Transforming Computer Science Education in Public Schools


DIANE LEVITT: When I
was in middle school, I played the viola. I played the viola very badly. And they didn’t take
the viola away from me, because I wasn’t
going to Julliard. They wanted me to learn
viola because they knew I would leave them and
enter a world full of music and that I would understand
music differently, because I had made it. That’s exactly the
reason why we want students to navigate technology
with that same fluency and purpose. The city of New York,
1.1 million children in the public schools,
the opportunity to help empower schools to lift
children out of poverty, to prepare students
for full citizenship in the digital age, that is
a very, very powerful lure for a person like me. [MUSIC PLAYING] Cornell Tech is a
graduate school. And yet we play an essential
role in the tech ecosystem in New York City. The mission of Cornell
Tech’s K-12 work is to catalyze computer science
education in New York City’s elementary, middle,
and high schools. We have adopted PS/IS
217 on Roosevelt Island. Principal Beckman
said, you know, what we really need
is a specialist who comes in once a week, somebody
who can talk to teachers and help drive better
classroom experiences. MEG RAY: What’s unique about
the Teacher-in-Residence program is that we’re not just
parachuting in a curriculum. We’re not just training
teachers for a week and then letting them go. We’re looking at what is
sustainable in schools? What will be there in a year
from now, five years from now, 10 years from now? It’s about equipping that
school to incorporate computer science into its culture. We are working with
teachers directly. Our biggest emphasis is
coaching in the classroom. DIANE LEVITT: We
don’t think there’s any substitute for the
kind of relationship you build between a
teacher and a coach. MEG RAY: Teachers need to
learn a lot of new material. And it’s been just
wonderful to see the commitment of the teachers
that I’ve worked with. Kids are very
capable of creating complex projects, programming. When I’m in classrooms,
what really excites me is when I see
students who really wanted to give up
in the beginning, but have learned that
they can problem solve. They can get to the end. They can create something. And they feel empowered by it. It’s really exciting to see
them doing this rigorous work. SPEAKER 1: You’re
sort of learning what the computer is,
like, capable of, what it’s not capable of. SPEAKER 2: There are lots of
different types of computers. SPEAKER 3: There’s more to
technology than I thought. SPEAKER 1: The computer, it
doesn’t have a mind of its own. You have to create
the mind for it. SPEAKER 4: What
does debugging mean? SPEAKER 2: Fixing the problem. SPEAKER 1: Something
that I really like is challenges, because
they really push my mind. DIANE LEVITT: As
soon as we decided that having someone in
a long-term relationship with the school was going
to be the factor that made a difference there, we
started to see real change. I’m very proud that PS/IS
217 went from zero computer science four years ago
to computer science in every classroom every week
in the K-5 and several times a year in the middle school. We’re certainly
the only university in the country putting
these kind of resources into the K-12 space
in computer science. Our goal here is to figure
out, is this something that can be broadly applied
throughout the country? I want students to be able to
build something digital that has meaning to them so
that every time they interact in the digital world,
they have that same sense. I was there. I made this. I know how they did that. That’s what I really
hope for kids. [ROBOTIC MOTOR]

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