Cornell Tech helps NYC schools expand computer curriculum

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Melissa Osgood

Cornell Tech and Roosevelt Island public school P.S./I.S. 217 on Dec. 10 unveiled a three-year program that will train teachers to incorporate computer science (CS) activity across the curriculum.

Every teacher in the K-8 school will receive professional development training. The program is part of an ongoing partnership between Cornell Tech and the New York City Department of Education to make computer science instruction available to public school students.

Beginning in January, every teacher at the school will meet with a CS education consultant to learn to introduce students to coding and the broader digital universe. The consultant will work with fourth- through eighth-grade teachers to design lesson plans. Similarly, Cornell Tech Senior Director of K-12 Education Diane Levitt will work with K-3 teachers to incorporate computational thinking. The program will also partner with the Museum of the Moving Image to design two lessons for grades four through eight focused on game design and digital media. This teacher education is in addition to a six-week introduction to CS that every P.S./I.S. 217 program teacher already has received.

“Cornell Tech is thrilled to expand its partnership with P.S./I.S. 217 as part of our broader commitment to enriching tech education for New York City public school children,” said Cornell Tech Dean Dan Huttenlocher. “Helping teachers learn creative ways to incorporate computing into their classrooms benefits not only our students but our city.”

Said Levitt: “We want teachers to have the computing content knowledge to be able to to help students become digital creators. We think this starts with building teachers’ expertise and comfort and then moving with them into developing curriculum and teaching strategies. Cornell Tech’s innovative vision and public/private partnerships give us a unique platform from which to transform K-12 computer science teaching and learning in New York City and across the nation.”

The program, part of an ongoing three-year effort to embed CS in every class at the school, will also give P.S./I.S. 217 parents the opportunity to partake in their children’s education. As part of the launch, Cornell Tech and P.S./I.S. 217 co-hosted an event to lay out for parents the program’s vision and plan. Parents and their children then participated in a coding workshop where they designed a holiday-themed game, giving parents a firsthand sense of how accessible computer science can be when creatively incorporated into a curriculum.

“The close relationship between Cornell Tech and P.S./I.S. 217 not only benefits the Roosevelt Island community but also serves as a model for how public and private institutions can work together,” said New York City Councilmember Ben Kallos.

Since winning the city’s applied sciences campus competition less than four years ago, Cornell Tech’s work has already impacted more than 2,200 students and 170 teachers. Last summer, Cornell Tech hosted two summer programs – NYC Generation Tech and Coding Off the Grid – for New York City middle and high school students, building skills in computer science, entrepreneurship, design and more.

The school also created and hosts the To Code and Beyond conference, a twice yearly series of events convening educators, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and funders to share best practices and address challenges in K-12 tech education. To Code and Beyond is co-sponsored by the New York City Department of Education, Google and CSNYC.

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