Introducing Elementary Computer Science Standards!

Computer Science has a problem. In the past few years, educators have been hoodwinked by flashy games and deceptive messaging into believing that students could be “taught to code” by letting their students play a game for an hour. Unfortunately, like in every other subject, this isn’t the case. No, you cannot teach your students computer science with just a game.

When coding was first introduced a few years ago, a self-driven, easy to use game was necessary. It needed to be introduced in a quick way for teachers without any previous CS knowledge to be able to fit it into their lessons. However, over the past few years, things have changed. Over 350 MILLION people have written a ‘line of code’ and millions of teachers have seen the impact CS can have. Computer Science is the single most important topic being taught to the youth of the world today. So why isn’t it being taught consistently?

At Kodable, we have unprecedented influence on how computer science is being taught in schools. We have been used in over half of the elementary schools in the United States, and are the most widely used elementary programming curriculum in the world. Which is why it is so discouraging to hear so many teachers tell us that an hour of coding in December is enough or ‘We just let them play a couple free coding games, we didn’t really want to set up a class or teach a lesson.’ Playing a coding game without structured instruction completely misses so many of the benefits computer science education offers, and students are being failed in the process.

More girls are not going to be encouraged to code just from a game. Without the instruction and encouragement of a teacher, students will self-select for computer science the same as before, and we will end up with the same demographically stunted, male dominated workforce we have now.

So, we’ve decided to do something about it. Today, we’re taking a stand for Computer Science.

Laying the ground work for smarter CS Instruction

First, I’m proud to introduce one of the world’s first Elementary Computer Science Standards. Led by our own Head of Curriculum – Brie Gray, the K-12 CS Framework (2016) guided the writing and development process before the standards went through multiple reviews by Kodable’s Curriculum Advisory Board. The board consisted of a team of educators from Stanford, Teach for America, and school districts around the country, we believe this is the first step to teaching computer science the right way.

Following the S.M.A.R.T methodology (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-based), these computer science standards provide a roadmap for educators to teach CS with measurable student outcomes. It is important to note that these standards are not specific to Kodable. While over the next few weeks, we will be revamping our entire product around these standards, educators are free to use any coding program they would like with these standards. The most important thing is always the student, and if Kodable does not fit with a certain school, we don’t want the student to be left out.

While there are some drafts currently available for K-12 that include a limited K-5 set of computer science standards, they are more of an outline or framework than comprehensive standards. The Elementary Computer Science Standards are by far the most comprehensive available, including a wide variety of concepts not addressed by others such as social emotional learning and communication skills. Our standards focus on developing the whole student, and really try to bring out all of the benefits that come with learning computer science, not just their ‘coding ability’.

Get-the-computer-science-standards
Download your copy of the computer science standards

Focus on developing the whole student

Second, The Kodable K-5 Computer Science standards were written to provide teachers with a roadmap for developing the whole student through a computer science education. The strands within the standards are comprehensive and include elements beyond programming concepts (e.g., social emotional learning, programming impact, ESL). Our goal is to reach ALL students and see computer science become part of a complete elementary education.

It has always been our mission to make programming and computer science accessible to all students and educators. Since the beginning of Kodable, we have consistently heard how teaching students to code has brought about growth in many other areas. Students who normally didn’t engage with their peers began to open up and lead the class in programming. ESL students began to overcome tough language barriers through strengthened perseverance. Students struggling in math or testing improved their performance by practicing their problem solving skills in programming.

The Computer Science Standards focus on more than just programming and critical thinking because CS teaches more than just that. Computer science expands to all areas of learning, so you can now definitively say to your administrators that integrating computer science will help your students beyond just problem solving. Now you can tech with confidence knowing their growth can be measured, connected back to programming, and most importantly, leave a lasting impact.

What does this mean for Kodable?

Lastly, we will be requiring all teachers to create a Kodable account and set up their classes to use Kodable. It will also no longer be possible to use Kodable as just a game. Students simply will not achieve mastery in any standard without at least one off-screen lesson being taught, whether they are using Kodable or any other tool, and we feel our product should reflect that reality.

This decision was not made lightly. We understand how strapped for time teachers already are in the classroom, and will be making a number of improvements, such as QR code and picture based login, to preserve teachers’ already limited time. You can now be wholly focused on actual instruction, and not class setup or iPad management.

We know this will not work for everyone, and luckily there are plenty of other quick-start coding products that do not wish to adopt this type of structured learning environment; some programming education is always better than none! But again, the student is always the top priority for every educator, including ourselves, and we feel like this is the best way to create a structured environment that promotes actual student mastery of concepts, not just a fun game to play.

This is an exciting time for computer science, and for Kodable! Every educator we have given a ‘sneak peek’ at our computer science standards has been incredibly excited, and we know you will love them too. As eager as we are to get them to you, we are even more eager to hear your feedback! You can always reach us at our website – www.kodable.com, or by emailing support at support@kodable.com if you have any questions or concerns. We’re always here to help!

