Dive into the digital world with Computer Science Education Week (CS Ed Week), celebrating K-12 education's tech evolution since 2009! Discover the impact of pioneers like Grace Hopper and Ada Lovelace, and explore the crucial standards shaped by code.org's Hour of Code and CSTA (Computer Science Teachers' Association). In this post, Smita Kolhatkar, Director of Technology & Innovation, shares insights on integrating computational thinking, digital citizenship, and coding into TK-8 education.
Join the celebration and inspire innovation with your children in the realm of computer science.
History of Computer Science Education Week and Standards
Computer Science Education Week (CS Ed Week) has been celebrated since 2009. The week is used to celebrate computer science in K-12 education. This particular week of December is selected to honor the birthdays of two computer science heroes, Grace Hopper and Ada Lovelace (click on the links below to learn more about them). CS Ed Week was popularized by code.org’s Hour of Code initiative in 2012. The popularity of the coding initiative led to the development of a K-12 Computer Science framework developed by the Computer Science Teachers’ Association (CSTA), which in turn led to several states and schools/districts mandating computer science education starting from the elementary school age. During that period, in 2018, the California Department of Education (CDE) developed a set of K-12 CS standards based upon CSTA’s framework. In more recent times, a set of K-12 Artificial Intelligence (AI) standards were developed by the AI K-12 organization.
Importance of learning Computer Science at the TK-8 grade levels
Having taught Computer Science at the elementary age level since 2009, my firm belief is that it is not so much about the programming languages or the coding that is critical, but it is the life skills that students learn through these activities, such as creativity, communication, collaboration, ethics, risk-taking, problem-solving and critical thinking. Students learn to apply these to other walks of learning and life.
What is Computer Science Education in K-12?
Computer Science is often a debatable term. Is it a science? Is it art? Is it math? Is it logic? The term computer science is broad and encompasses a variety of areas: hardware, software, coding, algorithmic logic, computational thinking, Artificial Intelligence and more. Students grow up with exposure to several digital technologies from Echo Dot to Google Voice to phones, tablets, chatbots and more. The computing power of phones has increased to be way more powerful than computers were not too long ago. As technology has sped past in development in leaps and bounds, teaching students has become more challenging. Content can rapidly change, new technologies are added very frequently and the availability of programming tools also continues to grow exponentially. Amongst these overwhelming choices and ideas, what is it that we need to incorporate into our daily lives in the classroom for our students so they are ready to face the world in this ever-changing landscape? The following categories are ways in which we deliver computer science education to our students at Hausner.
Computational Thinking renders itself to several benefits in brain development, critical thinking and problem solving for lifelong skills. At Hausner, we build computational skills daily across the curriculum in the manner in which instruction is delivered to students. Computational Thinking can be divided into four main categories:
- Decomposition: When a problem is given, can the student break it down? Starting with multi-step directions at the youngest ages to long-term projects in the older grades. When students learn to read, decoding words is a form of decomposition. When students learn another language, they are decomposing constructs regularly. The more parents can give problems to their children to solve v/s planning/solving everything for their children, the more beneficial it is to build this decomposition component for them. If your younger child asks for a birthday party, involve the child in the planning process. What are the steps involved? What are the tasks needed to be accomplished? Who else needs to be involved? The more you involve your child in such processes, the more independent your child will be and the more your child will feel included.
- Algorithms: Algorithms are like routines. Children need routines in their lives. We all do. Routines help with setting expectations, norms and make life more efficient. Give your child a simple procedure such as making a sandwich. What are the steps involved in making it? Is there just one way of making a sandwich? What are the variations? What is common to all of these processes? When younger children learn components of a story, they learn about the beginning, the middle and the end. When they learn steps to solve a mathematical problem, they are learning the sequence of steps needed to solve the problem. Any kind of sequencing needed including standing in line, or writing numbers in order are all logical steps that enhance the algorithmic thought process.
- Pattern Recognition: Recognizing patterns in everything children do helps them build connections in their thought processes, which in turn enhances their critical thinking and learning. Whether it is sorting objects, looking for rhyming words in a book, using blocks to build, looking for patterns in writing, in everyday life, on the playground, and so much more. Patterns are all around us - look up at the clouds in the sky, check out the layouts of classrooms. Encourage your child to look for patterns, for similarities in the world around them.
