Rethinking Computational Thinking

Over the past 18 months, I’ve had the opportunity to be part a team led by Joyce Malyn-Smith of EDC for her NSF grant, Computational Thinking from a Disciplinary Perspective. The project was inspired by earlier work that Joyce conducted with Irene Lee. (Irene is the creator of the Project GUTS curriculum for learning science and computational thinking via modeling and simulation).

In their work, Joyce and Irene interviewed a variety of practicing scientists to reveal how they used computing to do science. Through these interviews, they elaborated a variety of practices which include profound and creative uses of computing, often invented by the scientists themselves.

Since the publication of Jeannette Wing’s 2006 paper on computational thinking, our community has been engaged in a sense-making process: what exactly is it? The initial description of “thinking like a computer scientist” is a bit tautological—and not terribly helpful for someone who isn’t already a computer scientist.

I have personally been struggling with understanding the relationships among the broad categories of computer science, programming, and computational thinking. For example:

Q. Can you do computer science without programming?
A: Yes of course; we can analyze the complexity of a search algorithm, realize the need to use hashing to speed a table-lookup, etc.

Q. Can you do programming without computer science?
A. Probably. Beginners’ spaghetti code might be an example. “Hacking” in general suggests building things without an underlying theory (though there may be an implicit one). But let’s say yes to this too.

So, where does CT fit in? Is it in the intersection? Many people think you can do CT without doing programming, so perhaps not. How is CT not just another word for computer science then?

Venn diagram of programming and CS. Where does CT fit?

Venn diagram of programming and CS. Where does CT fit?

Jeannette Wing’s more recent paper (2011) provided this definition of CT: “Computational thinking is the [human] thought processes involved in formulating problems and their solutions so that the solutions are represented in a form that can be effectively carried out by an information-processing agent [a computer].”

To me, this still sounds like “thinking like a computer scientist.” This is what we do! We formulate problems and their solutions so that a computer can carry them out!

So what’s the difference between doing CT and doing computer science?

Thanks to my collaboration with Joyce and Irene (and our whole team), I now see an answer.

Computational thinking is about connecting computing to things in the real world.

Here are some examples.

A starter program we may often have our students write is to model a checking account. Our students will use a variable to represent the bank balance, and build transactions like deposits and withdrawals. Maybe they’ll represent the idea of an overdraft, or insufficient funds.

Let me argue that this simple example captures the essence of computational thinking.

What makes it so is that we are connecting a concept in the world—money in a bank account—to its representation in a computational system. This sounds pretty simple. But there is surprising complexity. What sort of numerics should we use—e.g., should we represent fractional pennies? For a beginning student, we could ignore this. But in a more elaborated solution, this intersection of computational considerations and real-world concerns is crucial—and this is computational thinking.

Here is another example. Consider how we usually represent colors. We use three bytes of information: 0 to 255 amounts of red, green, and blue (RGB) light. For web HTML, we’d use the hexadecimal notation. For example, #8020C0 is 128 (decimal) of red, 32 (decimal) of green, and 192 (decimal) of blue, or this color:

A purple swatch which is #8020C0.

A purple swatch which is #8020C0.

This RGB representation was created at the intersection of the neurophysiology of human vision, the physics of how we build displays, and practical considerations of computing. Why do we mix only these three wavelengths of light? Because the way our eyes and brains work, we can mimic practically any color with just these three. Why use just one byte of information for each color intensity? It turns out the ~16 million colors which can be represented this way is quite powerful—and good enough—for how we use computers now.

So the whole notion of the RGB representation of color is computational thinking in action.

For a more elaborated example, let’s consider the JPEG file format—of the Joint Photographic Experts Group. This team included computer scientists, neurophysiologists, and artists. Their insight was that we could compress images by a factor of ten or more by discarding information that the human eye doesn’t see anyway. What a fabulous insight—and the very essence of computational thinking, because it connects concepts in computing (like compression algorithms) to understandings of our physical and perceptual worlds.

To revise our illustration, now CT is the “connecting tissue” between the world of computer science / programming expertise and the world of disciplinary knowledge:

Visualization of CT as “connecting tissue” between CS/programming and disciplinary knowledge of the world

Visualization of CT as “connecting tissue” between CS/programming and disciplinary knowledge of the world

To “do CT,” you need to know about both worlds. You need to know how to create solutions using computing. You need to know something about a domain in the world. And CT is the knowledge, skills set, and disposition of intermediating between these two.

