Why do students need to learn computer science? Well, let’s start with the numbers. According to the Code.org website, there are 4,328 open computing jobs with salaries averaging at $77,486. With only 364 computer science graduates from Iowa in 2015, it’s clear that there is a need for knowledgeable and skilled computer scientists in our state.
Those statistics certainly attract attention! Perhaps more important for students and educators, is the fact that technology has become an integral part of our daily lives and classrooms. Many students and teachers, alike, carry computers in our pockets (also known as phones) and educators deliver instruction and measure student understanding with apps and tools such as FlipGrid, Dash & Dot, and SeeSaw. Those don’t exist without computer science.
It’s important, no matter the career eventually pursued, that students have foundational knowledge of the core concepts of computer science. This basic understanding of computer science concepts enables students to be informed consumers and creators of technology. Engaging students in computer science learning provides opportunity for student to use coding to solve problems, collaborate with peers, and communicate their stories and understandings with world. Whether those understanding be directly tied to standards, learning targets, or student interests, computer science and coding helps kids change the world.
The Iowa State Board of Education adopted voluntary statewide Computer Science standards in June 2018 to support teachers and students with computer science education. This adoption was based on the recommendation of the Computer Science Standards Review Team which was made up of Iowans serving in K-12 school systems, higher education, business and related industry. The board adopted the CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards which were developed by the Computer Science Teachers Association, or CSTA. According to the CSTA website, the standards: “...delineate a core set of learning objectives designed to provide the foundation for a complete computer science curriculum and its implementation at the K–12 level. To this end, the CSTA Standards:
- Introduce the fundamental concepts of computer science to all students, beginning at the elementary school level.
- Present computer science at the secondary school level in a way that can fulfill a computer science, math, or science graduation credit.
- Encourage schools to offer additional secondary-level computer science courses that will allow interested students to study facets of computer science in more depth and prepare them for entry into the work force or college.
- Increase the availability of rigorous computer science for all students, especially those who are members of underrepresented groups.
The standards have been written by educators to be coherent and comprehensible to teachers, administrators, and policy makers.”
The Iowa Computer Science standards are comprised of five concepts and seven practices.
The core concepts help to organize and highlight the five overarching domains of computer science and outline criteria for student understanding throughout their K-12 career.
Many educators, students, and parents are aware of the Algorithm and Programming core concept thanks to organizations like Code.org, events like the Hour of Code, and programming languages like Scratch from the MIT Media Lab. This core concept includes subconcepts such as variables, control, algorithms, and program development and is commonly called “coding.”
There are countless opportunities to connect the Computer Science concepts with core discipline standards, such as using Data and Analysis in Science courses, Impacts of Computing in Social Studies, and Algorithms and Programming in Math. We’ll highlight opportunities to connect the Computer Science core concepts and practices with discipline standards and practice, provide specific examples, and highlight students and educators currently engaging with the standards in future blog posts. Use the hashtags #CSforGWAEA and #CSforIA on social media to join the conversation.