The inspiration for investigating the benefits of implementing the computer science curriculum in schools came from my experience of running an introduction to computer science course with my grade 8 class over the last two years. Microsoft TEALS offers a remote learning course called Introduction to Computer Science; this course brings in instructors actively working the field of computer science and programming to assist teachers in introducing students to computer science and the world of computational thinking. The positive impact of practicing computational thinking and the cross-curricular advantages I observed in my students during this course inspired me to further investigate the research and support for implementing the computer science curriculum in schools.
When advocating for implementing computer science at my school, the pushback I received was regarding the cost of bringing in the technology required to run the course. For my Microsoft TEALS remote learning course, each student needed a laptop with a webcam, and a pair of headphones. The total cost of the equipment was over five thousand dollars, factoring in that we already had computers for most of the students. I justified the cost by presenting the power and impact that my computer science course would have on our students. The future societal demands that computer science and computational thinking can support are examined in both Fluck’s (2016) article, Arguing for computer science in the school curriculum, and Webb’s (2017) article, Computer science in K-12 school curricula of the 2lst century: Why, what and when?.
Computer science empowers students with 21st century skills which are relevant to the current and future workforce (Fluck, 2016 & Webb, 2017). The term computer science differs from computer literacy because it refers to the ability to create and adapt new technologies; Literacies focuses more on using and mastering existing technologies (Webb, 2017, pp. 446). Teaching computer skills strengthens local communities, promotes innovation and provides future opportunities for youth (Fluck, 2016, pp. 44). A majority of the innovation in society comes from the use of computer science including biotechnology, geoscience, and global security. “We need to develop aware citizens – not necessarily creators but more than consumers” (Webb, 2017, pp. 448). Incorporating computer science and technology forward thinking prepares and engages students to innovate and create the new technologies which drive global economies and growth. Computer science is a critical component of the new BC curriculum because the ability to innovate with technology is important for students’ future success. It empowers them with the abilities to adapt to a rapidly tech-forward job market and demands from global society.
Beyond the benefits of engaging students in a field which will lead to flexible, immersive careers in tech, the field of computer science and its benefits in the classroom are broad. This science teaches students design, logical reasoning, and problem solving; these are skills which are directly transferable to the real world and other subjects well beyond the computer science classroom (Webb, 2017, pp. 446). Computer science courses can tap into students’ interest in technology, helping them become technology innovators. Other teachers can build on these skills, allowing students to design technical solutions to problems in science, math, social studies, the arts, and humanities (Webb, 2017, pp. 446). This can make courses more relevant to youth and promotes cross-curricular engagement, potentially improving their overall academic achievement and success in school as a whole.
Webb’s (2017) article offered suggestions for engaging students, school districts, and teachers in the computer science curriculum. The first suggestion was to implement computer science classes as early as possible. Bringing computational thinking into elementary grades makes the transition to more complex digital thinking easier and allows for more opportunities for inquiry-based learning in the later years (Webb, 2017, pp. 451). Computational thinking, which is a digitized way of saying problem solving, is the basis of computer science education. As this problem-based learning is becoming a requirement for many 21st century jobs, schools should look to embed computational thinking into other subjects and curricula (Fluck, 2016, pp. 43-44).
Computer science teams and competitions for innovative thinking can increase engagement and help students interact with computational thinking in a fun and exciting way. Fluck (2016) stresses the importance of making computer science courses accessible for all learners and teachers. Actively encourage and recruit a diverse range of students to take computer science courses and employ inclusive pedagogies to meet the needs and interests of these students (Fluck, 2016, pp. 41-43).
Both Fluck (2016) and Webb (2017) make note of creating and implementing a computer science curriculum that is, above all, fun and engaging. Teachers can do this by introducing technology in a way that connects with students, taking them on field trips to local tech industries, and bringing in real world examples of technological innovations to spark interest and inspiration (Fluck, 2016, pp. 42). Develop learning content that is visual and interactive, and weave in real-world examples of people creating technologies that will change and make the world a more positive and innovative place.
Technology is everywhere, and students are using computers every day. Empower them to be creators and innovators of technology by engaging them in the computer science curriculum throughout their educational journey.
Fluck, A., Webb, M., Cox, M., Angeli, C., Malyn-Smith, J., Voogt, J., & Zagami, J. (2016). Arguing for computer science in the school curriculum. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 19(3), 38-46. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.library.uvic.ca/docview/1814441053?accountid=14846
Webb, M., Davis, N., Bell, T. et al. (2017). Computer science in K-12 school curricula of the 2lst century: Why, what and when?. Educ Inf Technol, 22, 445–468. https://doi-org.ezproxy.library.uvic.ca/10.1007/s10639-016-9493-x