Computer Science K-12: Imagining the Possibilties

Whew! It has been a long year. While I have enjoyed the journey, it has been a great deal of work. If you know me, I have a lot of ideas, so trying to get them all into a single book was a HUUUUUUGGGGGGGEEEE challenge! But, alas, it came together and Amazon posted the book live! Who might value reading it?

Here is a video version of this post

I see 3 main target audiences

1) Teachers new to CS or who have found themselves being asked to teach a CS class. In the book are lots of resources and ideas for you to think about as you make those first steps. Lots of examples and even some case studies from other teachers

2) Schools and decision makers who are still trying to figure out if/when/how Computer Science even fits into their offerings. I spend time in the book describing exactly what Computer Science is, citing numerous examples of what it looks like in the real world, as well as what it might look like in education. Part of the reason why we are struggling to figure this out is simply lack of understanding, or misunderstanding. I think once people see what it really is, they will “get” why it is crucial.

3) The experienced CS teacher who is just not getting the response from students and not seeing the engagement that he/she knows he/she should be getting. Our CS classrooms should reflect the same dynamic, interactive, and involved spirit as the technologies we are using. This is where my program has had tremendous success and we have seen our program grow 6X in size!

OK, who is this guy, Doug Bergman? Is he even qualified to write a book? (video)

What exactly is the book about(podcast):

Where can I buy the book?

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The Elephant in the room.

Like many of you, I watched the CEO of Facebook, Marl Zuckerberg, respond to questions from a series of politicians on Capitol Hill. I was embarrassed for my country on several levels. First, the grandstanding “big words” by the politicians towards Facebook and Zuckerberg was disgusting and laughable. The lack of technological intelligence and understanding displayed by our leaders was shocking and at times, even sad. These are the men and women elected that we are supposed to look up to, to look to for guidance, policy and leadership in politics, business, and economics. Most did not even know what questions to ask.

It is 2018. Technology is no longer this “new thing” that the older generation can’t figure out. It is no longer a trend that is going to “destroy society.” It is no longer something that is going to warp the minds of our youth. It Is no longer OK for us to talk about whether or not to incorporate it into our classrooms. It is as fundamental to our culture and society as electricity, transportation, and water.

What we saw on TV during the last couple days on Capitol Hill was a wakeup call.

Yes, there were some members of Congress who were informed and knowledgeable but most were not. There were times Mark had to water down his answers so the audience behind the microphones could understand his points. He had to explain what his answers meant several times. There was an elephant sitting right there. I am pretty sure Mark saw it, but most people wandered through the discussion with blinders on.

People. Stop. Just Stop it. Right Now! Stop!

Yes, Facebook was guilty of serious ethical and possible legal (?) violations. And while it was not Mark who signed off on the privacy right infringements, ultimately, it is his company and his fault (as he said). And I am glad that there is accountability and action and investigation so that this type of event might not happen again. Yes, FB screwed up. As others have and others will.

That is not my point.

My point is that we, as a country, must understand more about the devices that we have in our hands, on our desks, and in our offices. Technology in all of its various forms, and the Computer Science that drives that technology MUST start to become “common” vocabulary. Most of the people in that room, especially the ones with ‘tough” questions and ultimatums, had no idea what most of the terms meant were that were being used.
How about all of you? How technological “intelligent” are you? Did you understand the business and technological verbiage being used? Are you a user of technology who barely understands it? Do you just use whatever is popular and what icons come up first? When that technology breaks, do you look helplessly around the room hoping something there is someone there who “gets this new technology?” When the sound does not play on your laptop, do you just suffer without audio until a tech savvy friend comes to your rescue? When the projector in your room says “no input”, do you toss your hands up and tell students that you hate technology? When Wi-Fi goes out at your house, do you have to wait a week for Comcast or AT&T to come out to fix it? When you get that new printer, do you have to pay Uncle Joe or Aunt Cindy to install it? Is the only time when you read books when the TV screen is broken? Do you know what Cloud computing really is?

As a people—as a community—as a country— we have to do better. We have to take ownership of our technology. We need to better know what it is, what it is capable of, what is amazing about it and also of course why we should be careful. We need to understand how it works, what we can do with it, how we can maximize its benefit, but also know it’s limitations. We need to be able to modify, upgrade, program, downgrade, enhance, fix, reset, and yes—even turn on and off our technology. We need to be able to talk about our technology with others in the same ways we talk about verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs; in the same way we talk about the cell, an amoeba, and photosynthesis; in the same ways we talk about the Great Wall of China, Civil War, and Great Depression. In the same ways we talk about x = 3, Pythagorean theorem, and area of a circle; in the same ways we talk about deficit and surplus.

