Introducing And Increasing Computer Science Education In Schools

There are innumerable benefits to offering computer science instruction in K-12 schools. This policy statement from the Association for Computing Machinery makes a compelling case in favor of increasing CS opportunities for students. The question now concerns how to go about expanding those opportunities. Below are a few resources to aid in bringing CS education into schools.

General Resources: LeadCS.org offers tools to answer questions facing district and school leaders who are working to expand CS in their schools and districts. Code.org contains a wealth of information regarding CS advocacy, methods of teaching CS, and opportunities for students to employ both in and out of school.

Preparing Teachers: The Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) provides community and professional development opportunities. Advanced Placement training for a CS course through an AP Summer Institute (like our Advanced Placement Teacher Training Institute) is another way for teachers to gain skills and confidence in teaching computer science.

Offering Courses: There are a wide variety of options for CS instruction that can be implemented by teachers with varying levels of CS content knowledge. One such option is our Iowa Online AP Academy. We offer a high-school level Introduction to CS course for middle school students, and both AP Computer Science courses for high school students through our partnership with Edhesive. Additionally, Code.org offers courses through their Code Studio, and they compiled a list of 3rd party resources offering courses and/or programs at elementary, middle, and high school levels.

Check out the IOAPA website for more on our courses, and the APTTI website to find out how to join us this summer.

Best Practices for IOAPA Mentors

Mentors are a key component of the Iowa Online AP Academy model. These individuals may or may not have expertise in the content areas their students are studying, and in most of our courses, mentors are not expected to provide instruction on the course content. (The mentor’s role for AP Computer Science Principles is slightly different; future posts will address this, or you can contact IOAPA staff with questions.) Instead, IOAPA mentors provide support and encouragement for students, assist them in determining where and how to seek help, and monitor progress in course materials and intervene when necessary.

What should I do to be an effective mentor?

  • Build positive relationships with students. According to the University of Minnesota’s mentoring model, checking in with students frequently can promote strong relationships.
    • One study cited in a research synthesis found that “facilitators that are directly working with students day by day are key to the success of the program” and that the physical presence of mentors can motivate students to engage (cited in Borup & Drysdale, 2014).
  • Connect students with resources. Mentors are not expected to have all the answers for students’ questions, but helping them determine where to find support, or how to ask for help, can be beneficial. Check out our blog post on supporting struggling students for more info.
    • This may include serving as a “communication link” between students and their course instructors (Borup & Drysdale, 2014).
  • Communicate with other mentors. Whether for emotional support or professional guidance, your fellow IOAPA mentors are a great resource for new and veteran mentors alike. Check out the IOAPA mentor support network information in the IOAPA Handbook.
  • Encourage healthy work habits. We all need occasional reminders to take breaks and prioritize, and IOAPA students are no exception. Mentors can help students set priorities, schedule time for relaxation, and promote stress management. The University Counseling Service at the University of Iowa developed a list of stress management strategies that may be useful.

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Do you have suggestions for other IOAPA mentors? Share them with us in the comments or on Twitter using #IOAPA. Also, look out for our mentor survey at the end of the semester to share your thoughts!

AP Exam Reviews Available


IOAPAAttention:
All Iowa high school students taking AP classes.

Now Available: Online AP Exam Reviews for AP Biology, AP Calculus AB, AP Chemistry, AP Environmental Science, AP English Language and Composition, AP English Literature and Composition, AP Macroeconomics, AP Microeconomics, AP Psychology, AP Spanish Language and Culture, AP Statistics, AP U.S. Government and Politics, and AP U.S. History.

How Do I Get It? IOAPA students enrolled in the courses listed above for the spring semester are automatically set up. Students in on-site AP classes can be signed up by their schools. (Students cannot register themselves for the exam reviews.) Information about registering can be found by visiting our website.

Transformational Leadership Matters: One Student, One Teacher at a Time

Individuals in leadership positions, especially those who aspire to transformational leadership, bear much responsibility in their professional and personal lives.  Indeed, to a certain extent, this responsibility transcends the boundaries of personal or professional life.  Entire volumes about leadership exist; however, daily actions require a shorthand for the guiding principles around transformational leadership.  Here are five words that serve as my guiding principles for transformational leadership in the field of gifted and talented education: voice, doors, affirmation, trust, tension.

Voice:  First, we must give voice to those who – for whatever reason – cannot speak for themselves or who are not in a position to have their voices heard.   For example, the psychologist who assesses a child and determines the child has both exceptional intellectual ability and an autism spectrum disorder gives voice to that child through the psychoeducational report and the associated recommendations.  The teachers and counselors who enact those recommendations also give voice to that child.

Above-level testing through the talent search process gives voice to individual children who are high achievers as well as groups of high achieving students.   Having information about a child can be the key to opportunity.

Researchers who seek to better understand the talent development process and the role of education in ensuring the development of talent give voice to professionals and colleagues through their research findings.  The voice is strongest when research is used to develop policy.  This is the only way to promote transformation in education.

Doors:  Professionals, parents, and volunteers have the capacity to open doors.  This capacity is greater than they may think, and the rewards are far-reaching.  New opportunities are a sign of affirmation and trust, and it is our responsibility to find doors for students and colleagues.

Affirmation:  Leadership implies that there is one person who is “leading.”  That has not been my experience.  You cannot lead if you do not have a team of people with whom to collaborate.  Every action of each team member, no matter how small, requires support from the team.

Trust:  Affirmation and trust go hand in hand.  Among the many synonyms for trust are reliance and confidence.  A member of the team has to know that the leader has confidence in the individual and collective creativity of the team.  Likewise, the team members should know that the leader relies on them to put forth their strongest effort.

