An Interview with Lisa Floyd


lisaLisa Floyd is a Mathematics and Computer Science teacher with the Thames Valley District School Board.  Currently on leave, she is Director of Research and Inquiry for Fair Chance Learning and an adjunct professor at Western University teaching Computational Thinking to Teacher Candidates.

I had the opportunity to interview Lisa for this blog and got to find out a little more about her passions for family, education, Mathematics, Computer Science, and Computational Thinking.

Doug:  My first question is always this.  Where did we first meet face to face?

Lisa:  It’s strange. I believe it was at CSTA in Baltimore recently, but because I’ve followed your blog and have heard about the inspiring work you’re involved with, I felt like I had already met you.  I know you’re an inspiration to many educators, including those who you’ve taught at the University of Windsor.

Doug:  And what were you doing in Baltimore?

Lisa: I was attending the conference with my husband Steve, who was the sole Canadian receiving an award for excellence in teaching computer science (#proudwife)..

Steve

Doug:  I’ll admit that I was so surprised to see your father-in-law there.  He and I have a long history in the educational technology field in Western Ontario.  It was great to have a little chat with him to catch up.  We covered a few years in minutes.  He’s a very proud grandfather.

For those in the field of Computer Science, there most certainly was something there for everyone.  What were your takeaways from the Computer Science Teachers Association conference?

Lisa:  For me, it was just so wonderful to connect with like-minded individuals who have a passion for Computational Thinking (CT).  I was able to meet a few people face-to-face, including Todd Lash who is doing interesting research on CT for his PhD and Grant Smith of LaunchCS (@LaunchCompSci), who I had connected online with previously about coding. They are doing some inspiring work with CT and I was able to attend their sessions too!  I was also excited to meet Miles Berry in person and attend his wonderful presentation (here’s a pic)

MilesandLisa

It was great to speak to Hal Speed from the micro:bit Foundation and to hear of his journey into the education space!

Doug:  One of the big and important issues of the day is getting women involved in Computer Science and other areas of technology.  What drew you into this field strongly enough for you to decide to make it your profession?

Lisa: My first teaching job included a line of computer science and I fell in love with the subject and teaching it even more.  I spent hours and hours learning how to program and loved the challenge and the thinking involved. I felt like I had found a best kept secret subject to teach.  I continued teaching computer science for 14 years and made sure that I was properly preparing my grade 12 students by taking computer science university courses at Western in the evening.  I noticed something special in my own students when they were programming a computer together and I never stopped teaching it! Thankfully, my husband was also teaching it so we could bounce ideas off each other.

Encouraging young women to take high school computer science has been a personal initiative of mine.  Even with a female as their computer science teacher, I only had one to two girls in each of my computer science classes and this is consistent across Ontario and even around the world.  I believe that we need to expose girls to computer science at a younger age so that they won’t be as intimidated to take it as an elective in high school.  Since doing outreach, the computer science classes I had been teaching at the high school I’m on a leave from has grown 5 x.   Girls also need more female role models, and so having the girls who are taking computer science volunteer at elementary schools also makes a big difference.

Doug:  One of the remarkable things about Computer Science courses is the high student success rate.  Have you noticed the same thing with your classes?  Any theories why?

Lisa: Yes!  The success rate is high… I believe it’s partly because of the choice students have when creating programs and they are motivated to complete their work due to the immediate feedback and the opportunity to create authentic and meaningful projects.  Given the nature of computer science, I was able to provide ongoing formative feedback on a daily basis.  The low floor and high ceiling attribute of computer programming that Seymour Papert describes is also helpful… every student is challenged. It’s what he calls, “hard fun”.

Doug:  Do you have a preference for educational programming languages?

Lisa:  I try not to get hung up on languages… if students really want to learn another language, different from what we are doing in class, I don’t mind.  I used Turing for years, and loved it because it is a learning language. It’s about the big ideas and thinking involved and all programming languages have the same programming constructs…there’s just varying degrees of syntax that might make for some languages to be more challenging than others to learn.  My approach is to not solely focus on those students who will be pursuing computer science in college or university, but to support every student with understanding how programming works.  More recently, I’ve used Python, Visual Basic and Java.  I also used Arduino when we brought in the microcontrollers (great for more hands-on work).  In the outreach that I do for elementary students, I prefer Scratch.

