Democratizing Computer Science

Democratizing Computer Science


Before, computer science was taught as
programming, and it was for those people that wanted to be engineers or computer
scientists. But in our world today, computer science is much broader. It is
things like: what is data? What does it mean when somebody collects your
data on Facebook? When we talk about artificial intelligence, do you care?
Should you care? Why? Those are such broader topics that everybody should
know about. When we say computer science, that’s what computer science is. Can it
lead to software development? Sure! Can it lead to robotics? Definitely! Can it lead
to working in a billion other careers— medicine, automotive? Definitely! Computer science is part of all of that. And if we don’t give our kids that fundamental
knowledge—all of our kids— we’re going to have an issue where there are those that
can and there are those that are used by it. And that’s what this is all about,
that bigger picture of democratizing computer science. This project is done in partnership with the University of Oregon and Portland State University. And we’re using curriculum—this curriculum is called Exploring Computer Science, and it is specifically targeted to ninth-grade students with a focus on broadening participation. The grant itself is very broad; the grant itself is long term. It’s bringing computer science K-12 to all students in
an equitable and inclusive way. This first phase is focusing on high school, and we’re reaching out to high schools throughout the state. So, we have
partnerships with five schools, here in this region which is super exciting.
We’re working with their teachers and their administrators to authentically
bring these experiences to their students. We have been wanting to offer
computer science for many years, and it has been our missing link. So, for the
opportunity to collaborate with Oregon State University has been, truly, a godsend. We were planning on just offering one
course, and the popularity of the course and the opportunity for—again, our
underrepresented populations, our young women. There were so many different
students that were interested that now we have four courses. We had a sincerely defined need, here at Bend High, for a class just like this. I’ve been promoting it
for the last several years. I’ve been a Career and Technical Education teacher
my whole life and I’ve been teaching manufacturing here. And we had delved
into computer science in some of our CAD/CAM classes and some of our
engineering classes but we didn’t have a specific computer science class. I’ve
been having a great time! I’ve been teaching for a long time, as I said, and
this is one of the first years where I’ve had a lot more buy-in than I
usually would on projects— kids are sticking with things, they’re turning
stuff in, and I think they’re seeing there’s value in it. It’s nice that we
were included in a grant where the resources were there for us, the training
was there for us, and all I had to do was show up. That’s pretty rare in my world. Collaborations are extremely important because it helps our community become
richer; it helps the university system, the public school system, our high
school. High school is one of the greatest times in their lives that
they’re exploring who they are and what they want to be. And we’re hoping that
this course really could be a game-changer for our students

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