By: Janice Mak

Educators’ feedback is crucial to development.

Computing has transformed the way we work and live. Many parents, students, teachers and administrators in the U.S. have reported that they highly value computer science (CS) education. Moreover, it’s crucial for “all students to have opportunities to become computer literate and to gain foundational computer science skills, such as computational thinking and programming … to create and innovate” (Google Gall-up, 2015). The question that remains, however, is how do we expand access to CS education for all students? A critical part of this quest is developing and equipping all teachers to bring CS and computational thinking (CT) to their students. Consider the following cases:

Ms. Torres is a first-year teacher who teaches third grade across all subjects. She has never taken a CS class in her teacher prep coursework, but through an Hour of Code experience — a one-hour introduction to computer science designed to show that anybody can learn the basics of “code” while broadening participation in the field of CS — her interest in CS was piqued. She would love to integrate CS into her students’ school day but needs support and guidance on how to do so. When she looked at her state department of education’s website, she didn’t find any CS standards listed, and there was no direction regarding how to approach teaching CS.

Mrs. Cannon is a middle school science teacher. She has been considering ways to integrate computational thinking (CT) into her classroom. She teaches all eighth-grade students in her school and sees the critical role computing plays in the world. With this in mind, she’s actively seeking ways to integrate CS and CT into her teaching.

While neither Ms. Torres nor Mrs. Cannon considers themselves to be discipline-specific CS educators, they join the increasing number of educators who see tremendous value in integrating CS and CT into subjects they currently teach. For K-12 teachers who are new to CS, this can seem to be overwhelming. The ISTE Standards for Computer Science Educators are intended to support educators such as Ms. Torres and Mrs. Cannon as they embark on their journey of bringing CS and CT to their students, whether through reading, social studies, math or science.

Why now?

With the development and release of the K-12 Framework for CS Education, there is now an overarching, high-level guidance document that outlines what students know and should be able to do in CS in designated grade bands. The framework informed the development of the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) K-12 CS Standards that delineate a core set of learning objectives designed to provide guidance for developing and implementing K-12 CS instruction.

The goal of the ISTE Standards for Computer Science Educators is to develop the next generation of CS standards that serve the field by establishing a vision for the knowledge, skills and dispositions that educators need to possess to effectively teach CS and CT to all students.

These standards are also intended to function as a guide to professional learning for all educators, particularly those who are new to CS. Educators such as Ms. Torres and Mrs. Cannon would then be able to use the Computer Science Educators Standards to guide the work they do in their classrooms. At the heart of these standards is the goal of ultimately preparing all students to be the creators, problem-solvers, collaborators and computational thinkers as they grow into the digital architects of tomorrow.

The process

A robust and balanced approach is being taken to craft the ISTE Standards for CS Educators. The process began with an environmental scan and literature review to identify research-based practices in CS education. A diverse representation of experts across K-12, higher education, pre-service and in-service teacher preparation are included as part of the Stakeholder Advisory Council. Moreover, extensive data collection and public comment through strategic interviews, individual surveys, in-person and virtual chats, and forums are taking place throughout the process of standards development.

Following a period of public comment, a draft of the revised Computer Science Educators Standards was released in April 2018. The process of collecting additional input, feedback and insight continues through July 31, 2018. There will be an interactive session where attendees can weigh in on the ISTE Standards for Computer Science Educators at ISTE 2018 in Chicago. The Stakeholder Advisory Council and Technical Working Group will continue to convene until the standards are finalized and released in the Fall of 2018.

Following the release of the standards, resources will be developed to support educators as they set out to implement them.  And educators including Ms. Torres and Mrs. Cannon? They will be supported throughout the process with resources to implement these standards with all their students. Through ISTE’s Computer Science Educators Standards, we’re opening the door to ensuring CS and CT reaches all students.

Janice Mak is an educator from Phoenix, Arizona, and the recipient of the NCWIT Educator Award and Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching. She is co-chair of CSForAZ , a Code.org affiliate, and serves on the K-12 Executive Council for NCWIT, CSTA AZ board, AZ State Board of Education and AZ K12 Center board. You can read more about her classroom adventures on her blog here and follow her on Twitter at @jmakaz.

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