Big and Transparent and Computer Science

With the amalgamation of school boards in Ontario, we ended up with some pretty big school districts.

District Elementary Schools Secondary Schools
 Toronto  477  123
 Peel  213  42
 York Region  175  33
 Toronto Catholic  167  29
 Thames Valley  133  30

 

Source:

List of school districts in Ontario. (2017, February 26). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18:22, July 14, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=List_of_school_districts_in_Ontario&oldid=767614266

I always thought that my former district was big as a result of the amalgamation.

One of the keynote addresses at the recent CSTA Conference was Brenda Darden Wilkerson – Director of Computer Science and IT Education, Chicago Public Schools.

Those of us who have been on the planning committee for a long time recall the year that we had the conference in Chicago, some 15 years ago.  As is the practice, a member of the district is invited to serve on the committee to ensure that the program would be helpful for local teachers.  I still remember looking at each other when our member said “We don’t teach Computer Science”.  As a result of Brenda’s work in the area, Computer Science is now built right into the plan of studies for Chicago students.  What a monumental achievement!

How big is the Chicago Public School system? Compare to the above with 480 elementary schools and 172 secondary schools.  A complete breakdown is available here.

As her talk was taking place, the presentation showed a map of schools.  It completely overlaid the entire city.  I tried to find the same map on my computer and the closest that I got was available here.

Screenshot 2017-07-14 at 14.38.30

Clicking on an amber dot for an elementary school or a cyan dot for a secondary school reveals a summary:

Screenshot 2017-07-14 at 14.39.39

After picking a few, you’ll get a sense of the types of school and types of challenges for students and community.  Watching news reports will serve to provide more thoughts about the challenges faced.

You’ll also get a sense of the challenge to implement such an initiative as Computer Science for All, going from nothing to everywhere.

Why would you undertake an initiative like this?  I think it’s easily seen as being “just the right thing to do”.  We know that it opens doors that otherwise wouldn’t be open.  We know that students will do better in other disciplines when they know the skills of Computer Science and Computational Thinking.

As our speaker noted

Kids can’t be what they won’t see

I think that this is a wonderful success story.  Obviously, not every student will benefit from the opportunity but, at least now, they have that opportunity.

When you look at the number of schools involved and the challenges tackled, it makes our little challenges pale by comparison.

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