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What “CS for All” looks like in the Bold North (guest post)

What “CS for All” looks like in the Bold North.
By Renee Fall

May 17, 2019: We started on time. The people were nice. The coffee was strong. And we ate bars!

This is what it looks like when Minnesotans get together to work on a shared task, which on this day was bringing quality computer science education to all students across the state. As a recently returned Midwesterner, I was impressed with CSforAll MN’s first convening to start building its network. The group is a member of the Expanding Computing Education Pathways Alliance (ECEP) and is actively pursuing ECEP’s recommended four steps: (1) find leaders; (2) understand the landscape and policies; (3) gather and organize allies; (4) get funding to support change.

Three things impressed me most:

  1. MN has talented leaders. CSforAll MN’s steering committee has experience, a commitment to equity and access, and reach. Jen Rosato of the new National Center for Computer Science Education at the College of St. Scholastica; Cassandra Scharber, Lana Peterson, and Sarah Barksdale of the LT Media Lab at the University of Minnesota; and Andrea Wilson Vazquez, teacher and CodeSavvy director all knew how to make it happen.
  2. The MN CS education landscape is becoming clearer. With an aim to evolve this brief into a full report, CSforAll MN will rely on educational data from the MN Department of Education (MDE) and the Wilder Foundation’s Minnesota Compass STEM section. We got a preview from MDE’s Doug Paulson, director of academic standards and instructional effectiveness and former STEM specialist, and Wilder’s Jacob Wascalus.
  3. MN has plenty of allies. Teachers, school district leaders, university faculty, industry leaders, MDE staff, researchers and consultants, and representative of nonprofits, museums, and out-of-school time programs all turned out. I was impressed by teachers like Rochester’s John Bartucz, who travels to schools in his area to teach computing and lead tech clubs.  I loved Technovation MN, which had 87 teams of 350 MN girls building mobile apps as part of an international competition. And it’s great to see major companies like Medtronic and Clockwork that are committed to diversity in their tech workforces.

What are my hopes for CSforAll MN’s next act?

  1. Keep a focus on equity. With its already strong foundation, CSforAll MN can engage even more diverse stakeholders statewide. Equity also means greater transparency, which is vital for crafting policies and practices that will give all students the computing knowledge and skills they need today to be effective citizens.
  2. Measure what matters. Set goals tied to equity and gather data that show progress. Example performance measures might be the number of schools that teach computer science; or to what degree enrollment in CS classes reflect racial and ethnic diversity of the entire school; or the percentage of young women who earn college computing degrees.
  3. Gather resources. CSforAll MN can rely on the national network of ECEP leaders in 22 other states for advice and support. Many of those states are dedicating millions toward CS education efforts. More federal funding opportunities to support CS education are coming available. What philanthropic or industry partners in MN might want to join?

By the end of our day together, I felt that CSforAll MN’s first convening on a lovely May spring day had definitely lived up to our state’s image as the “Bold North.” Here was a collection of diverse, highly skilled and committed folks who want to work together and “throw caution to the wind-chill.”  I’m excited about what comes next!

Renee Fall is a researcher at the National Center for Computer Science Education at the College of St. Scholastica’s St. Paul campus. From 2012 to 2018, she co-led the Expanding Computing Education Pathways Alliance (ECEP), based at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

March Advisory Committee Meeting

Our second Advisory Committee meeting took place on March 6th, 2019. We covered a LOT in this meeting including: a policy update from Jim Davnie, an equity discussion grounded in the recent 60 Minutes’ episode “Closing the gender gap in the tech industry” and the important responses it provoked as well as an update on our working groups.

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Group photo from our meeting

We greatly appreciate our Advisory Committee members and the time they dedicate contributing to CSforAllMN. Please meet our advisory members who were able to join our March meeting:

  • Dean Breuer, a Business, Marketing & Instructional Technology Specialist at MN Dept of Education
  • Vince Cabansag, the Director of Technology at Clockwork
  • Jim Davnie, the Executive Director of SciMathMN & Rep for District 63A
  • Edyta Dudek, an Engineer, CS teacher, & Girls Who Code leader
  • Russell Fraenkel, the Director of Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence
  • Joan Freese, the Director of Educational & Digital Media at TPT PBS
  • Joanne Goldberg in Medtronic’s IT department
  • Christina Llamas, a Board Member of Technovation MN & regional ambassador for them
  • Paul Llamas, Senior Engineering Manager at UTC Aerospace Systems, a Board Memberof Technovation MN
  • Kaitie O’Bryan, a high school CS teacher and President of the MN CSTA chapter
  • Doug Paulson, the Director of Academic Standards and Instructional Effectiveness at Minnesota Department of Education
  • Antoinette Smith, the Co-Founder of TECHQUITY & software engineer at Glitch
  • Michelle Vaught, a Specialist at Professional Educator Licensing & Standards Board
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Image Source

Our advisory committee also shared some of their first experiences with computers including Atari, Oregon Trail (playing and/or writer for), Apple IIes, Road Runner, Polish structural engineering class in college, Geocities, punch cards, first job encounters, parents’ use of computers, and word processors. Do you remember your first experience with computers? This was a fun question, but we also wanted to think about how can we broaden participation in computing so that all students feel that they have opportunities and valuable first  experiences with computers.

