Katrina S. Kennett, PhD

Rural Learners

How Can Computer Science Education Meet the Needs of Rural Learners?

Computer Science, Teachers, Rural Learners, After School Programs, ApprenticeshipsKatrina KennettComment

This post was originally published here on Medium. 

computer science for rural learners

How can Computer Science Education Meet the Needs of Rural Learners?

By Katrina Kennett, PhD

At America Campaign, our work is built on the belief that computer science learning must be accessible, equitable, and empowering for learners of all ages. With our growing expertise in rural contexts, we call for more attention to how computer science is made available to all learners.

In the years ahead, we have ambitious goals to improve opportunities for individuals and communities across the Mountain West and develop partnerships in rural places around the country. In this piece, we lay out issues that rural communities face and pose questions we are tackling.

Access to Computer Science Education

Computer science, the study of principles, applications, and technologies of computers has a storied history. In the 20th century it developed in concert with higher education, wartime, and the rapid evolution of computing technologies. The modern day implications and connections continue to shape our world.

Computer science education, an umbrella term for learning about the design and use of computers, has rapidly developed in K-12 curriculum, after school programs, and resources for adult learners. However, we see gaps in the national fabric when it comes to rural learners.

Here are questions we are asking:

K-12 Education

Over 7 million K-12 students are enrolled in rural school districts in the United States.

How does rural students’ access to computer science education compare to that of students in urban and suburban school districts?

In K-12 settings, the development of the K-12 CS Framework has guided numerous states as they articulate learning outcomes for their students

What is this framework and how does it enable us to move forward in developing computer science education?

Legislatively, a range of state initiatives promote and adopt computer scienceinto K-12 education systems

What do state initiatives open up for students and for teachers, and what more needs to be done to ensure equity for rural learners?

After school programs

There are a number of extracurricular entry points for computer science, including national programs such as Girls Who Code, global competitions such as the Technovation Challenge.

Who do these curricula reach, how do they promote meaningful CS learning, and how do we improve opportunities for access and equity for underrepresented groups in computer science?

Pre-apprenticeships and Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships, a growing topic of conversation, offer workforce development pathways.

How might apprenticeships in computer science fields enable rural youth to develop economically viable skills?

Computer Science Education for Rural Adults

While adult learners in cities have access to a host of boot camps, where in-person training is currently available in 70 cities, rural adults don’t have the same ability to learn from an in-person expert.

What models are available to rural adults for learning computer science skills, and how do these models support both individuals and communities?

In addition, uneven infrastructure development leaves some communities unable to access broadband internet or even consistent cell phone service. You can clearly see this in the US broadband map, the 2012 broadband survey, and Montana’s Broadband map.

What ‘nuts and bolts’ infrastructure concerns affect rural learners and who is working to address them?

Teachers of Computer Science

Rural teachers are geographically distributed, have limited in-person access to professional development, and have few professional venues that endorse their developing computer science expertise. Yet, with states developing computer science pathways, many in-service teachers will be asked to teach computer science with varying degrees of training.

What professional development models, tools, and platforms effectively support teachers as learners of computer science?

This is an especially important question in small rural schools (for example, this school year, South Dakota has 181 schools with 30 or fewer students).

How do teachers’ experiences in learning computer science inform how they prepare for students’ learning experiences? And, how do teachers personalize computer science education for their small groups of students?