Thanks to a Pennsylvania Department of Education PA Smart targeted grant, called CSforALL; PA Distance is excited to offer Computer Science classes to interested students in grades K-12. The program will build year-over-year by introducing new courses, for various grade levels, to be fully implemented at PA Distance by the 2022-2023 school year.
Comprising PA Distance's Computer Science team is High School Principal, Ms. Crooks, Business-Technology Teachers, Mr. Gates and Ms. Azzaro, and elementary school teacher, Mr. Hughes. As part of the grant, Mr. Gates, Ms. Azzaro, and Mr. Hughes will be participating in a four-part professional development session at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit to be trained and certified on best practices and skills for teaching the PA Distance computer science courses.
"The PA Smart grant has given PDLCS the resources and training to focus on building a comprehensive plan for computer science education in our school," Ms. Azzaro explained.
Beginning in kindergarten and continuing through 12th grade, PA Distance students who enroll in the courses will develop a foundation of computer science knowledge and learn new approaches to problem-solving as it relates to technology. By applying computer science as a tool for learning and expression in a variety of disciplines and interests, students will actively participate in our world that is continuously influenced by technology.
As the Elementary Liaison & Computer Science teacher, Mr. Hughes will teach computer science elective courses for students in grades K-6. "These classes are important for elementary students because it will help prepare them for future careers, teach them logical reasoning, design, and problem-solving," Mr. Hughes said.
"We wanted a Computer Science course pathway for students to start in elementary and middle school that will carry them through high school. By the time they're seniors, interested students will be where they need to be for next steps after graduation," Mr. Gates explained.
If a student has aspirations to pursue computer science after they graduate from PA Distance, they have the opportunity to create a foundation of knowledge and potentially earn college credits at the same time.
"The PA Distance Computer Science I class is equivalent to an entry-level Computer Science college course," he said. "Computer Science II is what a sophomore would take in college."
"If you know that you want to study computer science in college, our Computer Science I and Computer Science II courses are the ones for you," he added.
Students invested in continuing their computer science education in college would benefit from taking AP computer science courses in the PA Distance plan. After the course, students will have the opportunity to take the AP exam for each class. If they do well on the AP exam, according to state standards, their course credit will transfer to many colleges and universities around the country.
In addition to the in-depth computer science classes, PA Distance will offer other technology opportunities for students like classes for Web Design, Game Design, App Design, and Cyber Security.
"If a student is interested but isn't 100% sure they want to pursue computer science after graduation, we have options for them too," Mr. Gates explained. "Everyone can get involved, at any level, and that's the beauty of it."
The PA Distance Computer Science Team believes that computer science knowledge is attainable for all students, no matter their background or prior experience. The goal is to offer multiple computer science and technology courses to students in grades K-12 to develop a strong foundation for a technology-filled future.
"Students will gain skills in coding, explore career tracks they might never have considered, and equip themselves with the information and skills they need to navigate an increasingly complex world," Ms. Azzaro said.