We, like a lot of schools, usually begin the processing of selecting and scheduling courses for the next school year in February. We meet with students, provide them with their transcripts and lists of requirements, post an updated course catalog on the web, etc. That course catalog, though, requires a bit more advance consideration.
It goes back to the idea of 21st Century Skills, which readers largely derided in my last post about them. Yet there is an evolving set of skills that we need to be teaching, some soft, like creativity, flexibility, and information processing, and others hard, like programming, algorithms, and web technologies.
Just how do we build courses around these? Which teachers are qualified to instruct them? In what departments should they fall? How do we convince kids to sign up for a class like "Algorithms with Java Implementations I"? Some schools have established computer science departments and have even managed to weave the soft skills into the rest of their curricula.
Others are working to catch up with the curve and replace outdated classes. "Family consumer science" (home economics for the rest of us) teachers largely don't exist anymore, yet people who could teach high school computer science and information systems are often employed in the private sector.
The point? Find out now what your teachers can do. Start talking about "21st Century Skills" now, not just as educational jargon, but as a real set of ideas, skills, and tools that we need to provide our students.
Of course, since interest in computer science is falling off at a time when it is more important than ever (even as CS evolves beyond geeky guys programming in COBOL and moves into technical project management and systems design), we need to sell the classes to the kids as well.
Scheduling needs to start early this year as a collaborative process with your teachers and students. Even for schools that have an established computer science program, it's time for a careful examination of course offerings to ensure they really are preparing kids appropriately.