Unit 1: What is COMPUTER SCIENCE? And Why Should We Teach it K-12?


Return to: ETAP 623 Fall 2020 (Zhang) | Brooke Ebersold | Incorporating Computer Science K-12

Title graphic - unit 1

Introduction to Unit 1

CSDF Thought Bubble.svg

Warm Up

What do you think of when you hear the words COMPUTER SCIENCE? What about DIGITAL FLUENCY?

Objectives for Unit 1

At the end of this unit, YOU will be able to:

  • Define computer science and digital literacy.
  • Identify the need for K-12 computer science and digital literacy.
  • Identify the valuable skills students will develop from learning computer science and digital literacy.

Lesson 1: Computer Science - Defined

Mini Lecture

Computer science is defined as “the study of computers and algorithmic processes, including their principles, their hardware and software design, their applications, and their impact on society." In other words, computer science is the study of why and how computers work. Programming, or CODING, is one aspect of the computer science field of study, but is not the sole focus. Computer science emphasizes problem solving and pushes students to be active creators – rather than passive consumers – of computer technologies.

To Do

WATCH: This video on COMPUTER SCIENCE is created by Cory Chang of the Undefined Behavior YouTube channel where their main focus is on math and science based curriculum:

Lesson 2: Digital Fluency - Defined

Mini Lecture

Digital fluency can be described in two main principles, digital literacy and digital citizenship. DIGITAL LITERACY can be defined as the ability to use digital technologies to create, research, communicate, collaborate, and share information and work. Digital literacy involves both a knowledge of technology and the ability to use it. DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP, which can be defined as understanding and acting in safe, ethical, legal, and positive ways in online environments, is often viewed as one aspect of digital literacy. Digital literacy is not a teacher certification area, nor is it expected to be or become a “class” students take. Rather, digital literacy should be taught in all subjects and reinforced as students use technology in everyday learning, across all subjects.

To Do

WATCH: This video is from Adobe for Education and is a great resource explaining what digital fluency means and how it applies to all of our lives:

Lesson 3: Why Should We Teach Computer Science and Digital Fluency?

Mini Lecture

A culminating statement from the draft standards for computer science in New York encapsulates the importance of this discipline and it stated as follows: "For New York State students to lead productive and successful lives upon graduation, they must understand and know how to use digital technologies. Technology knowledge and skills are vital for full participation in 21st Century life, work, and citizenship" (DRAFT NEW YORK, 2020). Incorporating computer science and programming skills is best identified as an opportunity to introduce the content to students ranging from pre-kindergarten to their senior year of high school. In the current society we live in, information and computing is a large part of our everyday life. The fundamentals of computer science concepts and skills involve problem solving, informed design decision making, syntax and grammar, and critical thinking mindset. According to the U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics, computer science and technology occupations will grow by 11 percent from 2019 to 2029. This career field is growing and it is projected that students who carry a bachelor degree or have significant knowledge in the field will earn up to 40 percent more in a yearly salary than workers without skills in this discipline (Computer and Information, 2020). These skills are crucial in the computer science discipline but also apply to life post high school graduation and solving everyday problems in any career setting.

This is a brief list of skills that students will acquire through a K-12 computer science and digital fluency program implemented in their school district:

  • Safety and security within the online and digital world
  • Ability to utilize different computer and digital based technologies for school work, career preparation, and applying these skills to real world problems
  • Communicate with peers using digital and computer based technologies to build learning communities where information can be shared and further the depth of knowledge as a whole
  • Identify specific online interactions that could be dangerous or lead to theft of personal information and implement ways to protect ourselves from dangerous interactions online
  • Identify the parts of a computing device and use this knowledge to troubleshoot issues within specific digitally based programs
  • Explain how the internet is a network of information and how we can utilize the internet as a good source for researching information in and out of school
  • Utilize computer based modeling and simulation software to create experiences that students otherwise would not be capable of experiencing
  • Use computer programs to simplify data collected and create visual representations to better identify how the data relates to the problem being solved or investigated
  • Follow the engineering design process and use problem solving skills to create solutions to everyday problems
  • Identify logical sequencing of events to achieve a specific end goal or solution to a problem
  • Identifying the ethics behind different computer and digital based inventions and choosing the positive and negative outcomes of these specific inventions (artificial intelligence)
  • Exposure to computer science career paths and how certain careers rely on specific technologies

To Do

WATCH: Here is a video produced by CODE.ORG, a company that focuses on creating platforms for students K-12 to learn computer science skills through different programming challenges and languages:

WATCH: This is a TED talk from Madeline Griswold, a student at Brown University majoring in computer science with a specialization in machine learning. Her account on how computer science gave her a voice in her personal and professional lives:

Assignment #1 - Personal Connections

For your first assignment, you will be sharing THREE computer science or digital fluency skills YOU learned in your K-12 education career and HOW that skill has enabled you to be successful in a specific field or life experience. Use the videos and resources from this unit to aid in the response of this question.

Here is the link to online experience board where you will share your experiences with other students:


Course Navigation

Course Home: Incorporating Computer Science K-12

Unit 2: Grade Level Expectations

Unit 3: Applications in Each Content Area

Unit 4: Integration With An Example School Model

Unit 5: Resources and Key Instructional Technologies