SEP Jr.: The NYC DOE Elementary School Computer Science Pilot
In September 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Computer Science for All (CS4All), an initiative that will provide computer science education to every public school student over the next ten years. The goals of the year-long pilot are to increase the number of elementary school students, particularly from traditionally underrepresented groups, who learn computer science, and to develop students’ computational thinking and problem-solving skills in real-world contexts.
Why Computer Science in Elementary School?
All students should have the opportunity to learn Computer Science (CS). Early exposure to CS is critical to addressing equity in technology education. SEP Jr. will help schools to introduce technology as a tool for creative expression and problem solving through the use of tablets, computers, and robots. Teachers and students will gain familiarity with block-based programming languages; as well as activities that do not require the use of a device. “Unplugged activities” include the creation and development of “games” that will use physical objects and real-time classroom space to teach critical CS principles.
SEP Jr. will introduce students to these fundamental CS topics. Students will gain foundational skills and knowledge to prepare them for the transition to more advanced computing in middle and high school while simultaneously developing academic and personal skills that are useful across multiple subject and content areas, such as collaboration and persistence.
SEP Jr. will provide a high-quality computer science experience for K to 5 students. Essential elements of SEP Jr. include balancing rigorous and meaningful direct instruction with open-ended creative computing for students. Teachers and their students will engage in foundational computer science concepts through teacher-directed lessons and the application of computer science through open-ended creative computing platforms, such as Scratch, robotics and maker education. The SEP Jr. curriculum will align with the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) standards.
The first cohort of the pilot will include teams of 3-7 teachers from schools across the City. The ideal teacher team will consist of one lead teacher per grade level and a collaborating technology teacher where available. At a minimum, a teacher team will consist of a lead teacher from each grade band (K-2 and 3-5) and a collaborating technology teacher. Teachers will be provided extensive professional development to prepare them to offer a scope and sequence to engage all grades while giving them the flexibility to focus on a grade band implementation. Additionally, an administrator must play an active role in supporting the implementation of SEP Jr. and of computer science as a core academic subject in his/her school.
Through the pilot, teachers will:
- support students through the design and implementation of their own interactive projects and activities
- use device-based and unplugged activities to engage students in computer science and computational thinking
- improve knowledge on practical approaches that increase inclusiveness in computer science and help dispel gender/ethnic stereotypes
- develop an understanding of computer science concepts through participation in professional development
- become more comfortable teaching computer science content
Students in grades K-2 will:
- construct and test problem solutions
- create a design document to illustrate thoughts, ideas, and stories in sequential order
- construct step-by-step instructions to accomplish a task / evaluation
- practice responsible digital citizenship by using technology appropriately
- form a basic understanding of how information is saved and shared
- use logical reasoning to predict the behavior of simple programs
- recognize common uses of computer science in the community and world at large
- understand the impacts of technology in their everyday lives
Students in grades 3-5 will:
- use teamwork and collaboration to solve problems
- understand that computer programming is an iterative process
- understand the impacts of computing on society
- gather, manipulate, and evaluate data to explore a real-world problem
- build and/or program with physical computing devices
- understand technology networks and how they work
During the pilot year, participating teachers will be given the resources to begin to work with their colleagues to spread CS education to other classes. Beyond the pilot year, participating teachers are expected to work with their colleagues to ensure school-wide adoption of CS education.
The professional development cycle for school year 2016-2017 for teachers will begin with a three-day summer institute on August 1-3. The three-day training will include the following learning objectives: support on direct instruction, exploration of computer science topics, examples on integrating computer science into other subject/ academic areas, and effective computer science teaching practices. Teachers will have the opportunity to plan with school teams and within grade bands across multiple schools.
Throughout the 2016-2017 school year, teachers will convene every other month on Saturdays for continued professional development. Each of these sessions will include in-depth instruction about upcoming computer science topics in the curriculum, as well as time to explore incorporating robots and makerspaces into their instructional practices as appropriate. At each session, teachers will continue to plan within their school teams and collaborate with other participating schools.
Other professional development will be offered in addition to the mandatory professional development for those schools who progress and whose students want to delve deeper into the subject matter.
Proposed Application Timeline:
March 29: Application period opens
April 4, 3-4pm: Informational webinar
April 13, 7-8pm: Informational webinar
April 22: Application period closes
May 6: Select schools contacted for site visits
May 25: Final decisions sent to all
Aug 1: Professional development cycle for selected schools begins
September: Launch of SEP Jr. in all selected schools