CSforALL encompasses powerful learning opportunities both in and out of school. To create a shared understanding of computer science (CS) education in the out-of-school time (OST) space and imagine a future for CS in OST, a group of 75 experts including content and program providers, researchers, technologists, policymakers, and funders gathered to share research, policy, promising practices, and generate ideas.
Under the banner of “Mo’Time for CS” and leading up to the CSforALL 2018 Summit Celebration at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI, they gathered to discuss what afterschool, summer, libraries, museums, and other OST spaces can bring to the CSforALL movement. Many of the invited participants had never met or known of each other before, but soon discovered a common interest at the working summit.
Participants spent the morning hearing about the foundations of the CSforALL organization, highlights of interviews with OST experts, and from a panel of experts from across the country who provided a tapestry of youth-centered research, promising practices, the importance of public policy to reach all youth, and the critical need for professional development for both school day and OST educators.
This information served as background for the beginnings of a “blueprint for action” that participants brainstormed together and developed ideas for:
- communication and public awareness,
- professional development and capacity building,
- promising practices,
- evaluation and standards, and
- program and public policies.
For many participants, the working summit was a great “first date.” Many left with an eagerness to find more time to continue learning, networking, and being part of building and executing a blueprint for action. Although we came from different backgrounds and roles, we all agreed that youth are at the center.
Detailed Run of the Day
Nate Mullen, Director of People in Education in Detroit set the tone for the day by giving us a glimpse of how his project works to humanize schooling through facilitating spaces for reflection, curiosity and connection for teachers and students. Through the intersection of media, art, and education, students investigate their communities through media projects such as understanding renewable energy.
Foundations for CSforALL
Michael Preston, co-founder and managing partner of CSforALL, followed and provided an overview of K-12 CS education and the rise of the “computer science for all” movement in local communities and as a shared mission across the country. He gave definitions of CS and role the K-12 CS Framework has served in building consensus and driving standards development. He concluded with the CS Visions project and how developing a local, shared vision for CS can help drive planning for all kinds of organizations.
Michael also explained his team’s journey from CSNYC to CSforALL, starting with a mission to introduce CS to the New York City public school system. Now a mandate for all 1.1 million students there, the focus quickly shifted from “can all students learn CS?” to “how do we scale CS to all students” to “how do we achieve equity and quality at scale?” In NYC and across the country, getting to CSforALL will require an ecosystem approach that embraces OST and builds meaningful bridges between formal and informal education.
Highlights of Research
To gain a better understanding of what those in the OST space think about CS education, An-Me Chung, CSforALL consultant conducted interviews this summer with 40 experts in the OST field. Highlights of research include:
What is CS?
- CS is part of STEM
- Functionally STEM is marketing idea, CS is a discipline
- CS is between T and M with a little E
- CS is computational thinking, needs to be integrated into all disciplines, and move from hour of coding to scope and sequence.
Challenges and misperceptions
- CS can be intimidating — more than STEM
- Staff are not prepared/or qualified
- “Would love to do it, think we can, but no access to connectivity, hardware or software”
- CS is just computer programming
- CS has been framed and driven by programmers
- “Don’t want to touch it because I have no background to teach it”
- Lack curriculum that is concise and digestible
- CS is already happening in OST but called something else: i.e. Robotics, Girls who Code, Minecraft, Scratch, Makerspaces, Fab Labs, Digital storytelling
- School day emphasis is good, but inefficient. Afterschool can enforce what’s being taught in school. “OST can use more content, and in-school need more creativity”
- OST provides opportunities for interest driven real-world learning, problem-solving, creativity, experimentation, and flexibility
The Promise of OST Panel
To provide the audience with a window into the rich array of existing efforts, we ended the morning with a panel of experts who created a tapestry of youth-centered research, promising practices, public policy needs, and professional development needed by both school day and OST educators.
Mimi Ito, Professor — UC Irvine, Director of Connected Learning Lab stressed the importance of connecting young people’s interest to tangible opportunities. Even if kids have passionate interests that are supported by home, their online communities, and peer groups, they don’t necessarily see ways to connect it to their school or their plans for their future.
Laveta Wills-Hale, Executive Director, Arkansas Out of School Network discussed the need to ensure that students graduate from high school and move onto post-secondary education in order to fill the growing number of jobs in Arkansas that require CS education. Given that CS education is a priority of the Governor of Arkansas, the window of opportunity to involve OST educators is now.
In California, $15M is now available through a pilot project from the California Department of Education to provide CS education in afterschool programs. Although excited about being the first state to offer such funding, Jeff Davis, Executive Director, California AfterSchool Network described the challenges of providing the necessary professional development and prep time needed for success.
