Ms. Janice Mertes is dedicated to the mission of increasing the reach of CS educational resources for students in K-12. As Assistant Director of Teaching and Learning at Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, she is leading the charge to enhance digital learning in the state. In this week’s episode, the former educator joins host Sandhya Padala to discuss the importance of digital literacy and how her team is supporting schools to make computer science education more accessible.
Janice is rolling up her sleeves to help create opportunities for Wisconsin students to explore digital technology. She has a passion for increasing digital literacy and facilitating innovation in schools. Her goal is to empower learners of all backgrounds to develop skills in computer science – an objective that became an even bigger priority during the COVID-19 pandemic. The global lockdown elevated the reality that the world was changing and many schools had to adjust to the concept of remote learning. As students and teachers shifted from a traditional classroom setting and into virtual environments, Janice saw how quickly everyone had to adapt to new technologies, particularly video conferencing platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. It was then she realized just how essential computer science is to our society.
Learning code is the new ABCs, which is why Janice believes it should be introduced to students early on. Her focus is getting more instructors trained and curating resources for teachers. She and her team are developing plans to better support Wisconsin schools, eliminate barriers and provide curricular offerings in computer science to underrepresented groups. Janice also advises school districts to think about emerging courses in computer science such artificial intelligence and data science. And as more pathways of learning are created, Janice hopes that cross-curriculum integration will also be implemented.