STEM and Computer Science Education Wanted
Today it often seems like students are experts in technology, capable of navigating new devices and programs with ease. But can they build these technologies? Do they have the skills necessary to transition from user to developer? The Pennsylvania Department of Education saw the need for more STEM and computer science education and established the PAsmart Initiative to provide the training students need to prepare for the workforce of the future. PAsmart targeted grants provided awards up to $35,000 to schools and local education agencies with little to no existing computer science curriculum in the 2018-2019 school year.
From Pilot Program to Statewide Solution
Over the course of the next year, schools and teachers worked diligently to develop new lesson plans and programs to teach the fundamentals of computer science. During the 2019-2020 school year, less than 24% of students across the commonwealth participated in computer science education. Of those approximately 339,000 students, less than 23% were students of color and less than 4% were English language learners. Then the COVID pandemic hit, and schools shut down, leaving 2018-2019 grant recipients wondering: will our new pilot programs work in hybrid and virtual environments?
In January 2021, For the Win Robotics emerged as an adaptable and accessible solution during the pandemic uncertainty. What began as nine teachers engaged in a pilot program to learn how to build, fly, and code drones grew into an immersive statewide partnership that has reached more than 2,600 students and 147 educators to date and growing. This multi-year engagement continues today with a hands-on, STEM and computer science-based learning program for Pennsylvania students.
The CSinPA Build | Fly | Code Program
Developed in collaboration with PaTTAN and the Pennsylvania Rural Robotics Initiative, the CSinPA Build | Fly | Code professional learning program empowers educators to engage in and create CS learning experiences using drone technology. Tailored to both in-person and virtual learning, the program is designed to support all educators in teaching the same program objectives:
Develop and identify STEM and CS instructional materials that are standards-aligned, universally designed, and culturally relevant for in-person, hybrid, and/or distance learning environments.
Recognize and create a plan to close equity gaps in STEM and CS education, specifically for students with disabilities and other historically underrepresented populations, such as students of color and female students.
Articulate the need for STEM and CS education in our communities by presenting real-life examples and applications.
Demonstrate foundational STEM and CS content knowledge and skills.
Working with the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Bureau of Special Education, PaTTAN provides a full array of professional development and technical assistance targeted to improving student results. This professional development and technical assistance takes many forms in order to the meet the varied needs of PaTTAN’s constituents. Week-long summer institutes, ongoing professional development series, webinars, on-site assistance, and individual student or teacher supports are how PaTTAN provides support to schools.
Pennsylvania Department of Education
The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) oversees 500 public school districts, more than 170 public charter schools, public cyber charter schools, Career and Technology Center/Vocational Technical schools, public intermediate units, the education of youth in State Juvenile Correctional Institutions, Head Starts and publicly funded preschools, and community colleges. PDE established the PAsmart Initiative to focus on ensuring Pennsylvania students and workers have the skills and abilities to meet the economic needs of the 21st century.
Pennsylvania Rural Robotics Initiative
The Pennsylvania Rural Robotics Initiative formed in the spring of 2018 as an educational consortium of Western Pennsylvania schools. Our goal was to work collaboratively across the region to create sustainable, world-class STEM education experiences that would engage our students as we prepare them for 21st century careers.