- Abstraction: This is easily learned through books or texts by identifying the main idea and key details, then taking it a step further to look for inference and then going onto a higher level comprehension skill. While working on a science experiment, discussing the hypothesis is a form of abstraction. Talking about safety and its importance is another form.
The ethical aspect of using digital devices is critical when students are exposed to any kind of technology. We have seen firsthand in Silicon Valley the ramifications of ethical lapses by large corporations. When students start using devices, they learn appropriate usage starting from a very young age. We incorporate what is applicable from the Commonsense media standards. Students at this stage TK-8 are bound to make some mistakes while using technology. However, that is how they learn and grow and we have a safe environment in which we work with students to help them make the right choices.
Students get to work with different hardware devices. In the older grades, students get to take apart older computers and learn its parts. The curriculum varies year to year but the following hardware is what we have available. At any given time, if you would like to borrow materials over a weekend or a long break, please contact us. We are more than happy to have students extend their learning.
- Raspberry Pis
- Robots (Hummingbird, Arduino, Little Bits, SAM Labs)
Data is all around us as we know. Many of us use smart watches daily, electrical/software-driven cars, electronic devices and more that gather data about us every second. Students learn numbers along with their letters and numbers form the basis of data. Students learn to gather data, graph data, organize data, analyze data and more as is age appropriate. This is something that can be easily discussed at home around a range of data-related ideas in one’s daily life.
The release of the now-popular Chat GPT, a generative AI, shot the concept of AI into prominence. AI has been all around us. Carol Piraino and I wrote an article for Prizmah talking about AI in school which talks about how we are using it at Hausner.
There are several board games that teach strategizing, critical thinking, problem-solving and computational thinking. We use many of these at Hausner and you can use these at home:
- Robot Turtle
- Card games
Unplugged is a commonly used term to indicate removing oneself from devices. Did you know that there are several unplugged games that you can play with your child(ren)? One of my favorites is a blindfolded robot being given directions. Click here for a listing of many unplugged activities.
Coding at Hausner is available through a plethora of resources both software and hardware. You have access to these resources daily and can avail of them from home as well. If you don’t have access for your child(ren), just email the helpdesk.
- Tynker (Google Single Sign-on) for all ages
- BrainPOP Coding (Google Single Sign-on) for grades 3 and up.
- Discovery EDU Coding (Google Single Sign-on)
- Scratch for grades 2 and up
- KIBO Robots for grades TK-3
- Dash and Dot robots for grades K-5
- Hummingbird Robots for grades 6-8
- Tinkercad for 3d modeling and circuit simulation for grades 3 and up
- CodeMonkey for K-8
- Kodable for K-3, starting with the basics of directions and puzzles.
- CMU CS Academy for Python Programming grades 5 and up
- SAM Labs for grades 3 and up
- Arduino Programming for grades 6-8
Most importantly, at this stage, students need to learn, have fun and not be intimidated by computer science. They need to see the application of CS across stages of life.
Celebrate Computer Science Education Week with your child(ren) the way you would celebrate a holiday so they can feel the excitement, ask for more and who knows what they may create next?
And join us on Sunday, January 28 from 1-3 pm for Hausner’s annual Code and Math Fest!
Director of Technology & Innovation
Member of K-12 Focus Group, California Department of Education
Member of K-12 CS Standards Committee, California Department of Education
President, Silicon Valley Chapter of the Computer Science Teachers Association
Passionate educator about CS education in K-12
Useful links and references:
- CS Ed Week Website
- Who is Grace Hopper?
- Who is Ada Lovelace?
- What is Hour of Code?
- K-12 CS Framework by CSTA
- CDE K-12 CS Standards
- K-12 AI Standards
- Commonsense Media Standards
- BrainPOP Coding
- Discovery EDU Coding
- KIBO Robots
- Dash and Dot robots
- Hummingbird Robots
- CMU CS Academy
- SAM Labs