Understanding the science behind computer science, or computing, can tell us about our past and our future. From abacuses and calculators to mainframes, laptops, and smart phones, computing has transformed our world and makes our lives easier in many ways.
Some students will know how to use technology tools (such as texting) better than their teachers. But to really understand computing, including the science behind it and the ways to manipulate it, students need to take classes related to computer science taught by certified teachers who can express themselves well and who may have worked in the computing field before they became educators.
In addition to explaining the fundamentals of computing, these teachers will be showing their students the merits of problem-solving, collaboration, and creativity.
It’s a challenging and rewarding profession. Computer science teachers are always looking forward. They keep their eyes on the latest advances, the newest tools and breakthroughs. And they always keep the future in mind while teaching because, if they do their job right, some of their students may be inspired to become tomorrow’s engineers, system administrators, and innovators.
But before they can share their experiences in the classroom, computer science teachers need to become certified.
What is Certification?
Educators wanting to teach computer science need to be proactive. They need to ensure they sign up for the right program that will lead to the job they want.
Computer education programs and requirements vary widely from state to state. Some states do not offer a computer science certificate at all, and many of them do not require it for computer science teaching. (Explore your state's requirements for certification, here.)
Instead, some states accept other types of teacher certification, such as mathematics, educational technology, and business for their computer science teachers. In fact, educators who have had little exposure to computer science but hold a business certification could teach computer science in some areas of the country.
Candidates for computer science teaching jobs should make sure they have a well-rounded education, and if applicable in their state, consider earning a certificate in computer science.
A certificate gives validity to a teacher, from the viewpoint of administrators, parents, and students. The designation lets people know that the certified educators have taken the profession seriously by meeting a set of standards and getting adequately trained on the subject matter. It solidifies their status as an expert in their field as someone who is prepared to share their knowledge with students in a helpful way.
Why Computer Science Teachers Are Important
By sharing their knowledge and interest in computing, teachers can help fill a growing void.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts jobs for software developers will grow 30% by 2020. The demand will be high for workers who are both interested in computing and have the expertise to work with it.
To gain that interest, they need to be exposed to computer science during their formative years. Their education in the field will provide students with a framework they can use later, if they choose, to build a profession that benefits their well-being and that of others.
Software programs they create, for example, could make aspects of our lives or the experiences of businesses easier. By supporting this topic, educators may also contribute to keeping the United States competitive with other countries that are also experiencing advances in technology. It may contribute to economic growth in the United States as well by leading to the creation of new products and business tools that help companies become more productive and efficient.
In addition, computer science teachers help students develop skills that will be useful in the real world. These students will learn by doing. They will experience the process of following directions, going through a series of steps to see an end result, and collaborating with other students to find a solution.
Above all, they will experience the frustrations of trial and error that will teach them to be persistent and patient. Indeed, they will become problem solvers since, at its core, computing is the means for solving a problem (such as how can we do X better or faster?).
How Certification as a Computer Science Teacher Ensures Preparation
Potential computer science teachers will need to be able to go beyond showing students how to use a laptop. They should have an understanding of programming, graphics, computer networks, robotics, and software design.
Teachers should understand not just how to use technology but how to explain and show students the basis behind computing tools so that they can create their own, including software programs, spreadsheets, and websites.
By understanding the logic behind software programs and their design, computer science teachers can pass on that knowledge to students. The idea is not so high school students, for example, can become technological wizards but that they can gain the value of experiencing problem solving and using critical thinking.
At the most basic level, students need to understand that computing is based on algorithms. Computer programs won’t work unless we give them step-by-step guides on what to do.
In the classroom, computer science is about more than documentation. It is a unique subject because teachers have to go beyond lectures. They need to use visuals and exercises to show students how applications work and to have students go through the process of making their own programs. Teachers should let their students make mistakes and learn from them, and have them go through the process to experience the frustration – but also the eventual reward – of finding the solution to a problem.
Computer programs are built on languages, such as Java and C++. Teachers need to be familiar with the more popular languages so that they can help their students understand programming.
Programming is becoming a more popular class in secondary schools. Such classes can help students see their imaginative ideas, such as a scene in a video game, come to life. Such activities can help students respect the theories of computer science and see the value in studying the subject.
Since programming is an activity, students can learn by doing and will be more enthused with the subject than they would be if they were only hearing about it.
Teachers should be able to put together their own applications using such languages and understand the fundamentals behind them. They need to practice making a website from scratch, for example, so that they can walk their students through the same exercise.
Collaboration and Creativity
Computer systems are built and perfected through collaboration. Developers improve upon each other’s work to create the ultimate software application or game. Students can see this effect first-hand by working on a project in small groups and giving each other input as they work on one project. Such groups can benefit from getting targeted attention from their computer-science teachers, who can alternate their advice between groups.