By Sheena Vaidyanathan
Thanks to code.org's "Hour of Code," millions of students will get their first taste of computer programming this week, Dec. 9-13, designated as Computer Science Education Week. If schools do decide to go beyond the one hour and take the next step to add coding as a part of school curriculum, what will this look like?
Getting kids excited about coding is the easy part. What about the stuff that administrators and educators must worry about -- funding, teacher development, curriculum, connection to standards? And, where do you fit this "coding class" in a school day?
One school district, Los Altos School District (LASD) in the heart of Silicon Valley, Calif., may have some of these answers. They've been growing their coding program over the last four years and have begun answering many of these questions. LASD started like most educational programs in any district: small, with one teacher (me), one class, in one school -- and then grew it based on results. After the success of digital art as an art unit in one school, an entire district-wide program called Digital Design in 2009 was created. This weekly Digital Design class gave every student in 4th-6th grade an opportunity to be creative using digital medium. Students worked on 2D vector art, 3D designs and art through programming using MIT’s Scratch.
After two years of a successful district-wide Digital Design class, LASD made an intentional decision to focus on the programming component and on sixth grade. The goal was to expose all students to computer science with a required class -- called CSTEM (the C stands for creativity, collaboration and computer science) -- and not wait until students encountered it as an elective in junior high or high school.