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Computer Science For K-8? Yes! (With Curriculum Resources!)

* Do you teach students in elementary or middle school?
* Do you teach high school and find that students come to you with (incorrect) preconceived notions of what computer science is?
* Do you want to encourage your school or district to develop or enhance CS instruction at the lower grades?
* Can we teach computer science before high school?
* Can we engage girls' interest before they hit the age where they hear that girls aren't supposed to like/succeed with technology?

If you've been hanging around this blog or connecting with CSTA folks for any length of time, you've heard of the ACM's A Model Curriculum for K-12 Computer Science, a vision and broad outline of computer science education in grades K-12. This curriculum consists of four levels, the first of which is for grades K-8.

CSTA has been developing implementation documents for these levels, first for Levels II and III, and now for Level I: Foundations of Computer Science . The Level I framework is in its final stages of development, and the authors are asking for critical review and feedback.

This document provides an outline and objectives; it does not describe a single course but "a broad and integrated set of student learning outcomes, held together by a coherent concept of computer science for younger students...(It) can be the starting point for a teacher, school, district, or state to make computer science a vital part of K-8 education" (from the Level I Overview).

The subject matter is divided into twelve topics, which are grouped into three categories:

Computers and software applications
Topic 1: Parts of a personal computer
Topic 2: Standard software
Topic 3: Operating systems
Topic 4: Networks
Topic 5: World Wide Web and Email
Problem solving with computer science
Topic 6: Representing information digitally
Topic 7: Problem solving and algorithms
Topic 8: Computer programming
Social context of computing
Topic 9: Privacy and security
Topic 10: Evaluating and using information from networked sources
Topic 11: Human-computer interaction
Topic 12: Computers in society

Each topic is divided into grade ranges K-2, 3-5, and 6-8, with focus areas and sample activities in each range.

How can we teach these topics?

To support the ACM Model Curriculum, CSTA developed the CSTA Source Web Repository: K-12 Computer Science Teaching and Learning Materials. Level I resources in the repository were originally organized into six classifications, to match the 1998 version of ISTE's NETS (standards) for Students (ISTE 1998), plus one for "Algorithmic problem-solving tools."" However, to align with the new curriculum for Level I, we are currently reclassifying these resources, as we'll do with any new resources that are being added, to match the new topic list above.

Check them out!

P. S. The upcoming CS & IT Symposium (June 26, Washington, DC) also includes several sessions of interest to teachers in K-8: Making CS Happen in K-8, Scratching the Surface of Computer Science with Scratch!

Debbie Carter
Co-Chair, CSTA Professional Development Committee


I am involved with a group here at the University of Illinois which has been introducing students as young as first grade to programming using the shareware Squeak Etoys. The students love it and do wonderful things, but the teachers are not interested in bringing it into the schools. Have others had such experiences? Do others know of districts that have adopted programming for k-5 students as a curricular topic? Any information would be helpful. Thank you.

Yep! I have run into the same problem. Thus, I have created a Kickstarter project to hopefully bypass some of the teacher reluctance. Creating an interactive iBook with instructional videos embedded is my next idea! Please share and support:


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