USD 490 builds culture of digital literacy
In June 2019, the Kansas Department of Education formed a Kansas Computer Science Education Implementation Task Force whose mission was to research current computer science education trends and create recommendations for the Kansas State Board of Education.
The task force had five recommendations: 1- KSDE should create a dedicated computer science education position; 2- KSDE should encourage all schools to offer computer science courses; 3- computer science should satisfy a core graduation requirement; 4- KSDE should create licensure endorsement; 5- arrangements for funding should be made.
In USD 490, computer science is woven into the fabric of student curriculum. Beginning in Kindergarten, students are taught digital citizenship and learn basic coding skills through Project Lead the Way Launch curriculum and STEM carts. Project Lead the Way for grades K-5 focuses on Biomedical Science, Engineering, and Computer Science. They use hands-on projects to learn about the physical and digital world around them. The STEM carts contain coding games and toys that allow students to learn the basics of computer science through play.
There is a 1 to 1 initiative in USD 490 schools. This means that all students in PreK-eighth grade are issued an iPad to enhance their learning. The devices do not replace paper and pencil instruction, but add an opportunity for students to delve deeper into their understanding of a topic. They can easily research topics, access educational game apps and websites that allow them to practice math and reading skills, and have the ability to create their own videos or keynote presentations to creatively show what they know. Students also enjoy tynker.com, which uses games to teach coding.
Middle school students also benefit from Project Lead the Way curriculum, the 1 to 1 initiative, plus have specific computer science courses such as Computer Presentations, Computer Processing, and the EMS News. These courses build upon the pre-coding skills students learn at the elementary level. The EMS News course allows students to create actual video news casts that are shared on the EMS News YouTube channel. The iPads are also equipped with SWIFT Playground which uses Apple’s Everyone Can Code program to teach students the basics of SWIFT programming.
USD 490 was one of the first schools in the nation to incorporate SWIFT Playground and was featured by Apple CEO Tim Cook during his keynote presentation at the Apple Special Event on September 7, 2016.
As students promote to the high school level, they trade in their iPad for a laptop. There are four courses available for students who want to want to learn the back-end programming side of computer science. Computer Programming teaches X Code, which is Apple-based and is used for creating apps and software programs. Web and Digital Communications and Web Page Design teach students html-based programming. There is also a Game Design course that allows students to build their own computer game.
In addition to the programming courses, there are numerous electives that teach students how to use a variety of software programs, depending on their individual plan of study. They can learn AutoCAD drafting software, operate a plasma cutter, design and create plastic items with the 3D printer, explore finance and banking, and much more. EHS students are also trained how to create ads for and operate the Jumbotron at BG Stadium, which takes a great deal of technical knowledge.
“We provide creative and engaging opportunities for learning,” Julie Jensen, Executive Director of Curriculum, said. “Students participate in project-based learning that is individualized to their interests.”
El Dorado High School has been recognized as an Apple Distinguished School since 2008. El Dorado Middle School has been recognized as an Apple Distinguished School since 2017.