This website exists specifically to support Career and Technical Education science classes that help students discover and prepare for careers in computer science and in engineering. Some of these students already have a career in one of those fields in mind. Others discover an interest. Either way, our goal is to prepare each student for what comes next, whether that be a job, an internship experience, a two-year college preparation for industry, or a traditional four-year college program.
What is important is that we are defining a class that uses the material as a step along the student’s path toward a career. And by path we mean one of the many CTE career pathways that make up the CTE Career Clusters as defined by the National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc). http://www.careertech.org/career-clusters
Supports Career Pathways
Washington State’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) tends to define such pathways as a particular set of careers and associated training within a CTE Career Cluster. Information Technology, for example, has four recognized pathways as can be seen on this OSPI webpage (http://www.k12.wa.us/CareerTechEd/clusters/InformationTechnology.aspx).
There’s nothing wrong with this, particularly as further exploration of OSPI shows they have very specific ideas of the inclusion in a pathway of secondary education, post-secondary education, internships, and apprenticeships.
But the LearnCSE website represents supports a more inclusive definition that offers the hope that anyone, regardless of academic ability and learning style, can find a connection to an appropriate and attractive career in computer science and engineering. The inspiration is the Pathways to Prosperity Project of the Harvard Graduate School of Education (http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/11/02/pathways-prosperity-meeting-challenge-preparing-young-americans-21st-century). The “failed youth” include those with diverse learning styles and abilities to work with abstract concepts.
The spectrum of students who have taken such a class at our school, using the materials on this website, is very broad, ranging from concrete thinkers who learn to view a computer as an object that does things when told, to academic over-achievers determined to gain entry into the most elite universities in the country and beyond. We have, we believe, an approach that seems to work. Among its characteristics are:
- All work is hands-on. Students proceed through a set of 18 lessons. Each lesson is made up of a “big idea,” vocabulary, and associated programming statements and electronic components.
- Work is self-paced, with that pace agreed upon with the instructor.
- All work is individual, but students work in groups. No equipment, materials, or submitted work is shared. Even so, students are assembled in teams of four. Sometimes the members must act as a group in pursuit of a common goal.
- Students may opt for challenge assignments in place of regular assignments.
- The course can earn credit at some post-high school institutions.
We are watching the development of standards being considered for adoption, such as those proposed by the Computer Science Teachers Association’s CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards (http://csta.acm.org/Curriculum/sub/K12Standards.html).
Here in Washington state, the passage of House Bill 1813 in June requires the adoption of education standards for computer science and matches private funding for training teachers.
We Like What We Do
Those of us who teach this material with the help of this website do so because we, too, have pursued careers in computer science and engineering. We know the rewards that come with such careers and want to see our students share in them. We believe CTE pathways is how to do this.