Doug:  That’s a nice collection of contemporary programming languages.  You can’t miss with any of them.

There has been much interest in the area of Computational Thinking in the past few years.  What it actually means differs from person to person.  What does Computational Thinking mean to you?

Lisa: I’ve done a lot of research on Computational Thinking and I’ve also noticed the varying definitions even among experts.  To me, it’s a special way of thinking that includes an array of components – pattern recognition, decomposition, abstraction and iteration.  It helps students to effectively approach problems in all subject areas, but coding is a great context for developing Computational Thinking skills.  For anyone looking to learn more about Computational Thinking, especially as it may support math learning, I encourage them to consider attending the Symposium on Computational Thinking in Mathematics Education on October 13-15th, 2017 at UOIT.  This Symposium is sponsored by the Fields Institute for Research in the Mathematical Sciences (Fields); University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), Faculty of Education, and the SSHRC partnership development grant on Computational Thinking in Mathematics Education (ctmath.ca). The symposium is also supported by the Mathematics Knowledge Network, NSERC, and Ontario Ministry of Education.  You can register here.

Doug:  At Western University, you focus entirely on Computational Thinking with Teacher Candidates. What does your program look like?  What do these students leave with as a result of being in your classes?

Lisa:  I have taught two courses at Western – one for all primary/junior teacher candidates, called ‘Computational Thinking in Mathematics Education’.  We focused on using coding to enhance understanding of math ideas.  The Computational Thinking piece was integrated into the math learning. We used a lot of the ideas developed by Dr. George Gadanidis (researchideas.ca).  The other course I have taught is part of the STEM cohort for intermediate/senior math and science education teacher candidates.  We tried out coding and digital making activities that they could use with their math and science high school students.  Most students felt nervous about the course at the beginning, but by the end they appreciated looking at math from a different perspective.  For the P/J teacher candidates, we focused on developing their efficacy for math and Computational Thinking.  The program was a blended learning model, with half being online and half face-to-face.

Doug:  Is the program unique to Western or are other Faculties of Education offering the same or similar course?

Lisa:  It’s unique to Western, but there is a similar course at UOIT in their preservice program.

Doug:  Do you find Teacher Candidates generally prepared and ready to learn the principles?

Lisa: No… most come with little or no experience with coding.  I do a survey at the beginning and it’s usually close to 90% of the P/J teacher candidates who have done no coding.  We have to work a lot on mindset, and you can see the shift in this on the mind maps that were being co-created throughout the course.  It’s almost like we were causing a disruption in the approach to learning and teaching mathematics, and there is research that shows this might be what’s necessary to change the way math is taught to make it a more applicable, meaningful subject for our students.

Doug:  Does Social Media have an impact on your Teacher Candidates?  Are they ready for BYOD Classrooms, students with their own devices, and to amplify their voice and presence with social tools?

Lisa:  I find teacher candidates to be proficient with some technology such as computer and personal device use, and use them readily in class.  I was surprised at how few are on Twitter and tried to encourage them to explore it to develop a Personal Learning Network (PLN) and to stay on top of current trends in education.  I noticed they were active on SnapChat and they were often proudly “snapping” photos and videos of some of the programs they coded or the robotics they were programming.  They appreciated learning how their devices actually work and most were quite comfortable with the technology piece.  Some shared their learning publicly with others over social media and inspired pre-service and practicing teachers around the world.  One group joined our Teacher Learning and Leadership Program (TLLP)  #mathedcoders for their alternate placement and their ideas and work with students related to coding was shared widely.  At one point, they were doing a webinar for students and teachers in northern Ontario, thanks to Stacey Wallwin, who is an inspiring leader in educational technology in Superior Greenstone District School Board.

Doug:  I know that you have three wonderful children.  (Derek told me)  Is Computational Thinking and Computer Science a “thing” around the Floyd household?  If so, how?

