5 Steps to Implementing a Computer Science Program at Your School

April 18, 2016 by Crescerance

With the announcement of President Obama’s Computer Science for All Initiative, policy makers are calling on education decision makers, around the country, to take action to empower ALL students with the necessary computer skills they’ll NEED to succeed.In fact, over $4 billion in funding will be available for states and $100 million for school districts to make computer science programs like MAD-learn, a reality in every classroom.

The push for more STEM-focused initiatives is a growing expectation of parents, with 9 out of 10 parents asking school administrators to implement engaging 21st century computer science programs.

Now, more than ever, the students in your classrooms need to master mathematics and science knowledge to help secure future employment. Over 80% of the fastest growing occupations will require a level of computer literacy that past generations did not have to meet. Economists estimate that by 2018, the United States will have 3 million STEM-related jobs that will be left unfilled, partly because the new generation of graduating students lack the proficiency with problem-solving, critical thinking, and innovation needed to fulfill these positions.

The statistics are telling and the growing need for more technology-infused learning opportunities are apparent. So, the real question becomes…

But, just how should educational leaders go about starting, maintaining, and growing a computer science program?

This is not a “one size fits all” approach, but the most effective computer science programs are implemented from the ground up utilizing these 5 key steps.

Step 1: Gauge your teachers’ love for technology.
Your teachers are one of the key success factors when starting any new curriculum program. The first step in implementing a computer science program begins with surveying your teachers to gain a better understanding of their willingness to learn new technologies and topics as well as their current comfort level with using and teaching technology principles. You may want to consider paper or online surveys, focus groups, or skills assessments to gain data. This step is key to shape the structure and roll-out of the upcoming computer science program.

Step 2: Invest in your teachers’ professional development first. Remember, your teachers are the lynchpin of any computer science program’s success. Making sure that your teachers are well prepared and comfortable with teaching the computer science curriculum is a must. Based on the data and qualitative information collected in Step 1, shape a professional development program to tailor fit your teachers’ interests and challenge areas. This could take many forms, so being open-minded and creative through this process is key. For example, if you have teachers who are interested in robotics or coding, having subject matter experts come for a 2 hour training or holding a hands-on teaching workshop could be great ways to kickstart the excitement for the computer science program.

Step 3: Identify your idea champions early. Call them the front runners or the first adopters, either way, these are the teachers who are able to spearhead the new computer science program. Leverage their excitement and connection with other teachers to help implement the computer science program. These could be pilot classrooms as well who will be trying out various computer science elements to help craft the larger computer science initiative at your school.

Step 4: Hone in on the goals and outcomes. Whether your school is rolling out the computer science program in one or several classes, the goals for the program must be established and communicated early on. Having a clear picture of what success looks like for the program is key. Consider the following questions to help shape the overall structure of the program and how it should be implemented.

  • When will the computer science curriculum be taught? Before school, after school, etc?
  • What are the outcomes for success?
  • What metrics can be used to evaluate the program?
  • Is there a final deliverable or culminating event for the program?

Organizing a semester-end or year-end showcase, like a mobile app competition, can be a great way to bring the school community together to see the first fruits of the computer science program.

Step 5: Scale to the Program for Growth. The exact timetable for expanding the computer science program is dependent on several factors such as resources, teacher participation, etc. After a pilot has been completed, the next step is to determine how to scale the program to more classes or to cover more computer science related topics. Programs like MAD-learn provide multiple approaches for teachers and school administrators to implement coding and computer science elements in tiers, across various grades. Throughout this scaling process, it is always important to check in and be sure program objectives and goals are being

Implementing a computer science program, even in elementary school is becoming a must to ensure students are equipped with technology skills and scientific creativity to land jobs in the future. With STEM-related curricula like MAD-learn, teachers can seamlessly introduce coding into any classroom with students as young as third grade. If your school has successfully implemented a computer science program, we’d love to hear how it was done and any lessons learned. Comment on the blog below to share your thoughts.