What Is Exploring Computer Science (ECS)?

Exploring Computer Science (ECS) is a K-12/University national program (curriculum + professional development) committed to democratizing computer science knowledge by increasing learning opportunities at the high school level for all students, with a specific focus on access for traditionally underrepresented students. The ECS program consists of a high school introductory computer science (CS) course combined with a teacher professional development program. ECS was developed in response to previous research, detailed in Stuck in the Shallow End (Margolis et al., 2008), that identified disparities in CS learning opportunities that fall along race and socioeconomic lines.

The ECS curriculum consists of six units of approximately six weeks each, covering Human Computer Interaction, Problem Solving, Web Design, Introduction to Programming, Computing and Data Analysis, and Robotics. We also offer two units that can be used as alternates to either unit 5 or 6: E-Textiles, and Artificial Intelligence. The ECS curriculum is structured to facilitate inquiry and equity-based instructional practices so that all students, especially those in schools with high numbers of low-income students and students of color, are introduced to the problem solving, computational practices, and modes of inquiry associated with computer science. The curriculum aligns well with college preparation coursework as well as Career and Technical Education (CTE) pathways including: Information Technology; Engineering and Design; and Arts, Media and Entertainment Technology, among others.

Since its founding in 2008, ECS has rapidly expanded across the country. ECS has local grants and hubs in a number of states and regions. The curriculum is currently taught in at least 34 states and Puerto Rico, including the 7 largest school districts, as well as some rural locations and reservations. Over 55,000 students participated in ECS courses nationwide in 2018–19, with an additional 6,000 expected in 2019–20.

In 2016, 2017, and 2019 ECS collaborated with other PD programs to create CSPdWeek, a one-week residential PD program at Colorado School of Mines. CSPdWeek is an opportunity for ECS teachers from areas not served by regional hubs to come and participate in ECS’s PD program as well as build a CS teaching community. ECS is a member of the national CSforAll consortium, which aims to increase access to and participation in CS across the U.S.