What is Computer Science

At the elementary level, we define computer science as using the power of computers to solve problems and express ourselves. 

During these early, informative years, computer science education strives to foster the development of critical thought processes and mindsets that will enable students to be successful in computer science and beyond. These skills are called computational thinking skills and include concepts such as problem decomposition and algorithm design while also including practices such as collaboration and debugging. 

At the secondary level we continue to foster computational thinking skills while also shifting to a more technical definition of computer science. For grades 6-12 we define computer science as the study of computers and algorithmic processes, including their principles, their hardware and software designs, their implementation, and their impact on society.

Computer Science is More Than Coding 

Computer science is not just about building computers or writing computer programs (we call this programming, or coding). Did you know that much of computer science education is “unplugged”, meaning taught without a screen? The study of computer science includes understanding technology’s impacts on society and being able to formulate both problems and solutions in ways that a computer can process. The majority of problems in computer science can be solved with just a pencil, paper!

Computer Science and Educational Technology 

Computer Science is often confused with technology integration, digital literacy, and using technology for teaching and learning purposes. There are some overlaps and connections between the concepts but the misunderstanding between them can create a disservice to computer science education. The simplest distinction would be that technology integration or digital literacy is focused on the use of “computing technologies rather than understanding why they work and how to create those technologies”.

 

Computer science is:

  • Using the Scratch programming language to create an animation that showcases the importance of sunlight in the process of photosynthesis
  • Understanding the basic inputs, outputs, and processes of a computer
  • Learning how information is sent and received across different networks
  • Using the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, to design a website which provides information on a particular global issue - when designing, the students focus on the accessibility, usability, and  greater impact of their site

Educational Technology is:

  • Using video editing software to record and create a “movie trailer” showcasing the importance of sunlight in the process of photosynthesis
  • Using Flipgrid, students collaborate on a project asynchronously
  • Using Google Sites to build a website that showcases what students have learned about a particular global issue
  • Going on a virtual field trip to the Mayan ruins using virtual reality headsets