Monday, December 20, 2010

Podcasts from the National Conference on Science and Technology in Out of School Time Now Available!

Did you miss our conference in September? Were you unable to attend a particular session? Or do you want to share something you learned with your colleagues? Podcasts from many of the sessions, including the Keynote, plenary sessions, and breakout sessions are now available for FREE download on iTunes!

To access the podcasts, follow this link: 

The link will open iTunes. To download iTunes for free, go to 

Many thanks to our speakers, the staff of Swank AV at the Sheraton Universal Hotel, and the volunteers who assisted with recording!   

Monday, December 13, 2010

Program Evaluation and Teaching Effectiveness

The New York Times today published an article about a new study showing that student rankings of teacher effectiveness correlate with how much students learn in a school year, as measured by an increase in test scores. The study, which was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is part of a larger effort by the Foundation to work with several districts to improve their teaching effectiveness.

Students filled out confidential surveys about their teachers, and researchers found that teachers who received positive reviews also tended to have students whose test scores improved over the school year. However, teachers who had their classes spend "a lot of time... practicing for the state test" consistently had lower rankings by students as well as lower test scores. This interesting finding has a lot of implications for education reform, and raises some questions about teaching effectiveness in out-of-school time as well.

Many afterschool STEM programs--including museum exhibits and programs, summer camps, and other opportunities for learning in out-of-school time--undergo evaluation to find out how well they are fulfilling their organization's mission or program's goals. This process, though often time-consuming, can be very important for keeping the program up-to-date with current educational standards and expectations as well as essential for proving success to current or potential funders. But how often does that evaluation process include input from students or participants? 

Since afterschool program effectiveness many not be measured against test scores, another metric must be used to gather data or feedback on the program's teaching effectiveness. Participant feedback--from students or adults--provides meaningful data on how well the program is doing, and what it could do to improve. Though this study specifically addressed in-school time teaching, hopefully it will provide afterschool programs with an impetus to have themselves evaluated and make an even greater case for out-of-school time education.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Computer Science Education Week: December 5th-11th, 2010

This week is Computer Science Education Week, a national initiative designed to raise awareness of the importance of computer science education in the US and share activities and other resources for teaching computer science. It is also the birthday week of Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, a pioneering computer scientist who wrote two programming languages and made numerous other contributions to the emerging field during the 1940s through the 1970s. 

Why is computer science important? According to CSEdWeek's website, the current number of students studying computer science will only fill 52 percent of the projected 1.4 million new computing jobs by 2018. Contributions in computer science shape other aspects of the economy, and are necessary to drive technological innovation. Studying computer science at any age helps kids build critical skills like creative and critical thinking, problem solving, and computer literacy in a digital age. And yet computer science programs are often overlooked and underfunded, leading to insufficient curricula, a lack of teacher training in computer science, and decreased gender and ethnic diversity in computer science programs and careers.

The CSEdWeek website has lots of resources to help advocates build a case for computer science education in and out of school time, including key facts, career guides, and activities for your classroom or program. They have also compiled a guide to events happening across the country promoting computer science. Plus, they're asking advocates to share their thoughts on Twitter (hashtag #CSEdWeek), Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

Members of the Coalition for Science After School are working hard to promote computer science in out-of-school time in their communities. Here are just a few:
And there are lots of opportunities for participating in computer science-related programs in the Directory:
  • Girl TECH CORPS from TECH CORPS Ohio, a program that brings together girls interested in technology and mentors to learn age-appropriate technological skills
 If your program offers computer science activities, please share it in the Directory!