Announcing a New Framework to Define K-12 Computer Science Education

Computing Leaders ACM,, and CSTA Launch Effort to Guide Educators and State and District Policy Makers About K-12 Computer Science

For most states and school districts, the notion of computer science for every student is a relatively new and unexplored topic. Responding to parent demand for their children to have access to computer science, there’s been a major shift in thinking by states and school districts about how to make computer science part of core academic work. They are asking big questions of the computing community: What is the appropriate scope and sequence for K-12 computer science? What does the community expect every student to learn in elementary school, in middle school, or by the time they graduate high school? And why?

CSTA, ACM, and are joining forces with more than 100 advisors within the computing community (higher ed faculty, researchers, and K-12 teachers, many of whom are also serving as writers for the framework), several states and large school districts, technology companies, and other organizations to steer a process to build a framework to help answer these questions. A steering committee initially comprised of the Computer Science Teachers Association, the Association for Computing Machinery, and will oversee this project. Funding for the project will be provided by and the ACM.

The framework will identify key K-12 computer science concepts and practices we expect students exiting grades 2, 5, 8, and 12 to know. This effort will not develop educational standards. We expect that states and school districts will use the framework to create their own frameworks, guidance, and standards, and the CSTA has its own independent process for developing detailed K-12 computer science standards.

Underpinning this effort is our belief that computer science provides foundational learning benefiting every child. Computer science gives students a set of essential knowledge and skills important for students’ learning and for their future careers and interests. This work is about defining the basic expectations for what every student should have a chance to learn about K-12 computer science to prepare for the emerging demands of the 21st century — not just to major in computer science or secure jobs as software engineers.

The projected release date for the framework is summer 2016. More information, including monthly updates and how to get involved, can be found at

Mark Nelson, Executive Director of CSTA

Mehran Sahami, Chair, ACM Education Board

Cameron Wilson, Chief Operating Officer,


How I use CSTA

It is a wonderful time to teach computer science. Almost every day, there is a new tool or website or resource available to teachers for use in the computer science classroom. Sometimes teachers like me can feel overwhelmed. What should we use in our classroom? When and how? I use the CSTA community to help me answer these questions.
CSTA is the membership organization that connects me with other teachers. It provides me a safe place to share and learn from other teachers and understand how to use the many CS resources available to me as I try to stay afloat my other classroom expectations – assessment, standards, curriculum and more. I know I can rely on CSTA since it is tool and platform neutral and created specifically for teachers.
As part of my role as the K-8 board member for CSTA, I had to submit an article for the CSTA blog. Since I had nothing written up, I decided to submit this doodle that captures my thoughts on how I use CSTA. I made this on my iPad using an app called Paper. I am enjoying experimenting with this app, since like real paper, I can not type text, or copy and paste and that makes me think differently than when I am in a text editor. Please treat this as a quick doodle of my ideas and not as finished art work!
I hope this doodle will get you thinking on what CSTA means to you. Have you connected with teachers in your area at the local CSTA chapter, or online on the G+ community, joined the #CSK8 twitter chat, used resources on the website, or considered attending the next CSTA conference?  How do you use CSTA?

Computer Science Goes Beyond Coding

CSTA’s very own Board Member, Sheena Vaidyanathan has been featured in a December edSurge article, titled “Computer Science Goes Beyond Coding.”

The “teach kids to code” movement has many thinking that computer science is just coding. Often the two are conflated since coding is definitely the most visible component of computer science. It is the magic that turns ideas into products; it provides the motivation to learn computer science. Kids want to learn so they can make cool stuff that is meaningful to them.

Read entire article here.

Graphic Novel Introduces Coding to Middle Schoolers

By Paul F. Lai, PhD Candidate, UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education

By In her fifth year teaching computing, Melissa Dohm found an engaging and effective new way to introduce the core concept of binary to her diverse middle school students at Ochoa Middle School in Hayward, California. She discovered Secret Coders, a graphic novel created to teach coding to adolescents.

Secret Coders, written by Gene Luen Yang (himself a longtime Bay Area CS teacher) and illustrated by Mike Holmes, premiered its first volume in October 2015. The graphic novel unfolds the story of Hopper and Eni, two intrepid pupils in a Hogwarts-like private school, where instead of mysteries coded in magic spells, the secrets are revealed through fundamental coding concepts.

I spoke with Melissa, also a technology teacher leader and English teacher, about using Secret Coders to teach binary.

Lai: You had an inventive way to teach binary in the past, is that correct?

Melissa: Since my first year, I taught a binary using a “magic trick” in which students learned to guess a number between 1 and 15 by asking a series of questions. Students made an Excel project with conditional statement functions to get the right number. They loved it and would show all their friends. But getting them to “understand” binary was challenging and would take a full week of struggling with the concept.

Lai: How did Secret Coders help you teach binary?

