Questions to Ask a CS Content Provider

Lately, I’ve had my head down getting the CSforAll Consortium off the ground. One of the first things we did with our members was to do a needs assessment, asking 250 members to complete a form question, and interviewing 150 to get more information.

Larger results coming before too long, but there were many requests for a “dating app” for CS Education – how do schools and other members find each other in order create worthwhile partnerships? Some members suggested a “star” rating for curriculum providers, but I’ve pushed back against that option. First, I don’t want to be an arbiter of quality (or a moderator of comments). Secondly, I think stars are a bad idea. To extend the dating app analogy, what makes someone a good match is a complex set of questions – I’m not sure I¬†would want a dating app that just gave folks stars. Instead you fill out a complex survey to help do a preliminary sort.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what are the right questions that might make up such a questionnaire for CS education. In addition to our current filtering options, I’m considering a standards (all, not just CS) mapping tool, some general pedagogical approaches encouraged by the curriculum, and some technological requirements.

Edsurge put out an article about what questions to ask an EdTech company before purchasing anything. From the article:

School leaders can better understand whether a flashy product matches their needs by asking its creators questions about what research guided the conceptualization of the tool, what data informed its specific attributes, and what quality and volume of research has been conducted regarding its effectiveness. I recommend beginning with six key questions to separate the promises from the proven solutions.

I like the questions and think they apply to CS education too – especially #6 if you are considering purchasing a curriculum. “What training and support will you offer to ensure we implement the solution properly and get the most out of it?”

I especially like the focus on appropriate implementation – too often new or unfamiliar curriculum and pedagogy comes with a key ingredient that makes it successful. For example, the Exploring Computer Science curriculum believes strongly in their culturally relevant approach and the professional development they offer contains pedagogical richness that you cannot get just downloading the curriculum documents. As we move past the early adopter phase of CSforAll, we need to be clear with our partners about what makes for quality CS from the beginning.

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