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Edtech Solutions
Network Summit
Edtech Advocacy &
Policy Summit

Computing in Rural America: Developing K-8 Coding Pathways for Kentucky Appalachia

Participate and share

Participate and share : Poster

Wednesday, December 2, 3:00–4:00 pm PST (Pacific Standard Time)

Dr. Quinn Burke  
Payton May  
Aileen Owens  
Dr. Emi Iwatani  
Pati Ruiz  
Traci Tackett  

What are the technical (and cultural) challenges of bringing computational thinking to small-town school districts? We'll share the challenges/ promises of such efforts in rural Kentucky, plus focus on the new challenges of providing PD in an unprecedented pandemic.

Audience: Curriculum/district specialists, Principals/head teachers, Technology coordinators/facilitators
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Topic: Computer science & computational thinking
Grade level: 6-8
Subject area: Computer science, STEM/STEAM
ISTE Standards: For Students:
Creative Communicator
  • Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizations, models or simulations.
Computational Thinker
  • Students break problems into component parts, extract key information, and develop descriptive models to understand complex systems or facilitate problem-solving.
For Education Leaders:
Visionary Planner
  • Engage education stakeholders in developing and adopting a shared vision for using technology to improve student success, informed by the learning sciences.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

"We knew that a coal miner is just a tech worker that gets dirty. So our big moment came when we learned about coding." -
- Rusty Justice, Co-owner of Bit Source & Appalachian Ingenuity

The shift in U.S. finances from an industrial model to a knowledge-based economy has been widely heralded by journalists and has been well-documented by economists and sociologists alike. Yet with this shift to a knowledge-based economy, large parts of the country struggle with such disruption and how to develop a future generation of learners and workers who can navigate an increasingly digitally-based job market. This is nowhere more evident than in the paucity of quality computing courses in rural U.S. K-12 schools. In the burgeoning knowledge-based economy, there is perhaps no STEM skill set as desirable as that of computer programming. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2019), jobs related to computer programming continue to be one of the fastest growing employment fields nationwide. There remains an immense difficulty, however, in filling these jobs with U.S. citizens - such that over 65% of U.S. tech firms outsource programing-related positions to overseas workers despite the fact that coding is increasingly a skill employers search for across an ever-widening range of jobs.

Rooted in the belief that neither computer programmers nor teachers are simply born but rather are made, this proposal reports on the "Tough as Nails, Nimble Fingers" initiative--a National Science Foundation-funded initiative to bring K-8 computing pathways to two rural Kentucky school districts, Pikeville Independent School district and Floyd County Schools, with wider support from the education non-profit Digital Promise, South Fayette School District (PA) and the Kentucky coding incubator Bit Source ((

The panel will share the technical and cultural challenges and promises of developing K-8 pathways and share some basic frameworks and activities for other school districts (particularly rural school districts) to consider as manageable next steps for more equitable CS and CT education in their own schools.

This interactive session addresses three key learning objectives to unpack how to best support computing experiences for our learners:

Gain new insights about how to effectively integrate computing activities and computational thinking across the curriculum in all content areas.

Learn about the views of students, parents and educators on the value of computing experiences especially those from under-resourced communities

Examine new models for supporting teachers and administrators in implementing coding and computational thinking experiences for all students

Supporting research

Caldwell, J. (2018) Creative Coding. ISTE publication

Digital Promise (2017). Computational Thinking for a Computational World.

Grover, S., & Pea, R. (2013). Computational thinking in K–12: A review of the state of the field. Educational researcher, 42(1), 38-43.

Ito, M., Baumer, S., Bittanti, M., boyd, d., Cody, R., Herr, B., Horst, H. A., Lange, P. G., Mahendran, D., Martinez, K., Pascoe, C. J., Perkel, D., Robinson, L., Sims, C., & Tripp, L. (2009). Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out: Living and Learning with New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Kafai, Y.B. & Burke, Q. (2014). Connected code: Why children need to learn programming.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

McLemore, Caitlin and Passeport, Fanny (2018) Stretch Yourself: A Personalized Journey to Deepen Your Teaching Practice

Weintrop, D., Beheshti, E., Horn, M., Orton, K., Jona, K., Trouille, L., & Wilensky, U. (2016). Defining computational thinking for mathematics and science classrooms. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 25(1), 127-147.

Williams, Heidi (2017) No Fear Coding. ISTE publication

More [+]


Dr. Quinn Burke, Digital Promise Global
Payton May, Bit Source
Aileen Owens, Director of Technology and Innov
Dr. Emi Iwatani, Digital Promise Global
Pati Ruiz, Digital Promise
Traci Tackett, BitSource

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