• The Why of Computer Science

    Loudoun County Public Schools is going to make coding our second language, but the question is: “why?” Computer Science Immersion Schools are using computer programming to help tackle authentic, challenging problems in the world. Students will share solutions featuring computer programming with a real-world audience beyond their teacher, and collaborate with experts in the world as they use computer-programming to solve problems. These experiences will contribute to student ownership of their work, and deeper, longer-lasting learning in all content areas. In 2017, Loudoun County Public Schools selected three lighthouse schools to be the first computer immersion schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia. These schools were intentionally chosen through an application process to lead the shift in the paradigm; infusing computer science into the daily curriculum; to consistently and effectively use the 5 C’s (Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, Critical Thinking, and Contribution) to prepare students for the challenges associated with authentic problems and make meaningful contributions to the world.

    Loudoun County Public Schools is committed to empowering students with opportunities to make meaningful contributions to the world. The Computer Science Field is one of the fastest growing and highest paying career paths in the world. It is estimated that by 2026, there will be 3.6 million computing-related jobs available. Today, 58 percent of all new jobs in STEM are in computing. Computer scientists also enjoy a wide range of career options because all industry sectors involve computing (e.g., the arts, film, finance, health care, journalism, manufacturing, music, security, and more). Starting in elementary school, computer science develops students’ computational and critical thinking skills and shows them how to create, not simply use, new technologies. By infusing computer science into the daily curriculum; to consistently and effectively use the 5 C’s (Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, Critical Thinking, and Contribution) LCPS is preparing our students for the challenges associated with authentic problems and the ability to make meaningful contributions to the world around them.

    What is Computer Science?

    As the foundation for all computing, computer science is defined as “the study of computers and algorithmic processes, including their principles, their hardware and software designs, their [implementation], and their impact on society” (Tucker et. al, 2003, p. 6).

    Computer science builds upon the concepts of computer literacy, educational technology, digital citizenship, and information technology. The differences and relationship with computer science are described below.

    • Computer literacy refers to the general use of computers and programs, such as productivity software. Examples include performing an Internet search and creating a digital presentation.
    • Educational technology applies computer literacy to school subjects. For example, students in an English class can use a web-based application to collaboratively create, edit, and store an essay online.
    • Digital citizenship refers to the appropriate and responsible use of technology, such as choosing an appropriate password and keeping it secure.
    • Information technology often overlaps with computer science but is mainly focused on industrial applications of computer science, such as installing software rather than creating it. Information technology professionals often have a background in computer science.

    What is Computational Thinking?

    Computational thinking is an approach to solving problems in a way that can be implemented with a computer. It involves the use of concepts, such as abstraction, recursion, and iteration, to process and analyze data, and to create real and virtual artifacts [Computer Science Teachers Association & Association for Computing Machinery]. Computational thinking practices such as abstraction, modeling, and decomposition connect with computer science concepts such as algorithms, automation, and data visualization. Beginning with the elementary school grades and continuing through grade 12, students should develop a foundation of computer science knowledge and learn new approaches to problem solving that captures the power of computational thinking to become both users and creators of computing technology.

    How can CS impact student learning?

    The content of the Computer Science standards is intended to support the following seven practices for students: fostering an inclusive computing culture, collaborating around computing, recognizing and defining computational problems, developing and using abstractions, creating computational artifacts, testing and refining computational artifacts, and communicating about computing. The practices describe the behaviors and ways of thinking that computationally literate students use to fully engage in a data-rich and interconnected world. Computational thinking refers to the thought processes involved in expressing solutions as computational steps or algorithms that can be carried out by a computer (Cuny, Snyder, & Wing, 2010; Aho, 2011; Lee, 2016).

