Downers Grove, Ill. -- IT Futures Labs, an initiative of the Creating IT Futures Foundation, created a free, on-demand webinar for computer science teachers to help them expand and diversify their classes.
Eric Larson, director of IT Futures Labs, interviewed Seth Reichelson, an Advanced Placement (AP) computer science teacher at Lake Brantley High School located near Orlando, Florida, about how he's grown his classes to more than 200 students, one of the largest high school AP computer science programs in the country.
"I have 38 computers and six classes, and they're all full," Reichelson explained. "In fact, I have a waiting list."
After two weeks in his course, it's rare that a student drops. In fact, Reichelson will usually be approached by additional students, drawn by word of mouth, asking to enroll. He recruits a range of diverse students to his classes, and through innovative instruction, sensitivity and humor, unlocks the world of computer programming for them.
Reichelson's classes are well attended by minorities and girls of all races, opposing a national trend of low participation in computer science by these groups. In 2013, less than 19 percent of the students taking AP computer science tests nationwide were female, according to Exploring Computer Science. That same year, less than 4 percent of the students taking AP computer science tests were African American and another 8% were Hispanic.
Rather than focus on recruiting the top students in his school, Seth insists that "any student can learn computer science. It might take one student three times longer to learn a principle, but once they've got it, it's gotten," Reichelson says. "They won't forget it."
There are no math prerequisites for Seth's classes. "The math you need to do AP computer science is to be able to divide by three and get the remainder. And to count, starting at zero," said Reichelson.
The webinar goes through a two-week teaching plan for the start of Reichelson's classes. Teachers can register for the on-demand webinar at http://comptia.mediasite.com/mediasite/Play/301f5b5b26284d70a307a8e2b788ce5e1d.
Previews of the webinar and Reichelson's tips are posted via two short videos at http://www.creatingitfutures.org/gamechangers.
Learn more at www.creatingITfutures.org.