Tension:  Finally, any action that aims to transform will require effort and energy, which automatically means that there is some level of tension involved.  Effort involves  stress, output, and strength.  One of the most important jobs of a leader is keeping in mind the tensions associated with giving voice, opening doors, offering affirmation, and demonstrating trust.

Leadership means asking challenging questions of others and ourselves.  Who gives voice to your students? Who opens the doors for them?  Do your students know that you trust that they can meet a challenge?  These questions correspond to one of the most pressing issues in our field: finding students with academic talent – especially those who are vulnerable due to disability, culture, or economics – and keeping them engaged in the talent development process.

I hope that you enjoy the current issue of our newsletter, where you will learn about the many ways the Belin-Blank Center staff are opening doors and giving voice to students and educators.

Excerpted from remarks made on February 8, 2017, as part of the Denver University Transformation Leadership Gifted Education Conference.   Professor Norma Lu Hafenstein, Daniel L. Ritchie Endowed Chair in Gifted Education, led the panel that included Dr. Del Siegle, Dr. Dorinda Carter Andrews, and Ms. Jacquelin Medina.  In addition to responding to the question asking panelists to interpret the phrase, “transformational leadership matters,” we also responded to a question about the most pressing issues in our field today. 

Professional Learning at its Best

feb17_fellowsFor over 35 years, educators have benefited from a unique professional development opportunity known as the Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank Fellowship Program in Gifted Education. The Fellowship will be held July 10-14, 2017, on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City, and the application process has opened.

This exciting professional development experience allows educators (classroom teachers, school counselors, and administrators) to learn more about gifted and talented students and ways to meet their needs. Participants live on campus for a week, collaborating with others who share their commitment.  As one participant said:

“The Fellowship has certainly given me more knowledge. It has also helped me to realize that learning about gifted education is a process, not a destination. I think no matter how long I do this I will have more to learn, but that is okay. It will make me a more compassionate, understanding teacher.”

This unique Fellowship is designed for the general education teacher—the individual who spends the greatest amount of classroom time with gifted and talented learners. This year, we also welcome teacher leaders/instructional coaches, knowing they work closely with teachers to improve their practice. An endowment covers the cost of room, board, university resources (including WiFi), and nationally recognized experts in gifted education. We ask that districts support their participants through a payment of a $250 resource fee. These resources are comprehensive, serving as useful resources for others in your district.

Download and disseminate a brochure providing an overview of the program. Encourage educators who want to learn about the nature and needs of talented children to apply online. Each applicant is responsible for completing the application process by March 17 and must ask for a brief statement of support from a district administrator, also submitted online by March 17.

If you have any questions about the Fellowship or the application process, please contact Dr. Laurie Croft, Associate Director for Professional Development at laurie-croft@uiowa.edu or 319-335-6148/800-336-6463. We look forward to having an educators from your district join us this summer.

Differentiating? Finding the Students Who Need Something Different

 

 

DSC_0075On this blog, we’ve talked a lot about using above-level testing as a tool to discover exceptionally talented students. It’s an efficient way to find students who need “something more” than the regular curriculum offers. If a group of your bright students takes an above-level test, the results can help you understand which students are best challenged by enriching the regular curriculum, which students might need some more significant adjustments to the curriculum, and which students need acceleration. This additional information not only makes your teaching much more efficient, but it helps students to remain engaged and challenged in school.

One of the tests provided by the Belin-Blank Center is I-Excel, offered to high-ability 4th – 6th graders. It licenses content developed by the testing company, ACT, that was designed to measure the academic progress of junior high students.  From that content, the Belin-Blank Center has been identifying the academic talents of bright 4th – 6th graders for over 20 years.  It contains four subtests: English, Math, Science, and Reading.

After testing, I-Excel scores appear in IDEAL Solutions® for STEM Acceleration, the platform for understanding and interpreting test scores, automatically.  Educators can view both group and individual interpretations, and they can easily distribute the individualized interpretations to parents.  I-Excel is offered in three different ways:

  1. BESTS In-School: For groups of 4 or more students, educators can set up a test date in their school any day of the week. Learn more.
  2. Individual Testing: For 1-3 students, parents or educators can set up a test date any time. A licensed educator must proctor the test.  Learn more.
  3. Test dates are also periodically offered at the Belin-Blank Center. Learn more.

We welcome opportunities to work with educators to ensure the I-Excel test results are presented in ways that are useful to you. Visit www.belinblank.org/talent-search for more details.

Have Your 7th-9th Graders Registered to Take the ACT?

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Your 7th-9th graders have a unique opportunity to take the ACT through the Belin-Blank Center; this test is usually given to 11th and 12th graders during the college admissions process. Bright younger students can take it as a way of demonstrating their academic abilities, becoming eligible for academic recognition such as the Belin-Blank Recognition Ceremony, and becoming eligible for educational opportunities (such as summer and weekend programs) and scholarships.

Eligible 7th-9th graders will have earned a score at the 95th percentile or above on a core subject of a grade-level test (such as the Iowa Assessments).  Those students have already demonstrated high achievement on grade-level tests and are ready to show what they have learned or are ready to learn by taking an “above-level” test, or one that is designed for older students. A disadvantage of grade-level tests is that they do not accurately measure highly-able students’ abilities; think of it like a yardstick that is too short to measure the extent of their talents. The above-level test essentially lengthens the yardstick and helps us to know more about the students’ abilities and to make sound educational recommendations for them.

The cost for ACT is $65. The next test session is April 8, and the deadline is March 1st (a late fee is added for those who register after that date).

We encourage educators to let their students know about this unique opportunity.  For more information, visit www.belinblank.org/talent-search.