The 4 Steps to Implementing Computer Science in Elementary School

This is the kick-off post in a 4 part series where we will cover each stage of implementing computer science in elementary school based on thousands of conversations with educators.

While the month of June brings a lull to the toil from the school year, we’re working hard to set you up with the resources you’ll need this summer as you prepare to do it all over again. Over the next four weeks, we’ll be taking the lessons we learned from our teachers this school year and sharing their coding implementation stories from beginning to end.

Over the past 3 years, computer science in elementary has come a long way. Trailblazing schools who were just getting started, have now fully integrated Computer Science into their curriculum. While the majority of schools are on their way to that point. At Kodable, we focus on talking to as many people as possible and working hard to meet their needs regardless of the stage of implementation. In these thousands of conversations, the four stages of implementing computer science in elementary school have become very clear.

The 4 Steps to Implementing Computer Science in Elementary School

Casual Exposure

The first step in teaching computer science in elementary school is often prompted by a colleague or community interest in the Hour of Code or other event promoting computer science awareness. The engagement and clear benefits of programming sparks further exploration. Schools often download and install dozens of apps, tools, and resources for their students to play with and explore. This phase is characterized by unstructured learning through play. Teachers are intrigued but apprehensive about doing more than proving the resources to their students. Students, however, are extremely engaged and encouraged to pursue whatever resource they choose. These are both important steps leading to the next phase of computer science integration.

Structured Experimentation

After testing the waters with various apps and tools, teachers have a “WOW!” moment with one (or a few) and decide to think seriously about how to use it in a structured way. Teachers start to think about how it can be used to further student learning, and how they can seriously make it part of their work. Not yet ready to hash out the nitty gritty details or objectives, teachers are mostly narrowing in on what seems to be the best fit. A lot of schools establish a club, after school, lunch or recess program for their students to test the conclusions they made in the Casual Exposure phase. This paves the way for teachers and admins to begin thinking about more goal-oriented programming experience for students.

Goal-Oriented Piloting

In this stage, teachers have seen clear benefits of a program or tool and are committed to finding a way to make it happen in their school. Clearly defined goals and objectives come in here, and a curriculum is tested with results that can be shared with others as an example. In the pilot stage, we often see one classroom starting the implementation, and then rolling the program out fully at the school or district level after seeing positive results. Some things to consider during this stage: Scheduling, devices, big-picture structure, and teaching time dedicated to programming.

Clearly Defined Implementation

After piloting, benefits and engagement are clear and the program is ready to be rolled out school or district-wide. A 1 to 5 year plan is in place, with support from administrators and key stakeholders. There is a clear momentum around programming education and the direct connection with academic achievement- this is an exciting time! As the program rolls out beyond the pilot, the number of students gaining access to programming education gradually expands.

It feels nice to FINALLY document all of this learning so that other educators can know what to expect in each of these phases. In this four-part series, we will dig deep into our knowledge banks and cover each stage in detail for you to use as a reference while your school forges ahead down this new path.

You can read more about the first stage here: Casual Exposure – the first step in elementary computer science.

What do you think of these four stages? Do you see similar things in your school or community? What stage is your school at?

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