Teaching computer science in the classroom has been a discussion point in education for a while. In 2014, Hadi Patrovi, Code.org co-founder, gave a TEDx talk emphasizing the importance of it: “Now Computer Science, of course, is about technology,” he said, “but the reason we should be teaching it to our students is because actually, computer science is broader than that. It’s about logic, problem-solving, and creativity.”
Are you considering integrating a computer science program into your elementary or middle school? Are your students or parents asking for opportunities to build these skills during the school day, so they do not have to rely on summer camps and after-school programs? Are you asking yourself where you will find the capacity to launch a successful computer science program?
After many discussions with administrators, educators, and curriculum developers, we have gleaned these three key insights for launching a successful computer science program in elementary and middle schools.
Define the vision for your computer science offering.
Computer science is all about problem solving and analytics. These skills can be developed through coding curriculum, hardware curriculum, engineering curriculum, and many different interest generating modules. A key factor for success requires the definition of a vision for your computer science offering:
What grades will your computer science curriculum span?
What skills will your computer science curriculum develop?
Will you offer full-semester, foundational skills-building courses? Or will you offer, episodic, interest-generating modules?
Will the computer science course be a mandatory part of the instructional day, or will it be offered as an elective?
How will you excite students to continue developing computer science skills as they advance towards high school?
Identify a passionate educator, no matter their computer science background.
Did I mention that computer science is all about problem-solving and analytics? It does not require a PhD or a Master’s degree. An English educator who can construct, edit, and finalize a well-written essay will be able to follow the same analytics to develop computer science skills in students. A history educator who can explain and dissect patterns in history will be able to leverage the same analytical thought processes to develop computer science skills in students. The key skills for a successful computer science educator include:
An educator passionate about problem-solving; this will inspire perseverance in students
An educator used to prepping for classes the evening before will be able to master the computer science concepts being taught the next day
An educator who can relate computer science skills to everyday opportunities will be able to inspire curiosity in students.
Provide resources to support the educator so they can spend more time teaching.
As with any new initiative, educator support is critical to a successful launch. Whether it be professional development, instructional support, troubleshooting support, or a network of educators forging the same road, confidence builds success. If you would not expect your educator to learn math online, why would you expect him/her to learn computer science online?
Provide access to interactive professional development sessions and support resources
Align the support resources with your vision:
If you want to offer interest-generating modules, provide access to those resources.
If you want to offer full-semester, foundational skills-building courses, provide access to those resources.
Integrating a new course in the already busy school day is a challenge. However, when broken down into smaller decisions, the solution comes within reach. What is your vision for bringing computer science curriculum into the school day? Do you know an educator passionate about building these skills in students? Whatever your vision, know that there are resources available to accelerate educator confidence in teaching computer science.
If you are looking for full-semester, comprehensive Skills-building, interactive computer science curriculum for grades 3-8 that any educator can teach, check out the Codelicious product offering.