Archive for October, 2018

State Digital Guideline: Are they worth the electrons they are stored on?

October 17, 2018

This is one of those deals where reading a blog led to reading a document on CS adoption in the US which lead to another document on the Code.org Nine Policies and from there reading another document, the “Montana K-12 Digital Literacy and Computer Science Guidelines”.  It was a journey. One of the maps in the CS adoption article had Montana in the 2-3 Code.org policies adopted range.  Looking at the nine policies from Code.org I knew Montana had a state plan, although the last time I looked it was an antique.  What else we had is a mystery to me. I looked at our state plan and to my surprise it was dated 2018! Wow! Who knew? No CS teachers I know knew.  So how useful is a state plan that nobody that would use it knows about? Well, OK, maybe the few I talked to were just out of the loop. Possible but considering how few CS teachers there are in Montana you would think the Office of Public Instruction would get the word out.  Whatever. So I look at the advisory committee. Twenty-one people on the list. I know several people on the committee but they are not people I would expect to be on a K-12 guideline. They are university CS people, not high school CS people, not even CS Ed people. There is one high school CS teacher on the list and she is from one of the largest schools in the state.   Not really representative of CS in Montana but still a high school person.

Ok, maybe I am getting a bit nit-picky here.  I start looking through the document. It is the usual “Grades 6-8 should know” type thing.  I look through the Grades 9-12. You have got to be kidding me. I do not know half the stuff all high school students should know by graduation.  I would not even have a lot of this stuff on a “perfect world” list.

So how useful is this “Montana K-12 Digital Literacy and Computer Science Guidelines”?  If a school has a dedicated CS teacher with an extensive background in teaching CS and an excellent CS education themselves, if the school offers a multi-year program, if the school invests a lot of time and resources to aligning the curriculum to fit the guidelines then this document is pretty slick.  The trouble is none of those “ifs” fit more than a couple of schools in Montana.

I can imagine this document cost the state a pretty penny.  It checks a box; the state does have a plan. The fact no one that the plan affects really cares about it, that the plan is idealistic and undoable for almost all schools in the state and the people that wrote the plan may be experts in their field but their field is not K-12 CS ed kind of puts a kink in things.  So is “Montana K-12 Digital Literacy and Computer Science Guidelines”, as it is presently written, worth the electrons it is stored on?

Too bad they did not write something a school could actually use as a guide to design a realistic affordable curriculum.  Montana has a lot of schools that are just starting to introduce CS into their curriculum. There are just so many ways a plan like this could be written to make it a useful tool for schools.  Assets needed, professional development requirements, practical ideas or examples for each topic, things a beginning school or teacher can actually look at and go “Ah ha!”. As it is it is space junk.

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Lions and tigers and bears, oh my. OK, just bears.

October 8, 2018

A friend and I went hiking Sunday.  I usually do a good sized hike on the weekend.  This was a 10 mike out and back to Illinois Peak in the northern Bitterroots.  We were in maybe two inches of snow near the top.  Weather was great, mid 30’s, maybe low 40’s, not too hot. not too cold.  Did not see any wildlife but lots of tracks.  The usual; grouse, mice, deer, coyote and this.  Probably a really big black bear.  Now I have seen a lot of bear prints where I hike and have had several face-to-face encounters with black bears and one with a grizzly.  No big deal, everybody just goes on their peaceful way.  This one kind of freaked me out.  When we came on the tracks they were fresh, like maybe minutes fresh, snow was still falling into the print fresh.  But no bear.  Ever get that feeling you are being watched?  It added a whole new dimension to that stretch of the trail.  My friend had bear spray, I did not.  I will ensure that does not happen again.