By Kristie Jackson
Senior Learning Strategist at BloomBoard, Inc.
& AZ Teacher of the Year 2012
As an Arizona classroom teacher for almost 20 years, I know how important it is to feel supported in implementing not only my existing academic standards, but also additional standards and skills that my students need to be successful in college, the workforce and beyond. Therefore, I was excited to learn that when Arizona adopted new state standards for Computer Science (CS) instruction in 2018, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) wanted to help schools build capacity to effectively teach to meet these in classrooms across the state. In doing so, they created a pilot using a job-embedded approach to prepare K-8 teachers for successful CS instruction.
ADE partnered with BloomBoard, a company working nationally to provide in-classroom, learn-by-doing instruction to teachers using micro-credentials. Micro-credentials are a form of certification earned by demonstrating competency in one specific area at a time. Through this process, teachers receive online instruction and coaching, and participate with other educators in professional learning communities to develop new skills. They can then practice what they learn and demonstrate what they know – all within their own classrooms.
Using this job-embedded approach, ADE started a pilot offering K-8 teachers a micro-credential-based pathway to obtain a state-approved CS endorsement. There are now 50 participants in the pilot representing large districts, charters, and small rural schools.
The Computer Science standards have multiple points of overlap with traditional K-12 disciplines, so educators in this program will have the opportunity to support student learning by infusing CS concepts into core content areas (math, science, ELA, social studies) using research-informed principles of practice.
Some of the competencies included are:
- Recognizing and defining computational problems
- Beginner programming using CS tools and technologies
- Developing digital citizens
- Developing an inclusive computing culture
According to Curt Landon, the Instructional Technology Specialist at Chandler Unified School District, his teachers have genuinely benefited from the K-8 pilot program.
In a recent discussion about the pilot, he quoted one who said, “I’ve completed five micro-credentials and thoroughly enjoyed the content of each one. I’ve found that they are challenging and meaningful, and they have had an impact on the way I teach. Each has greatly increased my knowledge of CS, and I feel much more confident to teach concepts such as computational thinking than before I began the process.”
Building on the success of the K-8 initiative, ADE and BloomBoard can now partner to help build high school educators’ skills for CS instruction.
Many high schools are interested in adding additional Computer Science courses to their schedules but would like to support teachers with enhancing their CS instruction as they build these programs.
It is with this in mind that ADE has now released grants of up to $25,000 per site available to schools developing new or expanded computer science programs. The grants will cover professional learning for CS instruction, allowing teachers to master the AZ CS standards and position themselves to be teacher leaders within their schools.
To learn more about the high school program and how we can help, please visit: https://bloomboard.com/program/az-high-school-computer-science/