Technology in School

Computer Science in 2017: Going Beyond the Hour of Code

By Grant Smith     Jan 3, 2017

Computer Science in 2017: Going Beyond the Hour of Code

“Oh, The Places You'll Go” is one of the most popular books by Dr. Seuss. Where do you hope education technology will go in 2017? What aspects of curriculum or community might get us there? (Dartmouth College)

With 2016 Computer Science Education Week in the rear-view mirror, I’d like to reflect on my hopes and dreams for 2017. Let’s start with a few statistics: Over the past few years, more than 300 million people worldwide participated in the Hour of Code. And according to Google and Gallup’s 2016 Trends in the State of Computer Science Report, 6 percent more schools offered at least one computer science class, compared to last year.

These numbers show progress, and I’m thrilled to see this 21st century subject in the spotlight. But even with these gains, there is more work to do. I hope 2017 is the year that more of us start to think seriously about going beyond an Hour of Code, particularly at the elementary grade levels.

My main concern is over the messages we send about the quantity and quality of computer science education that should be provided. For instance, The Hour of Code is just that—one hour. It was never meant to be a solution—rather, it was intended to act as a catalyst—but still many educators fail to push for more computer science education in elementary schools.

This leads to an unintended consequence of the Hour of Code: complacency. What if we only taught one hour of math each year? Would we be excited or would we strive for more? In addition to celebrating Hour of Code in our schools, I hope that in 2017, we will celebrate our plans to expand computer science offerings to all our young students.

Don’t get me wrong, going beyond the Hour of Code will be no easy task. I’ve experienced this first hand by helping districts implement computer science courses for all elementary students, and it has always been challenging. A major hurdle is that most elementary educators have never had any kind of exposure to computer science. This makes it difficult for the teachers to learn the subject matter and most administrators aren’t quite sure how they can support their teachers. Beyond that, it is difficult to to get buy-in from all stakeholders. Educators may be hesitant to add something new, especially if there are not many proven models to follow.

There are also still many systemic problems that need to be solved. Plus, we’ve yet to tack down an ideal elementary computer science curriculum, and adequate preparation programs are not widely available. Even with the completion of the K-12 Computer Science Framework this year, many states still lack formal computer science standards and teacher certifications.

While I’m hopeful that more edtech and computer science training will reach young learners in the coming year, I also know these changes will not miraculously occur. A lot of hard work, time and resources must be invested in eliminating barriers. Considerations should be made on how to best support teachers and make them feel comfortable with computer science. As we tackle these issues, I look forward to serious progress towards going beyond the Hour of Code.

Grant Smith is a K-8 computer science teacher trainer and consultant

Technology in School

Computer Science in 2017: Going Beyond the Hour of Code

By Grant Smith     Jan 3, 2017

Computer Science in 2017: Going Beyond the Hour of Code

“Oh, The Places You'll Go” is one of the most popular books by Dr. Seuss. Where do you hope education technology will go in 2017? What aspects of curriculum or community might get us there? (Dartmouth College)

With 2016 Computer Science Education Week in the rear-view mirror, I’d like to reflect on my hopes and dreams for 2017. Let’s start with a few statistics: Over the past few years, more than 300 million people worldwide participated in the Hour of Code. And according to Google and Gallup’s 2016 Trends in the State of Computer Science Report, 6 percent more schools offered at least one computer science class, compared to last year.

These numbers show progress, and I’m thrilled to see this 21st century subject in the spotlight. But even with these gains, there is more work to do. I hope 2017 is the year that more of us start to think seriously about going beyond an Hour of Code, particularly at the elementary grade levels.

My main concern is over the messages we send about the quantity and quality of computer science education that should be provided. For instance, The Hour of Code is just that—one hour. It was never meant to be a solution—rather, it was intended to act as a catalyst—but still many educators fail to push for more computer science education in elementary schools.

This leads to an unintended consequence of the Hour of Code: complacency. What if we only taught one hour of math each year? Would we be excited or would we strive for more? In addition to celebrating Hour of Code in our schools, I hope that in 2017, we will celebrate our plans to expand computer science offerings to all our young students.

Don’t get me wrong, going beyond the Hour of Code will be no easy task. I’ve experienced this first hand by helping districts implement computer science courses for all elementary students, and it has always been challenging. A major hurdle is that most elementary educators have never had any kind of exposure to computer science. This makes it difficult for the teachers to learn the subject matter and most administrators aren’t quite sure how they can support their teachers. Beyond that, it is difficult to to get buy-in from all stakeholders. Educators may be hesitant to add something new, especially if there are not many proven models to follow.

There are also still many systemic problems that need to be solved. Plus, we’ve yet to tack down an ideal elementary computer science curriculum, and adequate preparation programs are not widely available. Even with the completion of the K-12 Computer Science Framework this year, many states still lack formal computer science standards and teacher certifications.

While I’m hopeful that more edtech and computer science training will reach young learners in the coming year, I also know these changes will not miraculously occur. A lot of hard work, time and resources must be invested in eliminating barriers. Considerations should be made on how to best support teachers and make them feel comfortable with computer science. As we tackle these issues, I look forward to serious progress towards going beyond the Hour of Code.

Grant Smith is a K-8 computer science teacher trainer and consultant

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