The Making of CSPdWeek

By Emmanuel Schanzer @Bootstrapworld | October 12, 2017

As founder and Co-Director of Bootstrap, Dr. Emmanuel Schanzer is a CS-expat, having spent several years as a program manager and developer before becoming a high school teacher and middle school academic coach. He first designed Bootstrap as a curriculum for his own students in Boston. He has long been involved in connecting educators and technology, holds degrees in computer science and curriculum development, and is a Doctor of Education with a research focus on using programming to teach algebra.

Over the past several years, more schools, districts and states across the US have been making commitments to offer Computer Science Education (CSEd) to their students. Offering CSEd requires school districts or state-wide initiatives to take on a lot of additional work, including helping teachers receive professional development, coordinating resources and training from multiple providers, and adopting new curricula. Other critical needs arise include funding, scheduling, and community:

  1. Funding. Underfunded districts may lack the resources to fund professional development (PD), and small districts lack the scale needed to make the cost-per-teacher affordable. This problem is “merely” one of money: grants, crowdfunding, and sponsorships can all help make Professional Development more affordable.
  2. Scheduling. Even affluent districts face challenges here! Every provider has their own PD schedule, and with different providers serving different age groups and different content areas, coordinating a rollout can be a logistical nightmare.
  3. Community. Smaller, rural districts may have only one or two teachers in charge of CS and research has shown that isolation can be a severe impediment to teacher success and retention. Even in larger districts, teachers cannot operate in a single-curriculum vacuum: the AP CS teacher should be aware of what students have learned in middle and elementary school, and teachers in earlier grades should have a sense for how their material builds towards later concepts.

Enter CSPdWeek!

The idea to create CSPdWeek was hatched in 2015 when three of the largest research-based PD providers came together with a plan to address these issues. Leaders from AP CS Principles, Bootstrap, and Exploring Computer Science, mapped out an idea: a weeklong, residential PD event that brings together teachers from across the country, with professional learning on multiple curricula offered in parallel.

Colorado School of Mines agreed to host the event, and National Center for Women in Technology (NCWIT) agreed to fund a Counselors for Computing training to ensure that counselors would be part of (and contribute to!) the conversation. In a call-back to CSEdWeek, this event was called "CSPdWeek". Nothing like this had ever been done before, but Infosys Foundation USA saw the potential and became the lead funder for a 2016 launch.

With support from Infosys Foundation USA, NCWIT and the National Science Foundation, the inaugural event was a huge success! Educators from 34 states came to Golden, CO for professional development with either ECS, CS Principles, Bootstrap, or Counselors for Computing. They stayed in college dorms---with roommates! They ate in the cafeteria. They spent their days deeply engaged in PD, and their evenings building community: making new friends, hiking, exploring the town, sharing what they’d learned, and staying up late in the dorms creating a shared understanding of the breadth and depth of CS Education.

By the end of the week, educators were sharing contact information with colleagues from their home states, setting up plans for “sister classes” that would Skype with one another from across the country, and discussing a cohesive roadmap with other teachers and counselors from their districts. The response was unprecedented, with more than 95% of participants reporting that the event was of high quality. Based on this feedback, we expanded CSPdWeek in 2017, with an even-larger cohort of educators and a bigger menu of PD options.

Over the course of two summers, and thanks to the support of Infosys Foundation USA, NCWIT and NSF, CSPdWeek has provided high quality computer science professional development to nearly 600 educators, many of whom had limited access to quality professional learning. More than 75% of those who attended work at schools where at least half of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch. In fact, this model has spawned sister events around the country, with CSPdWeek-like events offered in Minnesota, California, and Texas in 2017, and even more planned for 2018!

We're grateful to Infosys Foundation USA for seeing the potential of CSPdWeek, and for recognizing that teacher education is a critical part of a larger equation. Thanks to their support, the CSPdWeek model has grown into a powerful force for scalable, equitable CS Education that reaches students everywhere and knits together teachers and school counselors from across the nation.

As momentum for CS for All grows nationally, Infosys Foundation USA has decided that a larger, more broadly-focused event is the best way to meet the needs of more and more teachers that are seeking out CS PD. As a result CSPdWeek will not take place in 2018. Instead, all the CSPdWeek programs that provided PD at CSPdWeek will part of the Pathfinders Summer Institute at Indiana University Bloomington, July 15-20. We hope to see you there!