As we begin to collect data for our Landscape Report, we’re looking for helpful data sources and input. Do you have any recommendations or ideas? Please share them with us!

  • What are potential data sources for Minnesota?
  • What are key ways for us to look at participation?
  • What other organizations should we reach out to?

We’re already planning and looking forward to our next advisory committee meeting that will take place on May 17th, 2019. Don’t worry – we’ll continue to keep you updated on our efforts and progress in the meantime.

Updates can also be found on our Twitter @CSforAllMN.

Bonus: Looking to spark conversations around gender equity in computer science? Here are some of the great responses to the 60 Minutes episode–and they bring up some valuable questions (listed below):

  1. An Insider’s Look at Why Women End Up on the Cutting Room Floor
  2. You Can’t Solve The Gender Gap In Tech If You Don’t Understand Why It Exists
  3. Girls Who Code Policy Agenda/Recommendations

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February Recap

We celebrated the end of February with our first social event which coincided with SIGCSE 2019!

Feb blog

There were over 40 people who attended ranging from Minnesota CS educators to other state’s ECEP members. There were also appearances by national ECEP leaders!  As we shared appetizers from Pizza Luce (yum), conversations regarding computer science, equity, and experiences took  place. We left feeling grateful for such a welcoming and supportive community who is just as passionate as we are about expanding computing education pathways!

Many of our steering committee members were able to attend SIGCSE sessions and visit with other states who share similar goals (shout out to our neighbor state, Wisconsin).  We hope to continue networking, collaborating, and growing our state’s support system as we work to broaden CS education access.

Friendly reminder — If you are interested in joining us or know someone that you think would be a great fit for CSforAllMN, whether as part of the Advisory Committee or in a focused working group (we have a state summit to plan and a state landscape report to write), please reach out!  We want to make sure as many voices as possible are included.

PS – don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @CSforAllMN

January Advisory Committee Meeting

Happy New Year from CSforAllMN!

We started out this year with our first virtual Advisory Committee meeting on January 23rd, 2019. During this meeting we discussed the national landscape of computer science for all (CSforAll) and the landscape of CS in Minnesota; we met and learned more about one another; and we shared our plans for the future. While we were focused on brainstorming and collaborating to improve equity for CS education in MN, we also spent some time getting to know the great things many of our committee members are currently working on.

We value our Advisory Committee members and are so excited to be collaborating together. Please meet our advisory members who were able to join our January meeting:

  • Dean Breuer with the Minnesota Department of Education
  • Vince Cabansag with Clockwork
  • Jim Davnie with SciMathMN and the MN State Legislature
  • Joan Freese with Twin Cities Public Television and SciGirls Code
  • Rommel Lee share updates on behalf of Senator Klobuchar
  • Christina Llamas with Technovation MN
  • Chery Lucarelli with College of St. Scholastica
  • Kaitie O’Bryan with Mounds View Public Schools, CSTA-MN, and Code.org

If you are interested in joining us or know someone that you think would be a great fit, whether as part of the Advisory Committee or in a focused working group (we have a state summit to plan and a state landscape report to write), please reach out! Our next Advisory Committee meeting will convene March 6th, so more news is coming soon. We want to make sure as many voices as possible are included.

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Sending you warm wishes from chilly Minnesota!

PS – don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @CSforAllMN.

#CSEdWeek

We have loved participating in #CSEdWeek on social media, and are so excited to see what is currently being done in #csed, as well as all of the exciting things in the works for computer science education!

We wanted to share with you something we have been working on, a 2 page brief trying to capture what CS education currently looks like in Minnesota: CSforAllMN Brief.  After you check it out, let us know what you think.  Plus, keep an eye out for a more in depth landscape report coming May 2019!

Let’s continue this conversation at the TIES2018 Conference (December 8-11, 2018) or at SIGCE (February 27th-March 2nd), and/or we’d love to see you on Twitter @CSforAllMN.



Are YOU interested in being part of MN ECEP?

Simply fill out this form and we will be in touch!

Hello Minnesota!

We are excited to announce the launch of our state’s new K12 computer science alliance – MN ECEP!

Minnesota has joined 23 other states in seeking to increase the number and diversity of K16 students with access to computer science through the national Expanding Computing Education Pathways Alliance (ECEP).

MN ECEP is focused on supporting our state’s K12 students and its K12 educators (both preservice and inservice).

More details will be shared soon on our alliance’s goals, ideas, and organization.

In the meantime, follow us on Twitter @CSforAllMN.

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Are YOU interested in being part of MN ECEP?

Simply fill out this form and we will be in touch!