The rugged terrains of Alaska are not only home to natural wonders but have also become a cradle of growth for a different kind of exploration since 2019—one that empowers the youth with critical and computational thinking and digital fluency. The infusion of computer science education in K-12 settings in Alaska has not only reshaped students’ perspectives on technology but has also stimulated a movement of continuous professional development for educators. This journey from 2019 to the present showcases how Alaska is committed to equipping its students with essential skills for the digital age, careers, and holistic academic growth.
Nurturing Educators as Pioneers
In 2019, a transformative partnership between Code.org and the Alaska Staff Development Network (ASDN) marked a significant milestone in Alaska’s educational landscape. This collaboration was driven by the shared vision of enhancing K-12 computer science professional development for all students. Recognizing the importance of preparing students for a technology-driven world, Alaska Dept. of Early Childhood Education (DEED) created and approved K-12 Computer Science Standards for our Alaska Students.
With the integration of these standards came the pressing need for educators to have the tools and curriculum to effectively impart computer science knowledge. The outcome was the establishment of a cadre of proficient computer science teachers, referred to as “champion computer science teachers.” ASDN and Alaska’s educators emerged as the driving force behind embedding computer science into the curriculum, ensuring that every student could access this vital knowledge, bridging the gap to well-paying careers and diverse future prospects.
Rapid Growth in Educator Engagement
The ASDN and Code.org partnership has left an indelible impact on K-12 computer science education in Alaska. The initiative has experienced an exponential rise in teacher participation, crossing the impressive milestone of 1000 participants and continuing to grow. Notably, the year 2023 alone witnessed the addition of 189 new champion teachers, highlighting the sustained success and expansion of the program. This steadfast commitment to empowering educators underscores Alaska’s unwavering dedication to providing a high-quality education that prepares students for the digital challenges that lie ahead, spanning sectors such as healthcare, fisheries, telecommunications, military security, space exploration, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence.
Embracing Diversity and Inclusion at District Level
Alaska’s impact extends beyond its urban hubs, with an astounding 49 out of 54 districts equipped with at least one computer science-trained teacher. This expansive coverage guarantees that students throughout the state, regardless of their geographical location, can engage with computer science education. A standout accomplishment of this endeavor is the emphasis on diversity and inclusivity. Historically, the field of computer science has lacked gender representation, but Alaska has turned this narrative around. The program has achieved an impressive 48% participation rate of females in computer science programs, a significant stride towards gender equity in a traditionally male-dominated field. The program’s success also resonates in its efforts to serve all of Alaska’s diverse ethnicities.
Extending to Remote Communities
One of the most heartening aspects of Alaska’s computer science education journey is its reach to remote and rural communities. The program’s expansion has touched even the farthest corners of the state, with an impressive 60% of participants hailing from these areas. By extending educational initiatives to underserved communities, Alaska is erasing the digital divide, ensuring that every student, regardless of their location, has access to the skills and tools that will shape their future.
ASDN’s Ongoing Commitment
ASDN stands at the forefront of this transformative journey, supported by a team of dedicated educators. The organization’s educators play a pivotal role in training teachers from kindergarten to 12th grade, covering a broad spectrum of computer science education. From K-5 computer science trainers to specialized trainers for 6th- 9th grade and 9th-12th grade levels, ASDN offers comprehensive support. The organization’s engagement extends beyond individual training, with a “Train the Trainer” initiative empowering districts to cultivate their computer science programs using Code.org’s curriculum. This collaborative effort has seen districts like Fairbanks, Matsu, Kenai, Yukon Flats, Sitka, and Lake and Peninsula embark on the journey to craft district-specific K-5 computer science programs.
This fall ASDN will begin supporting partnerships with districts that want support to align their learning goals and vision. District leaders can create a pathway to prepare students to thrive in a rapidly changing world of work, boost access to engaging STEM courses and pathways, gain access to high-quality professional development experiences, tap into the energy, aspirations, and potential of all students to close equity gaps in computer science education and career pathways and align with education-to work priorities of employers and policymakers.
Our Code.org Facilitator Team
The evolution of K-12 computer science education and professional development in Alaska from 2019 to the present is a testament to the state’s commitment to progress, inclusivity, and innovation. The initiative’s focus on training champion teachers, extending its reach to remote areas, and fostering diversity within the computer science realm is truly commendable. With a thriving community of over 1000 trained educators, a remarkable 48% female participation rate, and a far-reaching impact on underserved communities, Alaska’s efforts are setting a shining example for the nation. As the program continues to flourish, it is evident that Alaska’s dedication to nurturing a generation adept in technology will leave an enduring legacy on its students, the education sector, and the state’s workforce.
Please contact Cheryl Bobo if you have further questions about K-12 or district level support. firstname.lastname@example.org