Why Computer Science and Government Belong Together

This summer, I have been discussing and sharing Thomas Friedman's recent article Two Codes Your Kids Need to Know. Friedman makes the case that high school students should develop an in-depth understanding of two types of code: the U.S. Constitution, and computer code, i.e., programming and computer science. As AP teachers, we are always looking for parallels and tie-ins that will enhance the experience of students in both of these courses.

My daughter celebrated her 19th birthday with some of her college friends recently and I had a front-row seat as they played a game popular with college students called Secret Hitler. Like other popular college games such as Cards Against Humanity, and Exploding Kittens, I am sure that part of its appeal is the shock value of its title. However, it is a deceptively well-designed and well-balanced game in which one of the players has a secret identity that they try to conceal from the other players through a combination of lying, bluffing, and gamesmanship.

My daughter has not studied AP U.S. Government and Politics, but she has taken computer science. I was pleased to see how she was using logic to convince other players. At one point she pointed out that if three different players were giving the same story, then logically they must all be telling the truth—or all three must be lying. This kind of reasoning made perfect sense to her, and all she needed to do was to convince the other players that she was correct in order for her to win. However, much to our mutual surprise, she was wrong, in the end. Her logic was absolutely correct, but only if all players were acting rationally. Some of the players in the game acted against their own best interests, or perhaps did not entirely understand the rules of the game. "It makes no sense," she admitted later. "Why would someone do that?"

There are many ways to integrate computer science into the study of government. I have been following James Grimmelmann's work to bring together computer science and law ever since I was a graduate student. He pointed out the similarities in designing legal arguments and designing well-organized code hierarchies, and that meant quite a lot to me as someone who is both a writer and a programmer. I am fascinated by how GitHub can be used to do version tracking and branching from a repository of code. In today's remix culture, how might we use tools such as GitHub to track the evolution of ideas or memes?

The points Thomas Friedman raises in his article are well taken. Computer science gives students a logical framework through which to analyze the many problems that face our world. It develops critical thinking skills, incorporates collaborative design, and builds resilience and just plain stick-to-it-iveness when the problems get tough. But an accompanying study of AP Government that takes into account human nature, history, and our stubborn tendency to both strive for innovation and get in our own way, is needed to balance out the place of logic and idealism where computer science might lead us. In an ideal world, everyone acts rationally and in their own self-interest. But the real world, with all its imperfection and irrationality, leaves room for optimism, for altruism, and ultimately, for humanity. Understanding how the structures of our government work is just as important as knowing how to construct the digital levers that make everything happen.

Strategies for Supporting Girls in CS

This post was originally published in EdWeek Researcher.

When I started teaching computer science at Punahou School, there were two computer science classes: an Intro and an AP course, mostly attended by boys. Occasionally, a girl would enroll in the course, and then more often than not, she would drop the course a few weeks in. “I’m not like them,” one of them told me. “I don’t fit in here.”

Over the years, we have managed to increase the percentage of girls enrolled in our courses from near zero to about 35% and trending upward (update: 42% in 2019). More importantly, we have worked to change the way students perceive computer science. Rather than being primarily for nerds and hackers, students now see computer science at Punahou as a rigorous, challenging course that attracts a surprisingly wide range of students from all backgrounds. Based on our experiences and research, here are some strategies for engaging more girls in computer science.

Female role models

Increasing the gender diversity of the computer science faculty should be a priority for all schools as it would provide female students—as well as students of color—with role-models and mentors. In a study conducted in a suburban area near Oklahoma University, researchers examined the correlation between an after-school engineering mentoring program led by female college students and the perceptions of sixth and seventh grade girls (Holmes, Redmond, Thomas, & High, 2012). The researchers found that high quality mentoring relationships with a female role model led to an increase in the girls’ confidence in their mathematics ability (Holmes et al., 2012). Similarly, seeing a confident and successful female computer science teacher could have a positive impact on girls and boys in computer science classes.

Another way to highlight positive female role models is to have guest speakers visit class. We have had a female programmer from the Microsoft Xbox team, a freelance web developer, and a music education app developer talk with our classes over Skype. One of my students told me that she did not realize that so much of your time as a developer is spent meeting and talking with other people on your team. She thought the job of a programmer was just sitting at a computer by yourself, which was not appealing to her. Year after year, we receive feedback from students that the guest speakers were their favorite part of the course.

