Guzdial shares how to change a state at NCWIT Summit

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP) Alliance joined more than 700 computing researchers, educators, and industry professionals at the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT)'s annual Summit, held in Newport Beach, California in May. Georgia Tech professor and ECEP PI Mark Guzdial presented two workshop sessions on the topic "How to change a state: Making computing education fit into public education."

For a full write-up of the Summit, please see Mark's blog post at

An excerpt is included below:

I offered a workshop on how to change state education public policy to improve and broaden access to computing education. The slides from the workshop are available here in a PowerPoint presentation. The workshop was offered twice: Tuesday afternoon (SRO packed room of about 40!) and Wednesday morning (maybe 25). I had a half-dozen hallway conversations from people who wanted to talk about their state in particular. Overall, there was a significant interest.

All the workshop presenters advertised their workshops as a Flash talk. A Flash talk is intense: exactly 20 slides, presented for exactly 15 seconds each. No control over either. Jeff Forbes hosted the Flash talks. They were all recorded by Turner Broadcasting, and you can see them all here. (I’m the first one.)

What can you possibly say in exactly five minutes? I worked harder on that five minute talk than on most of the keynotes I have ever presented. I’ve been thinking about this since last December when I wrote the initial blog post on this idea. In the end, the structure of what I was saying was good, and I ended up using it for the workshop, too.

To change a state, start here

I proposed a four step process to start changing a state:

  1. Find a leader(s): Computing education reform doesn’t just happen. Someone (or a small group of someones) has to take the initiative.
  2. Figure out where you are and where you’re going: The hardest part is seeing the big picture (of how schools, higher education, businesses, and state politics have to work together) and figuring out how to make change within a state. Two years into ECEP, and I am still surprised at the state differences. Here’s one I just learned. Hawaii makes all education decisions at the district level (like California and Massachusetts), but all of Hawaii isone school district. All those islands, one school board.
  3. Gather your allies: Find all the high school teachers, university faculty, business leaders, and state Department of Education leaders who want to work together. We find that efforts that speak with multiple voices from different sectors to promote computing education tend to get more influence in state government.
  4. Get initial funding: There are big ticket items for computing education, like professional learning opportunities for all your high school teachers. But there are smaller ticket items that need to happen early on in the process. One of these is a landscape report: Where are you now. There are several of these available at the CSTA website. Another is a summit, a face-to-face meeting of all your allies, along with the people that you’d like to influence (the ones who will come), to develop a set of shared goals and a shared strategy for getting there.