Computer Science (CS) in CPS

Computer Science (CS) in CPS
Posted on 06/07/2019
CSBy: Gina Roughton

Computer Science is gaining momentum across the district, and I would like to share with you some of the recent and future happenings. DESE released the Digital Literacy & Computer Science framework in the summer of 2016 which includes student learning expectations for grades K-12 around computational thinking. This is the first time that MA DESE has recognized computational thinking and computer science as a necessary literacy, and the Educational Technology (Ed Tech) department is super excited! Since then (and before), the Ed Tech department has been working on identifying ways to bring this interdisciplinary and engaging content to CPS students. For many years, CPS students have participated in the CS Ed Week (Hour of Code) in December, which often sparks the interests of both students and educators to learn more. The Instructional Technology Specialists capitalize on this spark and collaborate with educators to design computer science rich lessons throughout the year.

Last year, the Ed Tech department built on the success of this one-hour ask, and designed a Computer Science Playground at each of the Upper Schools for all 6th grade students. The CS Playground goals for students include exposure to computer science concepts and ways of thinking, sparking interest in computer science topics, and creating community and school connections. We are currently engaged in year two of the CS Playgrounds with expanded community partners, as well as, opportunities for students to take apart laptops, try their hand at pixel art, and design interactive musical instruments with cardboard, play doh and other conductive materials.

CSIn response to the success of the CS Playground for 6th graders, the Ed Tech department worked with Microsoft and the Cambridge Community Foundation to secure a Digital Skills grant that will extend this experience into 7th grade and provide an opportunity for all students to visit the Microsoft Garage in Kendall Square and learn about career paths in Computer Science. In addition, funds from the grant will support professional learning opportunities for educators in the Upper Schools to expand their capacity to make curriculum connections. This Spring, Ingrid Gustafson from the Ed Tech department facilitated a CS Playground for Educators choice course that provided time and space for educators to “play.” They explored aspects of physical computing, programming, and computational thinking in a safe space to ask questions, make mistakes, and experiment.

At the ends of our K-12 scope, kindergarten educators on a recent Science SOA learned about CS expectations at that grade level and engaged in "play" with the KIBO robots to explore classroom connections. And during the 10th grade ELA MCAS days at CRLS this Spring, freshman engaged in a CS experience (designed by CRLS ITS) that partnered with team members from MIT App Inventor and the MIT Playful Journey Lab and CRLS juniors and seniors enrolled in CS courses who served as near-peer mentors. The course selection at CRLS continues to indicate increased interest in CS courses, which are now even more accessible due to a recent removal of the Algebra I prerequisite for Intro to CS.

Speaking of near-peer mentors, members of the Ed Tech department have also participated on city-wide STEAM Working Groups this year that are comprised of stakeholders across the city to design near-peer opportunities to bring additional CS learning to elementary students. With all of this happening, the Ed Tech department has been working this year to draft a K-12 strategic sequence of experiences/lessons around CS, and will continue this work this summer. If you ever have any questions about Computer Science or Computational Thinking please reach out to the Instructional Technology Specialist(s) at your school!
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