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Superintendent Panel Plugs Expansion of Valued Coding Skills in the Curriculum for Students of All Ages

Skip the expected conference introductions and go head-on with a BootUpPD video. In the “Computer Science for All” session on Thursday, that was exactly the case.

While the audience watched the video on the BootUpPD website, four presenters — Russ Adams, superintendent of MOC Floyd Valley Community School District in Orange County, Iowa; Ember Conley, former superintendent of Mesa Public Schools in Meza, Ariz.; Betsy Hargrove, superintendent of Avondale Elementary School District in Avondale, Ariz.; and Rick Robins, superintendent of Juab School District in Nephi, Utah — sat and waited in front of the room for the video to finish.

Then the school leaders applied heavy emphasis to the importance of having computer science programs in schools. Their advocacy for referenced teaching writing and mathematical skills, reaching special education and English language learners and empowerment of students.

Conley guided the session by raising questions to the others about how coding and computer science benefits students and what the changes were brought on by computer science study.

The incentive for introducing or expanding computer science instruction, they said, was the fact coding skills are so much in demand in the work force and computer science job vacancies are widespread

“If we want our students to compete, it’s imperative that we find a way to crosswalk content areas,” Robins said.

Conley also asked her fellow panelists to explain some of the challenges in maintaining a computer science program. In Hargrove’s case, a student’s economic status can be a limiting factor. With Adams, it’s finding qualified teachers to instruct elementary school students.

“Innovation is great, but it’s also really messy,” Conley said.

Near the end of the session, an audience member observed that the “key is not about the coding” and advised that superintendents think about bringing coding to math classes. Coding helps students pass math classes, he said.

“Let me tell you this,” Hargove said, introducing computer science to the schools “was the best decision we ever made.”

(Carina Muniz is a sophomore at Bonita Vista High School and an intern for AASA’s Conference Daily Online.)

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