Now, Jeannette Wing’s 2011 definition makes perfect sense: “Computational thinking is the thought processes involved in formulating problems and their solutions so that the solutions are represented in a form that can be effectively carried out by an information-processing agent.”

Yes! The key is recognizing that there is a non-computational domain—something in the world that we care about—which is being transformed (represented computationally) in this process.

To close the loop back to Joyce’s project: In addition to myself and Irene Lee, Joyce’s team had project advisers Michael Evans and Shuchi Grover, her EDC colleagues Paul Goldenberg, Lynn Goldstein, Sarita Pillai, and Kevin Waterman, and project evaluator David Reider.

In a series of planning meetings and then a pair of 2-day workshops with K-12 CS practitioners and researchers from around the country, we developed the idea of how computational thinking is transformed by connecting it to scientific disciplinary practice.

We created a framework with a set of five “elements” which illustrate the integration of computational thinking into disciplinary understanding.

Please stay tuned for work to come from our group, presenting this idea of “Computational Thinking From a Disciplinary Perspective.”

It’s given me a whole new way to think about what computational thinking can mean.

It’s about connecting computing to the world.

head shot of Fred Martin, chair of board of directors

Fred Martin, chair of board of directors

What are we Doing?

When I was asked to write this blog, I wondered if I should focus on the Arkansas Computer Science (CS) Initiative, after all who doesn’t like to brag about their program? Instead, I decided to publicly address something that has weighed on my mind over the past three years. Yes, while Obama was in office and more so now that Trump is in office. At almost every national presentation I have given, I have always stated, at some point and in some way, that “Computer Science is not a partisan issue, it will only become one when we the community force it to be one.” This is the focus of this blog.

On January 30, 2016, President Obama asked Congress to allocate $4 billion to expand K-12 CS education. This announcement, while the amount was questioned, was met with over all excitement and enthusiasm; the community had a POTUS that was finally talking about CS education. It is what really made the #CSforALL movement gain national attention and respect. Personally, I was captivated with the renewed excitement; people who had seemed to doubt that their state would ever make any progress forward, were again actively engaging in visionary discourse. We all know that the $4 billion was never approved in a federal budget, nor did many who were connected to D.C. discussions ever think it would be. Notwithstanding, the announcement generated headlines, got other federal agencies thinking about CS (thank you National Science Foundation), and bolstered the movement amongst states that had been thinking about, but not yet wholeheartedly committed to, jumping into the CS Education arena, which Arkansas has led since 2015 (yes, I had to throw that in there). With that in mind I ask, what are we doing to keep the excitement we all felt on January 30, 2016 as a catalyst for change?

Fast forward to September 25, 2017, President Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump announce that POTUS is requesting that the Federal Department of Education (DOE) devote at least $200 million of its grant funds to STEM fields with an emphasis on CS education. This announcement, which spurred the #CSforKids movement, was met with mixed reactions, and unfortunately, individual reactions could almost be predicted based on party affiliation. Personally, I was again excited, not at the mixed reactions, but that President Trump had found a way to continue the discussions about CS education from the platform of our nation’s highest executive office. We all knew that it would not look like President Obama’s plan, but I will admit that, prior to this announcement, I was anxious about it potentially disappearing from the federal focus completely. Before I get emails, I will acknowledge that we are still waiting on the DOE to open the competitive grant program, which I believe to be delayed for various reasons including but not limited to aggregating and considering the feedback and the lack of a long-term federal budget. With that in mind I ask, what are we doing to maintain the initiative’s momentum in a positive and cohesive manner?

Now that the history portion is out of the way, I address directly the question my title asks, “What are we doing?” After September 25, 2017, I was appalled at the way our community started fighting through various social media channels. I was troubled by the personal attacks that started flying between people who agree with each other more often than not on other political issues. I was disheartened to witness that the unofficial national leaders in the CS community, people who I admire and highly respect, were reduced to engaging in the political bickering and attempts to silence opposing viewpoints that has stalemated our country’s progress in so many other areas over the past two decades. This attitude shift in the community and its unofficial leadership created a toxic environment, which replaced excitement and enthusiasm with discouragement and pessimism. With that in mind I ask, what are we doing to make sure that CS does not become a topic that we are afraid to discuss publicly?

