Parents, educators, administrators and technology titans are demanding that computer science be taught in K–12 classrooms. According to CODE.org, nine of ten parents surveyed want their children to study computer science, yet only one in four schools offer students computer programming classes. In California, only 357 high schools offer AP computer science courses. Not only is it imperative to offer high school students computer science courses, but elementary and middle school students also need to be introduced to computer classes to broaden their education and pique what may become a career interest in computer science.
Regardless of the grade that students are introduced to computer-related curriculum, all students should have the opportunity to learn about the various aspects of computer science, including algorithms, app creation, and how the Internet works. At its core, the academic discipline of computer science focuses on problem solving, a critical, lifelong skill that all students can master.
The issue is where to start interjecting computer science instruction into the K–12 system. To address this critical need, the KCI has partnered with Google and the Industry Initiative for Science & Mathematics Education (IISME) and launched a new computer science program that trains K–12 teachers how to integrate computer science topics into their curricula, regardless of the academic discipline.
IISME teachers participated in the KCI’s inaugural computer science professional development program during Spring 2015. Sponsored by Google, the program consisted of 24 hours of professional learning for teachers who are interested in learning how to integrate computational thinking, computer science, and coding into their curricula.
The KCI presented three, one-day computational thinking workshops to more than 50 IISME teachers last spring. Each workshop focused on effective problem-solving strategies, and provided participants with the unique opportunity to help develop the program’s second component–a three-day computer science workshop.
Teachers’ enthusiasm for the new program was high, and more than 35 educators were introduced to numerous computer science topics, as well as developed confidence in their own coding skills, during two sessions of the hands-on computer science workshop. The teachers also learned about the content and pedagogy that’s required to bring meaningful computer science lessons to their classrooms. Using tools like MIT’s Scratch and MIET’s Starlogo Nova, the teachers worked on projects that integrate computer science concepts into existing K–12 math, science, art, history and language arts curricula. At the end of the program, 94 percent of the participants felt more prepared to teach a computer science-related lesson in their classrooms, and 100 percent would recommend the KCI’s computer science workshop to their teaching colleagues.
The KCI’s work to address the demand for computer science professional development is spearheaded by KCI Instructor Sheena Vaidyanathan, who has taught computer science in California public schools for six years, and has extensive experience with K–8 curriculum development and professional development. Under Vaidyanathan’s leadership, an outstanding instructional team of other experienced, local computer science teachers has been assembled–including Ann Greyson, Chris Bell and Jessica Hexsel–to support the program and offer more workshops throughout the 2016–2017 academic year.
To learn more about the KCI’s Computer Science Program, e-mail Liane Freeman at