Seeing other students who look like you being successful

We have found that seeing another student whom they identify with being successful in the course makes it easier to visualize themselves having similar success. Harvard’s highly popular Introduction to Computer Science course, CS50, uses undergraduate teaching fellows to teach its small sections, which are differentiated by “less comfy” and “more comfy” with the subject material. In many cases, students are taught by peers who have just completed the course twelve months earlier, so they are familiar with the most current material, and they understand where students are likely to struggle.

In our high school computer science classes, we have followed a similar model, choosing two students to be teaching assistants the following year. Rather than simply choosing the best students, we look for students who are approachable and representative of the class as a whole. We also try, whenever possible, to give students the freedom to choose which walkthrough or section to attend based on their comfort level with what we are currently covering.

Context over tools

We have found that presenting courses in the context of what problem they are trying to solve, or whom they are trying to help, makes the course more appealing to girls and boys. “Building Socially Responsible Websites for Non-Profits” is more attractive than “Introduction to HTML/CSS”, even if the core skills being taught are the same. 

David Nassar is the Computer Science Chair at Winchester-Thurston School. He created different “flavors” of computer science, teaching students the same basic skills, but giving students the option of learning through a humanities, music, or a math and science focus. He found a dramatic increase not only in the numbers of students choosing to progress beyond the required intro course, but also in the numbers of girls choosing to explore further computer science courses. Emphasizing the purpose of the course (create music) over the tools and language (learn EarSketch or Python) made a big difference.

Community and collaboration

We know that girls prefer to learn in a collaborative environment (Kirk & Zander, 2002). Changing the seating in the room to groups of desks, rather than lecture-style seating, is a good start. But we also work to change the nature of the learning to emphasize, even require, collaboration in order for us to move forward as a group and as a community.

We emphasize “code review” where students take turns showing each other their work once the assignment has been turned in, but before it has been graded. It is helpful for students to see that there are different ways to solve many problems. When we assign independent projects, we often group students who are doing similar projects. Although each individual has to turn in their own project, often students are solving the same problems and can help and support each other.

Encouragement by other adults

The influence of gatekeepers, or those who control course selection and advising for boys and girls in schools, is a key part of the puzzle. They can be valuable allies in building girls’ confidence in taking a computer science course, but they can also harbor outmoded, and often unconsciously biased, ideas about what computer science is today.

An encouraging note from a teacher, a guidance counselor, or a parent can give girls the confidence that if they try computer science, they can succeed, and can give specific reasons why a particular girl would do well in a computer science class, depending on how they know her personally. 

At our school we also regularly do outreach to our deans and college counselors to communicate that computer science is a form of patient problem-solving, that it focuses on concepts and context, rather than on tools or specific programming languages, and that encouragement by others in the community can make a big difference.

Changing culture takes time. There are still too many negative stereotypes of computer “geniuses” and hackers in the media and popular culture, and we could certainly use a greater number of positive portrayals of smart, creative women using their computing skills for good. However,  by focusing on providing positive female role models for computer science in our schools, and supporting girls and young women in their endeavors, we can send a strong message that computer science is for everyone.


Holmes, S., Redmond, A., Thomas, J., & High, K. (2012). Girls helping girls: Assessing the influence of college student mentors in an afterschool engineering program. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 20(1), 137–150.

Kirk, M., & Zander, C. (2002). Bridging the digital divide by co-creating a collaborative computer science classroom. Journal of Computing Sciences in Colleges, 18, 117–125. Retrieved from

How to Assess What we Value

Katie has a freshman in college. Her son was adamant about not wanting her to co-sign a loan with him because, he explained, he didn't want his mom's years of being a consumer to mess up his credit. This puzzled her greatly until she realized that he was assuming that everyone starts with a perfect credit score, and that anything you do wrong can drop it.

In fact, she had to explain to him, credit works the opposite way. You start out with no credit and have to build it up. Then she patted him on the back. No wonder, she said. Years of schooling have conditioned you to expect that everyone starts with an A unless you do something wrong!