Jeff Cole, Vice-President, Beyond School Bells and Adam Morfeld, State Senator from Nebraska and member of Education Committee stressed the importance of bringing CS education to rural communities and building partnerships and engaging policymakers early in the process. Partnerships with the University of NE-Lincoln Extension have brought CS type of education to young people. They also underlined the importance of messaging and context. The term CS is intimidating, but future farmers understand the importance of GPS and water systems.
Diane Levitt, Senior Director of K-12 Education, Cornell Tech discussed the need for students and teachers to have the computational agency required to build something meaningful. She shared the importance of professional development for both in-school and OST educators as well as the challenge of finding the time to bring together the educators necessary to bridge in and OST learning.
Blueprint for Action
The remainder of the day was spent networking and meeting in smaller groups. Participants spent time reflecting on the morning, creating personas of an OST educator, and brainstorming potential steps for a blueprint for action.
One group identified reasons for why we should teach CS:
- Computing provides youth with more and better career opportunities to choose from.
- Informed citizens need to understand the basics of how the technological world works in order to contribute productively to society as a whole.
- It promotes 21st century skills like creativity, collaboration and communication.
- Computing provides youth with the ability to express themselves creatively and have voice.
- Being able to understand and make technologies gives kids power and agency.
- The process of tinkering and making can lead to wonder, discovery and enjoyment.
- The more people we have that understand computer science, the more innovations and new knowledge we can produce as a society.
- It will level the playing field and help close the “digital divide” and “participation gap” around tech for lower income youth.
- There are major disparities in minorities’ and young women’s engagement in STEM fields and universal CS education is part of addressing that.
- Practices from CS might enhance student learning of traditional academic disciplines (e.g. — introducing computer simulation of an ecosystem to learn concepts in ecology, or using CS concepts to learn algebra).
Action steps identified by participants for a Blueprint for Action.
Communication and Public Awareness
- Parents, community leaders, funders, policymakers, formal education system, software developers, industry, and the OST field need messages to communicate the big ideas to relevant stakeholders in ways that resonate with their needs and values.
- Messages should include BIG message sentiments such as: tech is everywhere, can be used in all spaces, is relevant to all; tech needs to be culturally relevant and inclusive; tech is a tool for problem-solving and innovation; CS to earn a living.
- Support parental/family awareness and equity — families are key lever for increasing access and inclusion
- Build awareness with school administrators and creating buy-in as to what OST can do by bringing data to the table
- Afterschool and summer — huge missed opportunity — make the case with data and better stories
- The State of Computer Science for the State — economic impact study (fastest growing jobs, salaries, challenges, recommendations)
- Public service announcements
Professional Development and Capacity Building
- Training that includes facilitation and content knowledge, and can be adapted by public educators, OST staff, and higher-ed students for local workshops
- Supports for integrating facilitation models like peer-peer mentoring, partnerships with CS or tech professionals
- Require OST providers to be part of a new table with libraries, parks, museums etc.
- Use higher-ed act to assist with pre-certification training for CS majors
- Certificates and/or credentials for staff and volunteers
- Connect and leverage local expertise including high school youth, and online expert communities
- Training and capacity building to support access and inclusion for girls and underrepresented youth of color
Promising practices, evaluation, and standards
- Need a clearinghouse and guide for best practices
- Programs and schools should create a data sharing agreement AND have a plan on how data is used to track success, inform course corrections, etc.
- Guidance on a host of curriculum and activities, etc. that align to CS standards/ frameworks and are developmentally appropriate
- Create a “crosswalk” of sorts between OST Quality Standards and CS Standards / frameworks. Focus on the intersections of high quality OST programs and CS
- Need shared measurement tools and databases to guide continuous learning and improvement
- States should join existing coalition and establish a special committee for CS Afterschool or develop a coalition of CS leaders to begin establishing quality tools.
Program and Public Policies
- Stackable credentials — give schools flexibility to allow these as credit-bearing events; high school credit for OST work aligned with school standards
- Compel policy makers to pass laws of consensus around this work, and then fund it sufficiently
- Work with government agencies to push business/industry in technology to accelerate broadband, etc. in areas of need
- Competitive funding for innovative policies/practices with accountability/obligations on funding deliverables — authentic evaluation models
- Facilitate state-level pilots of promising practices
- Compel state and local leadership to acknowledge the value of OST, the critical need to provide underserved youth with CS, and the need to pay living wage for educators, as well as training, materials, and devices.
At the End of the Day
For many participants, it was an opportunity to meet new people, reflect, and contribute with others who share the same vision and passion about youth and CS education. Their conversations spilled over into the reception hosted by the STEM Next Opportunity Fund, and they left with an eagerness to meet again.