Collab Lab 21: Recap & Notes

Building Computer Science Talent

Over the summer we met with Ryan Bennett from SafeNet Consulting and Ryan Osterberg from Brookfield Central to talk about the CS internship program they put together for high school students.  That program leads teams of high school students to develop custom applications for other local non-profits. Over the past 2 years, they’ve developed an effective way to engage students in meaningful, high quality work. They have started a new non-profit, Code The Way, to carry on the effort and reach a broader pool of talent.

In the same way that having a real-world project helps sharpen the thinking of students, having a real-world program as a case study helped us talk through a number of the issues around developing CS talent in K-12.

We began the evening with an overview of the Code the Way program, how it is structured, and the key aspects of the approach that make it a valuable experience for students.  Our initial set of small group discussions focused on the aspects of the approach participants found most compelling.  Those key aspects fell into the following categories

Collaboration

  • Building a pathway from high school to college

Pedagogy

  • Context matters (real-world projects)
  • Encourages failing forward
  • Changes the role of teachers/shifts traditional learning models
  • Facilitated Learning

Curriculum

  • Teachers don’t feel confident in teaching computer science and those trained gain confidence and leave
  • Preparing students for future careers involves all students learning fundamentals of programming
  • How do we develop basic technological literacy skills across the student experience

Equity

  • The program/curriculum currently caters to top students.  How do we reach all students?

Partnerships

  • Having real world applications for community organizations is critical
  • What other opportunities do we have available in the Milwaukee area for partnerships with corporations

We then moved on to talk through barriers for each of these areas and what we might do to move forward…

Collaboration

Key Issues:

  • Time available for professional development, collaboration
  • Lack of incentives
  • Institutional barriers
  • Lack of platform to support collaboration

Strategy:

  • Educational policy on CS curriculum
  • Data on tech job growth (to make the case for resources)
  • Connect with business priorities so they are invested in schools

Pedagogy

Key issues:

  • Time
  • Intimidating
  • Buy-in
  • Resources/training
  • Incentives to continue up-skilling
  • Mismatch between what’s being tested and what industry needs
  • CS is not integrated with curriculum priorities

Strategies

  • Invite community leaders to an hour of code
  • Help teachers know it is ok to fail
  • Give teachers a chance to experience the learning module or lesson before going in front of students
  • Recognize opportunities to integrate curriculum– saves on time and adds context
  • College STEM/CS ambassadors
  • Offer more coverage time for teachers so they can learn, explore, collaborate, etc.

Curriculum

Key issues:

  • Prioritization of problem solving vs content (aka CS knowledge)
  • If we want students to solve real problems, what content do they need to do so?

Strategy:

  • Build partnerships/mentors from the “real world” who can inform/provide content, software, etc. which becomes the means to how students solve problems– thus balancing problem solving & content.  So… tap into TEALS  & leverage new partners
  • Quick wins… Talk to TEALS, reach out to local business.

Equity

Key issues:

  • School access– courses are offered within K-12
  • Qualified instructors
  • Paid or unpaid internships vs guaranteed income for students (who can’t afford to go without a summer job)
  • Representation of diverse K-12 demographics
  • Issues related to geography & transportation

Strategy:

  • Centralized platform of program offerings
  • District level talks of scope and sequence for CS for K-12
  • Survey to identify CS offerings
  • Paid internships & provide a pipeline for college & job (stipends/apprenticeships)
  • Opening your doors to see what challenges you have on site. Provide opportunities for others to help/diverse help
  • Privide transportation or bus passes; offer courses within students’ neighborhoods

Partnerships

Key issues:

  • IT vs SC
  • Reciprocal accountability
  • Equity in service
  • Institutional silos
  • Lack of social responsibility
  • Wanting only “cream of the crop”

Strategies:

  • Focus on student’s stories
  • Engage smaller businesses
  • Talk up success, MPS through suburban districts
  • Invite partners to see what is going on
  • Understand the customer
  • Strong message
  • Adjust model to fit more kids
  • Teach that failure is an option

Thanks again to The Commons for providing the space and to our featured participants for the experience and insight they brought to the discussion:

Ryan Bennett — Senior Consultant, SafeNet Consulting
Dennis Brylow — Associate Professor, Computer Science, Marquette University
Karen Green — Computer Science Coach, Milwaukee Public Schools
Ryan Osterberg — Computer Science Teacher, Brookfield Central High School
Mark Zacher — Milwaukee Regional Manager, TEALS

Resouces:

You can find an overview of Code the Way here: http://learndeep.org/wp-content/uploads/Case_statement.pdf

The Milwaukee Tech Hub Education Workgroup is a team of community volunteers committed to addressing barriers that will prevent our emerging workforce from accessing opportunities that will allow them to secure and sustain employment in an era of unprecedented technological change.  The group’s first deliverables were 1) a presentation to make “A Case for Change in K12”, and 2) web content that might help those charged with building a Computer Science program in schools.  Please review these resources before the Collab Lab as they might help spur ideas during your small group discussions.  If you have suggestions on how to improve these resources or have questions about the workgroup’s collective efforts, please email MTH.Education@gmail.com