Schools traditionally use a model of grading in which students start with an A in class, and as they are graded on assignments, anything less than a perfect score brings their average down. This can discourage risk-taking and innovation. It rewards "coloring within the lines" in a world where the lines are becoming increasingly fluid.

Recently, a number of innovative approaches to grading have emerged that more accurately reflect what educators feel is valuable. As schools have conversations about assessment, it also places the focus back on whether they are assessing what they truly value; and if not, how they can address that disparity.

One such model is known as XP grading, and it is based on how gamers accumulate experience points (XP) in a typical role-playing game. Jared Colley, English Department Chair at the Oakridge School in Texas, starts his middle school students out with zero points at the start of the semester. Everything they successfully accomplish in class earns them a small amount of points towards a grand total, which at the end of the semester determines their final grade. Students know ahead of time exactly how many points they need to earn the grade they want, and they can retry any task as many times as they like until they master it, at which point they are awarded the points. There are no due dates, and students never lose points, they only gain them as they level up. This system of grading is based on affirming students' achievement, not penalizing their lapses in perfection.

Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii is also looking at the concept of mastery as it applies to school transcripts. As part of the Mastery Transcript Consortium, Punahou School is working toward an alternative way of measuring and displaying evidence of how students have mastered each of the qualities that define a graduate. The goal is to provide a more nuanced and personalized portrait of each student by showing real examples of the good work they have done in their time at the school. What's exciting about this work towards assessing and crediting mastery is that it promotes more opportunities to recognize and value learning throughout the school, whether by apprenticeship, independent project work, or in-class achievement.

In terms of measuring what educators truly value, MetaRubric is a card game designed by MIT's Teaching Systems Lab that provides a valuable and revealing look at how rubrics can be used to assess student work. Educators are challenged to come up with a rubric for evaluating a piece of artistic work, and then to use that rubric to grade their own work and that of their peers. What results is an insightful, often boisterous, discussion about rubrics and what they can and cannot measure. MetaRubric makes a great professional learning experience for a group of teachers or a department, and many teachers feel that it is a valuable tool for stimulating rich discussions about assessment.

Gaming Styles and the Classroom

Use the Four Gamer Types to Help Your Students Collaborate

“You are a liar and I will never, ever, trust you again!” The student rose to his feet at the conclusion of a role-playing simulation in our negotiation class, pointing across the room at another student who had misled the other team and then changed his own vote.

The other student, a little shaken, raised his hands in protest. “Dude, relax, it’s just a game.”

“That’s exactly what I mean!” the first student countered. “If you’re willing to do this in a game, what would you be willing to do if the stakes were real?”

The way we play games mirrors how we act in real life. A 2008 study by the Pew Internet and American Life project found that 97% of teens play computer games. On top of that, half of all teens reported playing a video game “yesterday.” Some of these are simple puzzle games on their phone or tablet, but many are surprisingly sophisticated role playing games such as League of Legends or The Elder Scrolls Online. In my own classroom, I have often found that students who don’t seem to have a terribly profound insight into their actions in the classroom are often very self-aware of the choices they make in online gaming situations. 

A new area opens up in the online game world. What do you do? 

A. Explore all the new places? or B. Get all the new loot?

The Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology is an online multiple choice test that asks questions such as the one above. On one of the first days of class, I ask my students to take the Bartle Test online, and report their results to me on a Google Form. It takes about twenty minutes. Based on the students' answers, it assigns a weight in four separate categories: Socializer, Achiever, Explorer, or Killer. Students will often be a mixture of more than one category, although most of the weight will usually be in one category. I use these results to inform how I make groups and how I ask kids to collaborate. The test is based on how students play games. It offers useful insight into how students will react in different situations, and also provides a starting point for me at the beginning of the semester.


Students who are Explorers love to explore and wander. In the game world, Explorers want to map the entire area and discover all of its hidden areas. In the classrooms, Explorers love to amass large quantities of knowledge. Their sense of achievement comes from knowing more facts (often obscure ones) and finding secret shortcuts or mnemonics. They love to demonstrate their knowledge to others. I often ask my Explorers to “map out” a new unit of curriculum a couple of weeks before the rest of the class. Can they scout out where the pitfalls might be, and where others might be confused? Can they blaze a trail for the rest of us? Explorers are the closest to what we consider to be the ideal “academics”: those who value knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Yet, Explorers are often those kids who will do all of the work for a project — then forget to turn it in. They’ve already gotten the value from the project. Turning it in for the grade is just not at the forefront of their minds.


