Binary: relating to, composed of, or involving two things
While most of us know this definition, when we hear the words computer science, binary takes on an entirely new connotation. We automatically put ourselves in one of two camps – computer science educators and not computer science educators. But, like most things in life, it’s not that simple. This is an adventure in integration, expansion, and unlimited opportunities.
Our overarching question is, “Why CS (computer science)?”
The answer can be as simple as “Why not computer science?” However, that can overlook educators’ trepidations around a subject, outside of their content area, that they might feel is too technical or too advanced for their students. “I went to school to learn how to teach the science of the natural world in biology and chemistry. I already have to incorporate math reviews of the metric system, and you want me to add another topic by integrating CS too?” “I teach 3rd grade! What can my students do with computer science if they just learn basic math and language skills?” “When are we supposed to do this? Where is the time to incorporate other standards when our own already could take a school year to cover?”
Teachers – you are heard, and you are seen. We understand your concerns, and we see the incredible work you are doing. Bear with us as we explore the topic of computer science, with the idea that it’s not about detracting from what you’re doing or burdening you with extra tasks; rather, it’s about enriching the efforts you’re already making to instill 21st-century skills in your students.
To begin, let’s look at some research. Back in 2001, thought leaders like Marc Prensky labeled the rapid rise and increased rate of dissemination of digital technology in the last part of the 20th century as a singularity (Prensky, 2001). This peculiarity is an event so profound it redefines things and separates time into descriptions of before and after. There are still many educators out there who remember teaching before the introduction of technology into the classrooms. It took a little time and a little adjustment, but that technology has now become embedded and expands the opportunities educators and students can embrace. In comparison, there is a commonality in what the state of education was before the “singularity” and after it, and that is the goal. The objective of education remains constant, to equip the rising generation with the tools and skills they will need to succeed when they enter the workforce and adulthood.
Another constant is uncertainty. We cannot see what the future will look like – regarding technology, advancement, or jobs that haven’t been created yet. Reflect for a moment on the items in your own household or day-to-day life that were not part of your childhood. The world is progressing at increasing speeds, and a significant part of that is due to advances in computer science. Technological advancements in communication, computing, medical treatments, transportation, business, and more are ubiquitous and are improving our quality of life in innumerable ways.
With those ideas in mind, let’s consider this challenge: without thinking about the effort educators would make to integrate computer science into existing lessons or ways of learning, reflect for a moment about the significance of uncovering tools of progress to students. What connections could they make? What new solutions could they create? As the world advances, we too must adjust to prepare students for a world of infinite possibilities. Consider if your own education might have prepared you differently to understand, accept, or embrace the progress of today’s world.
Educators know that regardless of your formal evaluation scores, the greatest affirmations we receive are from former students who share with us how something they learned in our class has helped them accomplish their goals. Whether it is in a class they’re taking or they’re returning to share about their college experience or new job, there is an immeasurable feeling of pride in being a part of a young person’s success.
There are other reasons for teachers to embrace computer science as a new foundational literacy and this entry is the first in a series that will explore computer science and its importance. As we embark on this journey together, the first step is to break the binary and acknowledge that computer science is for everyone, just as STEM is for everyone. In the same way we encourage our students to create new mindsets or paradigms, let us encourage each other to explore these new ideas with curiosity and patience.
Educators are at the front lines of education, and we have the chance to change the lives of countless people, not just our students, but also the people they or their creations affect in the future. We are the nexus, the place where all things come together and create unity, and we have the chance to take advantage of the endless choices computer science offers!
Explore computer science resources by visiting our website, and be sure to check out Computer Science Accelerator Week. This week of professional development offers support to all grade level teachers at all levels of computer science implementation. Applications are now open for the 2024 summer courses.