Nataša Grgurina (she/her), PhD, works as a CS teacher educator at the Teacher training department at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and as a curriculum developer for digital literacy in secondary education for SLO, the Dutch national institute for curriculum development. She also has served as a CSTA board member as the International Representative since 2020.
How long have you been involved in the CSTA?
This is my second year as a board member. However, CSTA has been a constant source of information and inspiration for what feels like forever during my years of teaching CS in high school, training CS teachers and doing research on computational thinking.
What motivates you to be involved with CSTA?
A sense of duty and a sense of urgency toward our youth who need to learn CS motivate me. CSTA provides means and resources to work toward reaching that goal. In the U.S. CSTA provides teachers with meeting opportunities; elsewhere CSTA by providing standards that serve as inspiration and checkmark when developing our own standards.
What have you learned that’s most interesting to you either about the CSTA or K-12 CS Education?
For me personally, the standards for CS teachers are very valuable. In a small country like the Netherlands, the standards describing learning goals for students (we call that curriculum) are developed by SLO where I work as a curriculum developer. However, the knowledge and competencies of teachers somehow never get described in a coherent manner – there are general standards for all the teachers, and there is a description of what subject matter a CS teacher should be familiar with, but unifying the two in a set of specific standards for CS teachers is new.
Another thing is the way how CSTA functions as an independent non-profit organization providing support to teachers. Even when a number of such activities is institutionalized (as I just mentioned for NL), the day-to-day support for teachers through PD activities and meetings is inspiring.
What do you hope for CS education in the future? How do you believe CSTA will help in achieving this?
I hope that CS courses in K-12 will become compulsory just like the 3 “R”s. More importantly, I hope that CS as a discipline will not stand apart as an isolated discipline on its own island. Rather, I hope that it is going to permeate all other school subjects just as it does all disciplines in academia and all endeavors in the industry. I’m thinking about, for example, computational modeling in STEM or social sciences, interactive art installations, big data for earth sciences or languages, etc. I hope that CSTA is going to recognize that the true power of CS lies in its ability to help advances in other disciplines and that it is going to promote this view of CS. And not only promote the view, but also involve teachers of other disciplines to embrace what CS can mean for the students’ learning of their discipline, and furthermore, to develop teaching resources, PD, etc.
What else would you like to add that might be interesting to readers about you, your commitment to CSTA, or perhaps why others should also be interested in becoming involved?
I started my CS teaching career a quarter of a century ago with a vague notion that CS was important. Since then, I did research on computational modeling and simulation within an HS CS course and on computational thinking in the context in middle school. I became convinced – as I already mentioned – that the true power of CS lies in its ability to help the work in other disciplines (be it computational modeling, use of big data, developing embedded systems with sensors and actuators, or discussing the consequences of the use of AI – to mention a few). When I look around me, I do not really see that teachers (even CS teachers), students, parents, school administrators, or other stakeholders are aware of this. In my view, here is a job waiting to be done!