Overview of the MassCAN Initiative
March 2013

The Massachusetts Computing Attainment Network (MassCAN) is a partnership of organizations collaborating to inspire and educate Massachusetts students in the field of computer science and to prepare them to lead and innovate in a future economy that will be dependent on and driven by computer technology.

While the focus of MassCAN is on K-12 computing education, its success will change the career paths of students pursuing computing and related studies in higher education, and indirectly the number of students choosing to pursue sectors throughout the Massachusetts economy relying on computer technology and talent. In this way, the initiative is tying together the interdependent goals of workforce development to enable stronger future economic development with broad-based educational changes to prepare and inspire students. Secondary benefits will include achieving broader, more sustainable, and more impactful collaborations between industry, our public education system, the Commonwealth, and nonprofits by coordinating and focusing their efforts in pursuit of this mission.

As envisioned, the MassCAN initiative will have national ramifications. Its scale will be unparalleled among states and its approach unique. It will influence as well as be influenced by the national dialog on and initiatives in computing education. Our expectation is that the MassCAN initiative will serve as a catalyst for change in computing education and public-private sector collaboration, which can subsequently be applied at the national level.

This document provides an overview of the MassCAN initiative and includes the following:
• Description of MassCAN’s origins, mission, and approach
• Outline for a three-stage progression to implement the initiative
• Vision for MassCAN’s participation structure
• Action plan for the next six months to launch and fund the initiative

Origins of the MassCAN Initiative

In January 2009, Governor Deval Patrick charged the Tech Hub Collaborative, assisted by the Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, with the mission of creating a collaboration among high-tech companies, education institutions, and the public sector to stimulate and grow the Massachusetts high-tech economy. A key problem identified during the early stages of this collaboration was the need to expand the pipeline of students feeding the growing computing technology workforce needs of the Massachusetts economy. In response, the collaboration formed the Talent Working Group (TWG) to convene educators, industry partners, the public sector, and students to understand the pipeline problem and propose approaches to improving it.

In support of the TWG, Patrick Larkin, director of the Institute, provided important strategic leadership and institute staff contributed a wide array of services, including research, administrative and logistical support, development, and maintenance of a TWG website, and management of internal communications. These valuable contributions enabled the TWG to accomplish the following:

  • Create two active program teams: Computing Connections and Computing Pathways
  • Contribute to the formation of the Boston chapter of the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA)
  • Develop white papers and hold workshops
  • Convene several youth events at Raytheon, Google and iRobot
  • Build connections with people who are passionate about and are actively pursuing a similar mission in Massachusetts and at the national level

In fall 2012, Steve Vinter, Google engineering director for Massachusetts and TWG chair, led an intense effort to synthesize the work of the TWG program teams. His efforts resulted in the presentation “STEM and Computing in MA: A Proposal to Change K–12 MA Computing Education,” which was presented at the December 14, 2012, meeting of the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council. The presentation was well received, and Vinter was asked to work with the TWG to develop an action plan for next steps to present to the Council.

Shortly after the Advisory Council meeting, Vinter and TWG member Jim Stanton began mobilizing key leaders to formulate and structure an initiative to implement the ideas presented to the STEM Advisory Council. Meetings with several business and education leaders affirmed the existence of both great interest in and energy for Massachusetts playing a national leadership role in developing an initiative expand K–12 computing education opportunities and which would be led by business, education, and nonprofit partners. Further, the approach has been adapted by learnings from the successful initiative led by Ioannis Miaoulis and the Museum of Science, Boston, to introduce Engineering into the Massachusetts K-12 standards. This proposal is the outgrowth of those conversations and the response to the STEM Advisory Council’s request for an Action Plan. MassCAN will be the vehicle to drive this initiative.


MassCAN Mission and Approach

MassCAN’s mission is as follows:

  1. Expand the computing education opportunities for all Massachusetts students beyond computer literacy (keyboarding, word processing, spreadsheets, etc.) to include computational thinking and the ability to develop computer technology based on nation-leading standards taught by inspired and qualified teachers
  2. Provide computing education opportunities to students at an early age and a continuous set of learning opportunities across a wide range of subjects throughout their K–12 learning experience, both inside and outside the classroom
  3. Inform and inspire educators, administrators, parents, and students about the employment opportunities available in technology fields across all industries
  4. Mobilize, organize, and coordinate collaborators across Massachusetts in industry, education, nonprofits, and the public sector to enable them to align and engage effectively in achieving and sustaining all aspects of this mission, including standards definition, curriculum development, professional development, licensure, research, outcomes measurements, internships, externships, public awareness, and extracurricular programs.

