CS for Good Introduces Students to Computer Science from Equity Perspective
A new course at DeWitt Middle School is introducing all first-year students to foundational computer science (CS) concepts, with a specific focus on equity, collaboration, and the positive impacts of computing.
The course, CS for Good, is one that every 6th-grader must now take, along with DeWitt’s other “Pot of Gold” courses, which teach critical skills like paragraph writing and effective study habits. The idea for the course was pitched to ELA teacher Angela Levy -- who had previously served as a TOSA for Technology Integration for the district -- by DeWitt’s principal, Carlan Gray, and Master Educator for Inclusion, Tara Caiza. The hope was to further the CS for ALL initiative by providing an entry point to computer science for all students before they self-select out of it, Levy explained.
“In general, computer science has been a white male-dominated field, so we’re trying to bring other people to the table and say ‘this is actually something that can be for you and also it can be fun.’”
Levy wrote CS for Good with Matt O’Donnell, now Coordinator of Instructional Technology at TST BOCES, with help from Felicia Woodard and Sten Anderson, both instructional specialists at TST. The course design was inspired by a lesson from code.org that outlines four overarching reasons why we learn computer science -- to detect problems, to find creative solutions, to connect with each other, and to ensure equity and inclusion -- and is based on the New York State K-12 Computer Science and Digital Fluency Learning Standards.
Ultimately, the goals of CS for Good are to introduce students to computer science, specifically from an equity perspective (CS is for ALL of you), and to provide them with experiences in physical computing, the design process, and ethics in computing.
Throughout the semester, students use the micro:bit (essentially a mini-computer), along with “unplugged” activities to learn about bedrock CS concepts like algorithms, variables, and conditionals. The students will then use this foundational knowledge to design their own project with the micro:bit that uses computer science for good in their personal lives, the community, or the world. Students can choose from physical health projects like step counters, mental health projects like breathing machines or sound meters, environmental projects like temperature readers, or community-building projects/games.
“I really just want kids to have fun and see that it can be an enjoyable thing, and then they’re also getting something out of it,” Levy said. “I’m putting a big focus on ethics, too.”
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