Boulder Valley School District

Writing New Code: $125,000 Google grant to help BVSD revolutionize computer science curriculum over next three years

Randy Barber

A generous grant from Google Education will help Boulder Valley School District become a leader in computer science education in Colorado and beyond. 

Over the next three years, the $125,000 given to Impact on Education, the non-profit foundation that supports BVSD’s schools, will allow the district’s teachers to rewrite BVSD’s curriculum, bringing coding and software engineering concepts to every grade, even our youngest learners. 

“Computer Science is an area where we really can get students excited about school, because it is relevant,” explained Jackie Weber, BVSD’s director of mathematics, computer science and instructional materials.

“They may be making games, creating apps, using technology to explore data. It is real world.”

What You Need to Know

  • Grant from Google Education to help BVSD revamp computer science curriculum
  • Within three years, computer science lessons will be incorporated at all grades, Pre K- 12 and at all BVSD schools
  • One of the goals is to better incorporate parent and industry volunteers from Boulder County

While Boulder County is home to some of the hottest tech companies in the world, BVSD’s computer science courses weren’t quite as innovative.

“Over the last 10-15 years we’ve really taken for granted the high tech environment that surrounds us, figuring that our kids would just learn it through osmosis,” Weber explained. “We don’t have anything solid right now at the elementary level. Some of our teachers have tried out robots or coding, but nothing is established. At the middle and high school level we have established courses, but they were written about six years ago, so they are a little outdated.”

She said one of the courses that will sunset this year is focused on introducing students to computers and the internet. 

“We are a little past that now,” Weber said with a laugh.

Revamping Computer Science Education
Using the funds from Google, BVSD educators will concentrate during the first year on rewriting the district’s computer science curriculum. At the foundation will be the state’s newly adopted standards at the high school level and the Computer Science Teachers Association’s K-8 standards. 

“We are really going to dig into the new standards and write what a modern curriculum will look like. We are not going to create this static curriculum that we have in the past. It needs to be really responsive so that it meets the needs of students not only in 2018, but also 2025,” Weber said.

BVSD will then work to provide guidance and materials needed so teachers can integrate computer science into their school day. The goal is to give every student an opportunity to build these skills.

“In just three years teachers in every school throughout the district will know how to teach students not just how to use computers, but how to love computers,” said Impact on Education Executive Director Alison Billings.

“Every child, regardless of gender, background, color of skin, socio-economic status, will have the opportunity to engage in computer science education. This three-year grant is making that vision possible,” Weber said. “Not everyone will want a career in computer science, but everyone will get an opportunity to engage in it and decide if they want that career.”

The goal will be to propose new courses next fall, so they can be implemented in the 2019-20 school year and professional training can be provided to BVSD teachers beforehand. 

That doesn’t mean that everything is on hold. Teachers at different levels have already began piloting potential course work and materials this year to see what could work moving forward.

Effort to Open New Partnerships for BVSD Students
A part of the effort will be tapping the expertise of BVSD parents and community members who are in the industry.

“Ultimately, what we are looking for is having real world experience brought into the classroom,” Weber said. “Google has volunteers who are chomping at the bit to get into our classrooms and help teachers teach, plan projects and make the learning really relevant.”

“STEM education is so important for the graduates of our local high schools,” said City of Boulder Mayor Pro Tem Aaron Brockett. “We are extremely happy to have Google here in town. It is this kind of partnership that I think really cements that relationship and shows that the city is not just a host for Google, but that there is a true community partnership … This kind of grant that helps to bridge the digital divide to make sure that every child has access to the tools and education they need in their careers is critically important.”

“These children are our future. They are our future employees, they are the future of this community, they are our future leaders,” said Gerardo Interiano, Google’s director of external affairs. “We are excited to partner with Boulder Valley School District to not only bring the financial resources to help bridge some of the gaps that exist, but also have our employees come and volunteer and have the students come into our space and see what it is like to work at a tech company. We want the students to envision themselves working at a tech company, to envision themselves at Google in 10 or 20 years from now.”
“It will open up new possibilities for them. More than anything our students will be prepared for further education and employment for the types of jobs that await them,” Billing added.

In coming months, Weber and her team plan to share developments and opportunities for parents and local businesses to participate.

“That’s the big vision,” Weber said. “People are really on board. This could be completely transformed in three to five years. That is pretty amazing.”


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