Running On Empty

Computer Science Teacher
Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

Running On Empty

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The ACM and CSTA (Computer Science Teachers Association) released a report this week called “Running On Empty: The Failure to Teach K-12 Computer Science in the Digital Age.” The report was announced at an event for Computing in the Core, whose founding members include Microsoft, Google and other companies. Computing in the Core is pushing for the elevation of computer science education to a core academic subject at the K-12 level.

The result is not a pretty picture. From the Executive Summary:

Computer science and the technologies it enables now lie at the heart of our economy, our daily lives, and scientific enterprise. As the digital age has transformed the world and workforce, U.S. K–12 education has fallen woefully behind in preparing students with the fundamental computer science knowledge and skills they need for future success. To be a well-educated citizen as we move toward an ever-more computing-intensive world and to be prepared for the jobs of the 21st Century, students must have a deeper understanding of the fundamentals of computer science.

There are some interesting low lights from the findings summary page. For example, only ten states allow for Computer Science, a pretty important field in the 21st Century, to be counted as meeting a graduation requirement.

And “[c]onsistent with efforts to improve "technology literacy," states are focused almost exclusively on skill- based aspects of computing (such as, using a computer in other learning activities) and have few standards on the conceptual aspects of computer science that lay the foundation for innovation and deeper study in the field (for example, develop an understanding of an algorithm) …” In other words concepts are ignored while the focus in on short term skills development. As fast as things are changing in computer science we need concepts based education to give students a platform for them to be life long learners!

You can find and view State-by-state Results and see where your state stacks up. You may be surprised at some of the states that rank very well or very poorly.

The report includes a

National Call to Action

No other subject will open as many doors in the 21st Century, regardless of a student’s ultimate field of study or occupation, as computer science. At a time when computing is driving job growth and new scientific discovery, it is unacceptable that roughly two-thirds of the entire country has few computer science standards for secondary school education, K–8 computer science standards are deeply confused, few states count computer science as a core academic subject for graduation, and computer science teacher certification is deeply flawed. These are national failings and ones that we can ill afford in this digital age.

Parents must ask difficult questions about how computer science is being introduced to their children in K–12 education and demand that schools move beyond the current basic technology literacy curriculum. Policy makers at all levels need to review how computer science is treated within existing policy frameworks and schools, and ensure that engaging computer science courses based on fundamental principles of the discipline are part of the core curriculum. Now is the time to revitalize K–12 computer science education and ensure universal access to computer science courses by making it one of the core academic subjects students require to succeed in the 21st Century.

There are resources to do more, to do better, to prepare students in computer science. CSTA has the ACM/CSTA Model Curriculum for K–12 Computer Science. Companies like Microsoft have made FREE curriculum available (Faculty connection, beginning developer learning center, Expression Web Development Curriculum) and free software for students (DreamSpark – for full instructions on signing your school up for DreamSpark see How can High School Teachers provide students with DreamSpark Software) and low cost to free software for classroom use (MSDN Academic Alliance).

What is required is the will to find the teachers to teach computer science and to find/make room in the curriculum. Allowing computer science, real computer science, to count as a code subject for meeting graduation requirements is a good first step.



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