Melissa: The comic was a quick and interesting. When Eni starts to describe binary to Hopper, rather than using strictly mathematical language, he makes it into a game with pennies and boxes drawn with sidewalk chalk. I borrowed that game for our class’s “kickoff,” copying Eni’s methods and replicated those steps from the comic on my board, with magnets and boxes. Kids were really excited by the puzzle, and seemed to easily grasp the concept.

Lai: So the graphic novel provided a visual and game-based way of letting students play with how a series of “yes” or “no” configurations.

Melissa: And they really grasped it. When I announced, “We’re going to read a comic book today!” the students were thrilled. I gave a synopsis of the main characters and setting as we walked through the beginning pages.

Lai: You’re an English teacher as well, and familiar with how comics work. How did the visual narrative of a graphic novel help with conceptual learning?

Melissa: The book was a phenomenal addition to the binary lesson; they couldn’t put it down. They responded to binary as part of the mystery of this haunted school. When I asked them whether Hopper had gotten it right the first time, they all knew where she’d gone wrong. What normally took a week for me to teach, most of the students understood within a day.

I usually typically use a presentation to explain the history of binary, the base 2 system, etc. But this time, they received that information much differently after the graphic novel lesson. And they did really well with the activities involving the magnets and boxes on the board. By the time we took the quiz at the end of the week, a much higher proportion of the students— nearly all of them— showed that they understood binary. They even excitedly taught it to another teacher!

Lai: Describe your classes.

Melissa: Our school is very diverse, so I have students from many ethnic groups, a growing number of girls, kids from different socioeconomic backgrounds, and students with different abilities. One of my female students struggles with basic math concepts, but the magnets, columns of boxes, and visuals from the lesson gave me a way to support her problem-solving when she was otherwise stuck. She couldn’t do the basic math, but Eni’s lessons and the columns helped her figure it out.

Lai: How do you plan to build upon this experience?

Melissa: The kids are really curious what happens next in Secret Coders. They wanted to know how they could get the book so maybe they will read ahead and spoil it. We will try out the next parts of Secret Coders, where Hopper and Eni start learning to code with a robot turtle and I plan to use future installments of the graphic novel. Giving students the story and characters to care about, along with the smart visual lessons you can present in something like a comic book, really fits the way I try to teach computers in interesting and hands-on ways.

More information about Secret Coders, as well as instructional resources, can be found at Read more stories with ideas for increasing diversity in CS education in the CSTA Voice

The Big, Big Computer Science Gender Gap

Check out the recording from Edsurge on Air, “How the Other Half Learns to Code”

Hear interviews with students, teachers, and professionals on the state of, and strategies for impacting, CS gender balance. The revelations from the 6th graders are most interesting!

CSEdWeek: Message from CSTA’s ED

December 7-11, 2015 is Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek). It began in 2009 with roughly a dozen organizations (including CSTA) joining together to raise awareness of the need for increased CS education and the importance of computational thinking across careers and disciplines.

Now in its 7th year, CSEdWeek will have more than 190,000 events world-wide, and could surpass 200 million participants this year, with participants in nearly every country on the planet. This growth and success was facilitated by the foresight of founders, the diligent work of volunteers, the ongoing support of many organizations, the media power and appeal of organizations like, and most importantly—the considerable hard work and dedication of teachers.

Around the world, CS education is getting increased attention from governments, businesses, and other organizations as a top educational priority. Access to CS skills and education will change the global landscape, affecting more than just the future access to careers. Increasingly, we see examples of using CS concepts, such as coding, to learn new things. Ultimately, access to CS education will affect equity and the ability of individuals or groups to participate in society at many levels.

CS: More than just Coding

In recent years, CSEdWeek focused heavily on the Hour of Code™. The Hour of Code™ is a nationwide initiative by Computer Science Education Week and to introduce millions of students to one hour of computer science and computer programming. This may have both positive and negative implications for CS education.

On the positive side, the simplicity of the message and the accessibility of the event have lifted interest in CS to incredible heights. The Hour of Code™ made CS fun and accessible in a new way. It introduced CS to children, parents, CS teachers’ peers and school and district leaders and many others who might otherwise have continued to think using online learning is the same as computer science, or that PowerPoint is a computer science skill crucial to the 21st Century. This is much of what we celebrate during CSEdWeek.

While coding may attract many individuals to experience CS, at some level, the simplicity of the message and the focus on “coding” has unintentionally narrowed the public discourse as to what CS really is. Coding is to CS as arithmetic is to math, or sentences are to writing. Coding is often one of the first content areas learned in CS and is fundamental to the discipline. However, like arithmetic and sentences, there is much more to CS than coding alone. Computer science embodies a wide variety of skills and practices… many of which can wrapped up into a more complete package called computational thinking. Within the K-12 CS education community, we must build upon the initial message to broaden the understanding and discourse around what students should know about CS today and in the future.

