Elements of Computer Science in PreK – 2nd Grade
What should we see in a computer science enrichment or club?
Students in a PreK-2nd-grade computer science related opportunity should be able to:
- Connect that computers and technology can be fun,
- Solve problems and test solutions,
- Document the thinking process with drawings, elaborating on ideas and stories in a specific order,
- Achieve a task by developing step-by-step directions and evaluate its success,
- Demonstrate digital citizenship by responsibly and appropriately using technology,
- Establish proper file management practices (saving and sharing),
- Predict how simple programs will act,
- Make real-world connections to aspects of computer science,
- Explain how technology impacts our lives,
- Solve problems by creating a model/representation while using external references (directional language forward, turn left or right, backward) or using degrees to turn (90, 180, 270, or 360). Students write directions for others to follow (Abstraction).
- Students find common patterns between different problem-solving tasks, employ previously used sequenced instructions, and solve new problems (Generalization).
- Students chunk complex tasks into more manageable subtasks. (Break a path into smaller sections – Decomposition).
- Students identify and articulate solutions through a series of steps. Instructions are correctly sequenced (Algorithmic thinking).
- Identify when directions are not matching actions required. Edit and fix flaws (debugging).
What resources are needed for a computer science enrichment or club?
The following resources may be included with a computer science related activity:
- space to allow students to collaborate with others,
- moveable tables to allow students to be seated in small working groups,
- faculty member to facilitate activities and supervise students,
- community members to serve as volunteers to increase student support,
- hardwired PCs, laptops, or Chromebook that provide consistent access to the Internet, and
- student whiteboards (laminate cardstock) for collaboration and flexibility to solve problems.
How can we make this environment welcoming for our diverse learners?
- Provide positive examples of computer scientists with diverse backgrounds.
- Create lessons that are gender neutral.
- Develop learning opportunities that take into consideration various points of view through classroom/group discussions.
- Give individualized, critical feedback (“growth mindset”) with a targeted suggestion on how a project could be improved.
- Remove visual cues and examples that may lead to stereotype threat.
- Employ meaningful and relevant content (student voice and choice).
- Address misconception about the field of computer science that may propagate gender, racial, and other social stereotypes.
- Group students by level of experience in computing.
- Foster social networks for studying and for support, and practice working in teams.
What benefits do students gain from participating in computer science experiences?
- Increase confidence when using computers.
- Instill courage to try new things.
- Grow perseverance when tackling difficult problems.
- Provide a sense of belonging in technology for underrepresented students.
- Demonstrate the impact that CS has in careers and communities.
What consideration should be given to student screen time?
- Students in this grade band should be limited to how much screen time they are given daily. Students receiving online or computer-based instruction should be limited to no more than 20-30 minutes at a time per day.
- 20/20/20 rule: Every 20 minutes, get up and stretch while looking at least 20 feet away for least 20 seconds. This should be planned for instruction and timed for students’ health.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a maximum of 1-2 hours per day for children under 5 years of age. “Too much screen use in early childhood has been linked to language delays, trouble in school, obesity, and sleep problems.” Jenny Radesky, MD, an assistant professor of developmental-behavioral pediatrics at the University of Michigan Medical School.
- Even for children over 6 years old, we want to limit how much time they sit in front of any digital device with a screen. This age group should have many opportunities to move around away from any digital screen.
- Programs on an iPad that come with manipulatives (for purchase) such as Osmos would work great for this age group in limited doses.
What suggestion exists for teaching computer science students without digital devices?
- One way to maximize student engagement in computer science related activities is to design opportunities that provide students with scenarios to allow them to discover how much fun computer can be for them, even without computers (unplugged activities).
- Students in this age group should focus on identifying movements such as forward, backward, left and right. Creating unplugged opportunities such as using floor tiles or carpet squares to challenge students to think through this movement process and verbalize them would help students build their language skills. Also, The Foos CodeSpark Unplugged Lessons are appropriate for Kindergarten.
- Additionally, resources such as Blue-Bots (and other simple programmable robots) allow students to take what they are learning about movements by simply programming the Blue-Bots to move in the correct directions towards an end goal.