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portance of an organization like CSTA
to change the world. The work of CSTA
addresses core challenges for the future:
˲ How will we ensure all students
are prepared to be citizens and workers in a different world than we knew
in the past?
˲ How do we retrain adult workers, in
this case education workers (teachers), to
be ready for a rapidly changing world?
By working collaboratively, we can
solve these challenges. Over the past
two years, I saw the pathway to addressing these challenges within CSTA come
together in a pair of initiatives: The Big
IDEA and the PD Pipeline.
What Is the Big IDEA?
Building upon CSTA’s historical inter-
est in equity in CS, we began to change
our language around equity. In 2015,
our equity work focused mainly on a pro-
gram with declining participation called
“faces of computing,” where students
created videos to showcase some of the
diversity within CS. In evaluating the
program and looking at other successful
initiatives, we recognized that focus on
equity alone is insufficient to achieve eq-
uitable outcomes. Thus, we created the
Big IDEA as an umbrella for our current
and future initiatives in this area.
IDEA stands for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access. While not the
first group to utilize this acronym, the
Big IDEA fit well within the needs of
our community. By focusing almost
exclusively in equity, we heard from
many teachers that they did not feel
included in the conversation because
they identified themselves as “teachers
of CS” rather than “CS teachers.” That
realization uncovered the diversity of
perspectives that exist within our membership—which consists of nearly every
teaching domain in K–12, and teachers who both come from and work with
exceptionally diverse student populations. To achieve CS for All students, we
realized the Big IDEA would be a more
effective, holistic approach for focusing
our efforts and building engagement in
There is still much work to do. Take,
for example, the challenges of accessibility in the context of disabilities.
People with disabilities represent an
estimated 15% of the world population.
Designing for this group of learners
can be challenging because disability
is not a single construct. It can include
physical challenges (related to areas
such as vision, hearing, and mobility)
as well as cognitive impairments (such
as challenges related to reading, memory, and attention deficits).
Accessibility has implications for CS
in education beyond the important category of children with disabilities. Accessibility challenges exist by race, gender,
geography, community urbanization,
Mark R. Nelson
the Future Workforce
August 8, 2017
In 2015, when considering whether to
apply for the position of executive director for the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), I read the book
Stuck in the Shallow End by Jane Mar-golis ( http://bit.ly/2zcEZeP). Computer
science (CS) remains one of the least diverse of the STEM disciplines, and Mar-golis’ book opened with a compelling
comparison between the racial divide in
swimming and the divide we see today
in CS. Understanding that teachers are
critical to access, and how we teach can
influence what field students might pursue, I saw that within CSTA there was opportunity to make a positive difference
in the world.
Fast-forward to 2017, and thanks to
Stephen Ibaraki, I had the opportunity
to participate in the AI for Good Summit held in Geneva, Switzerland (http://
bit.ly/2h494Xi). The Summit crystalized
for me the scope, magnitude, and im-
DOI: 10.1145/3157073 http://cacm.acm.org/blogs/blog-cacm
The Big IDEA and
the PD Pipeline
Former Computer Science Teachers Association executive director
Mark R. Nelson discusses his work with the group
to overcome core challenges to computer science education.