CUE Members Contribute to the Future of Computer Science in CA

As we look around in a room filled with twenty-one educators selected from various parts of California for our very first California Department of Education’s Computer Science Standards Advisory Committee (CS SAC) on September 25th, 2017, the passion in the room is infectious. Some of us have never taken a Computer Science course in our lives but we are dedicated in our mission to teaching Computer Science to our students, empowering them with the skills they need for their future from Kindergarten through High School.  

computer science standards team

CUE members Veronica Godinez, Smita Kolhatkar, Gina Thackrey and Myra Deister participate in the CDE’s Computer Science Standards Advisory Committee in Sacrament, CA.

Listening to the introductions, it is evident that we are all interested in creating opportunities for students to experience learning as fun and exciting while at the same time challenging, what Seymour Papert would call “hard fun”. Many in the room expressed interest in allowing students to build perseverance and collaborating successfully in order to accomplish more than they could on their own.

Trish Williams, State Board of Education member, talked about policies, processes and explained the long journey to get to this point so that the Computer Science Standards for K-12 could be written.

Our committee co-chairs, Bryan Twarek (BT) and Beth Simon set the stage by asking us our preferences and letting us know which sub-groups we would work in that day. We would like to add here, that we didn’t just show up there. We had to do homework in preparation for that first meeting and we also know that there will be more homework in preparation for the next 3 sets of meetings.

Working with each other was a phenomenal experience. Here we were, thrown into a room with complete strangers. We may or may not agree on some of the discussions regarding certain issues and standards but we applied the same principles we teach children and other educators: Agree to disagree respectfully; Listen and ensure that everyone’s voice is heard; Collaborate; Communicate; and Have fun. Here is the graphic that was used for the first meeting and continues to be used at each meeting as a reminder that we need to be mindful and respectful when working on the standards.

CS standards norms

We worked through some large and not-so-large issues, voting on various aspects so that each Committee Member’s voice was heard. It helped us think, reflect, and really concentrate on what is important to not just our students, but all students of California as we deliver these standards. What is it that we need to look at? It is obviously imperative that we look at the big picture and not just at our myopic world as we delve into the requisite standards.

As we embark on Day Two, we are challenged as a team of dedicated educators to pave new roads and bring opportunities for all. Challenge Accepted!

The depths to which we have embarked on this challenge is invigorating. We began digging into the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) K – 12 Computer Science Standards (https://www.csteachers.org/page/standards), which is our baseline. Standing on the shoulders of the hard work and expertise of the CSTA Standards Committee allowed us to forge new ground above a solid foundation. California will be one of the first to release CS standards after the release of the CSTA standards.

We started with the high school standards and divided into groups arranged by topic.  Each of us selected standards that needed to be modified or revised to suit the unique needs of California students. We evaluated each standard with an eye toward encouraging diversity in computer science classes. As the discussion unfolds, the depths of our work unfolds. We finished the day, satisfied with the knowledge that each of us had contributed to this important work. We look forward to the remainder of our meetings and the eventual unveiling of a new path towards the future.

Ed Note — This post was written by CUE members Veronica Godinez, Smita Kolhatkar, Gina Thackrey and Myra Deister in collaboration. Special thanks to Myra Deister, CUE Board Member, for bringing this story to the CUE Blog and larger education community! They have meet 3 times as a larger CS SAC group and have one more meeting in January to complete the CS Standards.

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