This is a guest post by Miranda Dalton. Miranda is new to Shelburne Community School this year and teaching Computer Science to all 5th-graders. Find Miranda on Twitter at @strive4STEM
If I asked you to describe what a computer scientist looks like, we probably would dig up an image of someone we know personally or a famous computer scientist. Maybe you imagine Grace Hopper in front of ancient computers or you imagine modern programmers in collaborative and fast-paced workspaces.
Today our guiding question for our lesson was just that; “What does a computer scientist look like doing computer science?” Instead of answering the questions aloud students were drawing pictures to articulate their answers. My full expectation was that I would see 21 pictures of middle-aged men in glasses on computers (Much like the picture to the left.) I was expecting uniform computer scientists with the same materials doing the same thing and that would lead us to a conversation of who are computer scientists and why representation matters in computer science. Instead, students illustrated a vast array of narratives, some who depicted supervillains taking over the world, and others were sagas of working women in offices wearing masks and lab coats. Instead of doing a gallery walk, I opted for students to share their drawings out since they were creating these adjacent stories to go with their drawings. As students were sharing out I began to notice not a single story was the same. They had common themes of people who either were saving or destroying the world. They were all adults except one drawing of a teenager who was staying up late to work on their programming project. There were hackers, robots, web designers, and mathematicians. They depicted people hard at work, getting stuck, and thinking about how to solve their problems. All on the second day of school where the first time I mentioned computer science was in the prompt.
~ Miranda Dalton, 5th-Grade Computer Science Teacher at Shelburne Community School
This summer, five educators from the Champlain Valley School District participated in the code.org Professional Learning Program through Project>Login. Three of us did the training for the Computer Science Discoveries course (for grades 6-10) and two trained for Computer Science Principles (grades 9-12). It was a wonderful week of learning and community building with other educators from the northeast region. We came away invigorated and ready to apply our learning to our Rowland Foundation project work.
The workshops had just the right balance of computer science content, pedagogical practice, and DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) work. The materials from code.org are thoughtfully and thoroughly designed so that teachers with no background in computer science can teach the course in the role of "lead learner"-- including a number of engaging hands-on widgets that truly promote student discovery. The workshop facilitators gave us opportunities to experience the curriculum both as students and teachers, working independently, in small groups, and all together.
This year, we are revamping the computer programming class at the high school to include units and materials from the Computer Science Principles course. We plan to offer the full Computer Science Principles course starting in the 22-23 school year. In addition, there will be over 75 high school students and multiple K-8 students who will be experiencing the Computer Science Discoveries course. We are excited that this is the beginning of growing our district's CS experiences for all students.
We are so pleased to have had this opportunity from Project>Login and code.org to grow the ranks of teachers able to bring Computer Science to students as we work to develop a K-12 CS curriculum for CVSD.
We would recommend these workshops strongly to anyone interested in building a new or enhancing an existing computer science program for their students.
On May 17th, Charlie and Tim were joined by Peter Drescher to share some of their work in CVSD and to talk about how to reinvigorate a statewide conversation around Computer Science in K-12. The presentation was part of VITA-Learn's and The Vermont School Library Association's Dynamic Landscape annual conference. The description of their presentation is below:
Part One: Tim O’Leary & Charlie MacFadyen are leading emerging work through their Rowland Foundation fellowship to build a Computer Science program across the largest district in Vermont. They’ll share their project concept, goals, change process, current status, and next steps. Find out more about Tim & Charlie’s emerging work here: https://cvsd-crackingthecode.weebly.com/
Part Two: Peter Drescher will lead a discussion to explore how we can keep the conversation going, better leverage change statewide, and reinvigorate CSTA Vermont.
Tim O’Leary and Charlie MacFadyen are current Rowland Foundation Fellow working to address the marginalization of females and nonbinary youth that occurs within Computer Science (CS) education and the workforce. The project envision a world where all are inspired to become creators, change-makers, and leaders.
They believe that we all bear a responsibility to actively combat this inequality by creating new systems, and we plan to do just that. Tim and Charlie will develop a K-12 CS program because schools must assume a critical role to create CS learning opportunities. Otherwise, students will continue to develop identities informed by a world where males far outpace female participation in this area.
Tim is also currently the principal of Champlain Valley School District’s Virtual Learning Academy for middle-level students’ the Digital Learning Leader for both the Virtual Learning Academy and Shelburne Community School (both K-8), and co-directs a statewide program for secondary youth to make meaningful social change through the creation of video documentaries: What’s the Story? The Vermont Young People Social Action Team.
Charlie is the Digital Learning Leader for Champlain Valley Union High School.
Our first goal to anchor this work was to clarify what we mean when we say "Computer Science."
We wanted a single sentence to clearly communicate to a wide variety of stakeholders. And, we knew we needed to dig into the good work already published around CS Concepts, Practices, and Standards. Based on our research, we pared our short definition down to the following:
Computer Science is more than writing code. It is the study of computers that includes hardware and software designs, networks and the internet, cybersecurity, data analysis, and the impacts of computing on society.
Computer Science is further defined by the K-12 CS Framework and the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) Standards. Our steering committees have focused on these to center the development of our K-12 CS program.
The K–12 Computer Science Framework is a high-level set of guidelines that informs the development of standards, curriculum, course pathways, and professional development.
The CSTA K–12 Standards, released in 2017, are built off the K-12 CS Framework and delineate a core set of learning objectives designed to provide the foundation for a complete computer science curriculum and its implementation at the K–12 level.
All of this helps to shape the four other major goals of the work ahead.
Shelburne Community School is excited to welcome Miranda Dalton to the SCS community where she'll begin teaching Computer Science this fall as part of the emerging work from the Rowland Foundation fellowship, "Cracking the Code: Closing the Gender Gap in Computer Science."
