#242 – Supporting CSEdWeek, with Kiki Prottsman

Unpacking Education December 6, 2023 39 min

In this episode, we are joined by Kiki Prottsman, Director of Education for Microsoft MakeCode, computer science (CS) author, and keynote speaker. She helps us unpack ways that educators can support Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek), which is an annual call to action to inspire K–12 students to learn computer science, advocate for equity in computer science education, and celebrate the contributions of students, teachers, and partners to the field. CSEdWeek runs from December 4–10, 2023.

Read a transcript of this episode.

Paul Beckermann
PreK–12 Digital Learning Specialist
Rena Clark
STEM Facilitator and Digital Learning Specialist
Dr. Winston Benjamin
Social Studies and English Language Arts Facilitator

We live and work in a world heavily shaped by computing and AI innovations. Thus, students who are prepared will be able to evaluate the impacts of these technologies, use them to solve problems that are important to them, and shape the world we will live in the future. I worry that students who don’t have access to AI and CS education might not be prepared. So I feel a heavy moral and ethical responsibility to scale my work to reach more students because the danger of failing to do so can have long-term civic, social, and financial consequences for them.

Dr. Christina Gardner-McCune, Associate Professor, Computer & Information Science & Engineering Department, University of Florida

Unlocking Computer Science

Too many times, students view computer science as a subject that is out of reach for them. This doesn’t need to be the case, and CSEdWeek is a perfect time to begin breaking down these misconceptions. Rather than relying exclusively on computer science classes to introduce students to CS, educators can integrate both online and offline activities into core content areas so that more students are exposed to it.

This introduction can—and should—happen at all grade levels, even with the youngest students. Our guest, Kiki Prottsman, says, “When you can introduce computer science at younger and younger ages, and in more ways under more subjects, you start to get more people who can identify with it.”

Tune in to this episode to discover more about CSEdWeek and learn about the free and accessible resources that you can use to help unlock computer science for your students. The following are a few highlights from this episode:

  • About Our Guest: Kiki Prottsman is the Director of Education for Microsoft MakeCode. She is also an author and keynote speaker known for her work with computer science. She has written several books, beginning with Computational Thinking and Coding for Every Student, My First Coding Book, and Disney’s Coding with Anna and Elsa. In her spare time, Kiki runs an educational YouTube channel, KIKIvsIT, which helped her win silver for Stevie’s coveted 2017 Female Innovator of the Year Award.
  • CSEdWeek: CSEdWeek is an annual call to action to inspire K–12 students to learn computer science, advocate for equity in computer science education, and celebrate the contributions of students, teachers, and partners to the field. For 2023, CSEdWeek runs from December 4–10.
  • CS Heroes: The first section of the CSEdWeek website is dedicated to heroes in the computer science field and highlights the progress made in CS education over the past decade.
  • Increased Accessibility: Kiki describes how computer science has become much more accessible to a larger number of students over the past 10 years. Most importantly, she says, “The barrier to entry is much, much lower now.” Resources like Code.org, Tynker, and Microsoft MakeCode allow even young students to do very impressive coding work using block coding tools that also allow for advancement into text-based coding.
  • Personal Heroes: Kiki gives a heartfelt shout-out for two of her personal heroes, Karen Peterson, the founder and CEO of the National Girls Collaborative Project, and Ruthe Farmer, the founder and CEO of the Last Mile Education Fund, a nonprofit that offers financial support to CS students in need.
  • Teach and Explore: The second section of the CSEdWeek website is about inspiring students and their families to learn computer science. The Hour of Code website is a great place for people to get started, as it’s packed with accessible, 1-hour coding lessons and activities.
  • Unplugged Activities: Kiki says, “I don’t think people should underestimate the importance of unplugged activities.” These are activities that do not require computers but help to introduce the vocabulary and concepts related to computer science and coding through offline activities. Kiki believes that these activities are powerful because they “start in the world of the student, so it’s in a place they can understand—doing something they can understand—and then you put the vocabulary to it, and that kind of gives you the springboard up into learning to code.”
  • Advocate: The third section of the CSEdWeek website is dedicated to advocacy. Kiki says that many school leaders are unaware of the opportunities available to their students and schools. Therefore, it’s important to get the word out. Part of this advocacy includes introducing coding to students in core curriculum courses so that more students are introduced to it, not just the few who are enrolled in a computer science class.
  • Connect: This section of the CSEdWeek website is about connecting with the CS community. Kiki suggests that community events, like school fundraisers, carnivals, or pizza nights, are great places to showcase student programming work. Parents and community members get excited when they see their children creating computer programs.
  • Celebrate: The last section of the CSEdWeek website is dedicated to celebrating the success of the past 10 years in computer science education. Kiki emphasizes that more people are seeing CS as a fun and accessible option. She says, “I think we’re now starting to open the door for more and more people to join the party, and more and more people see it as a party.”
  • Empower Educators: Kiki feels that too many educators still don’t believe they are equipped to introduce CS to their students. Because of this, she shares how important it is to get teachers to feel more confident in this area. It’s one of her personal goals for the next 10 years of CS education.
  • Microsoft MakeCode: Kiki is celebrating her third year working with MakeCode in providing free, block-based coding resources to educators, students, and families. She is excited about the new projects they are working on, including block coding that contains pictures, a project with the Harlem Globetrotters, and MakeCode Arcade.
  • A New Book: Kiki is finishing up her new book, Let’s All Teach Computer Science: A Guide to Integrating Computer Science Into the K–12 Classroom. The book is scheduled for release in April 2024.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Kiki is excited about the possibilities presented by artificial intelligence (AI). She says that it has the potential of opening new doors for people. More people are “starting to see how AI can help us do the things we didn’t think we were able to do.”
  • Fun: “Sometimes, it’s just about introducing people to it in a fun and lighthearted way so that they connect with it and have a good time,” shares Kiki.

Guiding Questions

If you are listening to the podcast with your instructional team or would like to explore this topic more deeply, here are guiding questions to prompt your reflection:

  • What is CSEdWeek?
  • Where can you find resources to help celebrate and support CSEdWeek?
  • What are the five categories of focus on the CSEdWeek website?
  • Which resources and activities discussed in this episode do you find most exciting?
  • Why is it important to bring computer science education to more students?
  • What are some specific actions that you can take to promote CSEdWeek this year?

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