Currently exclusive to subscribers to our newsletter, Digital Education
Interview with Seth Reichelson
Who is Seth Reichelson? I read an article (http://www.orlandosentinel.com/features/education/os-computer-science-citrus-parade-20161229-story.html) about the fact that a teacher called Seth Reichelson runs a Computer Science course that is over-subscribed, and that places are allocated on a lottery basis. I was quite interested because here in England Information & Communications Technology qualifications have been discontinued by the Government in order to encourage students to take up CS, but a lot of people are complaining because they have found that it discourages girls.
So I contacted Seth and asked him if he'd be willing to be interviewed for my newsletter, Digital Education. He said 'yes'. So here it is:
1. How many students do you have on your computing course?
This year I have 246 in AP Computer Science principles with 107 girls. I am the only computer science teacher in my school. My school is a public non magnet high school with no special connection to computer science.
2. What age are they?
14 to 18 so 9th to 12th grade.
3. Is there still a waiting list for the course?
Yes. 70 students did not get into the class.
4. If so, how do you decide who to take? I read that it's a lottery, but how does that work?
If the student does not get randomly chosen they are on the top of the list for next year. I refuse to choose students.
5. Is there not a danger that some lottery winners have less potential than the ones who lost out?
Yes. Since computer science is such a great field I don't think it is my right as a teacher to select who can take the class. I teach students at all levels.
6. What is it about the course that makes it so popular do you think?
Good researched pedagogy with no stereotype threat. Also teaching is an art. Without a good teacher regardless of the content the class would not work.
7. How would you advise other teachers to make their computer course enticing?
I have given 20 workshops on reducing Stereotype threat. Many steps. Have to create an entire culture focused on growth, content and humour. You cannot teach the class the same way in the past and expect better results.
8. Is timetabling of subjects a factor in student choice, Eg do they choose your course rather than, say, business studies or vice versa?
Yes. Computer Science counts as an elective so students do not have to take the class like they do in Math.
9. If students fail to get on the course, is there a similar one they could take?
Seth also pointed out a talk he gave. He comes on around the 4 minute mark. It's well-worth watching. I enjoyed that and other videos featuring Seth, because his attitude chimes with mine: have interesting curriculum and lesson content, use plenty of humour, refuse to accept stereotypes, refuse to believe that some students will fail, and reach out to external organisations for support.
Look out for other interviews with ed tech pioneers and leaders.