Fret not, all is not lost! We continue to see great bipartisan efforts taking place to continue the positive focus on CS education. The Governors for CS group, which is co-chaired by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) and Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D), is a great example of a group of individuals with various political ideologies, state needs, and regional differences coming together and focusing on advancing CS education, not only within their respective states but also across the nation. In addition to state executives, our community has a wonderful support structure through various groups, that for the most part play well together. The Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), #CSforALL Consortium, ECEP, Code.org, and many other large scale efforts provide our community with mostly positive and non-political mechanisms that support our community’s continued growth. With that in mind I ask, what are we doing to follow and support the leaders and visionaries of our state and national efforts?

What are we doing? We are moving forward together! Sure, there will be some nay-sayers and negativity out there, but that is okay. Critical thinking and challenging the status quo is what makes a community stronger. To be clear, I am not asking for the CS community to become an “echo chamber,” as I firmly believe that open and honest discourse is necessary. Considering different situations and points of view is how successful and long-lasting programs are built. I am asking that we as a community step back occasionally and ask “what are we doing?” Are we engaging in conversations that are bolstering or hurting the initiative? Are we focusing on minutia, that while important, is prohibiting progress? Are we demonstrating to the larger educational community that CS should be taken seriously and is of vital importance to our students, or are we creating a circus side show? Are we building up the other members of the community, or are we putting them down to make ourselves look better? In short, I guess what I am asking everyone reading this to do is what I need to do a better job of myself. Stop asking “what are we doing” but instead ask, “what am I doing, and should I continue doing it?”


Anthony Owen, State Department Representative

The role CSTA has played in my professional life

This month the announcement for nominations for the board of directors made me think about my path through CSTA. The first time I heard of CSTA was in 2008; starting a new job in a new school having been teaching CS to High School students and was embarking on a new adventure of teaching K-5 Computer Science. It was the first time I was teaching Computer Science to that age group and I was apprehensive about some of the content and available resources. I teach at the American School of Tegucigalpa in Honduras, a small under-developed country in the heart of Central America. AST is a N-12 non-profit bilingual school, so we are an English spoken campus. Even though most schools offer computer classes, my school has always strived to give the best college preparation possible. So the expectations for me as a teacher were high. Being part of the smallest department in my school, it can be a challenge getting PD and resources. Luckily, I found the CSTA website and went directly to their resources and curriculum sections. As I explored the page I got interested and decided to become a member. As a new member of a community of teachers I now know we share similar challenges when teaching CS.

In 2012 CSTA was calling for nominations for the board’s upcoming elections. I was hesitant, thought the odds were not good for a Latin-American teacher. Turns out I got elected as the International Representative. I got to be part of their meetings which dealt with important topics, looking to improve and support K-12 CS education. I worked with the curriculum committee, alongside Deborah Seehorn and Tammy Pirmann reviewing the published CSTA K-12 Standards. Later I collaborated on my favorite project translating the Standards to Spanish which have been helpful for those teachers teaching CS in Spanish.  CSTA is not only meetings, it is also a place to grow and share, like the Annual CSTA conference which I always attend and volunteer to help out. It takes a lot of people and work to put it together. There are many ways to volunteer at the conference and it is a wonderful way to get involved and advocate for CSTA as well as make connections.

In 2016 I ran for a second term on the board, this time as Representative at Large and once again was elected to serve. This time around the experience was different as I was able to be part of different committees and meet more of the active, engaged and passionate members. I now know more about all the resources, workshops, scholarship, keynotes, PD opportunities CSTA brings to the K-12 CS teachers and how much heart is put into these. We hope that these efforts will improve CS education around the world. Family. My best advice as a CSTA member? Get involved, be an advocate, join a chapter or collaborate with other members. I guarantee that it will be worth it.