To achieve this mission, our approach focuses on the following elements:

  1. Core values: All children deserve equitable opportunities to study computing and build technology to broaden their thinking, open avenues for future learning and employment, and create opportunities to innovate.
  2. Mission alignment: Many people and organizations are dedicated to missions that relate to and overlap with this initiative, including educating students for postsecondary success, broadening their ability to think critically and creatively, and infusing them with STEM knowledge and opportunities, as well as preparing our teachers to use rapidly advancing educational technology. A key to our strategy is use the shared vision of an enriched computing learning experience and expanded employment opportunities in technology-related fields for Massachusetts students as a means of enabling organizations to combine their efforts in new and more powerful ways to achieve more expansive and sustainable educational and workforce outcomes than was previously possible through independent, uncoordinated efforts in the past.
  3. Collaboration model: The MassCAN initiative is taking an inclusive approach to creating a coalition of partners who are organized and guided toward a common vision, but whose contributions will be funded by a variety of different methods. The MassCAN approach is to help people and organizations find ways to participate in this initiative and to facilitate collaboration among them in order to more quickly and efficiently achieve the MassCAN goals than would otherwise be possible.
  4. Action approach: We intend to create enriched computing learning experiences at scale for Massachusetts students in an aggressive three- to five-year time frame.
  5. Innovation: Innovation is central to this initiative—it is driving the rapid evolution of computer technology as well as the development of 21st Century teaching methods, and we view teachers as innovative educators as they incorporate computing learning into the classroom.
  6. Inclusion: The MassCAN initiative is seeking to create educational opportunities to all Massachusetts students, including groups historically underrepresented in computing technology-related fields (women, African-Americans, Hispanic, etc.), as a means of creating economic and social opportunities for those who can most benefit from them.

Massachusetts is unique in its diversity of educational institutions and the independence those institutions have, its diversity of industries and nonprofits dependent or focused on computer technology, the culture of innovation that permeates all institutions, and the close proximity of these institutions with each other within the state. Combined, these characteristics create a world-class center of excellence in education, high tech, biotech, healthcare and finance; all of which are heavily dependent on the state’s capacity to generate talent capable of driving innovation in computer technology. Historically, these unique characteristics have resulted in the emergence of independent initiatives, which then tended to compete with one another and so dissipate their impact. Alternatively, MassCAN was created with the intent of applying all of these strengths and bringing the different institutions together in various capacities to focus on sustainable educational outcomes on a scale not previously attempted for computing education.


Stages of MassCAN Development

Over its 5- to 10-year time frame, MassCAN will function in three stages.

Stage 1 (Q2–Q3 2013)

Stage 1 will be an intensive six-month planning effort to (1) develop a detailed three-year Action Plan and (2) raise funds to support a substantial portion of the anticipated $3 million budget needed to implement the Action Plan.

Stage 2 (3 years, beginning in Q4 2013)

Stage 2 will be the implementation phase of the Action Plan Pilot, which will provide substantial staff expertise to support a high-functioning, multi-sector executive committee and four high-functioning, multi-sector task forces, which include

  1. Computer Science (CS) Standards Task Force
  2. CS Grade 6–12 Curriculum Task Force
  3. CS Teacher Professional Development Task Force
  4. Public Awareness Task Force

Stage 3 (2016–2022)

Stage 3 will be a six-year scale-up phase, during which time resources will be focused on engaging teachers, school administrators, parents, business leaders, and employees in expanding computer science education opportunities in all school systems across MA.

MassCAN Participation

Between February and July 2013, we propose to launch MassCAN, raise funds to staff it, hire staff, and implement Stage 1 of the initiative. We are reaching out to leaders, organizations, and individuals in Massachusetts to help us successfully fund and implement Stage 1, and toward that end, we have created four levels of contribution and participation:

  1. Supporter: Publicly expresses support for the initiative and contributes to its advocacy. Willing to be associated with the initiative in communications, stay updated on MassCAN activities, and lend a voice to its advocacy.
  2. Contributor: Commits time, effort, and resources to the MassCAN initiative. Examples might include serving on the executive committee, advisory board, or a working group; hosting or attending events; or running a MassCAN-funded volunteer program.
  3. Sponsor: Helps fund the MassCAN initiative and/or builds significant support with target constituencies to realize the goals of MassCAN. Serves on the advisory board.
  4. Investigator: Secures funding to run a project that aligns with MassCAN’s mission, and coordinates activities with other projects, people, and resources involved in MassCAN.

