Ottoson Middle School Computer Science

In 2014, the AEF Technology Initiative funded development of a new Computer Science curriculum at the Ottoson Middle School and now every 6th grader receives one full year of computer programming.  In 2015, AEF is raising moneyIMG_0029 to outfit additional computer science labs needed due to increased enrollment.

During Computer Science Education Week (Dec 8-14, 2014), almost all Ottoson Middle School students participated in a celebration called the Hour of Code. Students in grades 6, 7, and 8 spent a class period learning about computer programming, web development, and logical thinking through games and animated lessons at the Hour of Code website, http://code.org/learn.

Excerpt from Superintendent’s November 2014 Newsletter

Strong Computer Science Curriculum Now Offered at Ottoson and Arlington High School

Last year, with funding help from the Arlington Education Foundation (AEF), we were able to upgrade the AHS STEM Lab and offer the first computer science classes available in the district in four years. This curriculum is continuing, with more students involved than ever before. This year we received additional funding from AEF and we turned our attention to the Ottoson. We added equipment for our sixth graders and are offering an exciting Computer Science (CS) curriculum there.

In the new sixth grade class, Digital Media & Literacy, 300 students receive a full year of Computer Science.  The curriculum does more than just teach students to code.  Broader and deeper concepts such as decomposition, pattern recognition, algorithmic thinking and the engineering life cycle are also included.OMS DML2

Terry Dash, the leader at Ottoson who comes to us after a 25-year career in information systems, hopes that the students will apply programming skills to answer questions.  There are plans to include cross-curricular problems that require “hands-on’ approaches to appeal to a wide range of students, especially girls.  The class is exploring forensic mysteries that can be solved by applying algorithms and procedures, as well as ways to create interactive work.

The goal is to use projects like these to engage the students’ imaginations and encourage them to continue in Computer Science in high school and beyond.

At AHS, we are offering three levels of Computer Science.  The introductory course, Exploring Computer Science (ECS), focuses on human-computer interactions, problem solving, website development, programming, data analysis and robotics.  Honors Computer Science is the next level of study, reinforcing the concepts taught in ECS with a focus on programming and learning Java.  Those students wishing to continue their studies can take AP Java. Participants finishing this course take the AP exam, and with a score of three to five can earn college credit depending upon the college.

Our students are increasingly responding to these offerings. Last year there were 22 students in the program, and the classes were only recommended for juniors and seniors. This year, all levels are encouraged to take Computer Science and there are over 60 students participating.

Dan Sheldon, a graduate of AHS who holds a BS and MA in Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering from MIT, leads the program. He believes that these classes benefit all those who to go on to pursue advanced education. Since computers are being used in many fields, it is Mr. Sheldon’s opinion that those who understand computers at a more fundamental level have an advantage. He also believes that it is easy for young people to get discouraged in their first college-level computer science (CS) classes if they do not have high school experience. Being able to take CS classes in high school was instrumental to his success in the field in college. Computer scientists and programmers are in high demand in all industries, and with high school preparation, Mr. Sheldon hopes more students will continue in the field.

In addition to the CS courses, there is a Computer Team that competes in the American Computer Science League.  Mr. Sheldon hopes to expand computer science opportunities further by taking on some civic technology projects, working with the Town or Arlington Public Schools to develop needed programs.  He is also planning a new AP class called CS Principles. AHS will be one of the first schools to offer this new course.

We are delighted to be able to provide these classes to our young people, and to have a talented group of experienced professionals designing curriculum and teaching our students.  At AHS, Mr. Sheldon is joined by Allison Schubert, who teaches ECS.  At Ottoson, Johanna Bradley and Sara Toutounjian teach Digital Media & Literacy along with Ms. Dash.  I want to thank all of them for the high quality courses they are bringing to our students, and also thank AEF for the support that has made these classes possible.

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