Education World: STEM News Roundup: Computer Science Organizations Collaborate to Create Framework that Outlines What K-12 Students Should Learn

As bringing computer science instruction to all U.S. K–12 schools rapidly becomes a national focus, a group of established computer science organizations have gathered to help schools better understand what they should be teaching. Called the K–12 Computer Science Framework, the guide was developed by the Association for Computing Machinery, Code.org, Computer Science Teachers Association, Cyber Innovation Center, and National Math and Science Initiative and is supported by big names like Google, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon. The extensive framework includes standards, curriculum, course pathways and even professional development suggestions for all K–12 grade levels. The framework recommends that computer science be integrated into early education, as well. Computer science instruction “guides young learners to notice, name, and recognize how computing shapes their world. In this way, pre-K brings computer science to life, preparing kids for the larger K–12 framework,” the framework says. The high-profile individuals, organizations and institutions that have endorsed the framework signed onto a Statement of Support that reads:  “We believe that the K–­12 Computer Science Framework will provide an important foundation for increasing access and opportunity to high-quality computer science in every state, from kindergarten to twelfth grade. The framework holds promise to enhance the K­–12 experience of all students while preparing them for a wide variety of postsecondary experiences and careers.” (The framework and accompanying handouts are available for download here.)

STEM Tool Combines Comics, Computational Thinking

The creators of a STEM education tool that has found success in Sweden are seeking funding for an English version that will help U.S. children to “think like a programmer.” Called Curly Bracket – The Hidden Code, the graphic novel combines comics and computational thinking to spark student interest in STEM. (Read more here)

“I’m interested in computers, what should my major be after high school?”

In my school we offer a Computer Science program (my program), Graphic Arts, Photography, Information Technology, and Media production. All of these programs have a heavy computer component to the learning. Career paths in post-secondary education in these programs will certainly involve use and mastery of certain computing skills. Even in my program of Computer Science, I have discussions with students about post high school paths. These include discussions around Computer Science vs. Computer Engineering, Web page development vs. traditional graphic design, etc. This article goes over some ideas in choosing a computing major:

Teachers are an important resource for students when it comes to their college decisions. Indeed, undergraduates students often state that a high school teacher influenced their decision to become a computer science major. This blogpost includes a number of  for CS teachers to help their students learn about computing related majors. It might also help teachers recruit students in their computer science courses and highlight the breadth of majors available for students. Along with my colleague Susanne Hambrusch, we have developed the following list of resources for computer science teachers as a part of our NSF-funded PD4CS project. There exists a range of four-year computing and computing-related degrees a student can pursue. It can be daunting to determine differences and commonalities. Four-year Liberal Arts Colleges will typically offer one degree, most likely in Computer Science. The simplicity may have a drawback: the number of courses offered may be small and few opportunities for specialization may exist. On the other hand, many liberal arts colleges provide a strong computer science education that is often combined with flexibility, allowing students to take diverse courses in other areas. Large, research-oriented schools tend to offer multiple computing degrees. The types of degrees and specializations offered are often influenced by whether Computer Science is in a College of Science, a College of Engineering, or in its own College (e.g., College of Computing, school of Information). Most schools provide information and guidance for incoming students. For example,

Many rankings of computer science programs exist. No ranking is perfect and many schools not ranked or not ranked highly can provide an excellent undergraduate education. The US News and World Report rankings have a good reputation and are respected by universities and colleges. They rank different types of institutions, different research areas, different geographical regions, and more.

Students majoring in a STEM field often consider getting a minor in Computer Science.Having a CS minor will give them additional and often attractive job opportunities after graduation. A minor typically consists of 5-6 CS courses (the student is expected to have the appropriate math courses).  Students majoring in math or physics can often double count courses and may be able to complete a minor with less effort.  Guidelines and expectations differ and a student needs to find out the details for the particular program.