Department director, Ryan Wise, says the legislature passed a bill creating the group last year and then Governor Terry Branstad signed it into law.
“They set a vision that by July first 2019 every elementary student in Iowa would have access to exploratory computer science coursework. Every middle school student would have a unit in computer science technology, and every high school student would have access to a high-quality computer science course,” Wise says.
Today’s students have been exposed to the use of computers from birth, and Wise says the idea is to expand on that general knowledge and teach them to go beyond. “It’s even more than just coding or programming, it’s really about understanding how computer technology works. And then being able to apply that to the creation of new technology,” according to Wise.”So, this takes our digital natives — our students of today — and really helps them understand computer technology in more detail and then apply it to their lives.”
Wise says many of today’s professions and jobs require a more advanced knowledge of computer science. The legislation also included a fund to boost the training for those who will teach computer science.
He says it would create more opportunities for teachers to go back to school to take computer science coursework or to have professional development to enhance their skills. One of the recommendations from the group is to allow students to use computer science to meet math credit requirements after they’ve taken courses covering required math standards.
“They were looking for ways to build upon the existing math standards and to not compromise those,” Wise says. “So, what they’ve recommended is that districts be allowed to innovate and create plans locally that allows for the expansion of both math and computer science.”
Now that the Computer Science Education Work Group has submitted its recommendations, Wise says there are a couple of tasks ahead do to implement them. “The first is convening a group of folks to write computer science standards — laying out what students should be able to know and do when they take computer science courses,” Wise says.
He says the second task is to ensure there is enough funding to train enough computer science teachers to teach all the classes. The legislature already set aside $250,000 for the training. “I’m hoping that that will actually be funded at $500,000. Once those funds are in place, the department will be able to develop a competitive application process that will allow districts to put together a plan for how they intend to expand computer science offerings in their school,” Wise says.
To read more about the Computer Science Education Work Group recommendations, go to the Iowa Department of Education’s website.