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The first cohort of Maine teachers implementing the Exploring Computer Science curriculum in their classrooms as part of a 3-year National Science Foundation grant met again on Saturday, November 7, to continue working with the MMSA team on this exciting project.
“Building Capacity for Computer Science Teaching in a Rural State” is both the title and the goal of the 3-year project led by MMSA in partnership with RSU 26 (Orono) and the University of Maine at Augusta. Computer science (CS) occupations in Maine are expected to experience extreme growth between now and 2018. The anticipated need is for 1,777 new CS workers with 2-year college degrees by 2018, but it is estimated that only 210 of these workers will be produced locally. This project is preparing teachers to incorporate the already successful Exploring Computer Science (ECS) course into their school offerings.
We link key CS concepts in the ECS curriculum to Maine businesses through place-based lesson plans, each featuring one of five Maine businesses. Teachers started their training in June and are continuing during the school year at four Saturday sessions. The most recent training session introduced teachers to the Kepware lesson plan. Kepware Technologies develops platforms for businesses so that all their machines and processes work together seamlessly. They approach problem-solving like solving a maze. With that analogy in mind, participating teachers built mazes and wrote algorithms to solve them, and discussed how solving them as humans are different from having a computer or robot solve them. What assumptions are made? How explicit do the instructions have to be?
Several teachers have already implemented this lesson with students with great success.
Linda Hoffman, a gifted/talented teacher in MSAD40, said, “I have wonderful news! I shared the Maze/Kepware lesson with 3 of my 6th grade G/T students on Monday. I have never seen a lesson go so well in my teaching career.”
Lynne Michaud, a business/technology teacher at York High School, said, “I am grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with a great group of Maine teachers and accomplished facilitators and have learned a great deal about the pedagogy of teaching technology that I will most certainly bring into the classroom when I teach a new elective Exploring Computer Science course next semester. I’ve always ascribed to the ‘guide-on-the-side’ philosophy of teaching, but I now I have more tools to use to do this more effectively.”
In addition to the ongoing workshops, a Maine chapter of the Computer Science Teachers Association has been established and is ramping up to support computer science teachers in Maine.