Some of you might say, “I don’t understand how my car works, and yet I get around just fine. Why is technology any different?” Yes, but if your car breaks down in the driveway, it just means to have to get a ride to work while Precision Tune fixes your car by lunchtime. Life will go on uneventfully. If our technology fails, or the technology company fails us, or our access to the technology is severed…our business come to a complete standstill. Airplanes don’t fly. Presentations do not happen. Votes are not counted. Transactions are not processed. Products are not made. Vital communication is not sent. Boxes are not delivered. Information is lost. Identities are stolen. It matters.

So where does it start?

In addition to students of today being users of technology, we need them to be creators who build things with technology, who use that technology to create new tools to identify problems that we were not even aware of and solve those problems in ways we could never imagine.

In our schools. Computer Science needs to be a core and integral part of education from the moment students walk into the school house. They are learning to operate and command their technology in the same ways they command a pencil to help them write sentences. They need to be writing as many software programs and apps as they are essays. As often as they are experimenting with test tubes in the chemistry lab and dissecting various critters in the biology lab, they need to be experimenting with robotic sensors and figuring out how to increase the storage capacity of their laptop. In addition to charting the data they collected in their physics lab, they need to figuring how to store and process the billions of bytes of data collected from their project.

We don’t need them to become Computer Scientists, in the same ways we don’t expect them to be become museum curators or poets, but yet we study poetry and history. But we can help them think like Computer Scientists. This wave of Computer Science is not some distant ripple out in the lagoon that may or may not make landfall. It is here. It is all around us. And we need not be afraid of this. We can embrace it. We can surf this wave for decades. But, first we need to understand what Computer Science it, so we can then figure out where and how it fits into education.

In the coming weeks, I have a book coming out called “Defining and Imagining Computer Science K-12” that might just be what we need to take those first steps to be a more intelligent audience, so that Mark Zuckerberg does not have to dumb down his answers so the general public can understand them.

In the meantime, enjoy Mark’s testimony on Capitol Hill.

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Why is CSTA important RIGHT NOW

Over the last several years, the “Computer Science in education ” wave has been building up strength and the last year has been one of the most productive and exciting as we have seen in CS Education. Our annual CSTA conference has increased attendance significantly every year. Schools are adding Computer Science in all grade levels. CS vocabulary ,which has been largely unknown, is starting to become mainstream. Knowing that your iPhone has 64GB of storage memory. The fact that you know how much bandwith you are paying for with your home ISP. The fact that you know what an ISP even is. The fact that robotics are cleaning your living room carpet and we can buy them at Costco. The fact that 3 of your friends have a drone. The fact that your 2nd grader did an Hour of Code and knew more than her teacher. The fact that technology-based summer camps over overflowing. The fact that colleges are recognizing Computer Science as a required course for entrance. The fact that most majors in college have some requirements for CS.

Computer Science is here. Schools are scrambling for teachers. Professional development opportunities for teachers wanting to know how to bring CS into their classroom is huge. Students and parents are demanding that their school offer CS.

And as Spiderman(or maybe his uncle?) said, “…with great power comes great responsibility.”

The political and academic leaders in the US may (or may not) know exactly to go about bringing CS into their education systems. They are needing guidance, resources, and leadership on how best to offer CS in the schools in their cities. CSTA is the only organization on the planet especially for educators who teach Computer Science. For those teachers charged with doing great things in their classroom, there is a place they can look to for help.

CSTA has become the organization that teachers look to for the face of Computer Science. What an awesome time to be part of CSTA! As a member, you can truly be on the ground floor of the CS “movement”. As a board member, you can have direct impact on the type of leadership that CSTA can offer, how and where it offers this leadership, and what this leadership even looks like. CS is one of the most dynamic “disciplines” in our schools. CSTA has the ability to be as dynamic as the field we represent.

If you are at a point in your career where you feel you can make a significant contributor in this space, we would love to have you! Consider applying?

Dave Reed (past board chair) answers some common questions about being a board member here.

Or apply here.