Stage 1 Plan

Task 1: Funding Strategy

Raise the funds and develop the capacity of MassCAN to serve as an umbrella organization, coalescing the efforts of the business and education communities to lead Massachusetts in the planning and implementation of the three-year, Stage 2 Action Plan Pilot. During Stage 1, we will follow up on activities initiated by the TWG and the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE), raising substantial concerns about the failure of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), developed by a consortium of 26 states, to adequately include computer science standards. This effort will focus on ensuring that Massachusetts adopts computing science standards either as part of the NGSS or as core elements of the state’s Science/Technology/Engineering standards. Ensuring that Massachusetts adopts computing science standards will require organizing meetings with state leaders, consultations with national leaders, and close collaboration with teachers and teacher groups. It will also require a major effort to generate public awareness in collaboration with those partners who participated in the recent mobilization of the Massachusetts business community to write letters to the Governor, Commissioner of Education, and Achieve Inc., regarding the failure to include CS standards as part of NGSS.

Expected outcomes: Funds will be raised to launch Stage 1.CS standards will be adopted as part of NGSS, or MassCAN will assume a central role on the state level working to assure nation-leading CS standards are adopted for Massachusetts as a co-equal part of the state’s Science/Technology/Engineering standards.

Task 2: Communications and Networking

  • Develop the communications infrastructure to facilitate the frequent, robust internal and external sharing of information, research, and actions of MassCAN collaborators.
  • Provide a unifying advocacy voice for all who are interested in advancing CS in Massachusetts.
  • Maintain working relationships with key constituencies and state and national partners.

Expected outcomes: MassCAN will become the go-to organization for gathering and sharing information regarding the Massachusetts initiative to develop and pilot the expansion of high-quality computing education throughout the state.

Task 3: Build MassCAN Organizational Structure

  1. Assist executive committee co-chairs to implement a two-phase recruitment program:
  2. Identify and recruit members for the executive committee and the advisory board (largely made up of corporate funders of this initiative and other valuable partners not on the executive committee).
  3. Identify and recruit members for the four task forces.

Expected outcomes: The executive committee membership will be completed during the spring; the advisory board will be recruited during the spring and summer and will remain in formation thereafter; and the task forces membership will be recruited during the summer of 2013.

Task 4: Phase 2 Action Plan

Develop and write the Action Plan narrative, timeline for deliverables and benchmarks, staffing plan, and budget to support the three-year, Stage 2 effort. The Action Plan will clearly articulate the mission, philosophy, and values that will guide the work of MassCAN. It will also provide a plan to support the functioning of the executive committee and task forces, including a framework for deciding the goals and work plans for the executive committee and four task forces, ongoing research, meeting minutes, and production of between meeting review materials (homework).

  • The timeline for deliverables and benchmarks will identify key decision points and meeting schedules for building support with key partners, constituencies, etc.
  • The staffing plan will identify the staff and consulting time required to support effective implementation of the Action Plan.
  • The budget will provide categories of potential revenues and both a high-level and a detailed breakout of expenses.

Expected outcomes: All documents will be developed in draft form by mid to late April 2013 and will be presented to the executive committee for discussion and adoption.

Task 5: Develop and Implement Stage 2 Fundraising Plan

Initially, coordinate a targeted outreach to technology companies vitally interested in the Computer Science Workforce issue and capable of making major contributions to MassCAN. This outreach effort will begin in early May. Following closely on this effort, the focus will shift to responding to major state and national grant solicitations and, then, to the more time-consuming work of developing relationships with prominent foundations.

Expected outcomes: MassCAN will raise at least $1 million to effectively launch and sustain Stage 2 implementation through the first year, and will raise the balance of funds in the first year of Stage 2.

Task 6: Public Awareness

Plan and implement a major one-day MassCAN launch event—with one half of the day organized as a public event and the other half reserved for the executive committee and task force members. Identify national and state leaders to invite and outline a plan for multimedia coverage. Also, develop plans that enable the Public Awareness Task Force to quickly sustain the visibility generated by this event.

Expected outcomes: MassCAN will host a one-day event that effectively launches Stage 2 and builds brand recognition and buzz. This event will also provide the task force with a tangible plan to maintain momentum.