How will schools enhance computer science?

Schools are using robots to introduce students to coding, which experts see as a powerful ed tech pathway
By: | October 21, 2019
Schools are using a variety of strategies to ensure they have adequate resources to teach computer science as policymakers increase pressure to teach the subject more comprehensively.Schools are using a variety of strategies to ensure they have adequate resources to teach computer science as policymakers increase pressure to teach the subject more comprehensively.

As more states and policymakers urge schools to expand K-12 computer science instruction, experts are examining the ramifications of some of the ways the subject is being integrated.

With 47 states now allowing K-12 computer science to count as a math credit, Ohio State University assistant physics professor Chris Orban, writing in The Conversation, asks whether taking fewer math courses would leave some students less prepared for college coursework.

“I also worry that a lack of math and science preparation in high school could artificially narrow the range of options for students who might otherwise have promising STEM careers,” Orban wrote.


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Others aren’t convinced schools have the adequate resources. Some states that have passed computer science legislation have not included the funding for schools to add the classes or hire qualified teachers, according to an article by the Center for Digital Education. The article also considers the complexities of a curriculum that might teaching coding languages that could soon be outdated.

Also, girls and minority students remain underrepresented in K-12 computer science courses while students on free and reduced-price lunch and children in rural areas are less likely to attend a school that teaches the subject, according to the 2019 “State of Computer Science Education: Equity and Diversity” report by Code.org, the Computer Science Teachers Association and the Expanding Computing Education Pathways Alliance.

The report suggests nine policies for making computer science “fundamental,” such as establishing rigorous standards, encouraging colleges to create computer science education courses for preservice teachers and letting computer science satisfy a high graduation graduation requirement.

Also, K-12 is getting some help from higher education in computer science. In one initiative, Dennis Brylow, a professor at Marquette University in Milwaukee, has received a $2 million grant to research ways to boost computer science instruction in an urban school district.


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Coding as an edtech catalyst

Learning to code can have learning benefits for students beyond computer science class, Mark Gura, a former New York City Department of Education curriculum developer and teacher, wrote in District Administration earlier this year.

“Coding can serve as a catalyst for schools looking to integrate tech more meaningfully into required subjects, as well as the glue that binds together learning connections across them,” Gura wrote.

Students in San Francisco USD work with robots to learn about programming.

Students in San Francisco USD work with robots to learn about programming.

Schools in San Francisco USD are using robots as a gateway to excite kids about coding, DA reported in February. Teams from the district also teamed up with Boston Public Schools and SoftBank Group Corp to develop a curriculum for human-robot interactions.

In March, DA detailed six strategies K-12 leaders can follow to add computer science and coding effectively.

“We want our students to have some skills for their post-graduation plans, even if we can’t fully predict the exact ways that coding will be used in the jobs of the future,” Patricia Gaudreau, administrator of science curriculum at Montgomery County Public Schools in Virginia, told DA. “We also realize the value of teaching children to think in new and innovative ways, and encouraging their communication and problem-solving skills at an early age, which will help our students to experience success throughout life.”


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