How early coding gives students a jumpstart

Compton USD leaders have created a career-focused, ed-tech feeder pattern that from elementary to high school
By: | August 27, 2020
A teacher who led on of this summer's free, virtual STEAM camps at Compton USD in California.A teacher who led on of this summer's free, virtual STEAM camps at Compton USD in California.

Coding instruction begins in elementary school in California’s Compton USD to prepare students to succeed with STEM technology in the ever-changing high-tech job market.

“By the time they leave us, the opportunity gap related to brown and African American students is eliminated so they can compete,” Superintendent Darin Brawley says.

Grants have allowed Compton USD leaders to create an ed-tech feeder pattern that runs to high school from elementary schools, where specialized coding coaches supplement STEM instruction for the district’s youngest students.

This summer, students in 3rd through 8th grade participated in free, virtual STEAM camps where they worked in teams to create virtual Minecraft worlds and learned to write Scratch code to map out COVID hotspots and food deserts.

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Some students used IBM’s Watson technology to create chatbots, the technology that companies and other organizations use to automate life-like responses to customer queries on their websites.

Esports careers

In an introduction to esports, students competed in video gaming and explored the rapidly growing industry’s other roles, such as broadcasting to streaming technology to marketing.

The district is now planning to build a studio where students can practice video-game announcing, or “shoutcasting” as it’s called in the esports world.

Esports have given students a social emotional as well as an ed tech boost.

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“Did we want kids to play video games 12 hours a day? No, but we wanted that to be the hook into that industry,” says Michele Dawson, Compton USD’s senior director of educational technology. “They’re consuming those games, and we want them to see what it means to be on the other side of that, to see how they can become an announcer or an animator a coder.”

Equity in STEAM

The diverse district also views STEM and coding through an equity lens. During computer science week, Compton USD has hosted talks by tech professionals who comprise the small number of Black programmers in the industry.

These talks give students insights into how Apple, Google and other companies are recruiting students of color, Dawson says. The district also runs an annual STEAM Fest where families explore career opportunities with major tech employers such as Boeing, Raytheon and Verizon.

“We don’t only want our students to be the consumers of technology, we want them to be the creators,” Dawson says. “The creators are the ones who make the decisions about how the world is going to run.”

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