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Reflections after the CSTA 2017 conference

I just spent 6 days in Baltimore at the annual #CSTA2017 conference(CSTA = Computer Science Teachers Association). We had 700+ attendees and a record number of ehbitors. All of which is an incredible increase since even last year. Why? What’s going on? (He’s going to tell…He’s going to tell…(name the movie?)) I have many thoughts on that and the current changing nature of Computer Science and Computer Science education. But if I communicate these ideas in text, I would HAVE TO USE ALL CAPS THE WHOLE TIME, and I did not want to. Sooooooooooooo, go grab some coffee, get cumfy in your favorite chair, and sit back and enjoy my video-blog. WARNING: I get pretty into this stuff, so I think it’s like 20 minutes long……WELL WORTH IT I promise.

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Capturing the Imagination

It it so exciting to be part of an educational transformation that I have been waiting on for a decade! “Computer Science” is finally making it’s way into mainstream education. Parents, students, administrators, teachers, politicians, and the world are finally starting to understand what it is, and what it is not. Some schools call keyboarding class “Computer Science”, while others misinterpret Desktop Publishing and word processing and video edit-ing as “Computer Science”. All valuable tool sets in life, but not Computer Science. So what then is “Computer Science?”

Great question.

First, why do I keep putting Computer Science in between “” ? I guess I could have put it in ALL CAPS? Ha!

Because the phrase itself is not accurate.

The definition of Computer Science is changing

Ask 100 teachers from K- 12 and also from the college level and you might get 101 different answers (one might answere twice). Over the last 3 decades, the world of technology and the tools that power and give life to that technology have changed more rapidly and dynamically than any industry in recent history. For starters, the phrase “Computer Science” itself we have been using to represent all computing and technology-related areas of study. And at one time it was a narrowly defined area specifically targeting a very select type of person as well as very specific skillset; it was targeting(and hit dead center) the hard core engineer-minded person. That is where the traditional stereotypes came from. But over the last 3 decades, we’ve seen “Computer Science” become the backbone for most industries, much like reading and writing. Think about it: experts in any industry who also know how to create new digital tools to solve their problems quickly become the leaders in those industries. So we have seen Computer Science expand into, contort with, morph through, and merge alongside areas that can take advantage of what it offers: artificial intelligence, biocomputation, engineering, graphics and animation, ,human-computer interaction, business information systems, networking, cybersecurity, media, social media, people, aerodynamics, modeling, and economics. Just to name a few

Why this sudden recent attention and fuss about Computer Science?

People are starting to understand what it is, and hence, its value. What parent doesn’t want their child to have leading edge skills of creation as they enter the world?!

It’s quite simple. “Computer Science” (representing the various areas I talked about above) is quite simply a way of thinking and set of tools that allow a person to “capture their imagination.”

“……capture their imagination….”


What the heck does that even mean?

I’m not talking about simply jotting down your ideas on a piece of paper (although that is part of the process). I am not talking about getting a paint brush and drawing that image in your mind (although that is part of the process). I am not talking about making notes in the margins of the book you are reading. I am talking about taking your interactive & dynamic imagination and ideas(crazy ones accepted!) and bringing that to life on the screen or device in front of you.

In English class, a teacher asks you to think about something and perhaps write an essay or a poem. After you write that down, it can be read by others. In an art workshop, your teacher asks you to draw a picture of something beautiful and so you add color and lines to a canvas. And those are certainly beautiful, but they are also permanent; they are not interactive.(well, except for those cool 3D illusions things where the picture comes into focus, or those New York sidewalk paintings where you look from a certain angle to see the scene.)

Digital tools are interactive. They allow the tools themselves to become fully customizable by whoever is using them. They allow tools to even create other tools. Software can be designed to allow the user to have as many choices, selections, and options as wanted. And it can be used differently every time it is used. And it can be modified to expand it’s functionality. A smartphone app can incorporate the environment through sensors such location, temperature, angle, proximity, radio waves, and force…… and then also user-controlled elements such as touch screen, voice, selections, eye direction, even thoughts. A device can be an autonomous car, robotic arm, a Hololens, scientific instrument, a drone, or a camera. When times change, or demand changes, or ideas change, or needs change….so can the software. But maybe the software is fine, but the hardware changes? Maybe someone imagines a better, slicker, cheaper, nicer, different, or newer widget. Awesome. Now, we have have captured imaginations, even as they change in real time.

It never ends.