CS: The Need for Teacher PD

The global supply of people with CS skills falls short of current and projected industry demands, and the shortage of K-12 CS teachers leaves a vital part of the pipeline to fill these positions mostly empty. According to a study from Code School, interest in CS careers occurs early, with most programmers and developers showing interest before age 16.  At the same time, a recent Google and Gallup poll reported that only one in four responding schools has a CS teacher. The poll findings further indicated significant differences in access to CS education based on race, gender, and other demographic factors. Without experiences like those offered during CSEdWeek, many students might never find that interest in CS that could lead to future computing careers.

Among other needs, providing an ongoing CS educational experience for students that goes beyond what CSEdWeek can provide requires teachers trained in CS concepts, practices, and pedagogy. Closing the gaps in access to CS education for students will require a great deal of teacher professional development (PD). Currently many, if not the majority, of CS teachers come from other disciplines. It is not uncommon to hear tales from teachers who have had minimal access to CS PD. As the public continues to become more aware of the need and importance of CS skills, we must think about what is required to develop those skills in both students and teachers.

Educated citizens of the new millennium will need CS skills to ensure both economic and social prosperity. There are excellent CS teachers, but growing the supply to meet demand will take many, many more. The PD needs for CS teachers, in response to constant evolution of the field, is not just a short-term challenge. PD needs will be high and ongoing to help increase teacher capabilities and confidence with CS content and practices even as CS itself continues to evolve.

CSTA in CSEdWeek 2015 and the Future

Being new to the Executive Director role at CSTA, the breadth of organizations collaborating on activities during CSEdWeek is inspiring.  It is also interesting to note the many follow-on activities that will provide extensions to those who want to go beyond an Hour of Code™ event. There are TechJams and Hackathons. There are competitions, such as the Cutler-Bell Prize and the Congressional App Challenge. There are other immersive learning experiences, such as the NSA Day of Cyber or Oracle Academy’s JavaOne4Kids coding fair. There will be celebrations of CS happening around the world this week and through the upcoming months.

At the US-national level, CSTA will take a more low-key role in CSEdWeek this year. We are supporting numerous organizations with their initiatives, and our member chapters are participating in many ways. We selected the winners of the Faces of Computing competition, with results being publicized during CSEdWeek. We will go live with a member-based “I AM” campaign to collect pictures and perceptions of CS Teaching as a profession. We are partnering with the College Board to provide PD around the Advanced Placement (AP) CS coursework. We will be present at Hour of Code™ and White House events during the week as well.

Looking past CSEdWeek, members will soon begin to see several changes in CSTA.  Before the end of January CSTA will go live with a new website and member portal. We are working on exciting additions to the annual conference which takes place in San Diego in July 2016. Our strategic initiatives will expand PD offerings, support diversity and teachers new to CS education, increase research, strengthen chapters, and provide new services and benefits for members both in the US and internationally. We also plan to update our branding and governance models in the year ahead as part of revamping our methods of communicating with and engaging members.

Final Remarks

Please take time to explore and enjoy the many different opportunities to learn, engage and have fun during CSEdWeek 2015. Experience an Hour of Code™, and then experience one of the thousands of other events in celebration of CS education. Perhaps write a legislative representative or a school superintendent to ask them to support CS Education. We welcome the opportunity to work with new partners to support CS teacher PD. If you would like to help, please feel free to reach out to organizations like TeachCS or CSTA.

Finally, and most importantly, on behalf of CSTA, I would like to thank our more than 22,000 members across 130 countries for all of their hard work, effort, and dedication to creating a future where students have access to great CS education because of great CS teachers.

Happy CSEdWeek!

Mark R. Nelson, Ph.D., MBA, CAE
Executive Director, Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA)

(Please note, this piece has been cross-posted within LinkedIn).

A review of Google’s Exploring Computational Thinking resources

By Joe Kmoch

In Spring 2015, Google began work on revamping their CT website. Their materials are available at a website called Exploring Computational Thinking:

A team at Google developed a template for lessons which would be made available on their site. They took the large number of lessons that were already on their site and rewrote them into this new lesson plan format. They hired a group of educators to review all of those lessons and now have about 130 lessons and other materials available.

These lessons have specific plans, are interactive and inquiry-based, and include additional resources. There are lessons in 17 subject areas mostly in math and the sciences. These lessons are also cross-referenced to various sets of international standards (Common Core, NGSS, CSTA K-12, and standards from UK, Australia, New Zealand and Israel).

At about the same time, another Google team developed a group of six videos called CT@Google which focus on the Seven Big Ideas from the CS Principles course, and how Google uses them in their work.

Finally, Google developed an interactive, online course, CT for Educators, where teachers learn what CT is and how it can be integrated into a variety of subject areas. It is quite good and can help a teacher work CT concepts into their regular lessons:

All of these are quality resources.


