When it comes to computer science, teaching students to program computers is only half the picture.
“Computer science is understanding how to use a computer as a tool to solve problems -- how to break a problem down into smaller steps, how to iterate or attack a problem and keep trying over and over to solve it, how to use the computer as a tool to work with big data,” says Delaware County IU 25’s Lauren Poutasse.
While computer science is part of Pennsylvania’s core standards, schools face challenges in delivering. Rural schools struggle to find qualified teachers. Urban schools must squeeze time out of overbooked days and have access to properly working technology.
That’s why DCIU said yes when invited in 2016 to be a regional partner for Code.org, a nonprofit building computer science instruction capacity in schools nationwide. By 2020, two-thirds of jobs will require a computer science background, and students exposed to it will have a leg up in a broad range of fields, says Poutasse, who is leading the initiative.
As Code.org’s Pennsylvania partner, DCIU is responsible for:
- Training existing K-5 teachers to incorporate computer science into classroom practices.
- Providing training and community support for a project-based course in middle schools, and a new Advanced Placement computer science principles course in high schools.
The initiative strives for equity through outreach to underserved students and by offering all training, travel, curricula, and materials for free, funded by Code.org. In Year Two, DCIU is partnering with the Pennsylvania Department of Education and other intermediate units to take training on the road, minimizing travel time for participating teachers, especially in rural areas.
In its first year, the initiative trained 241 K-5 teachers and was installed in middle and high schools in 43 districts. On the way toward the goal of exposing every student to computer science, Code.org is upending myths and teaching students how to transport their newfound problem-solving skills from one conundrum to another.
“It’s about thinking skills for students,” says Poutasse. “Computer science is not an individual subject. It’s practiced in teams. Creativity is a big part of computer science.”