    • Fostering an Inclusive Computing Culture - Students will develop skills for building an inclusive and diverse computing culture, which requires strategies for incorporating perspectives from people of different genders, ethnicities, and abilities. Incorporating these perspectives involves understanding the personal, ethical, social, economic, and cultural contexts in which people operate. Considering the needs of diverse users during the design process is essential to producing inclusive computational products.
    • Collaborating Around Computing - Students will develop skills for collaborating around computing. Collaborative computing is the process of performing a computational task by working in pairs and on teams. Collaborative computing involves asking for the contributions and feedback of others, effective collaboration can lead to better outcomes than working independently. Collaboration requires individuals to navigate and incorporate diverse perspectives, conflicting ideas, disparate skills, and distinct personalities. Students should use collaborative tools to effectively work together and to create complex artifacts.
    • Recognizing and Defining Computational Problems - Students will develop skills for recognizing and defining computational problems. The ability to recognize appropriate and worthwhile opportunities to apply computation is a skill that develops over time and is central to computing. Solving a problem with a computational approach requires defining the problem, breaking it down into parts, and evaluating each part to determine whether a computational solution is appropriate.
    • Developing and Using Abstractions - Students will develop skills for developing and using abstractions. Identifying patterns and extracting common features from specific examples to create generalizations form abstractions. Using generalized solutions and parts of solutions designed for broad reuse simplifies the development process by managing complexity.
    • Creating Computational Artifacts - Students will develop skills for creating computational artifacts. The process of developing computational artifacts embraces both creative expression and the exploration of ideas to create prototypes and solve computational problems. Students create artifacts that are personally relevant or beneficial to their community and beyond. Computational artifacts can be created by combining and modifying existing artifacts or by developing new artifacts. Examples of computational artifacts include programs, simulations, visualizations, digital animations, robotic systems, and apps.
    • Testing and Refining Computational Artifacts - Students will develop skills for testing and refining computational artifacts. Testing and refinement is the deliberate and iterative process of improving a computational artifact. This process includes debugging (identifying and fixing errors) and comparing actual outcomes to intended outcomes. Students also respond to the changing needs and expectations of end users and improve the performance, reliability, usability, and accessibility of artifacts.
    • Communicating About Computing - Students will develop skills for communicating about computing. Communication involves personal expression and exchanging ideas with others. In computer science, students communicate with diverse audiences about the use and effects of computation and the appropriateness of computational choices. Students write clear comments, document their work, and communicate their ideas through multiple forms of media. Clear communication includes using precise language and carefully considering possible audiences.

    History of CS in LCPS

    LCPS partnered with Code to the Future at three schools to support a Computer Science Immersion Program. The mission of Code to the Future is: “to inspire students to become aware of their incredible potential, and equip them with the skills necessary for success in school and life.” The three schools in LCPS that were accepted through the application process were: Meadowland ES, Moorefield Station ES, and Round Hill ES. The three schools were “lighthouse” schools – the first in the Commonwealth of Virginia to be engaged in the Code to the Future Computer Science Immersion Program. Students at these schools engaged in a structured program provided by Code to the Future that provided them with no fewer than 30 minutes of Computer Science lessons and activities per instructional day – these activities included: learning programming languages and how to apply what they learn using LEGOs and Minecraft. Computer Science lessons were “woven” into other core subject area instructional time and teachers were provided weekly support and coaching from Mr. Joshua Johnson, a Code to the Future “Coach” who provided instructional resources and lessons to help students solve relevant and authentic problems – these, in turn, were showcased throughout the school year to the communities of these schools; these showcases, known as “Epic Builds” occurred several times a year.

    LCPS partnered with Code to the Future from 2017-2020 at three schools to support a Computer Science Immersion Program. The mission of Code to the Future is: “to inspire students to become aware of their incredible potential, and equip them with the skills necessary for success in school and life.” The three schools in LCPS that were accepted through the application process were: Meadowland ES, Moorefield Station ES, and Round Hill ES. These three schools are “lighthouse” schools – the first in the Commonwealth of Virginia to be engaged in the Code to the Future Computer Science Immersion Program. Students at these schools engaged in a structured program provided by Code to the Future that provided them with no fewer than 30 minutes of Computer Science lessons and activities per instructional day – these activities included: learning programming languages and how to apply what they learn using LEGOs and Minecraft. Computer Science lessons were “woven” into other core subject area instructional time and teachers were provided weekly support and coaching from Mr. Joshua Johnson, a Code to the Future “Coach” who provided instructional resources and lessons to help students solve relevant and authentic problems – these, in turn, were showcased throughout the school year to the communities of these schools; these showcases, known as “Epic Builds” occured several times a year.

Last Modified on November 13, 2020