In a January 30 address explaining his Computer Science For All initiative, President Barack Obama said, “We have to make sure all our kids are equipped for the jobs of the future, which means not just being able to work with computers, but developing the analytical and coding skills to power our innovation economy.”
The initiative, if approved by congress, earmarks $4 billion for states and another $100 million for districts to train teachers and purchase the tools for elementary, middle and high schools to provide opportunities to learn computer science to promote more Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) skills. The funding programs, which will appear in the president’s forthcoming budget proposal for 2017, are just the latest effort from the White House to bring more science and technology education to students.
With this said, adding more computer science and STEM instruction to K-12 teaching and learning in the next year is most likely inevitable. In order to prepare for adding more coding in the classroom, though, schools need to lay the groundwork by creating and implementing solid technology management and digital citizenship practices.
Technology management and STEM
In order for more coding and other hands-on STEM learning to become an integral part of every student’s education, school’s management of technology and digital devices will need to be well thought out and executed. Schools are already beginning to beef up technology infrastructure and Internet connectivity through initiatives like e-Rate funding. Additionally, schools are purchasing more and more digital devices like chromebooks and tablets so that students in all grades have access to online resources. But how are these devices managed?
The U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology’s 2014 publication, Future Ready Schools: Building Technology Infrastructure for Learning, stresses the importance of planning and implementing procedures that employ system-level controls for device and application management. School district staff should be able to push out updates, security protocols and other critical functions from a central location (versus physically touching each device).
As more devices are added and more students use them, this will become increasingly important. Schools will need software that not only allows remote management of devices, but allows remote monitoring of how and when the devices are being used. This will prevent misuse by students while saving significant amounts of time for IT managers.
Digital citizenship and STEM
As more and more teaching and learning of coding is adding into K-12 education, it will be imperative to allow students and teachers to access the resources required to do so. Both private and corporate organizations, such as Cartoon Network and MIT Media Lab, are taking initiative to provide curriculum for coding. But in order for students access these resources, they have to be unblocked on school’s networks. Network management will need to shift from simply blocking and filtering websites and apps to more robust pairing of digital citizenship and monitoring of online activity.
To address this idea of monitoring and promoting digital citizenship, the Future Ready Schools publication also states, “Less ability to modify or change the device settings can make it easier for IT staff to maintain devices, but gives students less freedom to personalize devices for their needs. The decision to allow more control over a device may vary depending on the student. A multitiered model of permissions and restrictions gives students who demonstrate responsible behavior more privileges and restricts access for students who fail to show responsible behavior. As you consider these policies, remember that restricting a student’s access in one class will affect that student’s ability to participate in learning in subsequent classes as well.”
Having a technology management system in place that allows the remote monitoring of all devices, coupled with a multitiered model of monitoring online activity, will allow students to make choices and be responsible online. This will then allow instructors and schools to give students all the resources necessary to get the most from computer science and STEM education in the future.
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