I had a real feel-good moment at the recent CSIT Conference. I was having a chat with Alfred Thompson and Pat Yongpradit came up and out of the blue said something like "Ontario has the best Computer Science curriculum anywhere" to Alfred. Pat obviously knew that I was from Ontario, having met him earlier at Microsoft’s Innovation Series.
It made me feel pretty good to hear that. At the conference, advocacy for computer science as a discipline and reaching out to all students remains a big issue. So big, in fact, that the morning keynote was about advocacy.
It was a time to explain to the two of them about the Ontario situation. In Ontario, we have a formal Computer Studies curriculum with five courses clearly identified in terms of expectations.
But, it didn’t happen by accident. I explained how Peter Beens had been seconded for a couple of years to shepherd these ideas through to its final product. In addition to the sorts of things that one would expect to find in a computer studies curriculum, areas of the discipline like Environmental Stewardship and Financial Literacy are addressed.
The key to a successful implementation of this lied in the fact that every school in the province was expected to use the curriculum. There wasn’t to be pockets of excellence; this was the law of the computer studies land.
Instrumental to the implementation are the resources and interactions from the Computer Studies subject council, ACSE. Via their website, you’ll find things like a community powered Diigo group, Web Resources, Conference, or a Discussion List. ACSE doesn’t go it alone.
The Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing has a collection of directly applicable support resources. CS Circles is a unique way of teaching Python Programming. You can’t beat the collection of Ontario created resources, completely searchable by concepts or course and of real note is the CEMC Summer Institute, three days of intense learning with colleagues throughout the province.
The ECOO Computer Science Group supports student learning with its own computer programming contest.
The truly powerful part of the implementation of the original Ministry of Education document is the support and the fact that Computer Studies colleagues are talking and sharing within a common framework. I still maintain that the shortcoming in the curriculum is that at least one of the courses is not a graduation requirement.
Not only do I think that Computer Studies is one of the most important subject area for students, but I firmly believe that it’s the one that will need to be in constant revision and refinement. Ontario Computer Studies educators have always been up to the challenge. With such an approach, any student in the province should have access to the highest level of course.
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