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7 minutes reading time (1377 words)

Grand Challenge: Computer Science Education for K-12 Students

 

Joanna Goode

College of Education

University of Oregon

 

Computer Science is Everywhere…Except in Classrooms

 

Computer science is a shaping force for the ways we learn, work, create, communicate, solve problems, and participate in our democracy. Though computing is at the core of our digital lives, it is not core in the K-12 curriculum for students. In fact, very few K-12 students have the opportunity to engage even with introductory computing concepts in the school classroom. In most schools, students encounter computers only in the role as end-users of software applications or assessment instruments. Computer science courses allow students to move from users to creators of new technologies through “the study of computers and algorithmic principles, their hardware and software designs, their applications, and their impact on society.” (ACM, 2003)

Even when students are encouraged to take computer science, the courses must exist and taught by well-qualified teachers to result in positive learning experiences. Campaigns such as https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juXqFtaPmNk from Code.org have piqued the interest of students. Now educators need resources to move the curriculum into the 21st century and offer opportunities for all students to gain conceptual knowledge about computer science.

Each of the states in the US has its own educational system and approach to providing students access to “solid” instruction in computer science. Here, we illustrate using data from Oregon. Detailed information about each state is available in (ACM, 2014).

  1. Computer science is the fastest growing, and amongst the most highly compensated professional careers in the US. There are approximately 40,000 jobs in computing-related fields in Oregon, many of which are filled with H-1B visa workers since there are not enough qualified US citizens to fill these jobs.
  2. There are very few educational opportunities for students to learn computer science in school. In Oregon, only 112 total students in 2012 participated in the Advanced Placement Computer Science exam (compared to 2,882 students taking AP Calculus exam the same year).
  3. Computer science courses have historically attracted very few girls and students of color. In Oregon, only 12% of AP computer science students are girls, and nationwide, only 19% of test-takers are girls. Educational research has discovered that the course’s narrow focus on computer programming in Java contributes to this underrepresentation.
  4. Develop a pathway of computer science courses at the secondary level. Exploring Computer Science (www.exploringcs.org), developed at University of Oregon College of Education in collaboration with UCLA, is a foundational yearlong high school course that has been adopted by 40 school districts across 10 states, including the three largest school districts in the nation. This course has been successful in drawing in diverse populations to study foundational computer science. The new nonprofit organization, Code.org, has adopted this course as the one it supports in its partnership districts.   Also, a new AP Computer Science Principles course (http://apcsprinciples.org) will be released in 2016-17, providing students a new opportunity to engage in a broader introduction to computing than the current AP course allows. Both courses were developed with NSF support. Currently, there is no funding in Oregon to support the growth of these two complimentary courses for Oregon students.
  5. Integrate computing into the curriculum in elementary and middle schools. Code.org and other groups are developing curriculum to enable teachers to provide students some foundational computing experience before they reach high school specialized courses.
  6. Develop a well-prepared teaching cadre.
    1. Teachers in the field need intensive professional development led by qualified computer science educational leaders. Based on research on effective STEM professional development programs, Exploring Computer Science has designed a 2-year professional development program that prepares subject-area teachers and CTE teachers to teach the high school course (Goode, Margolis, & Chapman, 2014). Over 600 teachers nationwide participated in the summer ECS professional development in 2014.
    2. Pre-service teachers should have computer science teaching methods coursework so they are prepared to integrate computing concepts or teach stand-alone secondary courses when they enter the teaching profession. For secondary computer science teachers, we must also identify suitable preparatory computing courses as a collaborative effort between teacher education and computer science departments. Both the Computer Science Teachers Association and ISTE have articulated core knowledge and skills of qualified teachers. Illinois State recently received a grant to build a pre-service computer science teacher pipeline and revive the state’s computer science teacher certificate process and will serve as a state model for Oregon and other states wishing to establish computer science education in the schools.

Proposed Solution for Oregon

In Oregon, we are working to build a computer science educational pathway to support computer science teaching and learning for all students. Our plan includes:

