This is the first in a 4 part series where we will cover each stage of implementing computer science in elementary school based on thousands of conversations with educators.
Getting started in teaching computer science can seem like a daunting task. Many educators never start out thinking they will make it a long term thing. Many of the trailblazing educators who are now implementing a complete K-5 coding curriculum started out with one hour in December three years ago. This was their first introduction to computer science and the magic it can bring to an elementary classroom. It marked the beginning of the first step in implementing computer science in elementary with casual exposure to programming concepts.
What does the first step to implementing computer science in elementary look like?
Who is involved?
Everyone is aware that there is some coding happening. Usually on a specific day or at a scheduled event. Teachers are often mildly interested until they see the spark of creativity, engagement, and collaboration happening in their students. Parents are also involved at this point through PTA volunteers or a special interest.
What resources do people use?
Schools often download and install dozens of apps, tools, and resources for their students to play with and explore. This phase is characterized by unstructured learning through play. Don’t be afraid to try everything until you find what sticks!
How much time is spent on coding?
Since this is a step characterized by exploration, many educators allow students to code during free-choice time and keep an eye on what tools are being chosen the most and what they’re learning from the exploration. Allow students to play in their own time, but don’t be afraid to schedule 30 minutes a week for free coding.
What are the goals?
Since this step starts with a casual interest, there often aren’t defined goals. However, you will find that as you and your students spend more time coding, you’ll begin to get ideas about goals for your future in computer science. Keep these in mind, because they will be crucial to your progress in later steps.
Moving forward and implementing computer science in elementary
We see a lot of teachers get their start with Kodable through casual exposure- events like the Hour of Code, an iPad loaded with a variety of educational tools and apps for free time, or hearing about us from other teachers. So, how have our teachers run with this type of CS exposure and turned it into a full programming curriculum at their schools? Here are some tips from our champion teachers.
- Set Goals
It’s hard to know what the best fit is without clear computer science goals for your school. Think about what you want everyone to get out of it- then you can move forward to find your best fit.
- Test multiple programs and apps
There’s a lot out there! How does each program or app you’re using align with your goals for student outcomes? Can you combine a few for the ultimate year of elementary CS? What will best fit with your schedule and make the most sense for you?
- Get student feedback
Are students not only loving the programs you’re using but learning and excited about learning? What are parents and other teachers hearing students talk about and engaged with? Talk to students about what they like, how it is helping them learn, and what their own goals are moving forward.
- Drive your decisions with data and engagement
If you notice student engagement like you’ve never seen before and it’s trickling into other content areas, run with the momentum! Maybe math scores are improving and critical thinking skills are shining- clear signs to see what benefits could lay ahead.
Moving to Step 2: Structured Experimentation can take some time, but keep working at it. There’s no one size fits all solution. We are all still figuring out how to implement computer science. Stay tuned for the next part of our series. We’ll dive deep into Step 2 and discuss tips and characteristics of the phase.
Does this sound familiar to you? Tell us how you got started with coding! Have you moved to step 2? Share your tips in the comments!