That is one reason why Computer Science is becoming mainstream. It never ends. Your project can always be updated, enhanced, and redesigned. New devices can always be incorporated. Fresh and even off-the-wall ideas can always be incorporated. Computer Science is the environment and set of tools that allows for that. In my own classes, we design apps, games, and simulations. I tell students, “…you will never be done with it, but you can get to a point where it is your best work at the time and it does what you wanted it to do at that time. There is always something you can add or a feature you can implement or improve. So go ahead and turn it in now, but continue to work on it on your own time long after it is submitted….” Many do just that.

In the project-based Computer Science class, there is no chapter that we have to finish. There is no lesson that signifies the “end of the learning.” There is no specific skillset or language that is all you need. It’s just time that is the bounds. The end of the quarter, semester, or school year are what determine the “end.” But because of the technology itself, they can continue to work on their project on their own phone, laptop, tablet, or smartTV at home, from anywhere on the planet (oh yeah, and also in a plane with wi-fi). Oter subject areas might stop for the summer or spring break, but Computer Science tends to keep on keepin’ on.

Different tools…..same goal

Apparently the saying and book, “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” really holds true even in, especially in, this world of technology. When we are 5 years old, the teacher asks us to draw pictures in our sketchbook, build things during craft time, use the colored markers to draw on the whiteboard. They are developing the skills that “capture imaginations.” Those tools were colored pencils, pipe cleaners, glue, glitter(ugh!) ,markers, stencils, and easels. Now in Computer Science we are doing the same thing, “capturing their imagination”, but doing so with a different set of tools, where the tools are constantly changing to handle the real world problems that are also constantly changing. The tools themselves are created through Computer Science.


That’s why Computer Science is at the forefront of educational conversations today.

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The education of Computer Science

It is soooooo exciting to see Computer Science starting to really take root in the U.S. education system. Through the efforts of national level organizations such as, CSTA, NCWIT. Through products and initiatives of innovative companies such as Lego, Microsoft, CoDrone….they are helping pave the way to getting Computer Science into classrooms. Professors and faculty from colleges, universities, high schools, middle schools, and even elementary schools are creating resources, partnering, putting on workshops, writing articles, and talking about it. Across private and public schools, rural and urban, and spanning socio-economic, religious, and gender boundaries as well. That is what is takes.

Why are we seeing this sudden “welcome”?

Robolink was established in order to encourage students to learn about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) in an engaging way with robotics kits.

Well, part of this huge wave is just people simply starting to finally understand and accept that technology and the ability to understand, program,control, re-program, and create software and hardware is fundamentally crucial in a society which is virtually 100% dependent upon technology, regardless of the industry.

Parents are starting to demand that the schools in their districts include Computer Science, not disguised as a typing course, easy senior elective, or desktop publishing course, but as true rigorous Computer Science.

Students are realizing that regardless of the major you choose in college, or the career you choose to explore afterwards….Computer Science is part of the backbone of that discipline and any industry. Many of the physical tools, devices, communication tools, promotion tools, analytical tools, sensors, controls, and even client acquisition tools….all of those at some level are resting on a layer of Computer Science. In some of the the same ways as language , math , and science.

So looking forward, we now need to think about how we actually implement this in our schools. Districts simply giving marching orders to bring Computer Science into the curriculum might sound good for a newspaper article, brochure, admissions tour stop, or campaign speech, but the devil is in the details.

Our vision is that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science.

I’ll argue that we have to really think about what an awesome opportunity we have here. The “textbook” of Computer Science is not the same as a textbook in a history class. The way to learn Computer Science is not to sit back and listen to a teacher talk about it. We do not want to have classes in Computer Science that do not embrace and reflect that dynamic engaging world of digital technology outside school walls. Think of the excitement kids get when they get a new laptop, smart phone, or gadget. There is a reason they love that. There was a time where only the super nerds got excited about those things, now you are considered a nerd if you DO NOT get excited about them. How far we have come.

Multiple choice tests, traditional lecture and note taking, the questions at the back of the chapter, and doing the odd problems for homework are not going to capture the essence of what we are after.

Equally as important in knowing what Computer Science is… what Computer Science can do….and then DOING it.

We have a chance to invent the Computer Science classroom exactly as we want it. We can look at how we have done it over the last several decades and consider what worked and did not work so well. We have a chance to realize that the audience that is attracted to Computer Science classroom NOW is not the same as the audience of 20 years ago. We are not just targeting our hard core techies; we are targeting students who are interested in exploring Computer Science as a way of thinking and as a set of tools/skills that allow them to address and solve the problems in the areas they have passion for.

TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) helps high schools build and grow sustainable computer science programs.

I am so excited to be a forefront of this movement. Building out what the educational side of the new Computer Science can be as engaging and dynamic as the industry/ discipline itself.

There is a different way to look at education. As a parent, teacher, student, administrator, or policy maker, keep your eyes and ears open, but look differently and listen better. If something I said here makes sense to you, then we should probably connect. Find me.

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Needing and Wanting to Learn: What we do NOT do in our classrooms well

If you’ve read any of my blogs, you know that I am passionate about student-led, project-based learning environments. I believe in active learning where the students are actively acquiring knowledge and are proactive in their own learning and understanding….as well as applying that knowledge. The traditional lecture model of learning with students passively receiving information from the teacher in 45 minute chunks for 7 hours a day is something I don’t believe has a place in the school of 2016.

I am not suggesting that there is never a time for information to be given to a student, possibly even in lecture format.

“Wait. What? You just contradicted yourself!”, the world said.

Motivation in people is something that is internal. Sure, there can be incentives to get someone to do something, but ultimately, a person does something because they either want something or they need something. It is as simply as that.

Consider the traditional lecture & note-taking classroom experience. The teacher is giving the students a large quantity of information that is neither wanted, nor needed beyond getting ready for the upcoming test. But there has to be a reason for learning other than the upcoming test or Algebra 2 next year.

They need to know the parts of a computer in order to build one

They need to know the parts of a computer in order to build one

Students neither NEED or WANT what the teacher is “giving” them. Perhaps they could. They definitely should. Is there a way we can setup the classroom such that they DO want and need knowledge.

Consider the project-based classroom where students are building something, making something, writing something, programming something, researching something, calculating something, drawing something, and so on. The point is they are doing something. Now…in a well crafted project, the teacher has students propose projects where the teacher knows that a certain skillset, vocabulary, understanding, or ability will be needed in order to accomplish that project well. In that well crafted project, the students had direct input on the project they are proposing(very important!) So, now because students have buy-in of their own project, there are things they WANT to do to make it better. Right? Now is when it makes sense to GIVE the students something. Now might be when you might lecture to get an idea across, show them what something means, explain a relationship, or introduce a new skill. But don’t give them to everyone, and don’t take too long. In order to complete the project completely, the requirements of the project they proposed have them demonstrating, displaying, other otherwise using certain skills, ideas, concepts, or methodologies. Now, they NEED that “stuff” in order to complete the project. And they want to complete the project because it is something they care about.

Could it be that simple?

I’ll warn you…….you might find that once students take a hold of their own learning, they might not want to wait. They might learn online and with each other without you. They might figure stuff out on their own in order to get where they are NEEDING and WANTING to go.


So, now the students both NEED and WANT something as part of their educational experience. Their internal motivation has been inspired. Perhaps that student who had not connected before DOES NOW. Perhaps that section of class which has just really had any pizzazz DOES NOW. Perhaps those abstract ideas that they never really got they DO NOW.

Students teaching students an Hour of Code

Students teaching students an Hour of Code

The result was the same…that they “got” the stuff you wanted them to get. The difference was how and when you gave it to them. Interesting enough, it is also possible you did not “give” it to them at all. They discovered it. They figured it out. They found out. The learned without you. Awesome if so.

That is my point about project based learning. In a well crafted project, it can help you accomplish things you had not before. And it might even allow your students to interact with your subject area in ways they had not before.

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Hey world. This happened today and my guess is 50% of the people out there read the article and don’t really know what it means. 40% didn’t read the article. WE HAVE TO CHANGE THIS. Most of us are 100% (not 90%…100%) reliant on technology for our daily life, social life, and work life. If we lost our internet, many people would be lost, on many different levels.

DDOS Attacks LIVEIf that doesn’t get your attention, spend 1 minute watching hack-attacks happens live around the world here:

It is officially time to make Computer Science with its many subcategories (robotics, artificial intelligence, cyber-security, software development, network security)… is time to make it a core class starting in pre-school and continuing throughout elementary, middle, high school, college, and beyond.

We live in a digital world. We live in the infancy of that world. Most people are clueless about the power of the technologies right in front of them.

We have to be better at understanding the tools in which we are using. We have to be able to make our own tools. We have to be able to fix tools that break. We have to be able to improve existing tools. And we have to be able to make better tools to defend ourselves against the bad guys.

