Posted by Dominick Sanders on Aug 19, 2021
CSTA Equity Fellow Dominick Sanders shares his CSTA 2021 experience. 

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Wow, what a year this has been! With many teachers switching to distance learning or hybrid teaching, CSTA has been there to equip our toolbox. The annual CSTA Conference took place July 14, 2021—July 16, 2021, and was, for the second year in a row, completely virtual. But before I talk about the event, let’s start with the pre-conference, a.k.a. “The Swag Box”. The Virtual Conference 2021 box was sleek in both design and its contents. I didn’t expect so much to fit in the box. What was your favorite item? For me, the Equity Fellow award came on top! It has been a trying year for us all and being a part of the fellowship was a blessing in disguise. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being thought partners with this group and seeing these individuals via Zoom monthly. Besides the award, the mini-ring light was my other favorite item. As a person who is always on the go attending a ton of meetings, good lighting is essential. 
Now let’s talk about the conference. If I had one word to describe the conference, it would be inquisitive. If you wanted to learn about equity and access, the conference had that. If you wanted to access new resources, the conference had that. If you wanted to network with CS educators, the conference had that. If you wanted to learn about CS pedagogy and standards, the conference had that. The list goes on and on. This was, by far, one of the most extensive offerings of workshops and had great keynotes from start to finish.
The main stage is where we heard some dynamic keynote speeches: 
  • Dr. Amy Ko deeply dove into the roots of inequity in K-12 CS. 
  • Dr. Jean Ryoo’s keynote opened attendees’ eyes to what the youth think about computer science. 
  • Dr. Tim Bell’s keynote focused on what is actually changing in technology and what underlying ideas are foundational.  
  • Zaretta Hammond’s keynote informed us of how we can create computer science and STEM opportunities for racially, ethnically, and socio-economically diverse students.
Each keynote left me with pages full of notes that had me reflecting on my practices and ways that I could better support teachers on their computer science journey. 
Throughout the conference, my colleagues (CSTA Equity Fellows) were on full display. If you did not get a chance to check out our flash talks check them out here
I know that I wasn’t the only person that had trouble picking out workshop sessions. It’s a great problem to have at a conference like this. My first thought was to pick sessions on topics that I wasn’t that familiar with but quickly learned that wasn’t a good game plan. I ended up workshop-hopping to see how much I could learn in a short period — which is one of the advantages of the event being held virtually. If only, there was a robot that could have attended each session that I couldn’t and gave me the key takeaways that would have been lovely. For now, I will just wait until the recordings come out. 
One of my favorite workshops was presented by one of the Equity Fellow’s, Lily Mora, who presented on “Leaning On Each Other to Overcome CS Imposter Syndrome.” Being part of the two percent of African American male educators in CS, I appreciated this workshop. Imposter syndrome is a real thing and I think it heightened for me during the beginning of the pandemic. I’m glad that Lily called out the topic in her Flash Talk and then provided a workshop that delved into the topic and provided suggestions on how to combat some of its symptoms. I also loved all of the interdisciplinary CS workshops. CS is everywhere and it was great seeing CS educators showcase what they’re doing to make those connections for students. Last but certainly not least, I would be remiss if I did not mention the panel that I was a part of with Equity Fellows Leon Tynes and Eric Foster, two amazing black brothers who I deeply respect and admire. 
As we prepare for the upcoming school year, I hope you take advantage of the plethora of resources that were provided during the conference and check out the video recordings once they’re made available. The CSTA Conference team did an amazing job inviting dynamic guest speakers and diversifying the workshop offerings so that there was something for everyone.

One of my favorite quotes is “A chain is as strong as its weakest link.” This simply means that the strength of a chain is limited to that of the weakest link in the chain. Even if the other links on the chain are strong, the strength of the chain depends on the weakest link. In this case, we CS educators are links on the CS community chain. We’re in this fight together and we need each other to get through whatever lies ahead. With that being said, if you ever need a helping hand, the CSTA team and the local chapters are always here. See you all next year, in person, at the CSTA Annual Conference in Chicago!