Exploring Computer Science (ECS) is an NSF sponsored national program committed to broadening participation in computer science at the high school level, with a specific focus on access for students of color. ECS began in Los Angeles Unified School District in partnership with the University of California, Los Angeles and has now expanded to a wide range of schools and districts nationally.
To carry out the mission of broadening participation in computing the ECS program has focused on the following essential areas: Curriculum, Professional Development, Assessment, and Policy. At the heart of our work is a commitment to equity.
The ECS curriculum consists of lessons for six instructional units: 1. Human Computer Interaction; 2. Problem Solving; 3. Web Design; 4. Introduction to Programming; 5. Computing and Data Analysis and; 6. Robotics. Together these units formulate a year-long course that reinforce the unifying themes of creativity, technology as a problem solving tool and the relevance and impact of computer science while supporting the problem solving and computational practices associated with doing computer science.
Importantly, ECS is a program that includes the curriculum in combination with ECS teacher professional development. Unfortunately, it is all too common for CS education reform efforts to focus narrowly on the subject matter of the discipline, with little consideration to radically transforming teacher pedagogy and associated classroom culture. Our ECS guiding philosophy is that there is a deep connection between teaching and learning, and that handing educators a new curriculum is not sufficient to support inquiry and equity-based teaching, which are necessary ingredients for broadening participation in computing.
In addition, we believe teachers are essential to challenging the deep-seated stereotypes and belief systems that continue in computer science, and for shaping learning experiences for students who have been traditionally underrepresented in the field so that all students experience “doing” computer science and belonging in the field. Teachers need opportunities to reflect with others about their own teaching especially when it comes to issues of equity.
The ECS integrated model of curriculum and professional development supports teacher professional learning communities and is beginning to provide an infrastructure for broadening participation in computing within the K-12 computer science community.