Lisa:  I would say Computational Thinking is embedded in pretty much all of our daily routines and activities.  Steve and I have similar parenting styles.  Our children aren’t signed up for many activities, but sometimes our household seems like a makerspace.  We do have every robot and digital device imaginable, but our oldest two boys are mostly interested in playing minecraft together.  We do some coding, but try not to overdo it.  We really have no idea what we’re doing as parents, and are learning every day, but feel pretty confident in how we embed the Computational Thinking aspect (both intentionally and unintentionally).  Our oldest has attended some of our Fair Chance Learning events as a “helper” and Martha and Dustin Jez (co-founders) have been so supportive of this.

Doug:  I did have the chance to interview with Martha Jez.  You can read it here.

In addition to all this, you are the Director of Research & Inquiry at Fair Chance Learning.  That’s an exciting title.  What are the areas of your research?  Are they published anywhere?

Lisa:  I love my job.  I love doing research and am fortunate to work for a company that sees it as valuable.  Everything I prepare for professional learning and speaking gigs is based on research articles that I’ve read in some form.  I’m also an advocate for Inquiry-Based Learning and it’s been part of my practice since I first started teaching.

As part of my masters in math education (just completed the program last week!), I’ve been honoured to work as a research assistant for two professors of math education (Dr. Kotsopoulos formerly of Laurier, now at Huron University College) and Dr. Gadanidis.  I learned so much from this position and was excited to be a co-author for academic papers that have been published.  One is in the journal of Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education and is titled “Computational Thinking in Mathematics Teacher Education”.  Another is currently freely available online in the Journal of Digital Experience in Mathematics Education and is titled “A Pedagogical Framework for Computational Thinking”.  I learned so much during the process.  I am excited about some of the other papers I’m involved with and am grateful to professors who include me, including Dr. Julie Mueller of Laurier University. These researchers are a source of inspiration and it’s an honour to know them.

Doug:  As a result of your connections with Fair Chance Learning, you’ve hit the radar as a speaker, presenter, and keynote speaker.  What topics do you address?

Lisa:  I have the privilege to speak about Computational Thinking and coding and how I believe they can be implemented effectively in our classrooms.  It is important that students’ curiosity, empathy and creative thinking skills are also fostered in the process.  Kafai and Burke write about the idea of “Computational Participation” in their book Connected Code – Why Children Need to Learn Programming, and this to me, is the more modern view of CT, in which the collaboration and communication piece is also valued.  I talk about why we need to support our students with learning how to code in a world where we are immersed in technology.  Learning how to program helps our students to see the world in an entirely new way, as Douglas Rushkoff discusses in his book Program or be Programmed.  As Rushkoff also points out, If we don’t support our students with learning this skill, it’s possible they may not fully understand what’s going on in the world around them and begin to feel like the technology knows more about them than they know about technology. This may seem like an exaggeration, but read about Big Data, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, and it becomes clear that everyone should learn how programming works.  Of course, the thinking piece and problem solving skills that will help our students across all subject areas and fields is what I believe should be one of the main driving factors in our push to get students coding.  I’m in the process of working on my Keynote for the Bring IT, Together Conference right now:)

Doug:  That must be an exciting experience to prepare for.  After all, any connected Ontario educator worth their Twitter account will know all about @lisaannefloyd and will be excited to hear from one of their own.

Do you maintain a public list of places where you’ve spoken/presented?

Lisa: I do not, but you’ve inspired me to do so (working on it)… this interview is also reminding me to update my blog (thanks).

Doug:  It’s success on my end when I get another Ontario Educator to update her blog!

If someone was interesting in hiring you to speak, how would they contact you?

Lisa:  They are more than welcome to reach out to me by email at lisa@fairchancelearning.com or on Twitter (@lisaannefloyd).  I especially love facilitating professional learning related to Computational Thinking.

Doug:  Do you envision a time when Computational Thinking is just a concept that is universally embraced and we’ve moved on to something else?

Lisa:  I actually hope that we will continue to focus on Computational Thinking and that rather than move onto something else, we will instead explore it further, adjusting how we approach it and improving the ways we implement it.  There is still a lot of room for additional research on Computational Thinking and best pedagogical practice.

Doug:  Thank you so much for agreeing to share your thoughts with my readers, Lisa.  It’s always nice to be able to dig inside the professional practice of another Ontario Educator.

