ISTE and Code.org partner to advance computer science education

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The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and Code.org announced Wednesday that they will be partnering to create and offer more opportunities for educators interested in teaching computer science.

Code.org, a nonprofit provider of computer science curriculum and professional development, has already trained over 70,000 educators to teach computer science — many of whom are new to the subject. ISTE, meanwhile, is beginning its refresh of the ISTE Standards for Computer Science Educators and plans to loop in Code.org officials on that effort.

The partnership will provide educators access to Code.org’s courses and a discounted ISTE membership.

Carolyn Sykora, senior director for ISTE’s Standards Department, hopes for this partnership “to drive a cultural shift so that more teachers identify with these skills,” she told EdScoop. “It is not just teachers being more knowledgeable, but having greater confidence. These skills can be applied no matter what area or age they teach.”

With unprecedented interest in computer science today, demand for properly trained teachers has also spiked dramatically. But many education officials, including Code.org founder and CEO Hadi Partovi, say that the shortage of trained teachers remains one of the biggest hurdles in expanding access to computer science education in U.S. schools.

The hope is that, together, Code.org and ISTE can help chip away at that barrier.

Cameron Wilson, chief operating officer and president of Code.org, believes the two nonprofits share missions of getting students from underrepresented backgrounds access to computer science.

Wilson noted, for example, that only about one-fourth of AP computer science students are girls.

“We’d like to up that rate by spreading computer science across the country,” Wilson said in an interview.

Many states have made public commitments recently to expand computer science education and, with it, offer appropriate professional development for teachers. Sixteen governors have so far joined a coalition to advance computer science education in their states, and over a dozen governors used their recent State of the State addresses to highlight gains in computer science and describe their plans for the year ahead. Just this year, governors have already proposed $37.5 million to support computer science curricula in their schools.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, for example, has proposed legislation requiring 100 percent of the state’s K-12 schools offer a computer science class by the year 2021. He also promised to invest in professional development so those teachers are ready when 2021 comes.

The last time ISTE updated its computer science standards was seven years ago. The group is re-evaluating those standards today, Sykora said, because computer science has evolved since then.

“The field has changed in the last seven years, and that really prompted us to look at updating these standards,” she said “We’re really looking at pivoting standards from those who teach the computer science discipline to making it interdisciplinary. … Teachers need to have skills and expertise in this area.

In an official statement about the new partnership, ISTE said the guidelines will act as “a vision for the knowledge, skills and dispositions educators need to teach computer science to all students.”

The revised ISTE Standards for Computer Science Educators are slated to be released sometime this fall.

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