Students in masks complete schoolwork with computers and books.
Students using computers for school. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)
K-12 Education

A computer science call to action: National education week kicks off in Santa Cruz County

The Santa Cruz County Office of Education is bringing a week of activities and guest speakers for the region’s educators, students and families in an effort to encourage young people to learn computer science. Educators say they hope it will both spark interest in computer science jobs as well as encourage the innovative and analytical skills that come with the subject.

Computer science is everywhere.

That’s the theme of this year’s annual, week-long series of educational events that takes place globally, known as Computer Science and Information Technology Education Week.

“This is an annual call to action to inspire our students to learn computer science,” Faris Sabbah, the Santa Cruz County superintendent, said during the event’s online welcome event on Monday. “[And] to advocate for equity and to celebrate the contributions of students, teachers and partners in computer science.”

But what is it?

“Computer science is so much more than just about computers,” continued Sabbah. He said while computer science helps solve important issues today, it also helps students develop problem-solving skills applicable in any occupation.

Jason Borgen, the chief technology officer with the County Office of Education, defined it as problem-solving via computers.

“That can be anything from your iPhone to digital music to game development,” he said during the welcome event.

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Computer science education week launched in 2009 and was created by a variety of organizations, including the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), with support from the National Science Foundation, Google, Inc., Intel, Microsoft and others. The intent was to improve declining enrollment in computer science studies at the time, according to Computer Science Education Week’s website.

Locally, educators are doing their part.

Erin Asamoto, a computer science coach in the Santa Cruz City Schools, said the hope is for students to have at least one hour of computer science integrated in their subjects during the week.

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As the lead for “Computer Science for All” curriculum in elementary schools, she’s been part of a three-year National Science Foundation grant to pilot an educational approach for computer science for elementary and middle school students.

“The idea is to not have a class that kids go to, but to really integrate computer science into what teachers are already doing into their actual curriculum,” she said.

To find out more about what computer science looks like in the classroom, check in on our coverage later this week.

How families and students can participate