Miranda Dalton joined CVSD this year from Mesa, Arizona where she taught Science to 7th and 8th-grade students as part of the CVSD Virtual Learning Academy (VLA). She and Tim O'Leary, one of the two Rowland Foundation fellows working on this project, grew to know each other through their work over the last year in the VLA. They are both excited to continue collaborating next year.
Next year will begin Miranda's fifth year teaching. She has previously taught Science, Math, and Intro to Engineering. While teaching Intro to Engineering, she first began to explore Computer Science for middle-grade students. Here is a podcast she recorded in 2018 talking about CS and STEM education. Through that course, Miranda developed a passion for Computer Science literacy and then began integrating elements of CS within the math curriculum the following year.
She grew up in Sierra Vista, Arizona and has spent her entire life living in Arizona until just a few days ago. Last week, Miranda, her partner, and their dog journeyed from Arizona to South Burlington, Vermont in anticipation of working at SCS this coming fall.
Miranda's position in CS at SCS next year is generously funded by Tim & Charlie's Rowland Foundation fellowship; SCS plans to grow the position at SCS with locally budgeted funds after this inaugural year.
Miranda has a Bachelor's degree in Applied Biology and a Master's degree in Secondary Education.
Shelburne, CVSD, and Tim & Charlie feel incredibly lucky to have Miranda join them, our CS steering committees, and to help move this important work forward.
A Documentary Film at the Intersection of Race, Artificial Intelligence, and a Pursuit of Justice
As a first step in our Rowland Foundation work to bring greater awareness to create better access for more Computer Science education in Vermont, we formed a planning team with other Vermonters with the mission to screen Shalini Kantayya's newest film, 'Coded Bias,' for free to Vermonters.
From December 7th - December 19th and again February 22nd - March 8th, ‘Coded Bias’ virtually screened for free across Vermont. Over 1000 Vermonters attended one of these virtual screenings, which included classrooms and educators from middle-school through graduate school.
Where did Vermonters Tune In From?
The film explores how modern society sits at the intersection of two crucial questions: What does it mean when artificial intelligence (AI) increasingly governs our liberties? And what are the consequences for the people AI is biased against?
‘Coded Bias’ follows MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini’s startling discovery that many facial recognition technologies fail more often on darker-skinned faces. Buolamwini delves into an investigation of widespread bias in artificial intelligence and the person-made and machine-learned algorithms that drive it. As it turns out, AI is not neutral, and women are leading the charge to ensure our civil rights are protected.
This Vermont screening was organized by partners from across the state who have been inspired to share this film and engage in conversations at the intersection of race and artificial intelligence: where a fight for civil rights will be waged in the 21st century. This planning group is thrilled to have brought ‘Coded Bias’ to the state at no cost to Vermonters.
The screening was made possible with leading financial support from the Vermont Community Foundation. Additional financial sponsors include our 2020 Rowland Foundation fellowship, Competitive Computing, FreshTracks Capital, Seven Days, Vermont-NEA, Vermont Racial Justice Alliance, the Vermont chapter of Women in Machine Learning and Data Science.
The Computer Science Teachers Association is an organization by and for K-12 computer science educators. There are various chapters around the state, including one in Vermont. We are planning on engaging the chapter in our work going forward.
We are using the CSTA standards as we address our first goal ("Determine a shared definition of Computer Science") and to inform our second goal ("Design and implement a universal K-12 CS program and additional choice-based opportunities in CS for students.").
Another helpful component of CSTA is conferences, both at the national and regional level. I attended the national conference last summer as well as a "Future of CS" conference in January and Tim and I both attended a regional New England conference this past fall. The CSTA virtual conferences use the HopIn platform, which allows for keynotes, breakout sessions, vendor booths, and informal "getting to know you" meetings with other attendees (because CS teachers are often the only such person in their respective buildings, this was an effective way of building colleagueship with others in the field-- a goal of CSTA) .
These conferences all had an emphasis on equity. Keynote speakers included Dr. Ruha Benjamin, Dr. Nicki Washington, Code.org founder Hadi Partovi, and Linda Liukas. We attended sessions entitled Teaching Girls to Code and Change the World, Queering CS, and Factors in Persistence in CS Careers: Learning From Young Women, among many others. We were introduced to the work of organizations seeking to make computer science more inclusive, including CSforAll, The National Center For Women In Technology, Girls Who Code, AI4All, and more.
As with any conference, there are lots of pedagogical and curricular resources that we are still sifting through. For example, a presentation by Bootstrap sparked the idea of weaving CS content into other curricular areas. Given how rapidly the world of CS changes, being introduced to the latest (and emerging) technologies is also a benefit of the conferences.
If you've read this far, you might be interested in attending a conference yourself! We'd love to talk to you about that. This year's national conference will again be virtual and we're looking to assemble a group to attend. Information is here.
The steering committees for Shelburne Community School (SCS) and Champlain Valley Union HS (CVU) had our first joint meeting on January 13th. Our special guest was Mike Martin, Director of Learning for the South Burlington School District and Senior Rowland Associate.
Mike led us through the Future Protocol, in which we answered these questions:
1) It's May 2023. How is school different now?
2)Think back to January 2021. How was school way back then?
3) How did we get here? What key changes took place along the way?
4) What were the challenges along the way? How did we overcome them?
A powerful part of this protocol is speaking in the present tense about the future and in the past tense about the present. We used a Google JamBoard to gather our ideas.
Tim and I are now going through the ideas shared to synthesize them into goals for our work. We will present the goals for refinement at the next Steering Committee meetings.