So what does this mandate look like for a typical K-8 student? How will they receive adequate instruction and experiential learning? One thing that I have learned in my experience as an educator is that, unfortunately, scheduling needs can have a negative impact on the quantity and quality of teaching and learning. Whether it's the challenge of assuring that every elementary student has all creative arts classes with a traveling teacher or trying to get all 10th grade students through online standardized assessments with only one computer lab, scheduling is a nightmare. So how can we ensure that all students receive ample, high-quality, relevant instruction and learning experiences in computer science? We have to start by changing our mindset. Instead of saying, "It can't be done," we need to start saying, "I'm not sure how, but we can figure it out."
After reading a recent article by Doug Belshaw, our team has recently adapted and adopted a framework based on Stephen R Covey's leadership philosophy that we hope will allow us to refine our focus on where individuals and groups need the most support in terms of instructional technology. This model has three domains: Skill sets, Tool sets, and Mind sets. We are trying to guide our teachers and students to growing in each of these domains. Tool sets are the easiest. We can buy all of the devices, curricular resources, apps or other software that we want, but unless we help develop the skill sets of our teachers and students, we will not experience growth. Skill sets come from practice, application, and opportunities to fail. The toughest domain to affect is mind sets. This is not a matter or convincing, bullying, or having people "buy in" to what you are advocating for, rather, it means encouraging them to embrace new ways of thinking because they have experienced and benefited from the improved results.
I believe the mission statement of an educator is to prepare students to not only survive, but thrive, in a world very different than the one that many of us graduated into. As such, it is imperative that we integrate the development of the CS skills and conceptual understandings of how and why responsible use of technology is so critical. This simply cannot be accomplished by cramming all of the the CS standards into a 9 week class in middle or high school. Nor can it be adequately learned from 30 minutes of computer lab time every other week in an elementary school. Are these options better than not providing learning opportunities at all? Absolutely! Is there another way that we can develop deeper levels of understanding and instill the appreciation of how technology can be used in a variety of applications and environments? Yes! As classroom teachers, instead of having a "technology" project in the spring of each year, I contend that an element of technology can be infused into virtually any lesson or unit. The reason for doing so isn't just "because." It is done to give students a regular and consistent opportunity to apply the skills that they are learning about in their technology class or have acquired on their own. Give students a chance to explore and learn new and different ways of learning and demonstrating understanding so that their skill sets and tool sets continue to grow. All the while, they are developing a mind set that will benefit them greatly throughout their school career and beyond.
Change cannot happen overnight, although it sometimes feels like is does. Start small. Invest 10 minutes per week "playing." Follow other teachers on Twitter or Google+. Be willing to make mistakes. Ask kids how they think they learn best. Be vulnerable. If students aren't learning, take the human element out of it - it's not you, it's not them, it's simply the method or strategy that has been chosen to develop understanding by the student. The bad news is that you cannot change people. They are who they are, regardless of their age. The great news is that you can change how content is delivered to students. Interweaving the Computer Science standards is just one way that you may be able to effectively bring students to the understanding of content instead of forcing understanding in a way that is not native to today's learner.