Virginia's Curriculum Addition: Computer Science

15 April 2016
Computer Science is being added to Virginia's Standards of Learning
On March 6th Richmond Times Dispatch released THIS article stating that Virginia's Board of Education will most likely add computer science to the Standards of Learning curriculum. This isn't just happening in Virginia. President Obama mentioned in his 2016 State of the Union address:

"In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by...offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one."
     
Therefore, we are going to see (if not already!) computer science rapidly evolve in schools across the nation! You can find Virginia's current Computer Technology standards {HERE}.

Computer science involves everything from effectively integrating technology into all subject areas to coding/programming. When preparing lessons, we will need to keep in mind the 5 Cs (communication, collaboration, citizenship, critical thinking and collaboration.)

As a technology integrator, this makes me giddy with excitement because it is great job security I truly believe that we need to continue equipping our students with technology skills to better prepare them for their future. If you research any new web tool, most likely you will find that a high school senior or early college student is the mastermind behind the creation. Computer science truly comes second nature to this generation of children and they have such a passion for it. Therefore, we have a new type of literacy to teach!

The teachers I work with do an incredible job integrating technology (when it is available) into their daily lesson plans. It is a beautiful thing! What I find scares many teachers out of their minds is when I mention the C word...

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Many of us did not grow up exposed to a lot of computer science skill sets and therefore when we hear the word or take a first glance at coding, it makes our eyes roll and we start to feel faint. I get it! I remember feeling that way at first. However, coding is a learning process for everyone, so start small and accept that you will be a "beginner" and learn WITH your students. Will they excel and show you up? ABSOLUTELY. Just accept it. I have 4th and 5th graders show me something new that they discovered which I never knew every time I do a coding lesson. Every single time.

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There are a TON of different and FREE programs that teach beginning coding for elementary (COUGH...beginner adults) using the drag and drop method with blocks that act as "scripts". I like to start 2nd-5th grade students (and beginner teachers) on code.org in which The Hour of Code tutorials can be completed at one's own pace. To get there, visit the website, click on "Learn" and then click on "Hour of Code".


There are many different tutorials you can choose from that will teach you step by step the basics of coding with blocks. 


WARNING: When students get to this page a roar of excitement will be heard in your classroom. There is something about Mindcraft, Star Wars and Frozen that hits the hearts of so many children today. They always ask, "We get to play GAMES for the next hour?" Little do they know that they are about to engage in intense critical thinking and problem solving. 

A little tip when starting the Hour of Code with your students is to start out by telling them that it is exciting, fun, yet frustrating all at the same time. It starts out easy and increases with difficulty. There will be times when students will want to raise their hand and ask for help. I always tell them that it would be quicker for them to plug and play (problem solve) than it would for the teacher or me to sit down, figure out where they left off and help solve their problem. Of course we are there to help, but it would really benefit them to figure it out on their own. They truly do end up solving their own hang-ups and the intrinsic reward is so gratifying! I'm telling you...code.org does an incredible job walking anyone step by step through the basics of coding. A video will launch as soon as you click "Go" that serves as a great instructional and gives reasons WHY we should learn how to code. Directions and tips pop up along the way.

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How to incorporate coding with your academic standards

Okay, I get it! You have SO many SOL topics to cover and not enough time before those SOL tests hit. Well, incorporate coding with the Virginia Standards of Learning! Coding doesn't have to be just GAME creation. Once your students complete the Hour of Code then they can move to more open ended programs like Scratch to create their own program/animation of any kind. If the idea of this scares you, then look for step by step directions that will tell you exactly how to create a sequence. For instance, here are FREE directions to coding decimals on a number line using Scratch that I created:

Directions for coding: Working with Decimals on a Number Line

I also have directions available in my TpT store for coding AFFIXES:

Directions for coding: Affixes

One of my coworkers, Karen Hues, is the queen of creating academic coding lessons in Scratch. She has done everything from coding a food chain from start to finish to the paths that the explorers traveled. Our department has created a blog called HenriCODE that we are continually adding to with step by step instructions for Scratch projects arranged by SOL. Karen has done an incredible job creating such innovative coding lessons! There are endless possibilities and I guarantee your students will be the first to think of a creative way to take the content you are teaching and program an animation to make that content come alive. 

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