“But that won’t happen to me”. Uhm, yes it will. It did today.

What are we waiting for?

Hey school leaders, parents, community leaders….We need YOU to be instruments of change

Begin the discussions that are needed to get our school to not just offer, but understand, realize, and embrace the various components of Computer Science.

Those who command technology and are in command of the technology will be the leaders in our world. Who do we want to be leaders?

Us or them?

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NCWIT: Recognizing females in high school in Computer Science

It’s that time of the year where NCWIT, National Council for Women in Technology, takes time to recognize girls across the country for their accomplishments and interest in Computer Science.

Over the decades as technology, gadgets, networks, computers, and software have been becoming mainstream, it is the males of the industry who have received all the credit for that movement. While there have certainly been women who have been tremendously important for our current digital and technical age, it has tended to be driven by males.

Why is that important to notice?

What that means is that all design decisions were considered by males and addressed by mainly males. The questions being thought of and asked are by primarily males. The answers to those questions were generated by mostly males. The research of the technology itself was being done primarily by males. The software that interacts with the hardware was being written by primarily males. The professors teaching most of the classes in Computer Science (and related topics) were male. The curriculum to train students in Computer Science was being written by primarily males. All the assignments and projects that students did in school were designed primarily by males. Needless to say, that resulted in lots of males being attracted to the world of technology because it has been directly and indirectly marketed towards them.

You see my point. What we are seeing now in our world is the result of a male driven industry. Thankfully that is changing, but that change is coming ssssslllllllloooooooowwwww.

As we are seeing more females go into the various fields related to technology, I think we will see a new digital technology age and perhaps even a new technology revolution. Why? Because as females really begin becoming larger integral parts of the industry, assume leadership roles in the industry, command respect from their male counterparts in the industry, and start software and hardware companies….females will become an integral part of asking new questions, researching in new ways, writing code from new perspectives, brainstorming with new insights, and building and creating new products with new motivations.

We are starting to see some first steps towards this. Congratulations to The Association for Computing Machinery,, Computer Science Teachers Association, Cyber Innovation Center, and National Math and Science Initiative for creating a definition of what Computer Science is, and that definition explanation starts with this inclusion I am discussing here.

We the people in the world get to reap the benefits of this movement. Think of how much we love (and hate) our laptops, our watches, our phones, our GPS, our smartTVs, our sports technology….we can’t wait for the new wave of technology to take us to the next level!

Not sure exactly that the “next level” means? Go ask one of the girls in your high school Computer Science class…she’ll know.

Hey girls in high school: You’ve got a couple weeks left before the submission deadline. This might be a life changing opportunity towards your future.

Check it out:

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That’s Computer Science?

I understand many people in the world don’t really know what Computer Science is. First let me explain clearly what it is not: It is not Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, or Google Apps. It is not photo editing. It is not making a movie. It is certainly not keyboarding. Those are all wonderful tools to learn and YES they are practical and helpful , but-—NO–they are not Computer Science.

Learning to type is NOT Computer Science

So, what then is Computer Science? Probably not what you think. And certainly not what it was 25 years ago, 15 years ago, or even 10 years ago. It has a dynamic property of being redefined, and in some cases reinvented continuously. The world of technology changes so rapidly, the science(and art) that has been developing around that continues to develop as well. But, we do know that there are ways to bring together creativity, puzzles, imagination, software and hardware, algorithms, and hard work to help solve problems. Some of those problems are simple and local, and some are world wide and life changing. That’s Computer Science.

So, how does that look when it’s implemented in schools?

Be careful, this is probably not how class looked like when you were in school and it very well may not be how most schools look today. And it does not involve multiple choice tests and the questions at the end of chapter. My classroom has no “front”, so it is not possible to lecture to the class while they wait for knowledge to come to them. All chairs and tables have wheels so they can move into any configuration needed. Whiteboards are on every wall, so students and teachers can discuss ideas together where-ever they are.

All desks and chairs move. White boards on all walls. No center or front in the room.

Student do not have to raise their hand to talk and they are encouraged to get up out of their seat anytime they like. Class is loud, not quiet–and that’s all on purpose. You see…knowledge and understanding is not mine to give to them. My role is simply to connect them to it. They’ll have to earn it, work for it, figure it out, and apply it to their own efforts. Enough of my ideas…let’s take a look at what’s happening every day:

In high school, all athletes must take an online concussion test; Trey developed another concussion test. While standing in front of the Kinect camera, the athlete is led through 3 sequential tests of balance that are analyzed by his program as you do them. The results are recorded for future comparison.

