Now kids are computing in kindergarten Computer science teacher Sheena York, center, helps fifth grade students work on programming during their weekly computer science lesson at Marshall Elementary School in Marysville, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Now kids are computing in kindergarten
Lexile

Moving her finger over the laptop trackpad, 6-year-old Lauren Meek drags and drops a block of code to build a set of instructions. She clicks the "run" button and watches as the character moves through a maze. She then pumps her fist in excitement.
 
"Yes! This is so easy," says Meek, a kindergartener at Marshall Elementary in Marysville, north of Seattle.
 
This fall, most elementary school students in the Marysville School District are getting 40-minute weekly computer science lessons. They are part of their core instruction. And it is part of a growing effort nationwide to expose more public school children to computer science, even as early as kindergarten.
 
Backed by technology leaders, nonprofits and companies, schools in New York, San Francisco and other cities have committed to offering computer science to students in all grade levels. Chicago says computer science will eventually become a high school requirement.
 
Supporters say it's not just about learning how to code, but learning how computers work. They say computer science teaches kids to think logically and be creative. It exposes them to the technology that will drive their future.
 
"In the 21st century, computer science is just as foundational as biology, chemistry," said Hadi Partovi, founder and CEO of Code.org. It's a Seattle-based national nonprofit that works to expand access to computer science and increase participation by women and minorities.
 
The group is also behind a campaign to get millions of students to participate in an "Hour of Code," which takes place the second week of December.
 
Bringing computer science into the schools ensures that everyone has an opportunity to become digitally literate. That is according to Yasmin Kafai, a professor of learning sciences at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education.
 
"We're not talking about turning everybody into a computer programmer or computer scientist," said Kafai. "It's a basic literacy."
 
Learning computer science also opens the door to high-demand jobs. By 2020, 4.6 million of 9.2 million science, technology, engineering and math jobs will be in computing. This is according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
 
Jim Taylor, author of "Raising Generation Tech," says there's no evidence at this point that coding or computational learning works or is even needed. Kids don't need to learn how to use digital technology at such a young age either, he added.
 
"Technology is the solution du jour for all our education problems. The problem is that technology emerges so quickly and gains traction that we don't have time to examine its efficacy or ramifications," Taylor said.
 
Computer science doesn't enjoy the benefits of other disciplines, including agreed-upon standards or robust assessments to measure learning. That is according to Jeanne Century, director of Outlier Research & Evaluation at the University of Chicago's Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education.
 
But it's the same argument for science and math, she said. There are practical issues, such as more jobs requiring computer science. "Just as important is the fact that computing is everywhere in our lives. It's pervasive all around us. We need to understand computing."
 
One of the challenges is finding enough well-prepared teachers. Among other efforts, an initiative of the National Science Foundation is seeking to have 10,000 well-trained computer science teachers in thousands of high schools.
 
Currently, computer science is taught in about one out of four high schools nationwide. There are even fewer in lower middle and elementary school grades. And only 27 states allow a computer science course to be counted toward graduation requirements in math or science, according to Code.org.
 
But there's been a surge in interest in recent years. In 2015, nearly 49,000 students took the Advanced Placement exam in computer science. This was a 25 percent increase from the previous year.
 
"Colleges are saying, 'there's an incredible demand, we'd like to see more students become better prepared when they get here'," said Terry Redican, vice president of Advanced Placement program at The College Board.
 
A new AP computer science principles course debuts next fall. That exam is focused on real-world applications and aimed at increasing representation among women and underrepresented minorities.
 
At Marshall Elementary, where more than half the students are low-income, principal Kelly Sheward embraces computer science. "It's access that we didn't previously have," and ensures the kids will be as prepared as their peers for the digital future, she said.
 
During a recent lesson using Code.org curriculum, teacher Sheena York asks a class of fifth-graders to identify the pattern in the computer puzzle and solve it in using the fewest steps. She urges them to try different strategies, test their work as they go along and ask each other for help.
 
"I'm figuring this out piece by piece to see if this works," said Isiah Gibbs, 10. "That doesn't work. So I'll try something else."
 
In the lower grades, students may learn about algorithms, or a set of instructions, such steps in a baking recipe. Older students may write programs that create a game or interactive story. Many lessons don't involve computers and math and other concepts are integrated into the lesson, York said.
 
"It's almost as important as reading and math," said fifth-grade teacher Hank Palmer.

Filed Under:  
Assigned 36 times
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
How can computing be made accessible to 6-year-olds?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (15)
  • haleeni-Sch
    12/11/2015 - 10:17 a.m.

    This could not happen in the 20th century because they did not have all this technology. They did not have all the different thing that we have now. Like portable computers. They did not have iPads and iPhones. So this could not happen back then.

  • heewona-hor
    12/11/2015 - 12:08 p.m.

    The author's purpose in writing this article was to inform us on the future of education. Even today, many elementary and middle schools teach computer education. In the future, the author says, it will become a high school requirement to learn the basics of computer programming. I learned that computers are starting to become a primary priority in many education systems. I'm torn on whether I agree with this or not. I think that computers are necessary to learn the basics, but I still believe that the old-fashioned way is more practical and reliable. I'll just have to wait and see how it turns out!

  • kmurp-wim
    12/11/2015 - 01:52 p.m.

    Yes this is a great but horrible idea to have children on computers. Children overuse technology which is not very healthy but this will help there minds and prepare them for life. I have no real side to be on.

  • akern-wim
    12/11/2015 - 01:56 p.m.

    I think its very great that these kindergarteners are learning how to code and deal with technology because the world is becoming more big with technology. These kids could learn a lot about technology with coding. I am actually impressed that these kids are learning about coding, they could learn how to make a game or do code. With this program kids could make a lot of money for their future life.

  • hunterm-ver
    12/11/2015 - 09:48 p.m.

    Through the website of code.org and technology leaders, nonprofits, and companies.

  • keatonm-1-ols
    12/14/2015 - 12:59 p.m.

    I think that they should not give kids computers. Kids overuse technology already so why would you encourage them.

  • laneys-1-ols
    12/14/2015 - 01:04 p.m.

    I think its a good idea because our world is becoming more involved in technology. They could learn more about coding and making games.

  • jasminpd-1-ols
    12/14/2015 - 01:23 p.m.

    Computing can be accessible to 6-year-olds by making a learning game. Kids like to play games and also do what they see their parents and older siblings do. We could give them I-pods and tablets.

  • Brandon1231-YYCA
    12/15/2015 - 09:02 p.m.

    I think that having these kindergartners now learning how to code is really bad. I think that having these kindergartners learn how to code might change how we are going to live. These kids might now dominate the world and everyone in the world will become something related to coding. When they are learning at that young age, they might grow up to become hackers or other things. Having them do this might just change how they are going to learn.I think that they should change it so that kindergartners don't do complicated things like, coding.

  • samanthao-ver
    12/16/2015 - 09:58 a.m.

    I think it is a bad thing that they are teaching computer in kindergarten because the kids are going to do everything on the computers and never do any writing.

Take the Quiz Leave a comment
ADVERTISEMENT