Education research team launches innovative computer science curriculum – Science Nation


♫MUSIC♫ MILES O’BRIEN: So how do you stop your robot from going in circles? It’s not exactly your typical high school problem. GIRL: So we’re supposed to like make it turn in a square. MILES O’BRIEN: Programming robots is just one of the challenges the students take on in this Exploring Computer Science or ECS class, in Los Angeles. JANE MARGOLIS: There were great disparities and opportunities in computer science that fell along race and socioeconomic lines. MILES O’BRIEN: With support from the National Science Foundation, education researcher, Jane Margolis, investigated why so few girls and underrepresented minorities are learning Computer Science. She and her team at UCLA developed ECS to reverse that trend. JANE MARGOLIS: It’s for getting kids to understand the problem solving that is at the heart of Computer Science. LESLIE AARONSON: What do we have to do in order to make it correct, what do we have to try? MILES O’BRIEN: ECS is tailored to spark the interest of all kids but especially a diverse mix of kids living in low income areas. GIRL: My family, we were really poor when we came here. This class has helped a lot because it’s – not only is it computers but it’s also career focused. MILES O’BRIEN: The curriculum encourages hands on learning. JANE MARGOLIS: The kids are let loose to explore and are really encouraged to collaborate with each other, to brainstorm together, to work together to solve the problem and to be creative. MILES O’BRIEN: Like squaring away that robot. GIRL: It gets complicated because like you know you have to get the codes right so it – you know, if you miss one little thing it’s like you know it’s all wrong so you have to be very careful also. MILES O’BRIEN: Students learn how to think about problems, to create, and use technology to express themselves. GIRL: This is my robot named Bombay. I’m just programming it to do music since I’m a musician myself. This class is amazing. I can never stop learning. MILES O’BRIEN: Teacher development is a critical part of making ECS a success in the classroom. LESLIE AARONSON: Here is the challenge right now. Because if all you’re doing is following directions, your job’s gonna be automated, it’s gonna be a low skill job that’s probably gonna go away. So we need to learn how to be thinkers, we need to learn how to be problem solvers; we need to learn how to ask questions because that’s where the jobs will be. MILES O’BRIEN: ECS is having a real impact. Y’shua Ortiz took the course and is now working full time for the web based company, Edlio. Y’SHUA ORTIZ: Oh, it’s great. I mean, it’s pretty much been the best opportunity I’ve ever had. I mean I wouldn’t be anywhere even close to here or where I am in life today if it wasn’t for that program. MILES O’BRIEN: ECS is now being taught in schools across the U.S. Thanks to Margolis’ research, this curriculum is introducing more kids to the creative possibilities in Computer Science. For Science Nation, I’m Miles O’Brien.

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