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Computer Science Education with a Local Context: #CSforALL in Arkansas

October 2, 2017 by

I’m in Jonesboro, Arkansas helping Facebook and the Arkansas Department of Education run “Tech Takeover” events and I had some time to reflect on our event earlier today at Arkansas State University. By interacting with so many different stakeholders throughout the state in one week, I’m realizing that Arkansas’ programs are massively expanding computer science education while maintaining a local context.

1) Invite Local Industry: Phillip Poston from Hytrol, a supply chain manufacturer (they make conveyor belts), is a huge local employer in Jonesboro. He connected local industry jobs to the immediate topic of the day: computer science education and emerging technology like virtual reality. Hytrol uses virtual reality to train employees who work in the supply chain — who knew? Phillip was picking out students to hire (4-8 years down the road) at the event today, and your local industries should be doing this same.

2) Involve Local Education: Arkansas State University generously hosted the event and Chancellor Damphousse spoke about how important computer science and CS education are to the future of the University. Jill Clogston, Director of the Education Renewal Zone at A State, highlighted some of the University’s efforts to support CS education workshops like the College Board’s Summer AP Institutes. The university is working on creating a CS undergrad program that matches the state’s enthusiasm for K-12 education.

3) Direct from Local Government: Anthony Owen, Arkansas State Director of Computer Science Education, has spread programs and enthusiasm throughout the state. Everyone seems to have a plan or know whom to ask if they need any assistance. There is a tangible feeling of cohesive movement forward because of a statewide set of CS standards and an empowered team of facilitators training educators as fast as they possibly can. Nothing can slow this team down!

4) Attract National Partners: Facebook’s TechStart program is driving this commitment forward with donations of Oculus Rift VR headsets and computers to schools along with a curriculum and event programming. These events are happening around the state to kick off the school year in style with inspiring, connected content. It’s easy to see how initiatives this exciting are attracting national attention.

5) Spread Your Commitment: Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson committed to computer science education, and it’s clear why his state is an example for others to follow. I’m surrounded by commitment from the top office to the bottom of every auditorium, where teachers, and education partners are working hard to embrace this new initiative for the sake of every student in the state. Hutchinson has made CS education a signature initiative and kids are much better off for the effort.

In short, people here get it — EVERYONE needs to be at the table (and working hard) to make computer science education happen for ALL students. We also need national, state, and local supporters to all be on board to create unique local programs. A push from the top requires collaboration and investment on every level. #CSforAll #CSforAR #ARKidsCanCode

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