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Illinois computer science education project part of national ‘CS for All’ efforts

12/5/2016 9:31:53 AM Maya Israel, Education at Illinois

A new commitment in support of Computer Science (CS) Education Week by University of Illinois faculty was announced today in a Fact Sheet by the White House and joins with hundreds of other organizations around the country as part of a community effort to raise awareness about computer science at all levels.

The Fact Sheet includes a project by Illinois scholars Maya Israel (special education), George Reese (Office of Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education), and Cinda Heeren (Computer Science) that focuses on developing and studying instructional supports for elementary and middle school students with disabilities and other struggling learners during CS and programming instruction. The project is run through their lab, the Creative Technologies Research Lab (CTRL), which focuses on developing inclusive CS experiences through Universal Design for Learning, balancing explicit instruction and open inquiry, and collaborative problem-solving.

Israel, primary investigator of the project explained, “If we are truly committed to broadening the participation of all learners in CS, we have to also focus on the 6.5 million students with disabilities that attend public K-12 schools.” She continued, “Most of these students are taught alongside their peers in general education classes, so it is imperative that we study the barriers they face in CS education and then tailor instructional experiences that also meet their needs.”

This project relies on close collaborations with partners in both Champaign Unit 4 School District and Cornell Tech in New York City. Champaign superintendent Dr. Judy Wiegand explained, “We truly believe that broad access to computational thinking and coding curriculum inspires students to problem-solve together and think systematically about the world around them. Not only does this transform student learning and create individual opportunities for students in the future, it is a catalyst for a new generation of students to excel in a field where they may have been historically underrepresented, adding tremendous value to the field and to our community.”

This project also dovetails with Cornell Tech’s Teacher-in-Residence program, which provides an in-house consultant to help New York City schools implement CS education through professional development for teachers, coaching and curriculum development, also featured in the White House Computer Science for All Fact Sheet.

CS for All
CS for All
Leigh Ann DeLyser is the co-chair of the CSforAll Consortium, a network of computer science education providers, schools, funders and researchers who strive to expand access to computer science education for all K-12 students. She explained, “At the CSforAll Consortium, we believe all students should have access to quality computer science education. This includes our most vulnerable population, students with disabilities. The Consortium's membership needs the work CRLT and others are doing in order to help content providers and school districts know what works for kids."

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