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’.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or concerns. We’re always here to help!Introducing Elementary Computer Science Standards! by Jon Mattingly