In Pennsylvania, thanks to a law passed last summer, computer science coursework in all public and charter high schools can count toward either math or science graduation requirements.
In the future, computer science and information technology jobs are expected to grow and educators are working to prepare students to excel in these fields. But what does computer science education look like? How are teachers incorporating these new skills into existing curriculum even before high school?
Edsurge recently profiled Shanti Crawford, a teacher at P.S. 34 Oliver H. Perry elementary school in Brooklyn, NY. Crawford, who never considered herself to be a technology lover, let alone a teacher, is now referred to as the “LEGO Lady” at her school, according to the article, where she teaches science, LEGO engineering, and robotics.
When Crawford introduced programming into her classroom, write EdSurge’s Alexandra Diracles and Katarina Pasinsky, “she had an English language learner (ELL) who knew very little English. The student felt successful and included in the programming lessons because she was able to collaborate with her peers and recognize patterns in coding syntax as she would in her native language.”
In the Pittsburgh region, students at South Fayette Intermediate School in McDonald have the chance to learn in one of three STEAM labs—spaces with natural light and a rooftop garden that offer hands-on learning opportunities about science, technology, engineering, art, and math. One of the STEAM labs is a LEGO-themed robotics center where students build and design with LEGOs.
Using the LEGO Education WeDo robotics curriculum, a mathematics teacher may help students program a prototype for an environmentally responsible sprinkler system or use computer programming to make a spin-art machine as a way to teach about circumferences.
“Learning how to code is so important for kids because it gives them a digital voice,” says Shannon Landin a cofounder at Codecraft Lab, a nonprofit in Brevard County, FL, that works with public schools to run afterschool programs that teach coding for students in Grades 3–6. Her work is profiled at Digital Is. Landin says she’s a big fan of the programming language Scratch, designed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten group. Scratch teaches math and computational thinking to young kids in addition to problem-solving, design, and communication skills.
Finally, over at Common Sense Media, Christine Elgersma suggests helping kids learn to code using Scratch, Mozilla Thimble, and Hopscotch. The power of these tools, she says, is that in addition to coding children are learning to be creators of media, not just consumers. This can go a long way in helping build not only their coding, but also their digital citizenship skills. Elgersma says that even if you are still learning yourself, if your students are talking about “loops, go-to commands, and branches,” it probably means they are making progress.