Disclosure: the author was compensated by Google for assistance in editing the collection of lesson plans mentioned in this article.

Are You Ready for Computer Science Education Week?

As I write this blog post, I am in the middle of planning for Computer Science Education Week. I have prepared my Eventbrite site ( and have emailed the link to the principals of the neighboring schools. This year will be the third year that my computer science students and I have hosted a community Hour of Code event at the high school for elementary and junior high students.

Last year I was so overwhelmed with the number of attendees, I have decided to move the event from the two adjoining computer labs to the library where I can better manage a large group. I will have stations for each age group and a marker station where the students will create a light-up Christmas card. Laura Blankenship (CSTA board member) helped me with some suggestions. I also found on line the directions for a Christmas tree card ( )that I plan on using.

I am also planning on setting up three tables with old computers that can be taken apart. I will have index cards with pictures of the main parts and an explanation of their purpose. My students will be preparing the cards.

Finally, there will be stations setup by age groups for students to use the tutorials ( The Computer Science students are looking forward to helping with the event.

For the high school student event, I have a local college student who will come to class to discuss her internship at an aerospace company and her experience as a college student. I have also requested skype calls from professionals in the computing industry at I had two speakers last year that worked for Microsoft and they were so patient with my students! I will also play the morning announcement created by CSTA on Monday, December 7, announcing Computer Science Education Week ( On the same webpage are video announcements if you have that feature available at your school.

I have another Hour of Code event planned for lunch for students on campus with my Computer Science students assisting. Additionally, my school district will be honoring Computer Science students at the school board meeting on December 8 in honor of Computer Science Education Week.

I am looking forward to a busy but exciting week.

Please share your plans for Computer Science Education Week.

Myra Deister
CSTA At-Large Representative

Why I Joined CSTA

I’m one of the co-chairs of the Membership Committee. While all the committees are responsive to members, it’s our job to think about who our members are, what we can do to support them, and how to grow our membership. I joined CSTA about six years ago when I got my first job teaching Computer Science and I had no idea how I was going to do my job, exactly. Sure, there were things online I could refer to, but I needed real people to respond to my questions and reassure me that I wasn’t going to totally fail.

Joining CSTA got me on the email list immediately, which then meant I had thousands of teachers with a variety of experiences that I could tap into. Even if I just read the emails and didn’t directly ask questions of the list, I could get all kinds of information. Joining also gave me access to resources like the standards, curriculum resources, and research. All of these were helpful to me as I planned my courses.

Of course, I wanted to meet some CS teachers in the flesh, so I signed up for the annual conference, which happened to be fairly close by that year. The cost was so reasonable compared to other conferences I had been to in the past. I also signed up for hands-on workshops that gave me in-depth experience that is hard to get outside of a college classroom. The other sessions gave me ideas and information that I use to this day. More importantly, I met people that I am still connected to and often look forward to seeing every year.

After the conference, I found my local CSTA chapter, and became a regular attendee at their meetings where we could have regular conversations about teaching CS or hear speakers talk about different aspects of teaching. I’m still a regular participant in my local chapter, and its members are friends of mine that I regularly rely on for advice and who I look forward to seeing at our monthly meetings. It’s great that I don’t have to wait for the next annual conference to talk with fellow CS teachers.

I have joined many professional organizations over the course of my career, but more than any other, CSTA feels like home. CSTA people are my people. I know when I am with them, they’re going to understand me and be willing to help. Many CS teachers are the only CS teachers in their schools or even districts. Having an affinity group like CSTA can make teachers not feel like they’re not so alone. Just that is extremely important for teachers.

As a co-chair of the Membership Committee, I ask you to think about what membership in CSTA means to you. What has being a member given you? As you think about it, you might be surprised to find out how much you benefit from your CSTA connections. And if you’re not a member, what are you waiting for? Join now!

CSTA High School Survey Results Are In

The Research Committee has been analyzing the High School survey results from May and below are some of the highlights. A detailed Summary of Results is available on our website.

  • 51% of the survey respondents have computer science teaching experience of 15 years or more
  • 45% of the teachers reported that computer science courses make up 50-75% of their teaching load.
  • 66% of the teachers reported that they are offering a CS principals course
  • 79% of the teachers reported that they offer the APCS A course.
  • 68% of those who offer APCS A course reported that half of their course enrollment are female, and between 20-40% are underrepresented minorities.
  • Majority of the teachers (68%) also reported that CS enrollment has increased in the past 3 years

These statistics are encouraging for the outlook of CS education and what is going on in the High Schools at this time. However, this data is self-reported and we need to examine ways to triangulate the numbers, especially the APCS-A enrollment numbers. We encourage you to view the full summary.

The Research Committee,

Stephanie Hoeppner & Aman Yadav