Learning code through a technology strategy

04-Dec-2017

Brook Conner was appointed to oversee the department's information and telecommunication systems, facilities, and services of the public school system and department-wide operations. He shares the importance of computer science education and how it impacts the work in his office.

Technology is transforming everything people do. Are driverless cars really "automobiles" or are they robots that just look like what we used to call cars? Anyone with a "telephone" has access to the largest encyclopedia ever. Every day, products are developed, manufactured, packaged, and sold with global sourcing – a single tube of lipstick may have ingredients from one country, stuffed into a package made in another country, and shipped to a hundred countries thanks to technology. Understanding and working in today's world, being a lifelong learner in today's world, thus requires an understanding of technology.

But what drives technology? Code. Understanding what code is, how it works, and what it is and isn't capable of, is crucial to understanding how the new technological transformations work now and how they may work in the future.

Computer Science (CS) includes the study of code. Like most fields, the best way to learn is by doing. So, the Hawaii State Department of Education's Office of Information Technology Services (OITS) is building a multi-year technology plan to support active, cross-disciplinary CS learning.

OITS is structuring its technology plan around something almost everyone likes: pie. Of course, as a bunch of techies, what OITS means by "pie" isn't delicious pastry and filling, but is instead an acronym, for the Playground of the Instructional Enterprise:

  • The Playground is the area where the students and the teachers collaborate, working on exciting projects, studying interesting things, and innovating every step of the way.
  • That playground is framed and guided by the Instructional, the curriculum that ensures that students, teachers, and parents know what the students are learning and how well they are learning it.
  • It will be accessible by everyone in the Hawaii DOE, which brings us to the Enterprise — teaching 180,000 students and thousands of instructional staff. That's an organization as big as the largest companies in the world.

All three layers of the pie will be built to constantly evolve and innovate, just like the best learning organizations in the world today. How is that possible? Because the PIE will be built with that crucial ingredient, code.

Code creates systems. Change the code and change the system. Constantly change the code and the system constantly changes. Since code is language, changing code is as easy as changing words, as easy as speaking for the people fluent in code.

Changing code thus becomes a conversation, a collaboration, one that can inform all projects, all areas of study. Analyze science data using code. Study language, the grammar, the vocabulary, using code. How do people work together in politics? It's a system that can be described by code. Music, paintings, sculpture can be created by code. Is that the only way to study these things? Of course not, but code can form a solid foundation for a study of systems. Studying systems can reveal connections and insights across fields, across cultures, across worlds.

What haven't we mentioned yet? Any specific programming languages or even the word "computer." Because the importance of code isn't about whether you have a Mac or a PC, an iPhone or an Android, or a mobile app or a desktop video game. It's about understanding how things change as well as how they stay the same. What changes are easy to make and what changes are hard and why, at a deep level.

So that's why OITS is getting ready to share some PIE all around – to help all our keiki understand a rapidly changing world in a deep and meaningful level.

Strategic Plan 2017-2020

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