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To improve access to computer science instruction by Maine middle and high school students, MMSA developed a proposal to bring the Exploring Computer Science (ECS) curriculum to Maine. The resulting three-year project, supported by a National Science Foundation grant, began in January 2015 and will wind down at the end of the 2017-18 school year. It supports teachers of grades 6-12 in integrating ECS into their classrooms, and was the first project in the state to provide significant, statewide professional development (PD) for middle and high school teachers in computer science
Building on the highly successful Exploring Computer Science curriculum and its accompanying professional development program, the project goals were to:
- Help teachers implement the ECS course in their own settings, adapting it to meet the needs of a diverse and rural group of students by including Maine-based activities that exemplify computational ideas and use examples from local workplaces.
- Build, grow, and sustain a community of middle and high school computer science (CS) teachers in Maine.
- Design, implement and sustain the first computer science methods course for prospective and in-service teachers in a rural state.
The intensive, 5-day summer institute was hosted by the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA) in 2015 and 2017, and on their Bangor campus in 2016. The summer institute trained teachers on the first two foundational ECS units with a focus on problem solving, as well as on the pedagogy of ECS, which emphasizes, inquiry, equity, and CS principles. Four follow-up Saturday sessions during the ensuing school years trained teachers in the final four ECS units on web design, programming, data computation and analysis, and robotics. All told, 58 teachers received this training in locations ranging from Madawaska to York and Rumford to Machias.
The research component of this grant focused on the development of five Maine workplace-based lessons, intended to illustrate the importance of CS principles in the Maine workplace, and their impact on students. Dr. Dusty Fisher, IEEE USA’s leader for K-12 education, and MMSA STEM Education Specialist, Lisa Marchi, worked with local Maine businesses and iterated with project teachers to develop lessons that highlight a variety of business types, from a local appliance store, to a large veterinary diagnostics company. Each written lesson plan is accompanied by video interviews with one or more representatives of local Maine businesses or organizations, filmed at their places of work. Each lesson and video aligns with at least on objective from each of five ECS units. Early results, using an instrument piloted with the Robotics Maine-based lesson in the spring of 2017, showed positive gains in both educator and student outcomes. Additional data will be collected during the 2017-18 school year.
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.”
~30-year technology/business teacher
This project has greatly expanded Maine’s capacity in computer science education. The majority of teachers trained in ECS have brought CS education to a broader range of students in their districts. We have built a community and support structures for computer science by establishing a Maine chapter of the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), the launch of a Maine CS listserv, and the summer of 2017 saw the launch of the first ever CS methods course in Maine at the University of Maine at Augusta (UMA).
The community and professional development opportunities for CS continue to grow in Maine. A partnership among Code.org, Educate Maine, and MMSA, brought Code.org training to the first cohort of Maine teachers in the summer of 2017 who will also receive follow-up training during this school year. The Code.org and ECS follow-up sessions have been scheduled to fall on the same dates at UMA, in order to allow for the strengthening of this growing community.
The project’s success is a result of a partnership between MMSA, RSU 26 (Orono), and UMA, with Dr. Tom Keller as PI and Dr. Joseph Szakas and Dr. Joanne Harriman serving as co-Principal Investigators. Dr. Joseph Szakas is responsible for development and implementation of the CS methods course. In addition, the Maine-based lessons would not have been possible without the support of the Maine businesses whose representatives met and talked with teachers, and allowed us to video interview them at their places of work. These include: Axiom Technologies, The Jackson Laboratory, Kepware Technology, L.L. Bean, Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, Family Dental Practice Augusta, Colby & Gale Service Station, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Dave’s Appliance, EcoMaine, IDEXX Labs, and Master’s Machines.
[What I took away from the training] . The CS equity issues there are as well as realizing that my district is technology rich and curriculum poor. Also realizing that there is more to CS than just coding and how widespread it is within many occupations. These are just some things that had the biggest impact on my thinking and will steer me in the future.”
~16-year teacher and technology integrator
This project is funded by the National Science Foundation, grant #1440464. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in these materials are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
See Recent MMSA News about This Project: