On April 25, the Wyoming Board of Education approved the new revised Computer Science Standards. These are now open for public comment through June.
After receiving push back on the elementary standards the committee reconvened in hopes of make the K-5 standards more accessible to elementary teachers and schools. In my opinion they were very successful! They did not cut back the amount of standards that there were like many educators hoped, instead they prioritized them. Now just 4 Computer Science benchmarks are necessary for mastery by the 2nd grade and 9 by the end of 5th grade. This is much more achievable, especially for smaller districts in Wyoming. Check out the slideshow below that points out some of the major changes in the standards document and also shows examples of how to pair priority and supporting standards together into integrated coding lessons using Scratch and Scratch Jr.
Elementary teachers are the swiss army knife of education. They have to teach it all: reading, writing, math, science, social studies, social skills, shoe tying, nose blowing, manners, kindness...the list goes on. And now it is time to add another weight on their shoulders: Computer Science.
Wyoming is currently going through the gruesome process of creating and adopting CS standards for the state K-12. Is this necessary? I believe so. Is it going to be a hard change in mindset? I believe so. Check out these facts from code.org.
When we look at CS in the 6-12 realm, there will be computer teachers receiving specialized training so they can create new courses that are offered to the students. This is affecting 1-6 teachers depending on the size of your district.
Look the other way at K-5... now we see a much bigger group of individuals that need trained. One solution might be to train your current technology para or teacher. But is this going to reach all students? Also, will the students be able to achieve the standards that our state is bringing before us? My guess is probably not. Instead, each elementary teacher will be tasked with finding another 30 minutes in their hectic day to squeeze in some computer science lessons. This may seem impossible- but it's not...if you integrate it. Bring computer science into any lesson in your day. Learning about the life cycle of a butterfly? Have students code their learning into an interactive lesson to share with their family. Working on retelling stories? Let students retell their story using code. How about that story problem in math? Let students work in groups to code out the scenario to practice paying attention to the details in the problem then share the right answer at the end. Good bye worksheet and hello engagement.
Computer science at the elementary level, doesn't have to be scary or intimidating. It can be fun, engaging, and facilitate learning in your other areas of study.
I began teaching after school programs for Sheridan County School District #2, 7 years ago. I first started with Lego WeDo kits. At the time, I was just following the directions, not knowing that I was teaching students how to code! The students loved it and caught on quicker than I did. Next, I expanded into Lego Mindstorm kits. Students were not only constructing robots in both of these programs, but they were coding them as well. After following the step by step directions with success, students were free to add or change the designs and codes to see what might happen. We were constantly debugging code and engineering new designs to make each day.
The next year, I had my first experience in teaching coding. We used Code.org to dip our toes into the world of coding. They have a great platform that is very easy for teachers with zero coding experience to jump into. It is also highly engaging for the students using both unplugged and plugged activities with videos to enhance the lessons.
SEVEN YEARS LATER...
I now am the Computer Science Youth Outreach Coordinator for NWCC in Sheridan, Wyoming. I have the best job in the world because I get to help elementary teachers and students learn Computer Science. This past year I helped bring coding into over 40 K-5 classrooms in SCSD2 district. We have almost 1,000 students learning how to code each week. I conduct trainings, create resources, and make lessons that are seamlessly integrated into the normal K-5 curriculum. See the Computer Science page for sample projects from our students and example lessons.