Hooray for the release of a new computer science framework that spans kindergarten through Grade 12.

Developed by the Association for Computing Machinery, Code.org, the Computer Science Teachers Association, the Cyber Innovation Center and the National Math and Science Initiative, the K-12 Computer Science Framework provides a core set of concepts and practices for teaching computer science.

It is not a set of standards. Organizers expect that states and districts will use the framework to create their own standards, curriculum and instructional approaches. This is an instance where the schools are likely to welcome outside input. After all, many lack the expertise to develop standards and curriculum on their own, especially at the earlier grade levels.

The Framework team included representatives from states, districts, K-12 and higher education faculty, and research and nonprofit organizations. Many of the writers were current or former teachers with K-12 experience and included a variety of subjects outside of computer science. Leading researchers and representatives from organizations in computer science education served as advisors to the writers and the development staff. More than 100 computer science education practitioners and stakeholder organizations served as reviewers.

The Framework is a baseline set of computer science concepts and practices. Each of the core concepts are delineated with expectations of what student should know and be able to do at four different grade band endpoints: Grades 2, 5, 8, and 12. The practices are not delineated by explicit grade bands but instead provide a narrative describing each practice’s progression from kindergarten to Grade 12.

The Vision

This is a really welcome development.  While the schools embrace the idea of making computer science part of the curriculum, there is little agreement on how to do that. There isn’t even agreement on what constitutes computer science. In some places, keyboarding and classes that teach how to use applications like Word or Excel make up the computer science curriculum; in others it is defined as AP Computer Science.

The Framework presents a vision in which students develop a foundation of CS knowledge and learn approaches to problem solving. While CS builds on computer literacy and digital citizenship, it moves beyond just knowing how to use computer technologies. Students will learn how technology works and how to create those technologies. The goal is for students to become creators of computing technology and to apply CS as a tool for learning and expression across disciplines and interests. It’s the big picture aspect of the Framework that I find most appealing. It’s not just about coding, but about understanding the way code impacts the world beyond the computer. Student will learn how code and data interact with not just math and science but history and art. When viewed through this prism, computer science is really for everyone.

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