You can follow Lisa on Twitter at:  @lisaannefloyd

She maintains her blog CODING IDEAS FOR EDUCATORS at:  https://lisaannefloyd.com/

Over the life of this blog, I’ve had the opportunity to interview all kinds of amazing people and am happy to include Lisa on this list.

The list?  You can check out all the interviews here.  https://dougpete.wordpress.com/interviews/

The message we send


If you haven’t already, you should take a read of this article from the Globe and Mail.

Coding for kids: another silly fad

While at it, it’s worth following a couple of the links that link to supporting documents from consultants.

Then, you should stop and ask yourself “How could they get it so wrong?”

I would suggest that the reason lies with education.

I remember the advice given to me from a superintendent once.

“Not only do you need to understand why you do something, but you need to be able to completely explain it to someone else.”

In reading the article and the supporting documents, I think this is a perfect example of it.

Somewhere along the line, these people have got the impression that education is teaching coding for the sake of coding.  If that was true, then they might have a justifiable position.  I mean, how many times have we heard tripe like “Coding is a 21st Century Skill” or “We need to teach coding as a skill that will help our Grade 3 students get a job” and the conversation stops there.

As a Computer Science teacher, I get contact with former students who have indeed gone on in the industry and have been successful.  I’m quick to apologise for the primitive tools and programming languages that we had at the time.  They’ve all been equally as quick to respond that that wasn’t what mattered.  What truly mattered was the problem solving, the group work, the enthusiasm to see a project in progress and the excitement when it was done.

Of course, they’re right.

Put into today’s context, any teacher or other educational leader should definitely be challenged if their message is that coding with Scratch or other educational language will provide students with the programming skills to land a job.

Done properly, it should be so much more.

Let’s look at the messages that need to be sent when asked:

  • Coding will indeed be a factor in everyone’s life from the Internet of Things connected refrigerator to the Smartphone to your next car to the tools that you will be required to master for your job(s) to the most powerful computer.  A person who knows how to control these devices will be successful
  • Coding provides another important tool to help students succeed in the classroom with mathematics, story telling, safe science experiments, societal connections and issues from around the world, and so much more
  • Coding gives student authors the ability to add life to a blog post or article and truly use this new media to make it pop, not just a simple transference from paper to electronic text
  • Coding demonstrates first hand the power of collaboration, group work, research, trial and error, debugging, and so many other tools that we value in our graduates
  • And, yes, Coding lets a Grade 3 student write instructions on a computer to tell a connected robot to draw a pattern

If none of this resonates, then consider the opposite.  How successful will a student be in life and career without these skills?

Just recently, I’ve had a conversation with good friend Peter Skillen who reminds us that not only should all of us be “Learning to Code”, we should be “Coding to Learn”.  Ironically, I just happened to wear my 2011 Minds on Media T-Shirt yesterday and that advice was emblazoned on the back.

If you still need proof, you need to read or re-read Douglas Rushkoff’s Program or be Programmed.  The Study Guide will be helpful as well.

The Big Idea in all of this should be that we want students prepared to take charge of the technology that will be such an important part of their future.  Coding is one of the tools that will make this happen.

Let’s make sure that this is the message that people are hearing.

Birthdays


As a kid, I always liked the fact that my birthday was during the summer.  That way, I didn’t have to be the centre of a party in class and all that goes with it.  I’m not the type of person that enjoys that sort of thing.

Now, it’s kind of cool that social media knows my birthday and takes the opportunity to say “Happy Birthday”, and I appreciate that.

My quote of the year comes from my friend Tammy who had a T-Shirt with this on it.

2017-08-14_0932

If you don’t get it, have a gamer explain it to you.

Anyway, the concepts of birthdays gets really interesting when you turn to birthdays and mathematics.  There’s a very famous problem; the “Birthday Problem“.  It’s pretty heady stuff involving probability and so generally doesn’t appear in mathematics until a good background has been established.

But, it’s one of those things that let you discuss mathematics without necessarily writing a proof for the problem.  It boils down to the probability or chance that two or more people in a group will have the same birthday.