Michelle Lagos, Representative at Large

How Far We’ve Come – and How Far We Have To Go

Roughly ten years ago, the US computing community first started to really address policy about teaching K-12 computer science. The ACM Education Policy Committee was formed with K-12 education as its focus, and a few people – including Cameron Wilson (then ACM policy director, now COO and President of the Advocacy Coalition of code.org), Chris Stephenson (then executive director of CSTA, now with Google), and I (as chair of the committee) spent quite a bit of time talking to education policy makers in DC about computing education. This included both staff members in Congress and people in science policy organizations in DC. It was shocking – almost to a person they had no idea of the importance of the computer science, e.g. that even then most STEM jobs openings were and were projected to be in computing. It was almost as if Silicon Valley and DC lived in different universes!
On the one hand, things have changed drastically in ten years – awareness of the importance of computing and computing education is universal, in DC, by state governors and legislatures, and to a good extent by the public. When STEM-oriented policy is created these days, computer science almost always is included, something that wasn’t true a short number of years ago. And there has been significant growth in the amount of K-12 computer science education, as exemplified by the over 5-fold increase in the number of students taking AP Computer Science exams over the past ten years.
On the other hand, US K-12 CS education is just getting started. If the entire K-12 curriculum were invented from scratch today, it is not implausible to think that computer science would be as fundamental as math or language arts, with as many specialized teachers or general teachers who are well-versed in computer science, and as many hours devoted to computer science as any other primary subject. We are very far from there – in our curricula, in the number of teachers, in the orientation of schools of education where most teachers are prepared. This is where CSTA and its partner organizations come in – in continuing to advocate for the importance of K-12 computer science education, in helping with curricular standards, and most importantly, in providing community for computer science teachers, particularly when often there are only one or two per school. Ten years from now, things will again look very different than now, and CSTA will have played a major role in the evolution.


Bobby Schnabel, Partner Representative

A Message from CSTA Incoming Executive Director Jake Bastin

As the incoming Executive Director of CSTA, I’m thrilled to introduce myself to the greater CSTA community. Instead of vague generalizations and platitudes, I’d like to share a story about my first year teaching computer science, and the role CSTA played in my development as a teacher.

I’ll never forget room 225 at Lindblom Math and Science Academy, my first classroom. It had some quirks: desks bolted down to the floor, four fewer computers than my largest class, a heating system that required opening the windows every day of a Chicago winter. Most importantly it had 150 students who were ready to learn computer science with me, even if I wasn’t so sure I was ready to teach it.

In that building I found incredible support — a principal who knew computer science should be a core part of the school, colleagues that I still count among my closest friends, and the most creative, determined and fun students I could ask for.

The one thing I couldn’t find was another computer science teacher.

While I knew it was best to go along with the jokes and eye rolls when mandatory department meetings were held, what I really felt was jealousy. Everyone else had a time to discuss what content and practices were working, and get ideas on how to reach individual students. A group of coworkers that didn’t always have the answers, but at least understood the challenges everyone was facing.

Then I went to the first Chicago CSTA meeting of the year and discovered I had something better: a CS department that spanned the entire city and connected me to the latest ideas in teaching and learning computer science. I had finally found my team and was thrilled to begin working alongside them.

A lot has changed in the CS education world since I joined CSTA eight years ago—a wave of publicity around computer science education and shifting policies around the world—but the heart of the movement remains the same: dedicated teachers fighting for all students to learn computer science.

Our vibrant local chapters are the heart of this organization, and in my new role with CSTA I will focus on identifying and highlighting the most successful work happening at local chapters so we can spread those great ideas to all of our members. This starts with sharing—if your local chapter has something amazing planned, or an idea you need help executing, please let me know. You can always find me at jake.baskin@csteachers.org, and if you’ll be at SIGCSE say hi in person!


Jake Baskin
Incoming Executive Director, CSTA

Common questions about the CSTA board

I hope everyone had a great holiday break is leaping back into the school year with renewed drive and energy. With all of the chaos of the new year, you might have missed the call for nominations for the CSTA Board of Directors. There is no better way to contribute to CSTA’s mission of empowering and advocating for K-12 CS teachers than to serve on the Board. There are five open positions this year, four representing specific perspectives and a fifth, at-large position.

K-8 Representative: A classroom teacher who is currently teaching computer science at the pre-high school level.
9-12 Representative: A classroom teacher who is currently teaching computer science at the high school level.
International Representative: An international (outside the United States) classroom teacher who is currently teaching or promoting computer science at the pre-collegiate level.
State Department Representative: An educator or administrator who reports to a state department of education and oversees, in some capacity, computer science education.
At-Large Representative: An educator with responsibilities for K-12 CS education.

