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First Computer Science for Virginia Conference Provides Practical Guidance on Integrating Computer Science into Curriculum

LCPS’ Office of Computer Science (CS) in partnership with CodeVA, a nonprofit that promotes computer science study, held its first CS for VA Conference on Monday, Oct. 31 at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. With an estimated 150 educators and school administrators from Loudoun County and around the region in attendance, the goal of the conference was to facilitate and enhance computer science implementation into core curriculum.

In 2017, Virginia mandated the instruction of computer science, becoming the first state in the country to do so. However, since that legislation passed, the state and its educators have been trying to figure out just how to do that, said Nick Grzeda, LCPS’ Computer Science Supervisor. The goal of this conference was to provide practical guidance on how to fulfill this mandate.

Angela Fraser, Instructional Facilitator of Computer Science (Middle School) and a conference organizer, explained that “Loudoun County has been leading the charge in computer science implementation. With this conference, our goal was to share what we have been doing. For administrators, the goal of this conference was to show how to get computer science implementation started. For teachers, our goal was to answer their questions. They want to know how to implement computer science into their lessons. What does it look like and is it always using a computer? There’s a lot of people coming for slightly different reasons, but we hope they left with something beneficial.”

To meet the distinct needs of administrators and educators, the conference was divided into two tracks with sessions designed specifically for administrators or educators. Administrator sessions included case studies of how to implement CS integration and sessions on the specific tools and resources available to school administrators to implement computer science education.

Teacher sessions provided practical guidance on how to teach computer science. For example, a session called Computation Thinking Unplugged showed how games and puzzles connect to the computational thinking concepts of data collection and analysis, pattern recognition and algorithm design.

Those in attendance found the opportunity to meet with peers from other school divisions outside of LPCS helpful. Learning from experts in the field of CS instruction was also beneficial.

Creighton’s Corner principal Brendan Quigley said that thanks to the information shared at the conference “we will be able to find easy access points within math and science to embed some entry-level skills based on the CS standards. It was very beneficial to see how this [CS implementation] is not a stand-alone program and should be easy to integrate within planned lessons.”

In looking to the future, Grzeda and his team are already thinking about future conferences and opportunities to share information about CS implementation. “Our numbers are growing at these Region 4 meetings. It’s taken a while to figure out what accountability looks like with integrating CS with fidelity. For the first conference to have 150 attendees, that’s a lot. In the future, because we are the Region 4 hub for CS for VA, there will be another conference. A lot of eyes look to us to lead,” said Grzeda.

Published November 16, 2022