i2i Project Shifts Dissemination to an On-line Forum.

i2i ForumWith every one of us tethered to our computers this spring, there has been a lot of conversation about the role of technology in our lives as well as the capacity for that technology to help shape our future. While the integrate – 2 – innovate project is wrapping up, the critical work of this groundbreaking research to practice partnership is becoming more and more evident. 

During this 18-month project (January 2019 – June 2020) participants explored where the potential entry points are for computer science that already exist in current learning standards and curricula, and what types of high-quality options are already available that could be integrated into existing curricula.  Participants piloted modified lessons, units, and tools from a wide variety of sources and added those experiences to the data collected from classroom observations, participants surveys and focus groups. (Read more link in newsletter) The outcomes of this project led to recommendations for professional development support structures for computer science that will work for districts and others across the State of Maine, primarily focusing on the development of  instructional tools and materials that align computer science with existing math and science standards while increasing community common understanding and buy-in. 

Throughout the life of this project, the interest in integration of Computer Science has only increased. With an added emphasis on integration in state and national conversations, the i2i participants are on the cutting edge of important work that will enrich this growing field. Participants are working together to synthesize their research and have truly embodied the “innovate” of integrate – 2- innovate by quickly pivoting the structure of their CS Integration Spring Symposium. 

As with so many others, our spring has been one of crisis, scrambling, innovation and Zoom. i2i faced the dilemma many of us have faced – what to do about a scheduled, in-person conference. Taking our cue from the planners of RESPECT and many other national conferences, we pivoted. Our RPP divided into four working groups that met frequently to brainstorm a way to meet our key goals – sharing our work and furthering the conversation around CS – while remaining virtual. After much conversation, we decided to convert our one-day symposium into four, one-hour, sessions spread throughout the month of May. In a nod to the very real scenario of Zoom burnout, we opted for shorter sessions. The new timeframe forced us to reexamine the material we wanted to share – getting to the core of our work – while also pushing the envelope of what virtual meetings could do. To encourage conversation, we utilized breakout rooms with facilitated discussion prompts, notetakers, and a diversity of voices in each room representing schools, businesses, and policy makers. Participants in breakout rooms were encouraged to share where they were coming from and what brought them to the session in an attempt to recreate the critical role that networking plays at all in-person conferences. Simple tools, like the polling feature and chat bar, allowed us to engage over fifty participants in the larger group setting, while keeping the pace of the meeting moving. 

While our initial goal was to move the conversation around CS integration forward in the state of Maine, our audience was made up of representatives from Texas, California, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania (to name a few). The crisis we all are facing forced us to innovate and, in that innovation, we not only met our goals but expanded our community. In the world of education, there are always lessons to be learned. 

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