Empowering Students with Computer Science

Considering today's rapidly evolving technological landscape, integrating computer science education in the classroom is essential to prepare students for future careers. Here are some ways for educators to incorporate computer science into teaching, leading to enhanced analytical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and problem-solving skills.


Building skills in STEM-related fields, especially in computer science, is important for our students today. The World Economic Forum stated that approximately 1 billion jobs will be transformed by technology over the course of the next 10 years and the Bureau of Labor Statistics "predicts a 13% growth in computer and IT-related fields between 2020 and 2030." As educators, we must continue to find ways to best prepare all students for the rapidly evolving world we live in. A valuable skill that we can equip them with is computer science. By exploring the careers that are highlighted through Defined Careers, students become aware of the different fields that require skills in computer science and the types of jobs that will exist in the future, and how to prepare.

Although not every teacher has a computer science background, it is important to find ways to bring related learning activities into our classrooms for the benefits they can offer students. There are many advantages of integrating computer science into different grade levels and content areas through activities and projects. Defined Learning offers many resources that can help educators to get started.


What are the benefits of computer science for students?

Computer science helps students to develop some of the essential skills that are required in the world of work and that will continue to be needed, even though we don’t necessarily know what types of jobs will exist.  Computer science-related learning can help students to build the following skills:

  1. Analytical Thinking: Students will need to learn how to analyze by examining data, identifying patterns, and making data-driven decisions as they learn.  Provide students with some problems to solve and task them with analyzing various aspects of it and potential solutions.
  2. Collaboration: Students can work together in teams to explore computer science topics or work through activities together. In these experiences, they not only develop skills related to the content but also other skills in collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving, they learn to work together as a team as they push through challenges that may come with learning. It will prepare them for future careers where collaboration is essential.
  3. Creativity and Innovation: By allowing students to design their own projects, such as creating apps, designing websites, or even games, they learn about computer science in an engaging way. These experiences also empower them to bring their ideas to life and spark their creativity!
  4. Problem-Solving Skills: Computer science encourages students to develop their critical thinking skills and be better able to solve complex problems in learning and in the future. Through lessons in coding and programming, students will learn to break down tasks into smaller, manageable steps. These skills are essential when thinking about SEL skills and developing resilience in learning and dealing with challenges. 


Ideas for Exploring Computer Science

  1. Coding: There is an increase in need for people with coding skills and that need will continue to grow over the next five years. A predicted 58 million STEM-related jobs will exist, many of which will require coding skills.  Some options include Code.org, Scratch, or Tynker which offer age-appropriate coding activities that make learning fun. Matatalab has several robots available for learners as young as 3 and which provide screen-free coding options too. For younger students, trying the KIBO robot from KinderLab Robotics is a great option. Code with Google is focused on closing equity gaps in computer science opportunities and it provides free resources for students. 
  2. Hour of Code: Even though the Hour of Code happens during December, it is something that should be a focus throughout the year. Many websites offer activities for all grade levels. Options to explore include Scratch and Scratch Jr. which are designed for kids and available for free. CS Unplugged is an option that does not require computers, which promotes accessibility for all students. 
  3. Game or App Development: Students can try MIT App Inventor and other online tools to create their own game. It can be done as a project-based learning experience. Students can design and create their own video games, and focus on the process of learning. Students can design and build mobile apps using platforms such as App Inventor or Swift Playgrounds which offer beginner-friendly environments for app development. These will help to encourage students to take some risks and hopefully spark curiosity for coding and computer science.
  4. ISTE Curriculum: ISTE offers free curriculum guides for computer science educators that also bring in Artificial intelligence learning into the classroom. These guides are full of standards, resources, activities, and lesson plans that make it easy to get started. The guides are focused on elementary, secondary, computer science, electives, and ethics.
  5. Robotics: There are a lot of resources for students to learn about robotics and explore more about what a career in computer science might involve. 

Defined Learning is a great resource for teachers looking to bring new learning opportunities such as computer science into their classrooms. There are project-based learning modules that align with various subjects and grade levels and offer real-world situations in STEM careers that give K-12 students an opportunity to apply the standards and skills in different subject areas.  The Defined Learning computer science resources focus on building skills in computational thinking and problem-solving, as well as building coding skills.  a full curriculum on Computer Science from Defined Learning, which is for students in grades K through 14

Regardless of whether computer science may not be our primary field of expertise, integrating it into our classrooms can be incredibly beneficial for our students. The advantages include the development of problem-solving skills, enhanced creativity, real-world learning experiences, fostering collaborative skills, and analytical thinking. By exploring coding challenges, robotics, game and web development, data analysis, and app development, students can gain valuable computer science skills.




About the Author:

Rachelle Dené is a Spanish and STEAM: What’s Next in Emerging Technology Teacher at Riverview High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle is also an attorney with a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. Rachelle is an ISTE Certified Educator and Community Leader and served as president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network. She was named one of 30 K-12 IT Influencers to follow in 2021 and One of the 150 Women Thought Leaders to Follow for 2022.

She is the author of seven books including ‘In Other Words: Quotes That Push Our Thinking,” “Unconventional Ways to Thrive in EDU,” “The Future is Now: Looking Back to Move Ahead,” “Chart A New Course: A Guide to Teaching Essential Skills for Tomorrow’s World, “True Story: Lessons That One Kid Taught Us,” and her newest book “Things I Wish […] Knew” is now available at bit.ly/thingsiwishedu.


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