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New coding curriculum ahead for MV Whisman schools

Original post made on Feb 8, 2019

Fueled by a $100,000 grant from Google to introduce computer science into local classrooms, the Mountain View Whisman School District is preparing to launch an ambitious coding curriculum that would reach 1,800 students.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, February 8, 2019, 10:03 AM

Comments (2)

17 people like this
Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Bayshore
on Feb 8, 2019 at 3:06 pm

It's exciting that the district will be expanding computer science! However, one should open for discussion whether partnering with an out of state paid contract (TechSmart from Seattle) setups the district to have tough decisions to make once Google's startup grant is exhausted.

As with Teach to One, the question remains why partner with outside paid organizations when similar organizations exist right in Mountain View?

Mountain View's free Khan Academy has a middle school-level computer science program. Web Link
Mountain View is also home to Tynker, a paid elementary school-level computer science program, that has worked hard to be affordable to social economically diverse school districts. Web Link

The fact that TechSmart struggled to show how their platform could be used in subjects like humanities should raise alarms when free platforms like Scratch allow students to develop interactive stories. Web Link

Both those platforms are self-teaching (and can be continued at home), so don't require teachers to lead them, beyond setting up a class climate conducive to those tools. As pending district budget will cut back teacher planning days, putting one more thing on a teacher's plate is not necessary when there are tools in our very city that free up teacher bandwidth, not add to it.

12 people like this
Posted by John Panzer
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Feb 11, 2019 at 5:54 pm

John Panzer is a registered user.

I'm happy the District is exploring this as an elective in two elementary schools and both middle schools. I really want to find out more details about the proposal and how it will be rolled out -- as Superintendent Rudolph accurately points out, this isn't really a pilot program. As a middle school elective it could be a valuable addition to the curriculum. It presumably won't be elective in the elementary schools, though? The devil is in the details.

I'm a software engineer, have taught Java programming to adults via UCSC Extension, use Python professionally, and assisted with Scratch and Javascript (Khan Academy) after school K-5 coding classes.

I share Chris Chiang's questions about the decision process here and about what the long term plan is here -- are we entering in to a long term partnership with TechSmart that leaves the District dependent on its resources and long term viability? Were the local alternatives fully explored, and what was the decision process around these?

The question of what happens when the grant runs out is important. I'm also a little concerned about the use of a proprietary block language ("Skylark") to transition to Python. Based on my experience this seems unnecessary -- I'd be willing to be convinced that it helps with some data but the TechSmart website doesn't offer very much of that. I do see that it's used in fairly expensive coding camps in Washington (Web Link) (Really, $1300 for a one week day camp?!?)

I am also concerned about the plan to put yet another thing on teachers' plates -- with a one-time grant the District certainly can't add more permanent staff, after all.

I'm looking forward to getting a lot more information about this in the coming weeks from the District and the Board.

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