By contrast with Explorers, students who are Achievers love to gain levels, badges, and awards. In the game world, Achievers gain a sense of accomplishment by being the first to complete something, or by being one of the only ones to win a trophy or reward. They are often very motivated to "beat the game" and move on. In the classroom, Achievers are often most concerned with grades as a measure of their achievement. They want to know the quickest, fastest, or shortest way to the prize. They are often detail-oriented, and I can count on the Achievers in my classroom to help move the others along, simply for the thrill of succeeding.


The greatest percentage of my students are Socializers who are motivated by the desire to form meaningful connections and relationships with others in class. In the game world, the Socializers are often the connectors, who help to form questing parties and seem to know everyone online at any given moment. Socializers often form clans, which are groups of like-minded gamers, and when a particular game gets old, Socializers will simply switch games, keeping the clan intact. The game is simply a backdrop for the chatting and interactions that are the true draw. Socializers judge their accomplishments by how many friends, or how many followers, they have. How many of us know students for whom the classroom is simply a backdrop for their friendships and social life?


The smallest percentage of students are known as Griefers, or Killers. In the online gaming world, griefers willfully damage and vandalize other people’s creations. They take pleasure in the turmoil they cause in the game world, and in the damage they wreak on others. In the classroom, those students often are the first ones to see if they can “hack” the system, and are often willfully oblivious to the consequences to the community. However, Griefers are often your risk-takers, the ones who are used to starting over with nothing, over and over again — because they’re always being killed — and who don’t mind being wrong. They are likely to have a growth mindset, rather than a fixed one, and if you can draw them into the classroom community, they can have a positive influence on others.


What can you do once you have a list of your students and their percentages in each of these categories? You can sort the list by any of the categories and assign groups accordingly. If I want collaborative working groups, I will sometimes ask students to form their own groups with one of each type of gamer in each group. Or, sometimes, I will ask for my Explorers to form a group to do some preliminary research, my Achievers to formulate a plan, my Socializers to publish and share our process, and my Griefers to look for flaws in the game plan.

My Explorers are those kids who can scout ahead for potential problems and pitfalls.

Sorting my students in this way allows me to focus on those areas where I most need to provide support. I know at the beginning of the year, I need to actively bring Griefers into the fold, before they get themselves in trouble. I need to keep the Explorers from wandering off into the woods. I need to broaden the perspective of my Achievers and not let their razor-sharp focus keep them from seeing the big picture. All of my students need to appreciate each other’s strengths, and learn from each other. The Socializers can keep everything moving, and let me know when they sense trouble in the working groups, since they are usually closely attuned to who’s working with whom.

Achievers will make the grade, no matter what.

This activity works best with middle and high school students. The Bartle Test is not scientific, and it’s just a small test with subjective results. But it’s written in a language my gamer students understand, and the results are fun and spark discussion. In my experience, there is no such thing as behavior that is “just a game.” How we play mirrors how we live, and the choices we make. My students generally feel the Bartle Test results are pretty accurate, and it’s a simple starting point for the complex task of adapting my learning environment to meet the needs of every learner in the room.

How would you score? Take the free Bartle Test yourself:

NEW! One of my students created a free iPhone app that allows you to take the Bartle Test:

NOTE: MMORPG is short for Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, an online game world that is running consistently, like World of Warcraft or Everquest.

Santa’s Back, and He’s Going Hardcore

An e-mail to my high school AP Computer Science students:


To: All

Subj: Santa’s Back, and He’s Going Hardcore

Date: December 18, 2016

Greetings, APCS'ers,

Thanks for a great first semester!

The new Hardcore world is open. You can reach it at the following address:

For now this is in place of our regular world, which is fine -- don't worry! I just have not been able to figure out how to run both worlds simultaneously on one license. So for now, our regular AP world has been saved and I will turn it back on later.

