Written by: Kyleigh Lewis
This summer, teachers across Nebraska met to increase their computer science knowledge at Code.org’s annual workshop hosted by the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Code.org Summer Workshops host curriculum exploration for four groups of educators: Computer Science Fundamentals (elementary); Computer Science Fundamentals (middle school); Computer Science Principles (high school); and this year, AP Computer Science A.
Code.org provides an entirely free curriculum to these age groups. Their research and development allow schools to increase computer science exposure to all students in private and public schools. In addition to their efforts to provide a meaningful curriculum, they offer vast resources to teachers to provide computer science to students when they have limited exposure or educational training in this area. Over 232 schools in Nebraska have had over 500 teachers trained in computer science through their professional learning opportunities.
In the spring, Nebraska passed LB1112. “LB1112 is set to adopt the Computer Science and Technology Education Act and provide and change graduation requirements and academic content standards.” Nebraska is now one of the 27 states that have adopted a policy to give students access to computer science through required graduation courses. Yet, no funding is dedicated to schools to provide training and the purchase of materials and supplies. Districts are not alone in determining how schedules will be changed and staff members will prepare for teaching new courses.
During the summer workshops, teachers from small rural communities to large departments in our metro areas met to discuss what this looks like for their buildings and students. Teachers reflected and shared ideas for involving all stakeholders in districts to plan for full implementation of quality computer science education. As districts plan for computer science in their schools, will they embrace change and use national standards for computer science education? Or, will teachers find themselves teaching classes that still fit closer to information technology requirements due to lack of planning and funding? As passionate advocates for computer science education, the needs of our students to receive the problem solving practice and use of languages, such as java script or python were discussed. In order for Nebraska to move forward and fill the 4,800+ open computing jobs in our state, readily available computer science courses must be available to provide knowledge and exposure before students continue their college and career planning.
Code.org is not the only free curriculum available to teachers in Nebraska. Programs like CodeHS, Apple Swift, Scratch, and Microsoft MakeCode are just a few popular programs that educators, around the state, are already implementing in their classrooms. NETA, CSTA, and CSTA-Nebraska are great groups for collaborating with other educators to find resources for your district. As planning continues in districts daily, make sure to check with the needs that all stakeholders have to make a smooth transition, and move students forward to live in a world that will require computer science knowledge in everyday activities.
Still lost in your next steps for your computer science journey? The University of Nebraska- Lincoln is proud to be the Regional Partner of code.org. Guy Trainin is the current coordinator and he would love to hear from you about your plans and learn how he can support your efforts to expand CSE in your school and community. For more details check out: https://cehs.unl.edu/tlte/techedge/code.org/.