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Communications of the ACM


A Vision of K-12 Computer Science Education for 2030

2030 bulletin board with post-it notes

Credit: Andrij Borys Associates, Shutterstock

With the increased prevalence of U.S. states including computer science as a required subject in K-8 education (and as an elective in 9-12), in the next decade, nearly every child in the U.S. will be taking CS classes. The rapid integration of CS into the current education system has challenged states, districts, and teacher preparation programs to revamp their current efforts considerably. As this is a relatively new innovation and challenge, it provides us with a unique opportunity to consider our agenda: What is the goal of CS education? In the K—12 context, CS is often synonymous with coding—in fact, to many educators, CS is only coding. We suggest the goal of CS K—12 education should be for K—12 students to understand CS beyond simply learning to code. The students of the next decade will become the workers, creators, policymakers, and innovators of the 2040s and beyond. Preparing these future innovators requires a reframing of CS education that deeply considers what kinds of citizens we are trying to develop. For example, what are the ethical considerations around computer science and technology use? Addressing these questions requires curricula that is more student-, community-, and equity-centered.

Making CS matter for all students: CS needs to be more than just coding. While we agree that coding is a critical part of CS education, it cannot be the sole focus. Several large-scale studies have shown that a failure to connect CS education to the lives of students, particularly young women and underrepresented minorities, is causing them to abandon CS as a career path, as it is not something for "people like them."1 Knowing how to code is a critical factor in women and underrepresented students succeeding and persisting in post-secondary CS education.5 However, we need to ensure they have relevant experiences at the K—12 levels first. One key aspect to providing successful K—12 CS experiences is recognizing that the current one-size-fits-all CS curricula being implemented, often does not actually appeal to all students. The problems students want to address in rural Illinois are likely far different than their counterparts in Chicago, even though they are separated by only a few miles. By adapting CS curricula to empower students to meaningfully connect CS to their lives, we will be more likely to show them why learning CS can, and should, matter to them.


Robert Gotwals

I may be wrong, but a lot of these articles seem to not know, or not remember, that there has been a lot of work done in computational SCIENCE education since the first days of SuperQuest back in 1986 or so, where we were looking to see what kids could do given access to a high-performance computer. I have personally been a K-12 computational science educator, full time, since 1992, and my school now has 11 courses in the computational sciences (including digital humanities, data science, and research). Us "gray hairs" are very familiar with what has worked, and what has not worked, with $$$ of NSF funding that supported those "lessons learned". Organizations such as the Shodor Education Foundation and the Concord Consortium have been engaged in the appropriate and authentic use of computing technologies for a very long time, and there does not seem to be much recognition of the pioneering work done by those organizations, and schools like mine.

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