Art’s national competition, show increased confidence and sense of accomplishment.  Participants in this session can learn more about Code/Art and its competitions and get tips for recruiting and retaining girls in their CS classes.

Increasing K–12 CS Participation by Adding UDL and CRP to Problem-Based Instruction

Lauren Weisberg, Carla Strickland, LaToya Chandler, Maya Israel, and Andrea Ramirez-Salgado are presenting during Breakout E, July 13 at 11:00 a.m. on enhancing the PBL process with inclusive and equitable teaching practices.
As computer science education gains importance in the K–12 curriculum, educators and researchers must implement pedagogically inclusive approaches that increase CS access and participation among historically marginalized communities. By integrating universal design for learning (UDL) and culturally responsive pedagogy (CRP) into project-based learning, CS teachers can design equitable experiences that meet the needs of all learners.  Project-based learning (PBL), an instructional method to promote active learning, encourages students to solve complex problems. UDL is an inclusive approach to instruction that removes barriers to learning by enabling flexible learning environments. CRP is a student-centered learning approach grounded in the notion of cultural competence. Inclusive and culturally responsive computing builds on these frameworks by facilitating connections between CS concepts and topics that are relevant to students’ learning needs and interests.  Taking feedback from a previous presentation in CSTA 2022, this session will provide teachers with hands-on strategies for enhancing the PBL process with inclusive practices by infusing UDL and CRP principles in K–12 CS education. We will share resources developed through a National Science Foundation project and facilitate discussions of how to apply these equity approaches to existing CS curricula. Participants will then discuss the practical implications of the approach.

Cultivating Teacher Community on Social Media

Learn how to collaborate with educators around the world to design meaningful learning experiences for students with Jen Manly during Breakout G, July 13 at 3:25 p.m. ET. 
Computer science teachers know what it’s like to be the only one (or one of just a few) in the building. Connecting to a teacher community can be critical in giving teachers the support they need to best serve their students, while also creating a space to belong.  This session focuses on helping teachers tap into TikTok as a tool to grow their professional networks. Once an app just for dancing and trends, TikTok has evolved to become a platform focused on connecting its users with a larger global community. Participants in this session will learn how to get started on TikTok to join a community of passionate educators invested in professional growth. The TikTok community offers teachers a window into classrooms around the world, allowing them to tap into bite-sized professional development and share their expertise with each other. We’ll explore how TikTok can support teachers in collaborating with educators around the world to design meaningful learning experiences for students, while also connecting to an authentic community of like-minded educators.

Register for CSTA 2023

Be sure to check out the full conference program to read more about these events and plan which sessions you want to attend. If you haven’t registered for the annual conference yet, head over to the CSTA 2023 Home Page to secure your spot. We hope to see you there for three days of learning and community!