It’s also the stuff that Computer Science teachers love to give out as a problem.  You can work up to it.  For example, give a program your birthday and have it determine what day of the week you were born on (don’t forget leap years).  If you’re not up to writing the code, check this out.  Even if students aren’t ready to write the code, it’s the sort of activity that inspires thinking about how a computer might be programmed to solve the problem.

Back to the Birthday Problem.  It’s something that’s quite surprising in real life.  In our department of about 30, there were three of us who had the same date for a birthday (that I knew about).  It’s still surprising when you consider that there are 365 days in a year.  Surely, there’s enough elbow room there that there would be no duplicates!   It’s a reality for teachers.  In any class, there always seems to be students who share the same birthday.  Even more interesting, because of sample size, they share the same birth year!  Stepping back, you see it again if you’re trying to ride herd on a homeroom during morning announcements which always seem to include a long list of Happy Birthday wishes.  In a school with 1,200 students, it only seems reasonable that there might be three.  That never seemed to work out!

The mathematics behind the Birthday Problem is interesting.  You can read the details here.  Or even here.  I can recall having one of those off-the-cuff discussions with a student about it and he thought that he’d write a program to simulate it.  Neil, if you’re reading this, did you ever finish it?

If not, here are a couple of online efforts …

Games with Blockly


Coders of all ages are going to like this!

We all hear about how students get engaged learning to code by programming their own games.  That can sometimes be a challenge for the student learning coder and/or the teacher trying to stay attuned to the best in coding and generating ideas.

So, check this out. – Blockly Games.

2017-08-13_0934.png

Pick a starting point and you’re off.

At the time of the screen capture, you’ll see that I had worked my way almost all the way through the Maze option on this computer.  (To be honest, I spent lots of time and enjoyed them all.  I hadn’t thought about blogging about it until later.)

The Maze option has 10 different levels and challenges.  As you would expect, they start pretty easy and then get challenging.

Here’s my solution for Level 9.

2017-08-13_0922

And, winner winner, chicken dinner.  Your congrats message lets you see the Javascript behind the code.

2017-08-13_0939

Just a warning before you click through and get started.  This is from experience.  This is really addicting.  And, I do have a solution for level 10 that’s reasonably priced.

Where I’d see immediate use of this…

  • with beginning student coders to learn the principles of a block coding environment
  • as an environment to get a coding club off to a great start
  • as part of an understanding of computational thinking
  • with teachers who are learning or refreshing their coding skills
  • with older students who already know some coding, as a start of year activity to get the coding juices flowing

Got an idea of your own?  Please add it to the comments below.

 

Where is Computer Studies headed?


Yesterday, in my #TWIOE post, I took a look at a single page on Grant Hutchison’s website.  There were no thoughts from Grant posted there; just the images and the interpretation is left to the reader.  So, here goes.

Here’s the important image that really got me thinking.  From the Ontario Curriculum document, 2008, there are five courses that can be offered.

  • Introduction to Computer Studies ICS20
  • Introduction to Computer Science ICS3U
  • Introduction to Computer Programming ICS3C
  • Computer Science ICS4U
  • Computer Programming ICS4C

At the time of its release, it was ground breaking.  Imagine being able to take up to five courses, for credit, in Computer Studies!  The courses are well designed and not descriptive and married to any particular programming language.  You could see that a great deal of planning had gone into their design and that they could take on a life of their own as technology evolved.

Sadly, none of the courses were compulsory.  I think I must have sounded like a broken record every time I talked with Ministry people asking why, at the least the Open course ICS 2O, they weren’t compulsory.  After all, anyone could see that computers, technology, and programming were not going to go away.  As we know, in the years since the curriculum was released, things have exploded to the point where just about everyone has a piece of this technology in their pocket, personal devices brought to school, and on post people’s desktops/laps at home.

In our household, the ICS 2O course was indeed compulsory.  As I look at how my kids use technology now, I think it was a great decision.  It’s such an integral part of their lives.

Back to the images that Grant shared.

