Arkansas Department of Education has made computer science education a priority. From the state level, to the schools and the regional education agencies between, personnel are devoted to helping expand access to quality CS instruction to all students.
CSforALL interviewed Anthony Owen from the Arkansas Department of Education, Daniel Moix from the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Science, and Arts, and Karma Turner, a computer science teacher in the Lake Hamilton School District about their roles in expanding access to CS in schools across the state.
Q: How did this movement get started?
Anthony Owen: Governor Asa Hutchinson should get the credit. One of his campaign promises when he was running for Governor in 2014 was that he would make “coding” available to every student in Arkansas. After the election, the Governor’s office helped cut through the red tape so to speak on processes that normally take much greater time frames. However, all of our state agencies and other units within ADE have been extremely responsive to our work. One in particular is the Arkansas Department of Career Education. Through the Computer Science initiative, we have been able to communicate and collaborate on a scale not previously seen between ADE and ACE.
Daniel Moix: Anthony Owen’s work as the coordinator for CS Education was also a big help. Now we have a comprehensive set of standards in place, and we are now working to develop the teaching talent to fulfill them.
Q: Karma, Daniel says we are working to develop teaching talent. How did you get into teaching CS?
Karma Turner: I taught mathematics for 22 years, earned a MEd in Learning Systems Technology, and became a National Board Certified Teacher. A year after the Governor’s Computer Science Initiative came into effect, I was able to take a position teaching Computer Science at my school. When I found out this past spring that I would switch roles from teaching math to teaching CS, I began to immerse myself in everything related to CS. I joined the Arkansas Chapter of CSTA as well as National CSTA. I attended workshops and read as much as I could about current CS practices. I was also on the Arkansas CS Standards writing committee for grades 9-12.
Q: When starting to implement CS in schools, is there anything you know now that you wish you had known then?
Daniel Moix: There will always be nay-sayers, some of whom you cannot argue with. You just need to create something noteworthy.
Anthony Owen: How quickly this would move!
Q: What advice would you give to a state, district, or school who was just starting out with CSforAll?
Karma Turner: Find out all you can about CS education. Be proactive. Don’t wait! Do something now, adjust when needed as needed. Get everyone on board – parents, students, admin, other teachers. Make sure everyone is talking about CS at your school.
Daniel Moix: Involve parents as agents of change.
Anthony Owen: Don’t be afraid if your students know more than your teacher, they probably should after a while. Give your teacher the support he/she needs to facilitate learning, but don’t expect them to be all-knowing.
Q: What was the most useful resource, connection, or partnership that got you to this point?
Daniel Moix: There is no single answer to this question. The web of people I’ve met through CSTA, the experiences I’ve gained by working in public, residential, and higher education classrooms, and the background I brought from my undergraduate experience as a pure CS student got me to this point.
Anthony Owen: Obviously Code.org has been a wonderful national partner in this initiative. However, we also have benefited from multiple other local and national partners including Walmart, Axciom, Verizon, AT&T, Metova, and many others.
Karma Turner: The three most valuable connections I have made so far are the experienced CS teachers I met during the standards writing process, the cohort of novice teachers that I’m learning to teach CS with, and the mentor teacher that is guiding us (Daniel Moix). The experienced teachers gave me invaluable advice and insight into current CS teaching. The novice teachers give me support and encouragement to continue on my journey of learning to teach CS. And my mentor provides constant support and the resources I need to be a successful teacher to my students.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share to help CSforAll implementers?
Anthony Owen: I believe an in-state task force or advisory panel is necessary for any state looking at large scale implementation. This group should be composed of not only educators and state agency leaders, but also have industry representatives and leaders. Feel free to read about our task force at: http://www.arkansased.gov/divisions/learning-services/curriculum-and-instruction/resource-materials-for-lesson-plans/computer-science/computer-science-task-force
- Gov Hutchinson has an entire playlist of videos dedicated to the CS Initiative
- Arkansas Gov: All High Schools Should Teach Computer Science – TIME
- So, Arkansas Is Leading the Learn to Code Movement – WIRED
Anthony A. Owen
State Director of Computer Science Education at Arkansas Department of Education
Computer Science Education Specialist at Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences & Arts
Computer Science Teacher at Lake Hamilton Junior High