East Hill Notes: Growing Connections from Cornell NYC Here

By Kate Supron

Kate Supron, Engaged Cornell–Cornell Cooperative Extension liaison (CCE).

Be it an enhanced rural residency program between Weill Cornell Medicine and Cayuga Medical Center, or new connections between Cornell Tech and area schools, the power of collaborations between Cornell in New York City and shared communities here continues to grow.

Earlier this month, 36 educators from eight local school districts – Candor, Dryden, William George Agency, Groton, Ithaca, Lansing, South Seneca and Trumansburg – plus TST BOCES, gathered in Gates Hall on the Cornell-Ithaca campus for a workshop on computer science education.

Cornell Tech’s Senior Director for K-12 Education Diane Levitt partners with the Computer Science for All Consortium and schools in New York City, working to prepare teachers and students for the digital age. To that end, CSforAll is piloting a school district CS education planning process. At its core, this process is designed to give schools and educators a wide variety of options to pick from, rather than a “one size fits all” solution.

While much attention is given to large scale urban CS education efforts, CSforAll Consortium co-founder Leigh Ann DeLyser emphasized that with, “15,000 of the 16,000 school districts and collaboratives in the U.S. having fewer than 20 schools, we need to engage small and medium-sized school districts in order to get to the ‘All’ of CSforAll,” adding these smaller districts serve 60 percent of students nationwide.

Within this program, districts start with different strengths and challenges, some with no computer science curriculum, others with several courses. The CSforAll planning process meets the districts where they are, and then moves them towards common objectives with actionable goals.

Over the course of two days in Ithaca, local educators defined the path forward that makes sense for each district, outlining three- and six-month goals for advancing computer science education. Case studies from schools around the nation also modeled computer science education in action, illustrating that developing skills in this area are applicable on any number of tech-based platforms, from math to music to sports.

Photo by Cornell University Photography
TST BOCES Superintendent Jeff Matteson talks with another educator.

“This workshop is the very beginning of an effort to leverage our partnership with Cornell Tech and the CSforAll Consortium to access the very best statewide, national, and international thinking on the opportunities computer science presents for our students,” said TST BOCES Superintendent Jeff Matteson.

The partnership will continue to develop, with three additional workshops and curriculum development support planned over the next two years. Plans are also underway for area superintendents to visit Cornell Tech this fall and tour schools with a well-integrated computer science curricula in place, and to attend the “To Code and Beyond” conference.

“A single teacher leader should not be the only one responsible for computer science education in a school district,” said DeLyser. “Planning teams exist for all other subjects, and we need to help districts create structures to support teachers’ efforts in CSforAll, and give them roadmaps and plans that recognize the unique students and school cultures they serve. We need planning and thoughtfulness around K-12 computer sequences and pathways so that we are not teaching page 1 of Computer Science Chapter 1 to students for 12 years in a row.”

“Thoughtful work takes time,” Levitt said during a break at Gates Hall. “What we don’t want is to just check a box. What we want is to change teaching and learning. It’s going to look different in every district. But everyone here is onboard.”

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Kate Supron is an outreach liaison in Cornell University’s Office of Community Relations. East Hill Notes are published the second and fourth Mondays of each month.