The Importance of Computer Science in Our Schools
by Dan French, Secretary of Education
Computer science is very important to the success of our students in a digital, inter-connected world. Computer science is a discrete academic discipline but is also embedded in virtually every area of academic study, since the use of computer technologies, data and digital storytelling have become essential skills in most disciplines. Additionally, computer technology has become an important tool in creative expression, supporting an exponential growth in the ability of artists, including musicians, gamers and film makers, to self-publish and to collaborate with people from around the world.
It is important that we provide Vermont students access to these tools to support their career and creative aspirations, so they do not get caught on the wrong side of a digital divide that is emerging between urban and rural areas. As we make the shift to proficiency education in Vermont, I encourage you to think about how you might embed computer science and related computer science skills into your local curriculum.
At the high school level, I encourage you to offer computer science courses that can be utilized to meet proficiencies in mathematics and in the sciences, and local school boards should consider requiring proficiency in computer science skills as a local graduation requirement. To support access to computer science courses, we will be working with the Vermont Virtual Learning Cooperative (VTVLC) and other partners to expand access to computer science courses. We will also be working to expand our pool of licensed educators available to teach these courses. In collaboration with the Complex Systems Center at the University of Vermont and the VTVLC, we have formed the Vermont Computer Science Alliance to support professional develop for teachers who are interested in expanding their computer science skills.
At the elementary and middle school levels, we have seen an expansion in the number of our students participating in computer science-related enrichment activities such as those sponsored through Code.org, Scratch, and Microsoft’s DigiGirlz program. These types of activities are important in the development of computer science skills, but also important in supporting the development of student aspirations through personalized learning. Through these activities, students learn new computing skills while acquiring essential transferable skills as they use these systems and platforms to collaborate on computing projects together. Another important feature of these programs for rural students is that they are available 365 days a year, so student learning in computer science does not have to end at the end of the school day or school year.
The development of computer science skills will be essential for the future success of our students and our state. I encourage you to support their inclusion in the formal curriculum and enrichment activities at all grade levels.