Building #CSforALL in Out-of-School Time

October 8, 2018, CSforALL will host Mo’Time for CS, a national convening to set the stage for integrating computer science education into out-of-school time (OST) as part of the annual CSforALL Summit 2018 in Detroit Michigan. With support from C.S. Mott Foundation, the STEM Next Opportunity Fund, and RBC Capital Markets and others, invited practitioners, advocates, policymakers, researchers, and experts from after-school, summer learning, library, museum, and other OST spaces will spend the day at the first-of-its kind working summit. The goals of the day are to develop a shared understanding of CSeducation, learn from promising practices and existing research, and create a blueprint that encompasses strategies for public awareness, promising practices, research and evaluation, and public policy.

Cornell Tech, Roosevelt Island NYC

Hack the Framework NYC, July 27

To start exploring the waters, we gathered a small group of thoughtful and committed individuals, many of whom have been working together in the NYC ecosystem, to the Cornell Tech campus to explore the possibilities for integrating computer science into informal education spaces. Afterschool, library and museum educators, technologists, researchers, advocates, and other experts spent the day developing a shared understanding of the characteristics, opportunities and challenges, and the added value of K-12 CS Framework (“the Framework”), which was designed primarily for traditional school settings.

At the end of the day, the group was enthusiastic and energized by the prospects and potential. Participants discussed next steps that include developing practice briefs and process map for different learning environments, and creating an addendum to or hacking a version of the Framework specifically for OST and inclusive of what’s missing from the current Framework.

For many of the participants, the day gave them the opportunity to delve into the Framework and discover alignments they hadn’t considered previously. For those from the traditional school day, it gave them a glimpse of the possibilities of learning and partnering with the OST educators. In addition, participants discussed the importance of CSforALL being a convener and ally of CS for OST educators, as well as the bridge builder between OST and the traditional school day.

The day began with CSforALL co-founder and managing partner Michael Preston sharing their mission: to be a hub that connects those interested in providing rigorous and equitable computer science education to all K-12 students. Michael acknowledged that partnering with OST educators is an important part of ensuring that we can reach all students, and that we need to build bridges between in and out of school learning not only to reach more kids but also to build on their developing knowledge in more strategic ways.

Participants spent time developing a mind-map of the words they use to represent/describe CS education in their community. Example of these words include problem solving, design, making, youth agency, digital literacy, algorithms, innovation, learning, programming, collaboration, and careers.

In addition, they created personas of educators who are responsible for CS learning experiences in their programs. The personas ranged from Gabriela, a 21-year-old college student working in afterschool to Stany, a teaching artist turned CS summer camp leader to Patty, director of a non-profit focused on programming for youth. Gabriela wants to be a teacher and give back to her community. Stany is building a 4-week summer experience to that is creative and exposes kids to CS and is excited and scared by the task. Patty is excited about launching a new program but feels constrained by grant requirements and needs to train and build trust in her staff and to recruit community buy-in.

K-12 CS Framework

We next heard from Leigh Ann DeLyser, co-founder and managing partner of CSforALL and one of the writers of the K-12 CS Framework. She gave an overview of the Framework and led an offline exercise on writing a series of steps for a robot to find the words in a word search. This exercise gave participants a good sense of what the basic concepts and process is for algorithmic thinking, an important component of computational thinking.

Characteristics, Opportunities and Challenges

The background on the Framework was helpful as we outlined the characteristics of the OST space and the opportunities and challenges of aligning with the Framework.

Characteristics identified include: youth-centered, flexibility and choice, real-world learning opportunities, workforce development, small groups, staff with diversity of skills, training and perspectives, and pedagogy of diversity of topic and reach. The challenges in the OST space are often related: hiring, training, and retaining qualified staff and finding appropriate curriculum that is concise and digestible.

Opportunities offered by the Framework include: gaining more respect for what is happening in the OST space by aligning to concepts and practices, offering progression that tells us why, building metrics for implementation and evaluation, and plugging and partnering with schools and other OST partners. Additionally, leveraging the Framework and promising practices to engage policymakers in understanding why CS education is fundamental to all students is important for ensuring adequate resources are available.

Although everyone applauds the writers for preparing an extraordinarily comprehensive document, the challenges are in the day-to-day useability of the Framework: overwhelming (300 pages of mostly all reading), not written in accessible language for OST educators or making the case to funders or policymakers, and site is not friendly or responsive for program staff and managers or curriculum developers. Some also mentioned possible resistance to standards of any kind in the OST space.

CS Pathway for OST Programs

To begin assessing potential CS pathways for OST programs, participants mapped outcomes along with indicators and evidence. Examples of outcomes were impact on community issues, sustaining interest in CS, and understanding career pathways. When aligned with concepts and practices in the Framework the following practices rose to the top:

  • Fostering an inclusive culture
  • Recognizing and defining computational problems
  • Creating computational artifacts
  • Communication about computing were the practices

However, what maybe the most notable is “What’s Missing” from the Framework:

  • Design thinking
  • Project management
  • Ownership
  • Growth mindset
  • Tinkering/process of learning
  • Self advocacy/confidence
  • Careers
  • Explicit examples of computational thinking, and real-world learning applications for different audiences
  • Collaboration — no mentoring, on-boarding or off-loading knowledge

Next Steps

Mo’Time for CS on October 8, 2018 will build on what was learned from this day as well as learnings from interviews conducted this summer with 40 practitioners, researchers, advocates, policymakers, technologists, designers, funders, and experts on engaging the OST field into the computer science movement. See here for registration page.