To apply for one of these position, you simply need to submit a resume and a brief application form – details can be found at http://www.csteachers.org/news/379241/Announcing-the-CSTA-Board-of-Directors-Elections–Nominations-Period.htm. The deadline for submissions is January 31 (11:59pm PST), so don’t wait too long. Questions can be directed to nominations@csta-hq.org.

In case you were on the fence about applying for the Board, here are answers to five of the most common questions that potential candidates ask:

Q: How much work is involved in being a Board member?
A: You have probably seen the phrase “the CSTA Board is a working board” in several places. What this means is that members of the Board are expected to help carry out the business of the organization – not just advise or supervise. This includes monthly virtual meetings and two face-to-face board meetings, one held in conjunction with the CSTA Annual Conference and another held in the late fall. While these meetings are packed and productive, most of the Board’s business is conducted throughout the year by committees, with individuals working from home and coordinating via phone conferences. The time commitment can vary by task, e.g., the work conducted by the Elections & Nominations Committee is concentrated around setting up and running the annual elections, and is light during other times of the year. On average, I would guess that the workload averages out to 2-3 hours per week.

Q: Are Board members expected to cover their own travel expenses to meetings?
A: No, expenses for travel are reimbursed (within reason) following CSTA’s travel policy guidelines. This includes travel, hotel, and meals at Board meetings. It also includes expenses related to attending the CSTA Annual Conference, since Board members are expected to attend this event and help out by proctoring sessions and assisting with registration. A copy of the travel policy is provided to all newly elected Board members.

Q: Why are there different positions on the Board, such as 9-12 Representative and International Representative?
A: The mission of CSTA is a broad one, promoting K-12 CS education and supporting the interests and professional development of our 26,000+ members. It is essential that the Board have a diversity of perspectives and experiences to address the issues and challenges that arise in the organization’s business. Each position has requirements to ensure that key perspectives are represented on the Board. For example, the 9-12 Representative is required to be a “9–12 classroom teacher who is currently teaching computer science at the high school level.” Once on the Board, all members are equal in status and welcome to contribute to all initiatives.

Q: If I apply for a position, does that automatically mean I will be on the ballot?
A: Unfortunately, no. According to the CSTA bylaws, the election ballot will list at most two candidates for each open Board position. If more than two qualified candidates submit applications, the Elections & Nominations Committee is charged with selecting the two most outstanding candidates to be placed on the ballot. Committee members independently rank the candidates using a rubric that considers factors such as leadership skills and experience, understanding of core issues in CS education, and alignment of goals to CSTA’s mission. While this model does sometimes mean that highly qualified candidates do not make the ballot, it does allow for us to keep the ballot size manageable while still providing detailed statements from each candidate.

Q: Why should I consider running for the CSTA Board?
A: Serving on the CSTA Board of Directors is an extremely rewarding opportunity to give back to the teaching community. Board members help to set the vision for the organization and work to promote CS education on a global scale. Their work supports and provides professional development for CSTA’s more than 26,000 members worldwide. In addition, working closely with other amazing educators is rewarding in itself.

JRN, Journalism, Media, Computing faculty members


Dave Reed
Past Chair, CSTA Board of Directors
Chair, Nominations & Elections Committee

AI and CS Teaching

Last week, I had the interesting experience of giving evidence at a hearing of our House of Lords Artificial Intelligence select committee. The House of Lords is the (entirely unelected) upper house of the UK’s legislature, so for me, this was quite a big deal.

Their lordships were interested in the applications of AI to education in general, but they seemed much more interested in the opportunities that England’s computing curriculum would provide for our students to learn about AI.

In terms of the uses of AI in schools, we’re already seeing a fair few applications of machine learning and other aspects, and I think these look set to continue in the short to medium term. I certainly don’t see AIs replacing teachers any time soon, but I think there are plenty of aspects of the teacher’s role where some support from smart machines might be quite welcome, for example in assessment, with marking essays, judging the quality, rather than merely the correctness of a student’s code; in recommending appropriately challenging activities, resources and exercises for students; in carefully monitoring student activity, privacy concerns notwithstanding; and in responding quickly to students’ questions or requests for help.

