3 ways hands-on learning makes computer science accessible to all

90% of students who thought their computer science class was fun said they wanted to learn more.
Jenny Nash
Jenny Nashhttps://education.lego.com/
Jenny Nash is head of education impact, U.S. for LEGO Education, where, as an advocate for hands-on learning, she helps build confidence in students and teachers as they develop 21st-century skills that sustain active, collaborative, lifelong learners.

Computer and IT occupations are projected to grow 15% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than overall job growth. And computer science will impact even more careers in various fields. Recently, all 50 governors recently signed a commitment to expand computer science access for K-12 students.

Despite this need and urgency, districts face a variety of challenges—from getting started to product selection, teacher readiness, and student enrollment. To make sure your students aren’t missing out, here are 3 ways to make your computer science program accessible and engaging to all students.

Build teacher confidence

Educators may feel too intimidated or inexperienced to teach computer science—especially if it’s mandated due to staff shortages. Building teacher confidence leads to better student outcomes. Getting started is easier than ever thanks to classroom solutions and professional development designed to support teacher readiness—for any experience or skill level.

When evaluating edtech solutions for your district, consider the resources and ease of implementation so your educators can quickly build the confidence they need and find early success. Building teacher confidence also means embracing failure. We teach our students to try new things, make mistakes, and learn through failure. Yet as adults, we often strive for perfection instead of showing how teachers are also lifelong learners. It’s a powerful lesson and an opportunity to lead by example that’s seen at every level of your district.

Whether you’re getting started or expanding your program, there are plenty of inspiration and best practices available. Leverage your personal networks and online communities to learn from other districts that have implemented hands-on computer science programs and are seeing tangible student outcomes.

Make learning hands-on and fun

A recent survey shows eight in 10 parents believe their children could be having more fun in school, while 87% of K-12 teachers noted an improvement in student engagement when incorporating purposeful play. Hands-on learning sparks joy in classrooms and can successfully teach computer science by making it more tangible, relatable, and memorable.

FETC 2023

The Future of Education Technology® Conference takes place live and in-person Jan. 23-26, 2023, in New Orleans. Register now!

Using hands-on manipulatives facilitates creative thinking and collaboration in a playful setting, which is important—90% of students who thought their computer science class was fun wanted to learn more, according to a Gallup poll.

Learning can be fun and playful and have academic rigor. In fact, play builds brains, and is why learning through play is the best way to support learning. Joy invokes a state of positive affect that enables many higher cognitive functions. Children are natural scientists ready to use what they discover to not only adapt the structure of their brains, but also strengthen the skills to continue being engaged, flexible learners for life.

When Hillsborough County Public Schools wanted to grow their secondary computer science program, they wanted a hands-on solution that fosters computational thinking, deepens students understanding of STEAM concepts, and integrates into their curriculum and pacing plans. With new tools, resources and targeted PD, their teachers are providing students with a strong foundation.

Show all students the possibilities

Women earn only 20% of computer science degrees and make up just 34% of the STEM workforce, according to National Girls Collaborative Project. Schools play a pivotal role in closing this gap. By increasing access and exposure, more students can see themselves in these careers.

More from DA: Teachers want to teach—not be “dehumanized” and “smeared” 

District leaders from Redlands USD, where 70% of students are socioeconomically disadvantaged, sought to provide all students with a strong foundation in computer science skills. Rethinking the way students learned—starting as early as kindergarten—was a key part of the plan. Now more than 3,000 students in grades K-5 are learning computer science and engineering design.

As the largest school district in Florida, Miami-Dade County Public Schools faced similar challenges representing a diverse student population. The district needed a solution that could provide equal and accessible opportunities that appeal to students of all backgrounds. The result was an increase in overall enrollment of middle school students in the Computer Science CTE pathway, especially girls and underrepresented groups, ultimately preparing them to take the first computer science certification offered in the district.

With the digital evolution and technology-driven future, teaching computer science is no longer an option, it is a necessity. Districts must act now to ensure students thrive in an ever-changing future, regardless of the industry they choose.

Most Popular