The Hardcore world is a new one and all players are re-whitelisted on the server so it's a brand new game! 

Overall APCS Minecraft Mission

To create a self-sustaining community that reinforces trust among individuals and rewards pro-social behavior.

Rules of Hardcore

If you die, it's permanent and you won't be able to rejoin the Hardcore server until the next restart. I'll leave this one up at least three weeks or so (or until most of you are dead.)

PvP is OFF. Please help each other to survive and let's see if we can keep the fatality rate low.

Try to think about others and do things that help the community. Some examples:

  • Only take what you need.
  • Think about new players spawning in and try to leave some trees standing (or replant.)
  • Build safe areas for other, more vulnerable players.
  • Say Hi to new players as they come in.

In this world, villages and temples are not under any special protection. If you find it, you can use it.

If you die, please post to the Discussion Forum "How I Died in Hardcore" and tell your sorry tale. We want to know the details so we can offer you our condolences. And use your stuff.

Please be very careful and remember that you are soft and vulnerable. Don't take any chances. Seriously! If you are still new to Minecraft you might want to try starting a Single Player Hardcore game, just to give yourself a sense of how it is.

Some tips for surviving in Hardcore mode:

Personally, I am diving deep right away and mining. You won't see me again until I have a full suit of armor.

Happy Minecrafting, and happy holidays to all,

Mr. Kiang.

Handwriting vs. Typewritten

This is some research I conducted at the request of my Principal.

Word Processed vs. Handwritten Essays: What Does the Research Say?

Our school implements a traditional final exam period. Over the course of three days, students are excused from classes and sit for timed exams. In some cases, the final exam counts as much as the grade for an entire quarter, and is worth up to 33% of the student’s semester grade.

As our school reexamines our current practices of assessment, I was asked to examine current research and studies contrasting handwritten and word processed final essays. Our school is a one-to-one school, so all students have access to a personal laptop throughout their school careers. The school is concerned about the validity of handwritten essays in assessing students whose work all semester has been word processed.

There are other questions the school wishes to investigate, as well. If given the choice to handwrite or type, are students who choose to handwrite their essays at a disadvantage when the essays are scored? Do students perform differently when handwriting vs. typing their answers? What are students’ concerns when choosing to handwrite or type?

The University of Edinburgh did a study in which students were given the choice between handwriting or typing essays. Typed and handwritten versions of each essay were produced and graded by a group of four graders. Surprisingly, the researchers found a small but noticeable grading bias toward handwritten essays. Students who chose to word process their essays received scores that were several points lower, a result that has been confirmed in a number of other studies (Russell & Tao 2004, MacCann et al 2002, Sweedler-Brown).

Powers et al (2014) provide two possible explanations in their report on a similar study they performed at Rio Hondo College. When grading a typed essay, readers may inadvertently expect a higher level of polish because the essay is typed out, rather than considering it as the rough draft produced under time pressure and anxiety that it is. The authors also noted a “Reader Empathy Assessment Discrepancy” in which readers tended to identify more closely with the writer if the work was handwritten, citing a “closer identification with the writer’s voice.” 

This suggests that in order to ensure that handwritten and typed essays are graded equivalently, schools should either require that all examinations be either handwritten or typed, or in cases where students are given the choice, educate graders about the presentation effect. Mogey et al. 2006 found that when teachers were made aware of this type of grading bias, it reduced the effect. It is also interesting to note that papers that were printed in a cursive font also seemed to reduce, but not eliminate, the bias (Powers et al 2014). When asked if they wanted to be able to choose handwritten or typed essays, only students who were faster handwriters suggested the need for choice. (Mogey et al 2014)

A second difference between handwritten and typed essays is the quantity of the finished output. Thomas, Paine, and Price (2003) found that students who typed their essays produced considerably more words than those students who chose to handwrite, a finding confirmed by Mogey, Paterson, Burk and Purcell (2006) although another study found the difference to be very small — 9 words more on average (Horkay et al. 2006) In schools where most assignments are given on the computer, students rarely use handwriting to do their work. Connelly, Dockrell and Barnett (2005) found that first-year undergraduates had a handwriting fluency level similar to what would be expected from an 11-year old child. Consequently, requiring students to handwrite their final essays when they have typed all their previous work calls into question the very validity of the assessment.

