The last two sessions I attended featured representatives from Mississippi’s CS4MS initiative.
Mike Mulvihill, the Career and Technical Education Director for the Mississippi Department of Education, was joined by Holly Lavender, STEM Education Lead in the Office of Innovation at the Ohio Department of Education, and Laura Hummel, Technology and Engineering Education Advisor for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment at the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The session was moderated by Kirsten Sundell of the Southern Regional Education Board.
While much of the conference up to this point focused on programs in California and other early-adopter states, these panels focused on the rest of the America, a reminder that the imperative for computer science education is still a relatively young effort for most of the country. In Ohio, for example, K-12 computer science is not considered to be a teacher shortage area, only because computer science hasn’t yet been defined as an official teaching position.
Laura Hummel discussed the need to look for CS teachers outside of the traditional teaching track. One possibility mentioned was retired members of the armed forces, retrained for teaching careers through the Troops to Teachers program. (Pennsylvania recently announced $400,000 grant program to help transition former U.S. military members into teaching careers.)
Mike Mulvihill outlines the impressive progress (maybe I’m a little biased!) that Mississippi has made in the implementation of its CS4MS pilot program. The 2016-2017 school year marked the first year of the program, which was piloted in 35 school districts. Schools participating in the pilot were required to commit to between 20 and 40 hours of computer science instruction per grade.
During its first year, the program was limited to elementary and high school classes. In the pilot’s second year, the plan is to incorporate computer science into middle school ICT (Information and Communication Technology) classes by pushing typing into earlier grades and phasing out certain parts of the current ICT framework. High schools participating in the pilot are teaching Exploring Computer Science (ECS) during the freshman year of high school. The ECS curriculum covers a variety of computer science concepts and applications beyond programming, including robotics, web design and data analysis.
Here’s a video Maris, West & Baker Advertising put together to promote the CS4MS pilot.
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Photo (top): Kids Code Mississippi organized the Bytes & Bites event to promote computer science education awareness among public officials and the media in 2016. Photo by Tate Nations.