Carter developed a digital cheerleader routine tutorial. Standing in front of the Kinect camera, the athlete is led through the experience of an actual complex cheer sequence. As the camera “detects” the person has correctly completed each step, there is confirmation on the screen.

Elen developed a virtual chemistry lab that leads students through a series of activities, practices, procedure directions, including putting on your lab coat. The student does this all while standing in front of the Kinect camera.

Students demonstrate their final projects to judges and parents

Courtney developed a virtual crime scene analysis program for her AP Biology class. Standing in front of the Kinect camera, students collect potential DNA evidence, go to the lab and actually extract the DNA, and finally compare it to other samples to discover the culprit.

Katherine developed a cartwheel tumbling analysis. While in front of the Kinect camera, you actually perform a real cartwheel, 3 snapshots are taken: one before, one during, and one after the cartwheel to allow you to analyze your motion and position.

McLean developed an interactively practice for learning the English language. As you stand in front of the Kinect camera, random words fall from above you, your challenge is to determine the part of speech of each falling word, actually “grab” it with your hand and “drop” it into the appropriate bucket.

David developed a program that allows the human body, standing in front of the Kinect camera, to generate angles and geometric shapes.

Benjamin developed an interactive language learning experience. Standing in front of Kinect camera, the human body can be used to highlight & unhighlight words, move phrases around, and interact with words on the “air” around you.

Ryan developed a geologic time discovery activity. Standing in front of the Kinect, students must grab various animals and place them in the correct geologic period.

Merritt developed an interactive SAT vocabulary practicing activity. Standing on a dance pad, students control all the activity using their feet. Be ready for the high energy intense speed bonus round.

Richard developed a history learning activity that combined his love of track practice and history. As you literally run and jump hurdles in front of the Kinect camera, you have the chance to respond to questions…all before you make a mad dash for the finish line.

Wyatt programmed his tablet to take GPS satellite readings in order to command a robot to move towards it’s destination.

Travis and Jacob created a voice controlled currency converter app for their mobile phone.

Elizabeth took her part time cashier job experience and put it on the screen to allow younger kids to learn how to calculate correct payment amount when buying things. Using the game controller, the customer pays the exact amount of bills and coins by dragging them onto the coin tray.

These programs took anywhere from a month to 3 months to develop. And they all involved some pretty serious Computer Science to figure out how to implement. But they also required artistic design, storytelling, marketing and sales, math, logical algorithms, some advanced physics, and face to face presentations. They all involved collaboration with other students. Students were evaluated by their day to day work, by their completed program, by their weekly BLOG posts, by their peers, and also by an “unknown” panel of judges. I did not administer any pop quizzes or tests…and yet not once did I ever have any issues with students working hard, learning very challenging topics and skills, pushing the envelope, or losing interest. We had many speakers in class including a copyright lawyer, an executive manager at an international game website, the CEO and entire game design team of a major game design firm, staff from a marketing department, a visit by the head of school to discuss mission statements, and even employees in the Xbox division of Microsoft.

Presentations to others are one of the ways students are evaluated.

The final presentations were done for 2 hours in the library by demonstrating their completed project to a panel of judges ranging from a professional game designer to Computer Science teachers to hard core game players to Computer Science college students to fellow high schoolers to a head of school to a national board certified teacher. You see my point: students had to consider their audience as each judge came to see their project. How you present to a Computer Science teacher is very different to how you present to a college student and even more so different than how you present to corporate marketing manager and yet different again to how you present to a person who designs games for a living. I am 100% certain that this type of experience is more valuable than any paper exam I could give.

Learning Computer Science early on is crucial to our future as leaders in the world

Learning Computer Science early on is crucial to our future as leaders in the world

I am firm believer that Computer Science should be a core subject area from the time students can read and write and express themselves. Those who command the technology of the time will be the leaders of business, entertainment, philanthropy, research, and academia. We cannot wait until students have already developed their learning styles and passions to introduce Computer Science. It must be incorporated into that learning throughout their entire educational path. This is crucial and fundamental to the United States maintaining its place as one of the world’s leading producers of thinkers, great minds, and game changers.
There is a different way to approach education. If something I said in this post makes sense to you, please browse my other posts…you will most likely find that we have a tremendous amount in common–in which case we should connect.

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