A number of studies also show that students who are very familiar with technology do better on typed tasks than those who are not (Wolfe, Bolton, Feltovich, and Bangert 1996 and Wolfe, Bolton, Feltovich, and Niday 1996). This suggests that for a number of our students entering as ninth graders, if they have not had the same access to technology, they will be at a disadvantage until they develop their word processing skills (not just typing, but editing and rearranging text too.)

The biggest question of all is how we might use computers more effectively to assess what students have learned. The nature of the word processed essay is essentially a substitution-level task (Puentedura, 2014) and is subject to many of the limitations that handwritten essays face. We should look into the possibility of using computers to generate and display animations, screencasts, video clips, live links, and other digital artifacts to demonstrate learning in ways that would be impossible in a handwritten essay. We might also examine the value of using time constraints on the task of demonstrating learning, and consider piloting untimed tests. 

In the end, the goal of the final exam should be to gather information about what is most important to us to know about our students’ learning. Horkay et al. 2006 suggest that which mode you use depends on what you want to know — do you want to know whether students write well on paper, or digitally, or how well they write in the mode of their choice? How relevant is the ability to write well on paper? Once we answer those questions for ourselves the path should be clearer.


Horkay, N., Bennett, R. E., Allen, N., Kaplan, B., & Yan, F. (2006). Does It Matter if I Take My Writing Test on Computer? An Empirical Study of Mode Effects in NAEP. Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, 5(2).

MacCann, R., Eastment, B., & Pickering, S. (2002). Responding to free response examination questions: computer versus pen and paper. British Journal of Educational Technology, 33(2), 173–188.

Mogey N., and G. Sarab. 2006. Essay exams and tablet computer – trying to make the pill more palatable. Paper presented at the 10th CAA Conference, Loughborough, UK. 

Mogey, N., Paterson, J., Burk, J., & Purcell, M. (2010). Typing compared with handwriting for essay examinations at university: letting the students choose. Alt-J, 18(1), 29–47.

Powers, D. E., Fowles, M. E., Farnum, M., & Ramsey, P. (2014). Will They Think Less Of My Handwritten Essay If Others Word Process Theirs? Effects On Essay Scores Of Intermingling Handwritten And Word-processed Essays. ETS Research Report Series, 1992(2), i–15.

Puentedura, R. R. (2014). SAMR: A contextualized introduction. Retrieved November.

Russell, M., & Tao, W. (2004). The influence of computer-print on rater scores. Practical Assessment.

Sweedler-Brown, C. O. (1991). Computers and assessment: The effect of typing versus handwriting on the holistic scoring of essays. Research and Teaching in Developmental Education.

Thomas, P., C. Paine, and B. Price. 2003. Student experiences of remote computer based examinations. Paper presented at the the 7th CAA conference, July, Loughborough, UK. 

Wolfe, E. W., Bolton, S., Feltovich, B., & Bangert, A. W. (1996). A Study of Word Processing Experience and its Effects on Student Essay Writing. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 14(3), 269–283.

Wolfe, E. W., Bolton, S., Feltovich, B., & Niday, D. M. (1996). The influence of student experience with word processors on the quality of essays written for a direct writing assessment. Assessing Writing, 3(2), 123–147.

How to Minecraft

I found that I had to create some tutorials for my students to get some of them started who had never played Minecraft before.

Five Challenges and Opportunities in Education

Link to complete sketchnote graphic


As an ADE-in-Residence at the San Francisco Exploratorium last spring, I was asked to adapt written materials on Tinkering and Playful Learning to an iTunes U course intended to introduce teachers to the concepts of tinkering, making, and the pedagogical principles that make these powerful learning experiences.

Going back to a science museum was a nice treat for me because I started my career in the Education Department at the Museum of Science, in Boston. The idea of learning through tinkering was first introduced to me through the work of Seymour Papert, when I was a graduate student taking a course at the MIT Media Lab. I was fortunate to spend some time working with Mitch Resnick and other students in the Lifelong Kindergarten group and I was pleasantly surprised to find so much that was familiar to me from the beginning of my career teaching hands-on science courses at the Museum of Science. I learned to teach by encouraging students to explore and discover, and although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was embracing constructivist philosophy, and later, constructionism, as I encouraged kids to make their own artifacts and engage in discussions with others about their artifacts.

