Friday, May 25, 2018

ACSE Gmail Chat

The ACSE gmail group recently erupted with dozens of wonderful discussion posts on a variety of computer science curriculum, staffing and policy ideas. It has taken me a little while to read through all the many informative and thoughtful emails. But, of course I wanted to chime in with my own views!
Refreshing curriculum
As others have noted, we have had a relatively large upswing in computer science learning at elementary. This has been boosted by two years of The Learning Partnership support and this year by other additional organizations accessing CanCode funds.
On the one hand, I think we are finally getting past the questions on “How can I teach this, it is not in the curriculum,” with a strong emphasis on subject integration, and acceptance of creative coding platforms such as Scratch and the many robotics devices that bring learning to life. We also have the provincial resource, Coding in Elementary, that is housed on Edugains. It takes a strong integration approach.
In our board for example, we just concluded offering PD to all Kindergarten teams on Coding and Computational thinking using BeeBots. We also have K classes using Scratch Jr. I think we need to be planning for learning pathways for these students.
The end result is that students will come to high school with a good foundation in drag-and-drop programming. Some will have more. For example, Swift Playgrounds reveals the actual code. So does the Codesters Python environment used by Hackergals. App Inventor also offers a more sophisticated environment for elementary students.
This winter I was conducting a workshop in a borrowed classroom. It happened to be used mostly for BTT and CS courses. The poster on the wall included success criteria for using Spheros to code commands, loops, etc. These same assignments could be completed successfully in many junior classes, that is Grades 4-6.
So, when I looked at the call for writers for refreshing the Science and Technology curriculum, I wondered two things.
First, are we at the point of incorporating these skills into the actual elementary curriculum? That would be great as it would lead to broader PD opportunities and therefore more equity for our students.
As well, I couldn’t help but think back to that BTT poster. Surely it would be a good thing if the province would look at the continuum of age-appropriate computer science learning and adjust both the elementary and secondary expectations to match what is truly the reality in many schools in 2018.
I have been weighing my views on the level of rigor needed to qualify secondary teachers to teach CS. Naturally I have identified with the group of self-taught CS teachers, as that is the category I fall into. However, I know my limitations and if I had to teach Grade 12 tomorrow…
You know what? I would. I do not have the background today. But I could build my skills based on where I am now. I could also access a wide variety of learning platforms to gain proficiency in a given language. I could reach out online or in this ACSE group for resources and project ideas, which everyone is so willing to share. I think we are entering an age where proficiency or even mastery in a subject are freely available to those who are willing to inquire, persist and work hard. To quote my computer science teacher (from one of my two CS credits): “To get better at coding… you need to code!”
I believe that the issues identified by others about the two-year program, industry salaries, etc. are hugely important and should be addressed. But I think even more important is the vision of where Ontario will go with the curriculum. That framework would lead to an examination of needs across the province…

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