The Ideal Curriculum: While Reed, Yanek, and their colleagues were writing and submitting proposals, their experiences in the computer science community helped shape their understanding of how to bring more computer science to Chicago. In 2009, Yanek participated in a CSTA leadership workshop led by Chapman. Chapman and her colleagues in Los Angeles had just finished writing the second version of ECS, and sent it to Don after he mentioned that he was looking for a CS curriculum to implement in Chicago. A year later, Yanek, Reed, and Jeff Solin, traveled to Los Angeles to experience ECS for themselves, via a professional development workshop led by Chapman.
Dale Reed explains how different the ECS professional development was from what he and his colleagues expected:
Three of us, myself, Don, and Jeff Solin went out to UCLA. Part of this was funded by a travel grant from Loyola, so there's partnership at work there. We went out there, participated in the PD, 3 or 4 days, and Don and Jeff have been in a lot of PD sessions before, started to do the drill, sit there, pretend you're interested, it's boring as anything, you look at your watch and hopefully by the end of the day you get to go home. Well, this is not like that at all. We couldn't believe how much fun it was, and time just flew; when they said the day is over we were disappointed; every day we were looking forward to getting back into it, it was really great, compelling, exciting, we were really excited about it. We came back to Chicago determined to try this as a model for a new CS course in Chicago. So we started thinking about how to do that, so we started spreading the word.”
Don Yanek explains how ECS curriculum is inclusive and accessible for all students:
…The great thing about the curriculum is that it has a low floor, so there's an entry floor for every student no matter what their experience level is, and how comfortable they are using a computer. There are wide walls, so there's room for everyone to contribute, and there's a high ceiling, which means it's going to be challenging for everybody, they're going be challenged in the curriculum. So the idea of starting with human-computer interaction and one of the things that drew me to the curriculum in the first place is that for the first 8 weeks of the curriculum you don't have to use a computer at all.
Baker Franke was also struck by the inclusiveness of the ECS curriculum:
The ultimate goal of the Exploring Computer Science curriculum is to make every student in the room feel like, not only feel, believe, and actually have, a stake in their learning, and in the field of computer science. Everyone has a voice. Everyone can contribute. Because the curriculum was developed based on the Stuck in the Shallow End research which said, look, anybody's who's not a white or Indian male in these classes, even if they take the risk of taking the class, they're sidelined because it's not part of their culture, their social group, their belief systems around what computer science is, the teachers' belief systems around what computer science is, and who is talented at it, or gifted, who gets it and who doesn't. Those are so ingrained that that's why computer science is a turnoff. The research question for Stuck in the Shallow End is why don't students, especially women and students of color, ‘choose’ to take computer science, even though the course is offered. Why aren't they in there? Well it turns out it's not just about having access to the course, it's about other things. So that's a serious meta-layer on what we're trying to do, we're not just trying to teach computer science, we're trying to make sure every kid in the classroom has a stake.