The Tinkering course materials were developed by Mike Petrich and Karen Wilkinson, and were developed along with their book The Art of Tinkering. The book provides a hands-on look at the stories and artifacts that many different “makers” produced in the Tinkering Studio in the San Francisco Exploratorium. The challenge was in adapting the book materials from a fairly linear, author-directed experience to a self-directed, interactive experience in which learners could potentially explore the course modules out of order. In essence, our hope was that the Tinkering iTunesU course would present to learners an opportunity to play, build, and construct in a truly hands-on and engaging way.

There are many opportunities for educational leadership as schools are realizing that a makerspace needs to be more than just the place where they set up the 3D printer. Increasingly, we are trying to build engagement in learners by giving them a sense of agency over their own learning. We want our learners to be motivated to do their best work not because of extrinsic rewards, but out of a natural curiosity and sense of wonder. As more and more of our students have access to MacBooks, iPads, and other devices, we need to find ways to empower our teachers to see these devices as mobile makerspaces: devices that allow kids to take anything they can dream of, and make it real.

Cooking with Meggy

Cooking with Meggy is a multi-touch book that I created for the Meggy Jr., a handheld video game device that I have been using in my Introduction to Computer Science classes. It was my first self-published book, and it filled a need that wasn’t being met; there were no books about coding for this device, so I created and published my own. This inspired other teachers to start publishing their own content, and now our school has a number of teachers who have created and published original content on their own. Along the way, it has pushed our school to explore important questions of copyright and intellectual property with respect to the work that teachers create while at the school.

With iBooks Author and the iBookstore, publishing has never been easier. We are encouraging teachers to develop their own books to further their own professional development, as well as for use by their own students. One question that has arisen for leadership is what the appropriate share of royalties should be for the teacher, and for the school. Because it costs nothing to open an iBookstore account, teachers could just as easily publish using their own iBookstore account, as use the School’s. This would allow the teacher to keep all the proceeds, and retain ownership of the material even after leaving the School. Yet a number of these books were created using school resources, such as a school-owned laptop or as part of a paid sabbatical or fellowship grant. In fact, one of the most frequently asked questions during our iBooks Author trainings is precisely, what is the school’s split of the revenue from the work done on the book, since the teachers are primarily developing the work on their own time and with very little input from the school. Teachers are understandably reluctant to take on a new publishing project without a definitive answer.

One leadership challenge and opportunity for me has been to push the School to think about these issues, and to try to define what the scope of a teacher’s work is. For example, we have a number of teachers on our faculty who are wonderful at what they do because of their real-world experience as practicing artists, or active novelists. If a teacher develops an original work while employed by the School, is that work simply a natural expression of that teacher’s art, or is it a work that is commissioned by the School, that would not have otherwise been written? What if it incorporates scenes or examples from that teacher’s work with students? Are we employing teachers who write, or writers who teach? What we are finding is that lawyers tend to recommend the most restrictive terms that are most favorable to the School, and yet we are trying to find a balance that is fair to teachers also while protecting the School from being taken advantage of.

Another separate challenge for us has been teacher education around copyright. We still have a number of teachers who create books using images dragged in from Google Images. We have decided as an organization that anything that is published under the School’s brand will be entirely original copyright, or copyright-cleared material either by direct permission of the artist, or through a Creative Commons license. The problem is that many teachers either think small (“it’s just for my own classroom, no one else will see it”) or misunderstand what fair use means (“it’s covered under fair use because it’s educational”). This has created an opportunity for us to exercise leadership by educating our faculty about copyright and fair use, and requiring a meeting with one of us before they begin writing their books.

When I created my little book on coding, I got a firsthand look at all of the questions and issues we would be dealing with in the years to come as the publishing floodgates opened. From a leadership standpoint, the most valuable thing I did was to actually engage in the task that we were trying to encourage our faculty to do. It led by example, and helped us to get out in front of the issues and control the message before we created precedents that would have been difficult to back out of later.

© Douglas Kiang 2020