Ms. Samantha Dahlby never expected her career path to take her to a nonprofit setting with the goal of increasing access to computer science education. Ms. Dahlby was recently a guest on the Rex Academy Podcast where she reflected on the importance of access to computer science education and the changing landscape of computer science education.
When asked about her path to her career in computer science, Ms. Dahlby shared that although she didn’t have computer science courses in her K-12 education, she had math and science teachers who encouraged her to explore engineering. Her junior year of high school, she participated in a summer visit at Iowa State University where she had the opportunity to tour the engineering labs. The computer engineer lab excited her the most. The experience prompted her to pursue computer engineering in college.
After graduation, Ms. Dahlby started her career as a software engineer. During her time as a software engineer, she was invited to do computer science outreach to students. Later, as a parent, she started volunteering and becoming passionate about computer science education since there was not easy access to computer science courses and programming.
Eventually, Ms. Dahlby switched career paths and joined The New Bohemian Innovation Collaborative, which is also know as NewBoCo, where she currently works as the Director of K-12 Education. The nonprofit organization seeks to provide computer science educational programming for adults and children. Ms. Dahlby noted that in her work, she believes it is important to be able to provide opportunities for computer science education during the school day since not all students will be able to participate in activities that occur outside of the regular school day. Additionally, exposure in elementary and middle school is important in order to prepare them for course selection at the high school level.
Over the course of her time in the nonprofit setting, Ms. Dahlby has seen the landscape of computer science education change. In 2016, when Ms. Dahlby started her work with NewBoCo, approximately only 40 percent of schools in Iowa had some form of computer science education. Now, across the state, there is an effort to formalize computer science education. Recent legislation was passed that requires that all districts in Iowa to incorporate computer science.
As states and school districts continue to develop computer science programs, schools and teachers must navigate developing and implementing curriculum in the classroom. nonprofits such as NewBoCo provide support and a pathway for teachers starting to engage in professional development, certification and course development in response to the changing educational landscape.
Rex Academy seeks to continue providing access to computer science for all students by providing fully developed curriculum. As Ms. Dahlby mentioned, computer science skills can be used in any settings and many career paths. Having a background in computer science provides students with the skills and common language that is utilized in many careers and daily functions in the 21st century. By providing schools and teachers with a formalized curriculum, schools will be able to provide computer science education during the school day in order to offer opportunities to all students.