Parents

Every child should learn about computing. How can you help?

Why should my child learn CS?

All children are capable of learning big ideas in computing. There are many reasons why your child should learn these ideas:

  • There are stable, high-paying jobs in computing.
  • Computing is reshaping society, and so understanding computing is key to being an engaged citizen.
  • Computing skills are valuable in nearly all professions, including science, engineering, arts, and humanities.
  • Your child could bring unique perspectives to how we envision our technological world that aren't currently represented in the software industry.
  • Your child might already be interested in computing, but hasn't told you; learning can help them develop that interest.
  • Computing can be an expressive medium, and what child doesn't want to express themselves?

What is CS?

CS is shorthand for many related ideas:

  • Computer Science (CS) is the academic discipline concerned the what is computable, how to compute things, and how to use computers to do so.
  • Computing is a broader term, referring to not only ideas in computer science, but also all of the rich and complex phenomena surrounding computing, such as how we design software to be useful and what impact it has on society.
  • Computational thinking (CT) is often defined as a specific skill in computing and CS that involves reasoning about problems in the world using computational ideas, and a way of expressing solutions in a manner that computers could execute.

All of these ideas are complex enough to be entire undergraduate and graduate degrees in higher education. The goal of teaching some of these ideas in K-12 education is to introduce some of the big ideas in computing to youth and to develop their interest in learning more.

How can my child learn about computing in school?

Grades K-5

  • Most K-5 public schools in Washington state are not yet teaching computing. If you want that to happen, you'll need to advocate for it (see below on how).

Grades 6-8

  • Some middle schools in Washington state offer CS classes. Unfortunately, there is no central public database of what classes are being offered. You can also consult your school's specific course offerings and help your child select courses. Note that the best CS courses help develop an interest in CS, which can be deepened with further study.
  • If you're in Puget Sound, ask your child's teacher to consider a field trip to Living Computers Museum + Labs.

Grades 9-12

  • Many public high schools in Washington state offer CS classes, but they vary in the focus. Some are introductory programming courses, which offer instruction on how to code, but little perspective on the role of computing in society. There are also advanced versions of such courses such as AP Computer Science A, which is a college-level introductory programming course. Others such as courses following the Exploring Computer Science curriculum or the AP CS Principles curriculum can provide a broader and more engaging introduction to computing, coding, and the role of computing in society.
  • Some schools have integrated computing ideas into the teaching of algebra, physics, and data science with the Bootstrap curriculum. Ask your child's teachers about their approaches to teaching these subjects.

How can my child learn about computing outside of school?

Grades K-5

  • You can work with your child on one of Code.org's Hour of Code activities.
  • You can purchase programming toys (e.g., the game Robot Turtles, designed by Washington state entrepreneur Dan Shapiro), but be skeptical of their effectiveness. They require the right support to provide engaging positive encounters with computing ideas, and they mostly do not develop generalizable skills at programming. And without strong support, they can actually erode interest in computing.

Grades 6-8

  • There are numerous after school and summer programs that teach about computing. The website 6crickets aggregates camps and classes for the greater Seattle area, many of which are computing related.
  • Facebook's TechStart offers a pathway to engage in learning CS both in and outside of school.
  • Microsoft's DigiGirlz, a Microsoft YouthSpark program, gives middle and high school girls opportunities to learn about careers in technology, connect with Microsoft employees, and participate in hands-on computer and technology workshops.
  • GOKiC (Geeking out Kids of Color) offers a range of computing-related after school programs.
  • University of Washington's Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering organizes many K-12 activities for middle and high school students through it's DawgBytes program.
  • The National Girls Collaborative Project has a well-maintained list of STEM activities, many computing related.
  • Black Girls Code launched a Seattle chapter in April of 2019. Check their program listings for events.

Grades 9-12

  • Depending on where you live, there are many after school and summer programs that teach about computing.
  • Your school may organize programming contests and hackathons, which can be great ways to learn about computing in a celebratory social context.
  • Some companies offer internships to high school students. Internships can be a great way to develop interest in computing careers.
  • University of Washington's Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering organizes many K-12 activities for middle and high school students through it's DawgBytes program.
  • The National Girls Collaborative Project has a well-maintained list of STEM activities, many computing related.
  • Black Girls Code launched a Seattle chapter in April of 2019. Check their program listings for events.

How can I help advocate for change in K-12 schools?

That's a great question! Public education in Washington state is local, so concrete steps you can take include:

  • If you have some CS background, consider volunteering through TEALS to help teaching your local school.
  • Ask your child's teacher about what they're teaching about computing.
  • Ask your school's principal about the school's strategic plans for teaching computing.
  • School districts are served by Washington State Educational Service Districts (ESDs), which help prepare teachers to subjects such as CS. Find your local ESD and inquire about their efforts to prepare CS teachers in your district.