Since the New York City Department of Education Computer Science For All initiative launched in the fall of 2015, our team has been working hard at building a blueprint for computer science (CS) education in NYC.
We know it is a big undertaking to support educators and their school communities as they begin to integrate, many for the first time, computer science into their classrooms. Therefore, we’re co-creating the blueprint with a dedicated group of educators, elevating their CS teaching knowledge and experience in NYC classrooms.
We’re also gathering feedback from the industry, researchers, families, and the CS education community, regularly making pivots in our design direction and content, based on their insights.
We will highlight our work with educators and:
We had our first chance to engage with the ecosystem of CS education through the CSNYC Knowledge Forum last April. At the Knowledge Forum, we ran a workshop with 20 CS education researchers from around the country to test our early assumptions around the blueprint. Mainly, what concepts and practices should we prioritize if a school is integrating CS into an existing subject area for the first time?
The researchers debated the value of covering a large breadth of topics versus going deep in a few. Many recommended using the engineering design process as a grounding framework to teach important skills like collaboration. One argument we heard for this emphasis on teaching students the design process was tied to job trends: students will need to have the multi-disciplinary content knowledge and soft skills to thrive in the future workforce.
The researchers agreed with teachers about the importance of programming and algorithms but assigned even greater importance to engineering design practices and collaboration, as well as the impact of computer science on society.
This workshop confirmed our assumptions about the need to simplify skills and concepts and helped us draft our first framework.
The themes of the workforce and economic development proposed by CS education researchers, and the different narratives that emerged from conversations with educators and school leaders, were further tested through conversations with the Hive Research Lab and their community.
Through several workshops we sought to ideate, synthesize and refine different arguments or visions for CS. These conversations helped us understand the range of visions for CS from the wider CS education community including:
This discourse improved our user personas and highlighted the differences between educators and the wider community’s rationale for scaling CS in NYC.
We further validated the arguments and visions for CS with families and educators at the World Maker Faire. At our booth, families were asked to tie a knot around the narratives they found most important for their kids.
We also used the Hive workshop and a workshop organized in partnership with Cornell Tech and CSNYC to test our assumptions about how to use the refined concepts and practices across a framework and a template for CS learning activities. We learned that our initial academic approach included too much detail and that the template we drafted was too cumbersome for folks in the out-of-school-time space to change their existing curriculum. So, we dropped the template, and are exploring new tools with enough structure to ensure rigor across the curriculum — but enough wiggle room to support the sharing of learning activities from diverse partners.
Through an Industry Roundtable with CTOs, lead engineers, technical recruiters and tech venture capitalists, we explored what careers in computer science might look like for NYC students; gathered perspectives on the most sought attributes of new hires; and forecasted where we anticipate industry growth and change over the next decade.
Participants validated two key assumptions:
During our discussion on tech trends, we heard tech leaders express the value of employees who can weave data and storytelling and act as data interpreters. They further extolled the value of being able to understand and work with data, as questions of privacy, security, and the application of algorithms become increasingly relevant to not just tech careers, but our democracy.
We’re taking these two concepts forward by hosting a second industry roundtable to further dive into social implications of computing, and by highlighting concepts and practices over specific programming languages in the blueprint.
Similar to how we teach our students to use the engineering design process when creating their projects, we are working directly with our stakeholders to build, test, and iterate through every new phase of the blueprint’s development. In the weeks and months to come we are hoping to learn more and get feedback from the wider community about:
Through the blueprint process, we’re working with the wider community to gain perspective, and ultimately create prototypes of tools to support educators in rolling out CS education. If you’re interested in learning more about our process or getting involved, feel free to contact us.
The blueprint is intended to support teachers, schools, professional development providers and partners in planning computer science (CS) instruction. Since our primary end-users are NYC educators, we have run over 45 hours of workshops and co-design sessions with teachers, principals, and assistant principals to better understand their needs.
Through this work we learned:
Through activities that encourage invention, exploration and knowledge sharing, educators were able to drill down on their implementation needs. Teachers stressed the importance of having time and space to experiment, and resources to support ongoing, asynchronous learning.
The educators also wanted emerging best practices in CS pedagogy, and recommended we observe classrooms with diverse student demographics, to identify these practices.
Teachers suggested using existing frameworks like Depth of Knowledge and Bloom’s Taxonomy, and aligning the blueprint with existing standards (like Common Core) to support usability.
Building on the discussion about current teacher frameworks, we explored the five concepts and seven practices currently in the K-12 Computer Science Framework (a collaborative national effort). We are seeking to align our work with the K-12 Computer Science Framework, while ensuring concepts and practices are accessible to all teachers.
Numerous sorting and prioritizing activities around the concepts and practices highlighted the need for us to condense the scope of academic concepts while providing multiple pathways for educators to engage with the content.
In one co-design session with teachers, we created journey maps and user personas to guide the design of blueprint tools. We learned how teachers might approach CS, which helped us construct arguments and projected impacts of CS education.
We explored these themes in greater depth with the Hive Research Lab community which we’ll detail in another post.
The journey mapping highlighted the unique challenge we face: NYC school educators see their classrooms as being exceptional and sometimes struggle to see how successes in other classrooms with different student populations might be relevant and transferable to their own.
We also explored different visions for CS in our workshops with school leaders, including:
Administrators universally expressed interest in receiving practical knowledge to support the roll-out of CS in their schools.
When we dug further into administrator needs, we came up with a series of steps to help admins form a strategic plan. We looked at needs such as administrator content knowledge, teacher recruitment, assessment, and observations.
From implementation needs and academic frameworks, to journey maps, we took ideas from teachers forward into the co-construction of a working draft of our blueprint.
We are designing an academic framework using Depth of Knowledge as a key underpinning, and have pivoted to ask teachers to draft example units to support integration into other subject areas.
Building on administrator needs, we are developing a tools section around implementation. We also launched a peer observation project in which we are working with educators to find emerging best practices in CS pedagogy through a grant from 100kin10.
As we continue to build, test and iterate, we’re hoping to learn more from educators and get feedback about:
Through the blueprint process, we’re putting teachers in the driver’s seat and ultimately creating prototypes of tools to support educators in rolling out CS education.
If you are interested in learning more about our process or getting involved, feel free to contact us at cs4all AT strongschools DOT nyc.