Computer Science Literacy for K-12 Students

The Problem:
Over the past several years I have watched educational leaders talk about technology literacy, 21st century skills, ISTE standards (formerly the NETS) and STEM. As a parent and community member I remain unimpressed with what my local school districts are offering in the way of computer science education. As an employee of a school district I see little that makes me think meaningful change is coming any time soon. The following are examples:

Example High School Courses Offered 2013-14:

  • Business Department:
    • Advanced Microsoft Applications: The key to productivity is the ability to integrate the capabilities of software. This computer course utilizes realistic activities and projects designed for learning and integrating Microsoft Office 2007 suite of application software.
    • Personal Computer Keyboarding: Keyboarding is a necessary skill in this computer age!
    • Web Page Design: This Web design course teaches you how to plan, organize, and create a Web site from start to finish. Using HTML code and Notepad, then progressing into using Microsoft Expressions Web, (a Web authoring and site management program), you will learn to create and manage professional quality sites.
  • Technology Department:
    • Digital Electronics: Digital Electronics is a course of study in applied digital logic.
    • Computer Integrated Manufacturing: CIM is a course that applies principles of rapid prototyping, robotics and automation.

All the offerings from the business department should have been taught prior to high school. Keyboarding is a skill that should be started no later than 1st grade. In fact, keyboarding as currently defined by most schools is more a 20th century skill than 21st century skill. Touch interfaces and keyboard variants make qwerty keyboarding less important. The technology department has some good courses, but there is a lack of systems administration, network administration and programming courses. Programming should be introduced at the middle school level and integrated in to other curricular areas in high school. Imagine using R to process statistical data for social studies, biology, physics, chemistry or other courses. Imagine engaging in real world data analysis that educates students while having a real world impact students can see.

A Possible Solution:
A community based group that focuses on providing students with opportunities to learn real-world computer science skills. This fall I started reaching out to people in my local community who run computer related user groups to discuss building such a group. Two efforts could provide a framework for building a local group in Rochester: Codeacademy and CoderDojo. My goal for 2014 is to get such a community group organized and functional by July of 2014. The next steps will be to:

  • Identify interested community groups
  • Identify local parent association groups (stake holders)
  • Identify local students interested in assisting in defining the group (stake holders)
  • Identify a location for organizational meetings
  • Determine if a legal entity needs to be created for this effort
  • Identify a location for classes
  • Contact possible sponsors

The only item on the list that gives me a reason to pause is the potential requirement for a legal entity to be created. I have no legal experience in this arena so I have no idea what to expect.

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One Response to Computer Science Literacy for K-12 Students

  1. “A community based group that focuses on providing students with opportunities to learn real-world computer science skills.”

    There are a few organizations that do this including Teaching Open Source (http://teachingopensource.org/index.php/Main_Page) and Mozilla’s Webmaker (http://webmaker.org).

    I’m involved with both initiatives and I know Mozilla is really interested in getting students using open web technologies. We actually have events with students doing this worldwide right now although in the North America we have focused on Portland and Toronto currently but I think the NA team will probably be expanding much more in 2014.

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