Blueprint

Blueprint Community Engagement


Since the New York City Department of Education Computer Science for All initiative launched in Fall 2015, our team has been hard at work building a blueprint for computer science education in NYC. We know it’s a big undertaking to support educators and their wider school communities as they begin to integrate, many for the first time, computer science (CS) into their classrooms. So we’re co-creating the blueprint through participatory design with a dedicated group of educators, elevating their knowledge and experiences teaching CS in NYC classrooms.

We’re also gathering feedback from industry, researchers, families, and the CS Education community, regularly making pivots in our design direction and content based on their insights. In two posts we’ll;
Highlight our work with educators; and

  1. Explain what we’ve learned from the wider community.
  2. In each post we’ll outline a few of our design premises, aha moments, and what we’re hoping to learn over the next few months through our ongoing and iterative development of the blueprint.

Classifying, combining, and condensing, CS skills and concepts with researchers.

We had our first chance to engage the wider 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 multi-disciplinary content knowledge and soft skills to thrive in the future workforce. The researchers agreed with teachers on the importance of programming and algorithms, but assigned even greater importance to engineering design practices and collaboration, as well as the impacts of computer science on society. This workshop confirmed our assumptions around the need to simplify skills and concepts and helped us draft our first framework.

Drafting arguments, rationale, and potential impact of CS with the CS education community.

The themes of 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 ,a href=”https://hiveresearchlab.org/” target=”_blank”>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; 1) economic and workforce development, 2) citizenship and civics, 3) competencies and literacies, 4) technological, social, and scientific innovation, 5) equity and social justice, 6) school reform and improvement, and 7) personal agency, joy, and fulfillment. This discussion helped improve 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 around how to use the refined concepts and practices across a framework and a template for CS learning activities. We learned our initial academic approach included too much detail and the template we drafted was too cumbersome for folks in the out-of-school-time space to wrangle their existing curriculum. So, we dropped the template and are exploring new tools with enough structure to ensure rigor across curriculum but enough wiggle room to support the sharing of learning activities from diverse partners.

Testing assumptions & industry-driven inspiration.

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 in-demand attributes of new hires, and forecasted where we anticipate industry growth and change over next decade. Participants validated two key assumptions;

  1. Our curricula should be language agnostic. The programming languages and their application we teach students today will likely evolve before they enter higher education or the workforce, but the underlying skills will remain relevant. More importantly, we should instill in our students the value of lifelong learning; and
  2. Soft skills, team collaboration, and critical thinking are equally important to technical skills.

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 dive more deeply into social implications of computing and by highlighting concepts and practices over specific programming languages in the blueprint.

Looking at what’s next.

In the same way we teach our students to use the engineering design process when creating their projects, we’re working directly with our stakeholders, building, testing, and iterating through every new phase of the blueprint development. In the weeks and months to come we’re hoping to learn more and get feedback from the wider community around:

  1. How to teach students about the social implications of computing; and
  2. How to build a wider set of narratives around tech careers across industries.

Through the blueprint process we’re working with the wider community to gain perspective and ultimately creating 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…

Blueprint Educator Engagement

Since the New York City Department of Education Computer Science for All initiative launched in Fall 2015, our team has been hard at work building a blueprint for computer science education in NYC. We know it’s a big undertaking to support educators and their wider school communities as they begin to integrate, many for the first time, computer science (CS) into their classrooms. So we’re co-creating the blueprint through participatory design with a dedicated group of educators, elevating their knowledge and experiences teaching CS in NYC classrooms.

CS4All Launch Workhop

In each post we’ll outline a few of our design premises, aha moments, and what we’re hoping to learn over the next few months through our ongoing and iterative development of the blueprint.

We’re also gathering feedback from industry, researchers, families, and the CS Education community, regularly making pivots in our design direction and content based on their insights. In two posts we’ll;

  1. Highlight our work with educators; and
  2. Explain what we’ve learned from the wider community .

Educator-informed design direction.

The blueprint is intended to support teachers, schools, professional development providers, and partners in planning CS instruction. Since our primary end-users are NYC educators, we’ve 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;

  1. Educators want a toolbox for CS, not a one-size-fits-all solution; and
  2. If we want to reach all NYC schools, the focus of the blueprint should be on how to integrate CS into other subject areas.
CS4All Launch Workhop

Support for Implementation.

Through activities that encourage ideation, 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 . They also wanted emerging best practices in CS pedagogy and recommend 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.

Academic Frameworks.

Building on the discussion on current teacher frameworks, we explored the five concepts and seven practices currently in the K-12 CS Framework, the product of a collaborative national effort. We’re seeking to align our work with the K-12 CS 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.


Journey Maps.

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 uniqueness bias 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 transferrable to their own.

Admin Needs.

Through workshops with school leaders, we similarly explored different visions for CS, levels of buy-in, strategies for reaching all learners, parent involvement, assessments, and priorities which often varied by grade level and other school-based factors. But administrators universally expressed interest in receiving practical knowledge to support the roll-out of CS in their schools. When we dug into administrator needs further, we came up with a series of steps to help admins formulate a strategic plan. We looked at needs such as administrator content knowledge, teacher recruitment, and assessment and observations.


What’s Next.

From implementation needs and academic frameworks to journey maps, we took ideas from teachers forward into the co-construction of a working draft of blueprint. We are designing an academic framework using Depth of Knowledge as a key underpinning and pivoted to ask teachers to draft example units to support integration into other subject areas. Building on admin needs, we are developing a section of the around implementation for administrators. We also launched a peer observation project where we’re 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 around:

  1. How to reach the “goldilocks state” of the concepts and practices — the right mix of complexity, simplicity, and rigor; and
  2. How the full set of tools complement each other and what we still need to build.

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’re interested in learning more about our process or getting involved feel free to contact us at cs4all AT strongschools DOT nyc.