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.
Place-based education is a philosophy that utilizes the context of student knowledge – culture, location, nature, and history – to connect to curricular and core content within the classroom. Despite numerous articles and studies on the merits of land-based and place-based education in rural Alaska, there is little information regarding a connection between the culture and ecology of this culturally rich land with a substantial computer science curriculum. One can find math modules, art and music units, and ELA lessons that attach to Alaska Native culture through a simple web search, but Computer Science has remained a subject that is primarily in the classroom and focused on materials that do not necessarily connect with the students’ lives outside of school. Continue reading ‘Developing A Place-Based Computer Science Curriculum’ by YKSD Teacher Andrew Bellamy
At the recent 2022 CSEdCon Global CS Education Conference, the Alaska Staff Development Network (ASDN) accepted an award for ‘overcoming the odds’ from Code.org, the international leader in computer science education. ASDN is a division of the education non-profit Alaska Council of School Administrators (ACSA). For the past four years, ASDN has served as the Code.org Regional Partner for Alaska and worked to expand access to computer science education across the state by providing professional learning opportunities for K-12 educators and advocating for computer science education policy. To date, ASDN has provided computer science curriculum professional development to nearly 1,000 Alaskan educators in 44 of Alaska’s 54 school districts. Continue reading ‘ASDN Celebrates Code.org Award + Preparing for the 2022 Hour of Code’ by Sam Jordan
Alaska’s teachers are some of the most devoted professionals in the country. Almost 1,000 educators from across the state of Alaska chose to spend two or three weekend days in January learning, collaborating, and reinvigorating their practice at the RTI/MTSS Effective Instruction Conference 2022 (and RTI Rural Schools Pre-Conference).
In Fall 2020, faced with the challenge of conducting Pearl Creek Elementary’ s Extended Learning Program remotely, I turned to chess to help students connect with each other. As a longtime school chess club sponsor, I knew how much fun students had playing against each other, so I just needed to figure out a way for them to play online. I invited students to play using a copy of a shared google drawings template during Zoom sessions with ELP students enrolled in Fairbanks North Star Borough School District’s e-learning and BEST homeschool programs. I was happy to find that, even remotely, I was able to hop from game to game and give advice or settle disputes as they arose.
Alaska’s PK-12 school system is embracing the teaching of computer science like never before. Educators across the state, and their students, have recognized that navigating the digital world is not just about being a consumer of digital content, it’s about the skills needed to create that content. And to become a creator means knowing the building blocks of how digital content is made using computer science.
Being a creator means that your individual insights and perspectives on the world can be represented and celebrated. Alaskan students experience the world through languages, cultures, climates, and geography that exist nowhere else. To ensure the digital landscape includes space for these unique perspectives, Alaskan students need to be equipped with the right knowledge to meaningfully share what they know and impact how digital spaces represent them. And because we know that Alaska Natives, women, and other people of color are historically underrepresented in the field of computer science, it is critical that we focus our efforts on giving those groups the skills needed to succeed in the digital future.
Computer Science Education Week (#CSEdWeek) “is an annual call to action to inspire K-12 students to learn computer science, advocate for equity in computer science education, and celebrate the contributions of students, teachers, and partners to the field” (https://www.csedweek.org/). This year’s #CSEdWeek is focused on the intersection of computer science and social justice, and raising up diverse voices in technology.
“We love kids. We love books. We love to serve.” This was a recent consensus made by the combined library staff in Fairbanks North Star Borough School District as to why we work in a school library. And that, my friends, is why K-12 school libraries are important. Kids need love. Kids need books. Kids need help.