  1. Reform state educational policy to support computer science education and provide a clear route for becoming a computer science teacher. Currently, there is no computer science teacher certificate or endorsement that would entice pre-service teachers to pursue learning more about teaching computer science. Work with the legislature and TSPC (Oregon teacher licensing group) must be addressed to provide a sustainable model for putting computer science in the “core” of Oregon children’s education.
  2. Measure the progress of this coordinated effort (courses/teachers/policy) through a variety of quantitative and qualitative data from students, teachers, and educational leaders. Student learning assessments for Exploring Computer Science will soon be released by SRI International and serve as offer validated assessment tasks for measuring student knowledge. Enrollment data, disaggregated by race and gender, will allow an evaluation of the inclusiveness and accessibility of computing courses for all students. Finally, teacher and administrator survey data will aid in learning of the opportunities and challenges of scaling computer science education so that all students have access to learn computing.
  3. Research related learning science and sociocultural questions that can emerge from the implementation of a robust and established computer science education program. With the emphasis of computing on creativity, collaboration, and creation of artifacts, there are multiple educational research questions that can emerge from computer science classrooms. What are common student representations of knowledge across topic areas? How can we measure computational creativity across art and science domains? How does learning computer science impact math and science learning? What instructional techniques and supports are most effective for student learning?
  4. Reform state educational policy to support computer science education and provide a clear route for becoming a computer science teacher. Currently, there is no computer science teacher certificate or endorsement that would entice pre-service teachers to pursue learning more about teaching computer science. Work with the legislature and TSPC (Oregon teacher licensing group) must be addressed to provide a sustainable model for putting computer science in the “core” of Oregon children’s education.
  5. Measure the progress of this coordinated effort (courses/teachers/policy) through a variety of quantitative and qualitative data from students, teachers, and educational leaders. Student learning assessments for Exploring Computer Science will soon be released by SRI International and serve as offer validated assessment tasks for measuring student knowledge. Enrollment data, disaggregated by race and gender, will allow an evaluation of the inclusiveness and accessibility of computing courses for all students. Finally, teacher and administrator survey data will aid in learning of the opportunities and challenges of scaling computer science education so that all students have access to learn computing.
  6. Research related learning science and sociocultural questions that can emerge from the implementation of a robust and established computer science education program. With the emphasis of computing on creativity, collaboration, and creation of artifacts, there are multiple educational research questions that can emerge from computer science classrooms. What are common student representations of knowledge across topic areas? How can we measure computational creativity across art and science domains? How does learning computer science impact math and science learning? What instructional techniques and supports are most effective for student learning?

References

ACM (2014). Rebooting the Pathway to Success. Association for Computing Machinery. Retrieved 9/15/014 from http://pathways.acm.org/ACM_pathways_report.pdf.

ACM SIGCSE (2014). The ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education. Retrieved 9/16/2014 from http://www.sigcse.org/.

Computer Science Teachers Association (2014), Bugs in the System: Computer Science Teacher Certification in the U.S. Retrieved 9/16/2014 from https://csta.acm.org/ComputerScienceTeacherCertification/sub/CSTA_BugsInTheSystem.pdf.

Goode, Margolis, & Chapman (2014). Curriculum is Not Enough: The Educational Theory and Research Foundation of the Exploring Computer Science Professional Development Model. ACM SIGCSE.

International Society for Technology in Education (2010). Secondary Computer Science Education Program Standards. Retrieved 9/16/2014 from http://www.iste.org/standards/caep.

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Comments

David Moursund (website) on Thursday, 09 October 2014 20:09
More News About CS in LAUSD

See:

Blume, Howard (10/8/2014). LAUSD announces sweeping expansion of computer science course work. L.A. Times. Retrieved 10/9/2014 from http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-lausd-nonprofit-computer-programming-20141008-story.html.

Quoting from the article:

The Los Angeles Unified School District is teaming up with a nonprofit to launch a sweeping expansion of computer science course work, officials announced Tuesday.
The three-year effort will train L.A. Unified teachers to help students at all grade levels learn about how computers work, culminating in advanced computer coding at the high school level.

See: Blume, Howard (10/8/2014). LAUSD announces sweeping expansion of computer science course work. [i]L.A. Times.[/i] Retrieved 10/9/2014 from http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-lausd-nonprofit-computer-programming-20141008-story.html. Quoting from the article: [quote]The Los Angeles Unified School District is teaming up with a nonprofit to launch a sweeping expansion of computer science course work, officials announced Tuesday. The three-year effort will train L.A. Unified teachers to help students at all grade levels learn about how computers work, culminating in advanced computer coding at the high school level.[/quote]
David Moursund (website) on Friday, 12 December 2014 04:28
Obama promotes computer science with middle schoolers

See:

Jackson. D. (12/8/2014). Obama promotes computer science with middle schoolers. USA Today. Retrieved 12/11/2014 from http://www.usatoday.com/story/theoval/2014/12/08/obama-computer-code-computer-science-education-week/20093281/.

Quoting from the article:

The White House also announced Monday that seven of the nation's largest school districts are joining more than 50 others to start offering introductory computer science courses.The districts encompass New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Las Vegas, Houston and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

See: Jackson. D. (12/8/2014). Obama promotes computer science with middle schoolers. USA Today. Retrieved 12/11/2014 from http://www.usatoday.com/story/theoval/2014/12/08/obama-computer-code-computer-science-education-week/20093281/. Quoting from the article: [quote]The White House also announced Monday that seven of the nation's largest school districts are joining more than 50 others to start offering introductory computer science courses.The districts encompass New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Las Vegas, Houston and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.[/quote]
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