ICS 2O indeed is a popular course, with growth shown over the three years that Grant plots.  Ditto for ICS 3U and, to a smaller extent, ICS 4U.  I think that the drop from Grade 11 to Grade 12 could be predicted.  Students make the decision about whether or not to continue to learn to program and study computers and a fixed schedule means making choices as university looms.  And since nothing is compulsory …

The statistics for the ICS 3C and ICS 4C courses are disappointing.  There wasn’t the uptake there for students and probably for a variety of reasons.  Since all of these courses are options, it requires a desire to enrol.  You could speculate why and students/parents don’t need to take the entire blame.  If you read the ACSE mailing list, you know that schools are challenged to offer all five courses in terms of teaching personnel and scheduling.  Some schools are fortunate enough to offer them all; some offer split courses; and others just don’t offer the C courses.  There’s no need to blame or shame; it’s the reality of scheduling in 2017.

Peter Beens offered a solution …

The courses are now coming on to their 10th anniversary.  That’s a long time in computer curriculum terms and I think testimony to the quality and vision of the original courses.  All that you have to do is read anything, anywhere these days and you’ll see the biggest issues of the day in Computer Studies.

  • Introduction of coding in the younger grades
  • Computer security and hacking
  • Importance of learning certain languages to be competitive at post-secondary schools
  • Bring Your Own Devices and all that goes with it.  i.e. being savvy enough to take control of your devices, connecting to networks that aren’t yours
  • Computer applications permeating all subject areas with varying levels of success
  • The rise of cloud and web computing and the drop in importance of locally installed applications
  • The rise in importance of robots and the programming of them
  • The rise of the “Internet of Things” and how it will impact everyone
  • An interest in getting serious about “Computational Thinking”
  • The list goes on and on

Back to the original graph.

Is the Curriculum document and the courses that it describes meeting the needs of a contemporary school?

In my opinion, the document still does.  The Technology Curriculum document and the Business Studies document complement these courses with the Computer Technology courses.  But the reality is that a student can avoid all of this good stuff if they so desire.

We hear lip service about preparing students for the 21st century, even today in the year 2107.  Is it time to step up and make this area of study compulsory?  Consider that whole group of students that the C courses could potentially reach.

This writer thinks so.  Let’s get our act together, make at least some of this relevant and compulsory, and graduate students who do have a certified level of computer literacy, understanding, and control.


Finally, an interesting add-on to the discussion and a new learning on my part.  Stephen Hurley and I had talked about Grant’s images on the radio show and I had speculated on the source of the data used for creation.  The answers came via Twitter.

Make your micro:bit smile


In the registration bag at the CSTA Conference was a very nice surprise.  The folks from micro:bit gave one to participants.  What a nice piece of swag!

There are a number of starting points and, if you took a wander through the Exhibit Hall, you may have found one.  If you weren’t at the conference and have your own micro:bit, you can still use it.  If you don’t have your own micro:bit, you can still get a bit of the programming micro:bit experience with the on-screen editor and simulator.

The site comes from Microsoft and is called “MakeCode“.  You’re not limited to the micro:bit; there are resources for “Circuit Playground Express“, “Minecraft“, “Sparkfun Inventors Kit“, and “Chibi Chip“.

MakeCodeIf you’re experienced in the world of drag and drop, you should be off to the races.  If not, it’s an easy enough environment to get started.

The first micro:bit activity is to program the LEDs for a smile or frown depending upon whether button A or button B is pressed.

So, you set them up and maybe even modify them a bit.

2017-07-16_0728

You can even create LED animations.

The environment provides the simulator on the left, all of the possible blocks in the middle, and your workspace on the right of your screen.

The coding blocks in the middle give you a sense of everything that can be done if you’ve been waiting to get yourself or your school one.

microbit

Music?

music

What puts it over the top for me is that the block environment is not the only way to program your micro:bit.  There is a toggle that lets you switch between the drag and drop and the text based Javascript environment.

Computer Science diehards will appreciate seeing the actual code that makes the magic happen.  Of course, Computer Science diehards will take offence to my use of the word “magic”.  It’s really programming and logic in action!

What’s even more impressive is the spacing and indentation that makes the code easy to read (and debug).  It demonstrates right off the bat good principles for that.

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The MakeCode website open up all kinds of possibilities for the classroom.  You owe it to yourself to click through and give the activities a whirl on your computer.

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.