Computer science is currently one of the most in-demand college degrees as computing jobs are the number one source of all new wages in the U.S. However, only 45% of U.S. high schools teach any computer science classes. Idaho currently has 925 open computer jobs but only graduated 435 students with computer science degrees in 2017. In addition to these low numbers, universities in Idaho did not graduate a single new teacher that was prepared to teach computer science in high school.
In an effort to improve student access to Computer Science in Idaho, Idaho Digital Learning Alliance (IDLA), Idaho’s state-sponsored online program, has become the Regional Partner for Code.org. Regional Partners are U.S.-based organizations that help spread computer science locally. The goal of the Regional Partner program is to help each organization establish itself as a K-12 computer science hub for their region, offering professional learning opportunities for teachers and building a strong local community. Due to the rural nature of Idaho’s geography, IDLA’s role as the Regional Partner is paramount to the initiatives success. IDLA’s digital footprint allows the entire state to access the resources and curriculum online. Idaho is the first state to use this model of delivery with Code.org.
Under this partnership, IDLA organizes and hosts Professional Development Workshops and all related activities to prepare Idaho teachers to adopt and use Code.org’s curriculum in their own classrooms. Whether they are new to teaching computer science or have experience teaching other CS courses, the program is designed to promote growth by providing space to become comfortable with curricular materials, computer science content, and pedagogy. The program supports teachers with diverse teaching backgrounds as they prepare to teach the following courses:
- Computer Science Fundamentals is a series of courses designed to be flexible for the classroom. How teachers implement is up to them – teach CS Fundamentals for the next science unit, use it to support math concepts, add technology time to the schedule once a week, or go deeper with extension activities and projects!
- Computer Science Discoveries is an introductory computer science course that empowers students to create authentic artifacts and engage with computer science as a medium for creativity, communication, problem-solving, and fun. The curriculum is recommended for middle and high school students (grades 6-10), and can be taught either as a semester or full-year offering.
- Computer Science Principles (can be taught as an AP ® course) is a higher level introductory course for 9th-12th grade students that introduces students to the foundational concepts of computer science while challenging them to explore how computing and technology can impact the world. No computer science background is necessary for students or teachers.
According to Code.org, this program and partnership have had a great impact in Idaho.
- In Idaho, Code.org’s curriculum is used in
- 30% of elementary schools
- 28% of middle schools
- 20% of high schools
- There are 3,046 teacher accounts and 126,166 student accounts on Code.org in Idaho.
- Of students in Idaho using Code.org curriculum last school year,
- 54% attend high needs schools
- 45% are in rural schools
- 42% are female students
- 30% are underrepresented minority students (Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, or Hawaiian)
- Code.org, its regional partner Idaho Digital Learning Alliance, and 7 facilitators have provided professional learning in Idaho for
- 691 teachers in CS Fundamentals (K-5)
- 83 teachers in Exploring Computer Science or Computer Science Discoveries
- 36 teachers in Computer Science Principles
IDLA’s commitment to computer science doesn’t stop there. Every December, during Computer Science Education Week (December 9-15, 2019), IDLA partners with Idaho Public Television, Micron, Idaho STEM Action Center, Discovery Center of Idaho, and Idaho Career & Technical Education to bring Hour of Code to schools throughout the state. The Hour of Code is a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify “code”, to show that anybody can learn the basics, and to broaden participation in the field of computer science. It has since become a worldwide effort to celebrate computer science, starting with 1-hour coding activities but expanding to all sorts of community efforts.