If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I try to do something specifically Ontario-ish on Fridays. In an inter-connected world, it’s easy to get lost in the stream so I’ve made this a regular habit. I’ve had both negative and positive messages fired my way about what I do vis a vis the blog post and Twitter recognition of those who are “active” and I suppose that’s to be expected.
There’s one thing that isn’t questionable – social media has brought so many of us together and keep us together.
What’s so special to me is that the conversation is very professional and you wouldn’t know a computer science teacher from a mathematics teacher from a primary teacher from a special education teacher unless you really and truly started to poke around. I can’t think of any traditional professional learning model that does it so completely. Should a subset of the bigger Ontario group get together at an RCAC Symposium, ECOO Conference, OTF Event, they just meld.
It hasn’t always been that way.
As I was putting together the lineup for yesterday’s “This Week in Ontario Edublogs”, I was really caught by Peter McAsh’s post which reflected upon the learning and growth that he’s had over his career. If you take the time to read his post, you’ll also notice that he’s hanging up his mouse next year. His long teaching career has included so much in the area of computer science and he lays it out so nicely in the post. He talks about early computer programming, mark sense computer cards, shipping them to Stratford for processing and then returning them to school. How far we’ve come since then! I’m also taken by the similarity of his computing experiences to my own. I didn’t send my student work to Stratford but the procedure was certainly the same!
During his post, he challenged me to include reference to it – and I was going to – until I realized that it would be rather lengthy and a distinguished reflection on a career such as Peter’s deserved better than that.
In recent years, Peter and I met up at the Waterloo CEMC computer science camp. It was a renewal that goes way, way back. You see, Peter and I had the distinction of being thrown out of an additional qualifications summer course. Ontario educators will know that it’s not uncommon to go back in the summer to get further certification. Peter and I started teaching at the same time (albeit miles apart) when there were so few jobs available. We were fortunate to get permanent jobs right from the get go but both of us decided to go back to summer school and pick up qualifications in the three summer Data Processing stream. I already had Computer Science qualifications and I knew that this new qualification would count nicely towards Business Education qualifications.
Well, the problem was that most of the class was just learning how to program from scratch (and I don’t mean the good kind of Scratch!) We were noticably different from the group (there was a third member whose name I can’t recall) and so our instructor asked us not to attend and gave us independent work instead. Fortunately, we were up to the task and did a great deal of work that set us out to be successful as classroom teachers. As Peter recounts his story, I can’t help but think about how much a computer science teacher has had to learn and master by themselves. As I tell my university classes, the typical computer science teacher can be the loneliest teacher in the staff room. You’re probably going to be the only computer science teacher at your school. Consequently, there’s nobody around to bounce ideas, successes, failures, off who truly understands.
To add to Peter’s list, there’s so much that the computer science lifer has had to learn during the past 34 years. It started in a different time and place. There was no need for IT Departments – we fixed them ourselves and installed software and the inevitable updates ourselves – we didn’t have online videos to aid in the learning – heck, for the most part we didn’t have textbooks. But, we survived. To build on Peter’s list, things that would have happened during his career in terms of learning in addition to all the professional learning that has happened as new curriculum documents and board priorities have been rolled out.
- Apple Dos
- Commodore OS
- Windows 3.1
- Windows 95
- Windows XP
- Windows 7 (maybe but if not now, soon)
- Apple OS
- Macintosh OS
And what would a computer science class be without
In the very beginning, choice of language wasn’t always made by pedagogy but by using what was available and making the pedagogy fit!
- Fortran IV (and WATFOR, WATFIV)
- App Inventor
- Visual Basic
- Game Maker
- and I’m sure that I’ve overlooked some.
Peter’s even musing out loud about the possibility of using Google’s Blockly next year.
I once had a superintendent remark to me (off the record, of course, after looking around to make sure that we were alone) that a person has to be nuts to be computer science teacher. “Even French teachers only have to learn two languages!”
If you read through Peter’s blog post, you’ll get the distinct feeling that this learning continues as he reflects on successes from this past year and how he’s planning to continue the effort into the future. If you follow Peter on Twitter, you’ll know that he’s pleased at being accepted to speak at the ECOO Conference this fall.
It’s there where this whole circle of learning closes. Unlike the good ol’ days when the computer geek was learning computer stuff for her/his classroom, educators right across the educational spectrum are coming together to learn just a little more. While Peter may not spend his hour with his group talking about the benefits of Scratch as a programming language, he’ll be sure to share his successes with Edmodo as a classroom management tool. I hope that many people will take the opportunity to learn from the master.
I know that I will.