If teaching can be reduced merely to setting work and marking work, then I would fear for the long term future of the profession: ‘Any teacher that can be replaced by a machine, should be’, as Arthur C Clarke famously put it. My Roehampton students think there’s much more to teaching than this though: teaching students how to be a person, how to get on with other people, and inspiring them to learn things that they’re not already interested in, to give just three examples. I don’t see the machines taking over these responsibilities any time soon.

More interesting are the opportunities to teach students about AI as part of CS education, or the broader school curriculum. The English programmes of study for computing are phrased broadly enough to allow, or perhaps even encourage, students to develop a grasp of how AI, and particularly machine learning, works, in age-appropriate ways from age five to eighteen. CSTA’s new standards allow scope for pupils to learn about machine learning too: between 3rd and 10th grade students should be able to use data to highlight or propose cause and-effect relationships and predict outcomes; refine computational models based on the data they have generated; and create computational models that represent the relationships among different elements of data collected.

There are some great tools out there to make this accessible to students, from Google’s teachablemachine, through Dale Lane’s fabulous, IBM Watson powered, machinelearningforkids.co.uk, to building machine learning classifiers in Mathematica (easy!) and Python (more tricky, but really not out of the question), as well as the fun that can be had building simple chatbots in Scratch or Python, and hacking Google Assistant using the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s AIY kit.

Great as these opportunities are, I am concerned that we’re not doing enough in schools to get students thinking through the ethical implications for individuals, society and civilisation of AI. Worryingly, England’s education ministers removed the wider ethical references to the computing curriculum we’d developed. Machine learning algorithms already make life-changing decisions for many of us, and the impact of these technologies on our lives seems likely to only increase over our students’ lives. Education is, at least in part, about preparing our students for the opportunities, experiences and responsibilities of their later lives, and I’m not sure we can do justice to this if we’re not teaching them how AI works, and to think through some of the big questions about how AI should be used.


Miles Berry


Miles Berry, International Representative

What’s It Like To Serve On A Board?

Throughout my professional career—academia, industry, government, I’ve been involved with many boards. Most of my experiences have be positive; most of them were part of loving, respectful, inclusive communities. I’ve served on boards that focus on teaching in higher education, boards that are charged with the welfare of a community, boards that are responsible for specific events, boards that are strictly oversight or advisory and others that are active doers.

I have recently been lucky enough to join the CSTA Board of Directors. Based on my early experience, the CSTA Board is a hybrid of doers and overseers. It’s a wonderful mix of high school teachers, higher education faculty, state and local K-12 administrators and industry representatives.

When you attend the CSTA Annual Conference, or participate in one of the many activities offered from the chapters or other members of the CSTA community, all of these people, ideas and activities have somehow, someway passed by the attention of the CSTA Board. Board members are active participants in all areas of the organization and execution of the Annual Conference, aiding the conference chairs with whatever and helping keep the Board posted on all of the great ideas and activities. The Chapters as well are encouraged by the Board, which always welcomes their creative ideas. Board members live to be enablers!

In addition, at my first (and currently only) face to face meeting, we dealt with more serious issues like the budget and strategic plans. I was impressed with the many ideas and differing perspectives offered by all of the members of the Board—this isn’t a shy group! I was also happy to see how respectful and seriously everyone reacted to divergent opinions. We’re all trying to do our best for CSTA. It’s amazing how much business gets covered in this one-day meeting. To keep up to date and keep moving forward, we also have monthly video and conference calls with full agendas, too. I appreciate well-run meetings where people do get a chance to visit and catch up but where the focus still on getting the business done. Fred Martin (CSTA Board Chair) is a master!

We all know that it’s really fun, useful and professionally stimulating to be a member of CSTA and that its members (YOU) are what make it the GREAT organization it is today. But if anything about being on a board intrigues you, if you’re interested in seeing how the behind the scenes stuff works and you have the time to invest, the CSTA Board is a pretty amazing place!

Jane Prey
ACM Representative

Why You Should Care About CS Policy

If you’re reading this, it means that you are a dedicated teacher who cares about CS education.  You might not think about policy very much, but it can have a big impact in broadening participation in CS in your state.  Here are a few reasons why policy matters.

Establishing CS as a Core K-12 Subject Area.  

