Everything You Need to Know about The K-12 Computer Science Framework

Everything You Need to Know about The K-12 Computer Science Framework

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   You might be one of the people currently asking themselves, “what defines computer science?” Of course, you can name some fields that might be included within computer science, like programming, robotics, or hardware development, but computer science contains a plethora of unique subjects, including cyber security, graphic design, and social media development.  How can we teach this vast topic effectively in schools? Other subjects such as math or biology are clearly defined, and we already know where to start students off when beginning to learn these fields; a math student might start by learning how to add and subtract, and then move on to multiplication, but a computer science student could just as easily start off learning his first programming language as he could start learning a computer graphics program such as Photoshop. This is where the K-12 Computer Science Framework comes into play.

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  This program was developed by and included the opinions of many steering committees and supporting corporations. The steering committees supporting this project include the Association for Computing Machinery, Code.org, the Computer Science Teachers Association, the Cyber Innovation Center, and the National Math + Science Initiative. Stakeholders and backers for supporting corporations include Amazon, Google, Apple Inc, and Microsoft. Many teachers and education researchers developed and wrote the primary concepts and practices, and over five hundred reviews from the steering committees and supporting corporations were submitted.

     The framework incorporates key concepts and practices. The official website, k12cs.org, states that concepts are “essential knowledge of computer science,” and practices are “key actions, processes, and proficiencies.” Together, they will further students’ understanding of computer science as a whole. This framework is meant to highlight important educational aspects of not only computer science, but also how to be a good learner and interact with technology in general. It not only teaches students technical skills that they will use in future careers, but also teaches critical thinking and how to work effectively in groups. The framework brings collaborative learning to the forefront of computer science education.

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   The framework is split up into four grade bands. By the end of each grade band, the students are expected to understand certain concepts and complete certain practices. Grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12 make up these bands. For example, 2nd grade, students are expected to have a base understanding of hardware and software, cyber security, and information storage. Students in this grade band will also explore the ethical decisions that come with using technology. The next grade band, 3rd grade through 5th grade, deepens students’ understanding of concepts learned in the previous band, as well as explores program development, modularity, and an introduction to algorithms. Grade levels 6 through 8 focus on how computers can help us model and analyze data we cannot understand as easily without this technology, and the social impacts computer science has on society. 9th through 12th graders dive into the complexities of computer science such as advanced algorithms and computer processing.

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     Different school’s teachers and states might have different views about the specifics of the framework, but the principles guiding it are set. They are to “broaden participation in computer science, focus on the essential, not reinvent the wheel, inform with current research and guide future research, align to nationally recognized frameworks, and inspire implementation.” As shown by the last principle, another goal of the framework is to make sure we have qualified, well trained teachers impart this material upon students and inspire their interest in computer science. The framework is meant to help districts and states know how to teach computer science effectively to all ages. A curriculum can easily and efficiently be developed from it.

     You can download a full free copy of the framework on the official website, k12cs.org, or you can choose to only download the main concepts and practices as guides to creating your lesson plans. We need this framework to help develop how computer science is taught in the US, and to prepare students to use this information in further education or career paths. The most important thing about the framework is that they are not strict standards like many US schools use at the moment. The framework focuses on grade bands and learning processes rather than goals measured by standardized tests after the completion of a certain year in school. They not only apply to computer science classes, but are meant to integrate many subjects, such as ethics, and they include all students from kindergarteners to seniors in high school. Download the free PDF file to explore the K-12 Computer Science Framework further, and see how to implement it in your school.

Derek Capo