7th Grade Battle Game - Monticello Middle School Computer Science

Letter from the President

Bryan Hartman, Monticello Middle School

Hey all. Welcome to our first newsletter. If you have some thoughts about CS you'd like to share or a message to get out. Please let me know. I can send an email for you or you can write an article for our next newsletter.

I'd like to thank Greg Gilson and Jared Fritz for our first two major articles. Jared and I were acquaintances a handful of years ago and reconnected at our first chapter meeting. He now works for Code.org. Greg and I are classmates in UIUC's initial CS Teachers Education cohort. I have some semblance of a background in CS and Greg is new to the field. As you can see from Jared's article, the nation is desperate for a quality CS education.

If you are interested in becoming more involved in Central Illinois CSTA please let me know, and as always keep recruiting new members. Members do not have to be CS teachers to be advocates for CS education.




The percentage of public high schools by state offering foundational computer science.

2021 State of CS Report

Jared Fritz, Code.org

Nationally, just 51% of high schools offer computer science, up from 35% in 2018. This represents tremendous progress by teachers, school leaders, policymakers, and other advocates. But given the significance of computing in today’s society, it is not enough for half of schools to lack even a single course. In Illinois, only 43% of high schools offer a CS course. In order to eliminate disparities in computer science education, equitable participation and experience for all students must grow in conjunction with access.

There has been some positive policy movement in recent years. In 2020, the Illinois State Board of Education began developing CS standards. And HB 2170 was enacted in 2021, requiring each school district to provide an opportunity for every high school student to take a CS course by the 2023–24 school year. There is more work to be done here, but we're heading in the right direction. One way we're moving the needle, providing Code.org professional development to CS teachers. You'll likely hear more from me on that front when applications open in January. Stay tuned!

You can read more in our 2021 State of CS Ed report, or on our medium post here.




From Social studies to Computer Science

Greg Gilson, Manual High School

I am a social studies teacher by training but I began my journey to CS about 6 years ago after I applied for and won a STEM grant which brought with it all kinds of kits and access to software. Much of my new found toys and such were beyond what I knew. Through plenty of mistakes and moments of triumph, I began to catch the bug for STEM. During this time I did research on teaching technology concepts and stumbled across a professional development opportunity that was a week-long event put on by Code.org. That was is what fully solidified that I wanted to work towards developing courses in CS and look into what I needed to make the jump from social studies to CS. Much of this part of the journey to becoming a CS teacher did not bare any fruit, then last year I found out about the CS for Teachers endorsement partnership between the University of Illinois and ISBE. I jumped at the opportunity to take advantage of this program and now I am in my second course of the endorsement program.
The first course was using Scratch (from MIT) to teach many of the coding principles and concepts found in text based coding. This class was fun and instructive in addition to being a great launch point for the sequence of courses in the program. Through my knowledge base from what I was able learn through self-teaching and professional development I was able to perform well in the first class without too many frustrating moments. Given the visual nature of block-based coding and excellent teaching by Prof Luc Paquette, things were relatively straight forward. Though we were “coding”, I was looking for to the next course which would focus on the programming language Java. Little did I know, that I was in for quite a shock for what was to come.
The class started off as well as any other class I’ve taken. However, it didn’t take long for a sense being out of my depth to sink in. About week two or three I was having some doubts about whether or not I would be able to perform the tasks I was being asked to perform. I have taken plenty of course throughout the years and I hold a Master’s degree but my previous course work was in a realm which was familiar to me. Course work about teaching methodology and pedagogy that was largely centered on research and writing. The current Java course for teachers focuses, almost exclusively, on Java concepts and how to write programs not papers. With doubts floating around in my head, I doubled down as the voice in my head reminded that this uncomfortable place I was in was where real learning occurs. You couple that with my stubbornness, helpful classmates and great teaching from the professors, and I was able to work my through the struggles that laid bare to me that I was learning something quite foreign to me. In essence, what I was learning was completely out of my purview. Now with a stronger grasp of the Java vernacular and the logic behind much of what we have learned, I feel better equipped to be successful in this class and others moving forward. I still have a long way to go be proficient using what I have learned in Java but it is no longer like a foreign language to me.
Type caption here