Introducing Elementary Computer Science Standards! by

8 Replies to “Introducing Elementary Computer Science Standards!”

    1. Thanks for reading! Great question! These were based on the CSK12 Framework released in 2016 as well as collaboration by a group of educators with years of computer science instruction experience, a Stanford CS professor, and educators specializing in instructional technology and assessment. You can read more about the development of these standards once we release them digitally on our website in early February. If you have questions about the process, feel free to reach out to brie@kodable.com with questions.

  1. As a male CS teacher, your statement on the “demographic problem” of computer science makes me think your entire company is full of backwards leftists who are trying to encourage girls instead of boys (which make up over half of my school). You make it seem as if this game will encourage only girls instead of boys, which means I definitely shouldn’t buy it! Should I not serve the boys in my classes? They’re parents shouldn’t send them to my school if that’s the case!

    “More girls are not going to be encouraged to code just from a game. Without the instruction and encouragement of a teacher, students will self-select for computer science the same as before, and we will end up with the same demographically stunted, male dominated workforce we have now.”

    So a male dominated workforce is “stunted”? What do you have against men? Are you a company, or a political statement?

    Girls who are good at coding will make the decision to continue on with it and to artificially encourage them to code because it fixes some sort of “demographic problem” means you are sexist against males and potentially forcing girls into a field they may not want to involve themselves in otherwise.

    Are you also going to talk about the problem of White programmers? When will you make a game that somehow encourages only minority’s to code? Because we HAVE to fix the “demographic’s” problem, right?

    1. Hi Jamal,
      Thanks for your comment. I appreciate how strongly you feel about this. Since you are a CS teacher, I will try to explain this in a way you understand –
      Say you have an array of 100 strings, 49 of which are the letter “M” and 51 of which are the letter “F”. You need to write a program to grab 10 objects out of this array at random, ignoring the value of the string. You run this program, and every time to do it pulls 8 “M”s and 2 “F”s. You run it 50 times, and every time get the same results. There’s one of two problems. Either –
      1. You wrote the program to intentionally discriminate against “F” (I hope not) or
      2. You have a bug in your code.

      The “bug” in computer science can be seen by simply walking down any Toys R Us in America. Boys are funneled to legos and blocks, girls are funneled to rows of bright pink dolls. Girls are ALREADY being artificially encouraged NOT to code! I’m fundamentally against targeting ANY group specifically, and I’ve taken great pains to make sure my company never does that. I just want to target them all equally for once.

      All of this comes with the caveat that you actually believe that boys and girls are equally capable of becoming programmers. Because if you don’t, I honestly don’t want you using my product anyway.

    2. I’m interpreting this statement much differently. I don’t believe they are stating that there is anything wrong with teaching boys to code or that males shouldn’t be in the field; I think they are simply stating that it’s important to allow opportunities for learning that work for both sexes to find interest and success in computer science. Studies show that there are some statistical differences with how boys and girls learn; this also translates to the computer science field. Surely, there is room for both sexes to thrive and enrich without squelching anyone.

      I surely hope that providing opportunities for both men and women in computer science isn’t a “leftist” agenda, or that all “rightists” are against equal opportunity. For that matter, I find it a bit disconcerting that a different opinion will automatically cause people to name call with political labels as if they are dirty words. Let’s chat about our experiences and find common ground instead of continuing this “us vs them” mentality.

      To the board of educators at Kodable, I would love it if you could also publish your list of research and literature that you used to create these standards. I work at a STEM title I school, but we also have a heavy emphasis on social emotional learning. As part of our robotics committee, we’ve been searching for scaffolded standards for k-5 in computer science, and this is the first time I’ve found something that is explicit and detailed.

      Thanks for your time.

    3. Chillax, “male” CS teacher, and don’t troll here. Thanks!
      If you want your white boys to learn by playing games, as they say in the article, there are plenty of other options out there, just look around, and you’ll find them! 🙂

  2. I am rather interested in how you think these sorts of standards can be used in personalized learning?

    And also, what kind of process was involved that decided that “Automate solutions by using elements in code that increase efficiency, save time, and decrease the likelihood of bugs.” is a good target for second graders while “Modify data to change a specific outcome.” is a good target for fifth graders?

    Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the effort in mapping out our learning spaces, but I don’t believe in maps of this sort that dictates weird deadlines for skills that don’t clearly lend themselves to the given age restrictions. I am looking forward for something much more progressive, overall.

  3. Hey Jon, great post on implementing standards for computer science in our education system. I believe we are just not responding fast enough with the right tools to keep up with other countries. Most companies will be using CS tools and our youth should be prepared to compete in the digital space. Keep spreading this important message.
    Thank You,
    Dennis

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