How to Adopt a K-12 Computer Science Pathway with Missy Hamilton

A school picture of Missy Hamilton. She has dark brown shoulder length hair, is smiling and is wearing a dark purple blouse.

In February this year we invited Missy Hamilton, the Magnet School Coordinator at Murray City School District, to talk about the computer science implementation and adoption she led at her district. She shared with us the struggles, and victories she faced through the implementation, and what she learned from the process. 

Take a look below for some of the Q&A’s we pulled from the recording above. 

Skill Struck: What led you to implementing computer science in your district? 

Missy Hamilton: In 2019, Utah was starting to adopt CS standards. During the COVID pandemic, I had some extra time to really process what the standards were and how to meaningfully implement the standards and not just add more to busy teachers. 

In 2021, the full [computer science] implementation began.

Skill Struck: How equipped did you feel as you began tackling CS implementation? 

Missy Hamilton: Murray City School District was not equipped, and not ready. We had to figure out how to slowly get these standards implemented. To publish standards and put them in front of teachers, it doesn’t happen easily. We had to figure out a way to make it palatable and user friendly for teachers.

Skill Struck: What did Murray City School District do to accomplish making the implementation palatable and user friendly?

Missy Hamilton: The first year, we used a two-pronged approach.

First prong: we worked with paraprofessionals in specials classes in elementary. [We gave] the paraprofessionals the CS standards. For example, core practices and concepts including computing systems, networks and the internet, data and analysis, computational thinking, impacts of computing, algorithms and processing. 

Then, [our paraprofessionals] needed something to teach this with. So we purchased Skill Struck. We needed something to turn the key and go–plug and play. With Skill Struck, our paraprofessionals were learning right alongside the kids, what those standards were and what the programs were. The kids were getting exposure to CS during computer labs. All of our kids were getting access. 

Second prong: I created a training course. If [teachers] took this course, it would teach them the CS standards and more importantly how they integrate into Science, Math, and ELA. If they took this course, I would buy their classroom a set of robots. This incentive worked incredibly well.

Skill Struck: How did funding play a part in implementing computer science in your district?

Missy Hamilton: We had two funding sources. Without them, we wouldn’t have been able to access Skill Struck. Without funding we would have had to use free resources and it would have taken a whole lot more legwork to train my teachers. Skill Struck totally had all that covered. There were two pots of money: 1) STEM action center and 2) the state office of education. 

Skill Struck: How confident are your paraprofessionals with coding now?

Missy Hamilton: Our paraprofessionals were young. They had just graduated from high school so we trained them on classroom management. They loved learning CS through Skill Struck and got really good at it. Seeing how much they were enjoying learning Computer Science we decided to partner with PluralSight. This partnership led many paraprofessionals to receive industry certifications. I know that we are just a stepping stone and I was excited for them!  [One of our paraprofessionals] after spending two years facilitating Skill Struck lessons is now working for Ivanti, Another paraprofessional learned CS with Skill Struck and now works at Lucid. 

Skill Struck: What have been the benefits of the CS implementation in Murray City School District? 

Missy Hamilton: The highlight I’ve seen using Skill Struck is engagement and enjoyability. The CS curriculum is fun and engaging and the students are enriched because of it. I have also seen a huge increase in accessibility which is one of our biggest goals.

Skill Struck: What roadblocks did you run into as you implemented CS into your classrooms? 

Missy Hamilton: The biggest roadblock was teachers are busy. It’s important to know when too much is too much, or enough is enough.  So I try to show them the little tweaks they can do to hit multiple standards at once. Getting teachers to realize that they are teaching it already, and coaching them to notice when and where they can throw CS into their every day. Identify the essential standards. Those are the things that help with implementation with teachers; the cross-curricular content. 

Watch the full interview with Missy Hamilton here to learn more about implementing computer science in a school district.

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