Monday, January 01, 2018

Computer Science Education Things I'm Watching in 2018

This time of year I like to think about what might happen in the year ahead. 2018 looks to be an interesting year for computer science education. There is a lot of momentum going and we'll see how it continues or not. A few specific things I am interested in though.

Advanced Placement Computer Science - Wow! did AP CS principles take off in 2017. Will that growth continue or was there just a lot of pent up demand? What is APCS P going to do to enrollment in APCS A?  I'm not sure anyone really knows. Chances are that both will see increased enrollment this year. How much is the question. AP CS is driving a lot  in high school CS education. It has credibility (deserved or not - a separate question) and that makes it easy to push into schools passed principals and school boards. In a sense it is a path of least resistance.

K-8 Computer Science Education -  This is the exciting place in CS education. APCS is boring. Sorry but it is. We're teaching high school CS the way we've always taught it. In K-8 we have a lot of people who don't have a lot of history teaching CS. They are teaching something new to them in many cases. They are looking to teach CS more like they teach other courses. Plus they are looking to make teaching and learning CS interesting for themselves and their students. This is where I expect to see teaching innovation. This is where we'll see teachers using robots, micro:bits, Android, and more hardware devices. I've been following the #CSK8 twitter chat during the last year. There is a lot of excitement and interest in doing fun things in CS education at the lower grade levels. That twitter chat is a must participate event if you are interested in CS in the younger grades. BTW as I write this the next #CSK8 twitter chat is about physical computing and will happen on 3 January 2018 at 5pm PT and 8PM eastern US time.

State Standards - More states are writing state-wide standards all the time. The trickle in 2017 may turn into a flood in 2018. How will that play out I wonder? What will the K-8 standards look like especially. Will the make CS required for all or just offered to all? I suspect different states will take different paths. It's going to be a lot to watch. My home state of New Hampshire is working on standards and I'll be taking part in that effort. I hope all the states continue to involve classroom teachers in this important work.

So what do others think will be the interesting things to watch in 2018 regarding computer science education?


Mike Zamansky said...

On the middle school part -- I'm don't think we can say that in the high schools we teach CS like we've always taught it. Most high schools don't have a long CS history and APCS-A would have been out of reach so I don't think, overall, the HS scene, at least prior to APCS-P is that different from middle school. Particularly in public schools where schedules are constrained by test based subjects from 4th grade on.

Also, in my experience, middle school classes, by and large aren't radically different from high school classes - it depends on the teacher, the principal, and the school's culture. I do think that you can get away with more playing and less teaching to introduce things in the earlier grades so that can in some cases give more freedom but I wonder how much our views might be skewed to the few vocal players that we all know (and admire and respect).

On the standards front, I'm a pessimist. Standards have been used, in my opinion, more for harm than for good and I wonder what if anything will make CS any different (,

It will be interesting to see how things develop with respect to APCS-P and other high school courses but that's the subject of multiple posts not a reply.

Ed Robinson said...

I'm curious about how quickly or most likely not, CS-P will spread beyond the wealthy suburbs. As it does not count for graduation credit in my state of Massachusetts I believe growth will screech to a halt.

Mike Zamansky said...

Ed - I think it might grow pretty quickly. In NY, there's been a push for more and more APs in the public schools and public schools are ranked by AP tests taken (not necessarily results).

Brooklyn Tech, Alfred's Alma Matter is requiring every kid take APCS-P - that's not only a public school, albeit one with exam based admission, but it also might be the largest in the country. That's a lot of APCSP exams.This gives Brooklyn Tech a big bump in the rankings and makes them the DOE's sweetheart.

Since APCSP isn't really a college course and has no prerequisites, in some cases it might be easier to roll it out rather than another more established college level class.

Finally, with organizations including code,org taoting the idea that you can be a great CS teacher by taking some PD rather than really learning CS and then you can teach APCSP with a canned curriculum also makes APCSP ripe for adoption in public schools.

Garth said...

K-8 CS actually makes me nervous. There is no training for K-8 CS teaching, No PD and very little on the internet in the pedagogical sense. I have been talking to some of the student teachers we get. There is no computer ed training. So what are those K-8 teachers doing in the way of CS? The ones I know are dreaming up their own curriculum and learning their pedagogy on the fly. It works, sort of, but not all are good at it. I see too many that think CS and programming are synonymous. What they do is better than nothing but is what they are doing what needs to be done?

xota said...

In Amsterdam, The Netherlands my classes are very happy with the draft AP CS P course the people of Beauty and Joy published:
Great content worth teaching without the credits :-)

My prediction for 2018 is that courses lik these will help many people to choose more educational motivated languages like Snap for their teaching.

Ed Robinson said...


We'll soon see about the growth of CS-P. There's room for growth, even in the wealthier suburbs at this point, many skipped the first year. MA DOE has a handy AP database for the state:

I believe most districts require 4 years of Math, and AP Calculus counts as one of those years. But AP CS doesn't "count" in MA for anything. Many students in the poorer districts are struggling to earn the credits to graduate, and can't take an "elective", no credit class, even if offered.

As far as the training of the teachers--I believe people who are currently teaching CS will be able to keep teaching it, regardless of their training, but a certification exam and pathway is coming in 2020. Principals will have a lot of leeway in who they hire for the foreseeable future.

Kathy Benson said...

I am a retired STEM Integration teacher. As a specialist, I taught CS (mostly coding) to students in grades 2-5. I happen to have a Master's degree in CS in addition to my teaching certification. I was lucky enough to do an independent study during my student teaching in a high school which permitted me to get computer science methods "straight from the horse's mouth" so to speak. I understand the concern about elementary school teachers not having sufficient training to teach CS well but know that there are "pockets of excellence" where rigorous high-quality CS instruction is occurring. I too follow the #csk8 chats and you will find great role models there.

My concern is that requiring elementary school teachers to get an additional endorsement may prove too daunting. For example, a university in Maryland is in the process of planning a graduate program in CS for Elementary School teachers. For a new teacher who needs a graduate degree to obtain an advanced professional certification, this may be reasonable. On the other hand, if you are a pre-service teacher or a teacher who already earned an advanced professional certificate, would another master's be desirable? In industry, it might earn you higher pay, but probably not in K-12.

I would love to see some form of flexible micro credentials (badges). For example,'s CS Fundaments course (1 day PD) is very well done. There are also opportunities for training specific to digital citizenship, LEGO/VEX robotics, physical computing. For this to work, a teacher would need to earn badges across a good cross-section of the CSTA K-12 standards. Additionally, some performance-based assessment (i.e., implementing the new learning in a classroom) would need to be included. Thoughts?