Wyoming Education Association

Fall 2021

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An elementary school media director in Evanston, WEA member Tim George teaches computer science to kindergarten through fifth grade. He shares with WEA News why computer science is essential to a well-rounded 21st-century education for every student. Media Director Tim George believes computer science is essential—not only for the future web developers and software engineers in our classrooms—but for all students. "I believe that learning and using computational thinking in all aspects, reading, math, writing, etc., helps students find ways that are easier for them to understand the material," George told WEA News. George says that some students come into his classes with a preconceived notion that they can't or shouldn't learn about technology. "Initially, it's the classic, "I don't need this," or "I'm not a computer nerd," said George. "Eventually, those thought processes turn into excitement and that aha moment. They find the "I can work hard and accomplish step-by-step tasks even if I fail several times, first" mindset. From security analysts to cattle ranchers, George believes knowledge of computers not only helps students learn valuable life skills but digital fluency is a career skill necessary for all students. "I see it as important to all industries," he said. "I have many students who plan to join the agriculture field, and they say, "I don't need to know this." But, the modern farm/ranch industry needs workers who can program a tractor to plow and seed fields and water systems to feed crops efficiently. Even fast food needs workers who can troubleshoot point of sale programs and hardware." In an increasingly tech-dependent world, George says many kindergartners start school with familiarity with technology. But it's not always the most useful aspects of tech they've become familiar with at home. "They are very comfortable with technology," he said. "The trouble I see is that tablets are the main piece they use growing into 5- year-olds. Our job is to show them there is more to tech than games and shows on tablets." George believes continued education is essential for educators working to keep up with the rapidly evolving world of technology to serve as a valuable resource for students learning to navigate computers. "Educators can help students learn technology most effectively by being lifelong learners themselves," said George. "I cannot stress enough how important that is in the computer science field." A forced transition to virtual learning resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020 prompted students and families to navigate technology in education as they never had before. "I think the sense of urgency going into virtual learning increased students' need to become proficient," said George. "They were always engaged in using a computer, so the willingness was always there." No matter their willingness to learn, some students in low-income and rural families struggle with computer science because they don't have access to hardware or internet connectivity. George tells WEA News this situation has improved for many families as a result of the pandemic. "In our city, internet access is getting better. Being a rural community with a lot of poverty, the internet companies have really stepped up during the pandemic to make sure our students have access," he said. "The government's new program of helping offset some of that cost has helped as well. In a school of nearly 300 students, I can count on one hand the households that may not have access." Boot Up Wyoming 2022 is an initiative to implement computer science in all Wyoming schools. During the 2018 Budget Session, the Wyoming Legislature passed Senate Enrolled Act 0048, which adds computer science and computational thinking to the state educational program. Didyouknow? 11

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