Digital Lit & Computer Science

Notes from a great day of engagement with Newport teachers and community leaders.

FRIDAY, APRIL 29 8:30 – 2:30 

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 2.09.51 PM8:30 – 9:30 Chrissy Johansen: We are now analyzing research data from Pell children aged 8- 9 involved in a pilot project designed to use video reflection in a behavior support program. Our hypothesis: The active use of digital video reflection tools promotes student reflection and ability to engage in positive behavior in the classroom.

9:38 – 11:45  TMS team. Amie Shinego and Jen Robinson have proposed MakerSpace Mondays to begin to meet the technology and digital literacy needs of Grade 5 students. We would like to engage parents of rising Grade 5 students to solicit their opinions as part of the Future Ready Assessment program. 

12 – 3 p.m. Digital Literacy and Computer Science Workshop. Tom Kowalczyk introduces the goals of the program. Jim Stanton leads a workshop on strategic planning in computer science. His main concern: (1) students will grow up in intensively digital environments and a baseline of computer science knowledge is essential for citizenship and life; and (2) computing is a central set of skills in every industry; and (3) computer science is 80% male and white and current approaches reproduces existing power relationships. Early in childhood, children need to be encouraged to explore these careers.

Participants included: Steve Heath, Gail Holmes, Chris Semonelli, Deb Linnell, Nick Logler, Isabel Griffith, Louisa Boatwright, David Connell, Jennifer Robinson, Amie Shinego, Michael Kerins, Jane Perry, Hank Kniskeon, Patrick Burke, Renee Hobbs, Robery Silva, Gianni Luvera, Joe Devine, Colleen Jermain, Sarah Atkins


  1. Problem. Teaching of computer science is limited and ineffective. Funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) examined the Computer Science AP Course is flawed. 45% of students fail it. Java programming was a substantial barrier to entry — too difficult for teachers.
  2. Broadening Participation. How to engage women and minorities in computer science? NSF developed Exploring Computer Science with LAPD. It is explicitly designed to address real-world applications of computer science to women and minorities. It’s a broad overview: robotics, web design, big data, programming and computing in the community. NSF also developed a CS10K Program based on Computer Science Principles (CSP) with emphasis on algorithms and computational thinking. is an example of this. Many courses will be developed for HS level and the new AP course will using student-created and team-created artifacts.
  3. Opportunities. More funding opportunities will be available through Jan Cuny from NSF. has created the Computer Science Education Coalition. Pat Yongpradit: Computer Science Teachers Association has conferences and write papers on this topic.
  4. CS for All. This federal government initiative estimates that US needs 1.2 million programmers by 2022. Requesting $4 billion to give to states for new initiatives.
  5. Challenges: Statewide leadership may be centralized or not; there are many challenges to forming broad coalitions. Other challenges include: developing statewide standards, state teacher licensure issues, district-level implementation, professional development, assessment process, learning progression across the K-12 spectrum.
  6. Questions:
    1. What is it? STEAM? Digital literacy? Computer science?  State of Mass brought digital literacy and computer science together. Uneven implementation is a real problem.
    2. How far ahead is MASS? Standards approval – underway. Licensure – not yet. Graduation requirements? No.
    3. Do computer science teachers wait for the CS frameworks/standards or use MASS standards? Having real ownership of the standards is important, but it doesn’t have to take 18 months.
    4. What are some fundamental things we should prioritize? Computers in the classroom? Stories are important: Newport needs its own story, one that will resonate with people here.
    5. What’s the first priority? Curriculum and professional development are linked. New school institutional structures are needed so robust piloting at the district level is important. Learn more about the Advanced Course Network here in RI.
    6. What do we need? We need a clear definition that can aid our communication efforts.
    7. How long will it take? It takes time for teachers to become a community of teacher learners. We need to pay teachers and honor teacher leadership.
    8. What’s EDC/MASS CUE’s goal? We want evidence that we can train teachers effectively across the state with higher education partners.
    9. What technology tools are best? There is no “best practices” for what technology to buy. Teachers who have been engaged in this work for 1 – 2 years are in the best position to tell us what they and their students need.
    10. How can we align with Rhode Island state initiatives? Partnerships are important. We can’t wait for the state to help us. Future Ready Assessment tools can help us make good decisions about scaling.
  7. Technology hardware purchases must be aligned with active professional development that builds confidence and competence.
  8. Since technology is always changing, we can’t get too invested in a rigid plan. We need to focus on the goals we want to accomplish.
  9. The Newport community needs a shared understanding of the values for integrating technology and teacher empowerment is a part of this. The messaging must involve both empowerment and protection. We can move forward iteratively to get this done.
    • Keep in mind that it’s a big set of competencies
    • Assessing needs and doing work are one and the same
    • The focus is on education, not technology. Let’s support them
    • Computer science is engaging — perceptions need to be changed
    • The rate of change is a major issue here
    • “Swarm and share” through rapid prototyping
    • Learning languages and learning computers have much in common
    • Student interests need to be at the center
    • Pathways/frameworks for curriculum need to be flexible
    • Businesses drive what colleges and HS teach
    • Teachers & community know what we need and what we want
    • Digital literacy and computer science need to be integrated and not conceptualized as a separate course: teaching these skills in isolation is wrong
    • The day-to-day scheduling has not changed in 20 years: the schedule must be changed
    • Some teachers are cynical because planning is disconnected to action
    • We have no tech director but self-starting teachers are doing good things
    • Professional development needs to be the focus; resources are needed that lead us towards a goal
    • Rapid prototyping and “fail fast” strategies will be effective


Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 12.45.31 PMLearn more about the work of Jim Stanton and MASS Cue.  Read the Massachusetts Digital Literacy and Computer Science Standards

Newport Digital Literacy Catalyst teachers are a group of 18 educators who have participated in the professional development offered by Renee Hobbs and the Media Education Lab. You can see examples of digital learning projects they developed here. They also worked on vision and mission language which you can read here.

The Mozilla Foundation has synthesized an array of competencies they call web literacy and this white paper outlines skills and knowledge. You can find samples of learning activities here.

Computer science and other teachers may benefit from externships that help them develop knowledge and skills. The Education Development Center produced entitled, Externships and Beyond: Work-Based Learning for Teachers as a Promising Strategy for Increasing the Relevance of Secondary Education

Some Newport teachers have participated in the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy at the University of Rhode Island and teacher librarian Jen Robinson has received the Graduate Certificate in Digital Literacy.






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