Ask a teacher: How are you closing the gap in Computer Science?

“It was actually quite unusual to see such a high percentage of why (students) don’t go into technology: intimidation…this is a way to break that.” – Patrick Cummins, Bexley High School, in partnership with Battelle and the Ohio STEM Learning Network, is changing the face of computer science. Whether you are new to teaching computer science (CS) or have experience teaching other CS courses, the Professional Learning Program offers year-round support to begin teaching these courses.

Patrick Cummins has taught high school Physics and Chemistry for five years – but he’s in the middle of his first year of Computer Science Principles. Thanks to his experience in the 2019-2020 cohort, he’s prepared.

Using extensive teacher trainings and a free online curriculum, and Battelle have helped Ohio more than double the number of young women, Black, and Hispanic students taking the AP Computer Science Principles exam.

Applications for the next cohort are open now – read below for Patrick’s thoughts on his experience.

It’s your first-year teaching Computer Science Principles! How did it go?

I think it went pretty well throughout the whole thing because I’m learning with the students and the student are aware of that. So, it puts the onus on them to carry the weight. Rather than me explicitly telling them what to do, we are going to do things together.

Is that similar to how you taught before?

It’s different. There’s a lot more, like I said, sort of co-teaching together… with the class around me as a lead learner. When I teach Physics and Chemistry, I’m a lecturer in the front of the class with far less pressure on the students to actually look up and do things for themselves.

Did this cohort give you the tools you needed to become a Lead Learner?

Yes, absolutely. Even just talking to other teachers in the room, you get lots of ideas. It’s a different experience for a teacher. I’m still getting used to that feeling of not being in charge and not dictating everything. It’s a tough one to get used to. You know, because you feel like you’re never perfect, but I think that’s the way you’re supposed to feel.

What should teachers know if they’re thinking about applying for this training?

I think it’s a fantastic thing to bring into the classroom  because you need to close that gap, either for minorities or for girls, to get into technology. And there is nothing really out there except AP Principles, and this is a good way to introduce things.

When I was advertising for my class last year, I put posters on every wall, and then I distinctly picked posters of female software engineers and scientists. I’d paste those outside the girls’ restrooms or across the hall. For Computer Science A, I normally have like 8-12% females. Now, I have 35%… So, whatever I did with the posters obviously worked!

What’s your advice to a teacher who is intimidated about teaching computer science?

The whole premise of this is so you can break that intimidation, so it’s ok to pick it up and start as a Lead Learner. You should feel the same way as the students feel. This is brand new, you can be wrong, and then you make it correct… you progress and you move on until you start feeling comfortable. Then, you can start getting really interested in things, and you change people’s careers.

I expect this to actually change people’s pathways in high school. I really do.

Apply for next year’s cohort here. The priority application deadline is March 31, April 24, 2019.

Interested in learning more? Listen to what these five other Ohio teachers had to say about about their experience or read these other interviews:

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