Are schools seeing CS as an elementary school activity?

February 4, 2014 at 1:11 am 6 comments

The Atlanta Public Schools has a short article about their involvement in the Hour of Code — and it was all elementary school children.  As far as I know, there is no more AP CS in any Atlanta Public high school.  I’m wondering if the emphasis on “starting early” is having an unexpected effect.  Are schools seeing activities like Blockly and Scratch as elementary school activities, and computer science belongs there, not in high schools?

As members of the APS IT department went out to observe students throughout the district participating in the Hour of Code they observed computer science education at its finest. Students were actively engaged in challenges that required them to utilize high level problem solving and critical thinking skills.  Students identified  and found ways to correct their mistakes until they were successful in completing the activity.

Lavant Burgess, a fifth grader at E.L. Connally Elementary, stated, “I like how it made me think. I had to keep using different strategies to figure out how to get the robot to the right squares.”

via The Hour of Code 2013: APS students explore computer science skills and careers | Talk Up APS.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Don Davis (@gnu_don)  |  February 4, 2014 at 8:26 am

    Or is participating in the week of code representative of localized (classroom) phenomena (implementable in extant classes) whereas actual full-fledged CS classes would represent a systemic (i.e. district / state-wide) fiscal commitment?

  • 2. Alfred Thompson  |  February 4, 2014 at 8:36 am

    Elementary and middle schools seem to have a lot more flexibility in their schedules than high schools do. Middle schools especially seem to have room for courses that let students explore different areas and even develop interests beyond the normal 3 Rs. Getting an Hour of Code event into the school day is easy in K-8 especially compared to high school. Will this lead to more K-8 classes (things longer than an hour once a year)? Possible because it is easier at that level. The problem then becomes what do the students who get excited by computing in k-8 do when they get to high school?

  • 3. Bonnie  |  February 4, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    I think Scratch definitely should be an elementary school program, in 4th or 5th grade. Expose kids to computing and algorithmic thinking early! Two of my kids have learned Scratch when each was in 4th grade, and became hooked.

  • 4. Jana Markowitz  |  February 4, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    I hope schools don’t think Coding = Computer Science. That could be as devastating a conclusion as their previous assumption that Microsoft Office Skills = Computer Science. Perhaps we (the IT community – – corporate, non-profit, govt and academic IT professionals) need to communicate more clearly to K-12 curriculum planners what we mean when we say “Computer Science.”

  • 5. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  February 4, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    Jana wrote “I hope schools don’t think Coding = Computer Science. That could be as devastating a conclusion as their previous assumption that Microsoft Office Skills = Computer Science.” I disagree. Before college, teaching coding is what they should be doing. Yes, there is more to computer science than coding, just as there is more to math than algebra, but getting a good foundation in algebra or coding is essential to later studies in math or CS. Just as it is senseless to teach a lot of abstract algebra, topology, and differentiable manifold theory to high school student, it doesn’t make sense to teach them a lot automata theory, software engineering, and machine learning.

  • 6. Michael Kirkpatrick  |  February 5, 2014 at 10:22 am

    I hate the comment section here. Every time I feel that I have a good point to add, I click on the Comments link and find it’s already been made. In this case, Don was the culprit. I think it’s a bit of a stretch to interpret HoC participation as indicative of how K-12 schools perceive CS as a whole.

    (Disclaimer: What follows is pure anecdote and I have not done research in this area. If there are findings to the contrary, I would love to hear about them!) I remember fondly my own experiences with early exposure to coding: Logo in 4th grade. I loved it…and never had exposure to CS after that until college. If I would have done Logo in high school, I probably would have thought it was ridiculous. And that’s sort of my feel with Scratch and Blockly (though I do consider them considerable steps up from Logo).

    I think these are phenomenal tools for early exposure, and I would have loved them in elementary and middle school. However, I think high school students–who are also learning calculus, physics, etc.–would appreciate more sophisticated tools and concepts. And that brings in a whole slew of problems, such as funding, teacher training, curriculum adaptations, etc., none of which can be properly addressed in the context of HoC.


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