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Bringing Computer Science Education to Rhode Island’s Students: Announcing GameSalad’s CS4RI Partnership

In October 2016, we met Holly Walsh at an education conference in Washington, D.C. Holly is an E-Learning and Instructional Technology Specialist at the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), and she told us about her State’s efforts to improve the quality and access of computer science education to students, the Computer Science for Rhode Island (CS4RI) program. Holly went on to describe CS4RI’s mission, and the fact that they still needed additional high-quality resources at the middle school level—something we refer to as “the education gap” in computer science.

Today, we are thrilled to announce a new partnership that builds off that initial conversation: GameSalad is partnering with the State of Rhode Island in its CS4RI program to help make computer science education available for all students from grades K-12, especially those between the 6th and 8th grades.

“All Rhode Island students should have the opportunity to take engaging, high-quality computer science courses—and we’re excited to have GameSalad join the CS4RI initiative to help make this a reality,” said Richard Culatta, Rhode Island Chief Innovation Officer. “In addition to our stated goal of increasing access to quality computer science education for all of Rhode Island’s students, the CS4RI initiative is about equity across all grade levels and all schools; GameSalad will help us achieve this goal with its particular focus on bringing accessible computer science education to our middle school students, in particular.”

As part of the partnership, GameSalad will join the Rhode Island Governor’s Office of Innovation, the RI STEAM Center at Rhode Island College, and RIDE to offer a variety of computer science opportunities to the next generation of leaders in up to 65 schools around the state. In particular, our CS4RI course, “Computer Science Through Game Creation,” will help students apply computer science concepts by building professional-grade mobile games, and does not require any prior computer science experience.

“We are honored to be the newest partner for the CS4RI initiative, and happy to help the state of Rhode Island ‘bridge the gap’ between elementary and high school computer science programs,” said Brent Dusing, CEO of GameSalad. “Nationally, there are many options for elementary and high school computer science education programs, but there is a gap between the 5th and 10th grades, which is where our involvement in CS4RI will specifically help to bridge this gap in the State of Rhode Island.”

The CS4RI initiative launched in March 2016 with the goal of increasing access to quality computer science education for all of Rhode Island’s students, and offering CS in every K - 12 public school. The initiative takes a coalition approach, with additional partners including Microsoft, URI, Project Lead the Way, Brown and Code.org all offering specific programs to help students stay engaged with computer science as they rise through the ranks of school. Since CS4RI’s launch, more than half of Rhode Island’s K – 12 public schools have been engaged in computer science coursework.

GameSalad’s drag-and-drop interface allows middle school students to create high quality games while learning the logic and architecture necessary to understand programming. We have seen students in this age range typically struggle with the syntax component of programming; as a result, they can become frustrated and lose interest because of the complexity of learning a new language.

However, our hope is that with more initiatives like our participation in CS4RI, we will allow students to build the fundamental skills, confidence, and mindset necessary to move on to advanced programming—and maybe help develop the next generation of American computer science professionals in the process.

Please visit www.cs4ri.org to learn more about CS4RI and see the GameSalad course offering.

More information about GameSalad for Education can be found at www.edu.gamesalad.com.