NH and many other states have MS and HS technology program requirements.  These programs are a mixed bag – many are primarily digital literacy, but a lot of schools are incorporating coding, makerspaces, robotics, and other experiences that are very much a part of CS education.

At the HS level, there are Career / Technical Education (CTE) programs in the Engineering and Information Technology clusters that are related to CS.  These are good programs, but they are for 11th and 12th grade students who already plan to go into IT or Engineering.  We know that this is too late for equity.  

Establishing K-12 Computer Science standards that are distinct from CTE program standards signals that CS is a core subject for ALL students, and helps tie the CS-related experiences mentioned above into a cohesive whole.   Core K-12 CS provides a pathway into the CTE programs above and others, for example: Business / Financial Operations; Healthcare Technology; and more.  

Getting Reliable Data and Using it to Make Improvements

In NH, certification, standards, and funding are all linked.  Each certification area has a linked set of academic standards.  This is how courses are identified in our state information systems.  Since our K-12 standards and certification are brand new, we have a big push to recertify current CS teachers and reclassify courses.  This will give us a new lens into CS education across the state.  

When we have opportunities to utilize state and federal funds to advance our objectives, we rely on this data to target our programs and achieve the greatest impact.  We need to define CS and identify CS so that we can be smart about expanding and broadening participation.

Growing the Pool of CS Teachers

Our certification rules are linked with the program approval standards for teacher preparation programs.  This means that with our new K-12 CS certification we now have the opportunity to establish programs that lead to certification as a CS teacher.

The rules are also a guideline for teachers who teach some CS, to take the plunge and become a “full-fledged” CS teacher.  Our certification program is competency-based, so educators can acquire the necessary skills and knowledge through a number of means.

You Can Help

Is there a line of communication between your CSTA chapter and your State Education Agency?  Find out what they’re up to and what you can do to help.  We all need to work together to make CS for All a reality.

Check out the CSTA Advocacy Menu for some ideas for CS Education Week, Dec. 4-10, 2017:

For more information on state-level K-12 CS policy, please check out these documents:

 

David Benedetto
At-Large Representative

Reading Stories in Computer Science Class

Stories are an entertaining way to introduce or reinforce computer science concepts and help students to understand abstract concepts in a more concrete way. Do you read picture books, chapter books, or short stories to your students in computer science classes? I do. The easiest way to get started is with books that are specifically written to teach CS concepts.
For 5-8-year-olds, Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding by Linda Liukas is a wonderful place to start. Written to introduce young children to computing, it is a picture book about a “small girl with a huge imagination.” As Ruby goes on adventures, students learn about planning, sequences, algorithms, collaboration, conditionals, loops, and more. The book includes activities that go along with the story, and the official website has resources for educators. Linda Liukas has also written a second book, Hello Ruby: Journey Inside the Computer, which includes activities about the internal parts of a computer.
A graphic novel for 8-12-year-olds that covers multiple CS concepts is Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes. It is the first in a series of books that combine logic puzzles and coding (in Logo) wrapped up in a mystery storyline. The official website has downloadable activities and Logo instruction videos so your students can code along with the characters if desired. Check out the excerpt on the website for a fun introduction to binary. The concepts in the book can easily be applied to any programming language you are using with your students.

The comic book, The Cynja, by Chase Cunningham,‎ Heather C. Dahl, and Shirow Di Rosso was written for younger children, but I like it for introducing Networks and Cybersecurity for Middle School students. The Cynja is a story of a battle between the evil forces of cyberspace and the Cynsei and his apprentice, the Cynja. Code of the Cynja, the second comic in the series, has a female lead character. These are difficult to get in print, but digital versions are available on Amazon and in the Google Play Store.

Don’t limit yourself just to books written about computer science concepts. Working on decomposition skills? Read a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. Then work with students to decompose it and build a decision tree. Talk about how conditionals allow it to work and have students create their own “Choose Your Own Adventure” program. The Fly on the Ceiling by Julie Glass is a fun book to introduce the coordinate plane. After reading it, students could create a Scratch project to draw their initials using glide commands with x and y coordinates. Read The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and have students retell the story with Bee-Bot or write a ScratchJr project about the life cycle of the butterfly. Look around and see what books are available at your school and find ways to use them in your computer science classes.

Are you reading stories to students in your computer science classroom? We would love to hear about it!

Vicky Sedgwick K-8 Teacher Representative