The following is a response to NPR’s Report on Boosting Computer Science Learning from Peter and Caronne
Technology is all around us and at United Friends School we recognize the growing use and importance of computers and electronic devices in our day to day lives. For that very reason, as a Preschool-8th grade school, providing a strong foundation into the language and use of computers is appropriately viewed as an important aspect of preparing our students for their future educational and career endeavors. An early introduction into the concepts of computer science has grown more essential, and providing students from an early age with the opportunities to exercise such skills is as important today as numeracy and literacy. At UFS, we recognize
that learning computer science is more than simply learning about the equipment and that just because computers are available within a school doesn’t mean students are actively learning the basic concepts of computer science. That is why we’re teaching the basics of Information Technology Literacy (ITL) and information seeking strategies using online resources through class project work. All UFS students receive an introduction into the basic use of computers for both offline and online applications with the use of Internet-based resources to support their classroom activities. All middle school students are also introduced to the fundamental principles of computer coding via educational programming languages such as Scratch, which provide a graphical representation of functions, conditional statements, loops and algorithms.
Amy Hirotaka, the State Policy and Advocacy Manager for Code.org, states, “It’s important to teach our children computer science, not just coding. Computer science covers how the Internet works, how to analyze big data, and how technology impacts the world around us. Code is a part of that, but it’s more a tool to interact with computers to make your ideas come to life. Over time, programming languages will change, but the fundamental concepts of computer science — like logic and problem solving — are universal.” Computer science is indeed more than code.
– Peter Goode, Technology Manager
In part we help students develop critical thinking skills and teach them the process of learning, beginning with asking good questions and then seeking quality information,and using that information to create something unique and/or solve a problem. It is not enough to have a solid knowledge foundation; we need to prepare students to learn and re-learn throughout their lives.
Several of the teachers at UFS participated in a Powerful Learning Practices consortium that explored these paradigm shifts. This training along with our current work in diversity has helped us to keep an edge in our teaching practices. The best example came to mind during the discussion of the “Information Divide” where schools continue to see only the most advantaged youth taking technology and engineering classes, even in schools offering STEM or STEAM education.
All UFS students are encouraged to take the free after school technology class and all of our 5th through 8th grade students are learning how the Internet works, how to write basic code, and how to use this knowledge to write and create their own games, software and/or applications. At United Friends School, students are not just using information and information technologies to read and play games, they are creating them.
– Caronne Taylor Bloom, School Library & Media Specialist
If you have any questions regarding the UFS technology and STEAM programs, as well as these articles, email Caronne or Peter. If you would like to set up a tour of the school please contact our Director of Admission, Marie Knapp.