Excitement fills the classroom as third-grade students at Charles Haskell Elementary in Edmond grab Chromebooks to begin their lessons as part of the newly introduced computer programming curriculum.
“For our children, a computer is just another household appliance,” said Erin Bell, a computer science teacher for three elementary schools.
This fall, Edmond Public Schools has taken on the challenge from the Oklahoma State Department of Education to increase computer skills in all of its grades. Students are learning everything from the basics of coding to advance skills such as creating algorithms. The district is one of the first in the state to implement a concentrated elementary computer science program.
“Elementary school is the ideal time for students to be introduced to computer science,” said Anissa Angier-Dunn, Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Instructional Facilitator. “Students’ minds and hearts are open to learning and teachers can help foster enthusiasm about the computer science field.”
Elementary teachers use Code.org to teach step-by-step ways on how students can do everything from making a Minecraft character walk to designing complex programs to solve problems.
“We wanted to be specific and strategic in our new program,” said Elizabeth Pekrul, a computer science teacher for the district. “I’m excited to see Edmond take it to the next level.”
Elementary students start out the school year learning digital citizenship, such as internet safety and then move on to coding. The goal is to teach the Oklahoma Academic Standards (OAS) while making computer programming fun.
“It’s clear that the students are enjoying themselves all while learning teamwork, persistence, and problem-solving,” noted Angier-Dunn.
“Computer science skills can really enhance all subject areas and critical thinking,” Angier-Dunn said.
In April 2018, the Oklahoma Legislature approved a joint resolution calling for more computer science standards to be introduced into the classroom. Only 29 percent of Oklahoma high schools offer at least one computer science course.
More than 2,000 computing jobs are open within Oklahoma, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Angier-Dunn expects that number to rise.
“By the time these children enter the job market, they will find that nearly every profession uses the computer,” Angier-Dunn said. “We are meeting that need.”