DPI Adopts Standards For Teaching Computer Science

In response to a growing nationwide need for employees with computer science skills, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has established formal standards for teaching computer science at the K-12 level.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers approved Wisconsin’s Computer Science Standards for K-12 education last month. 

When you think of computer science, you may think back to your middle school computer skills class where you learned to type and make use of spreadsheet software. But today’s computer science, even at earlier grade levels, goes far beyond that.

“There’s a lot of confusion about what we mean when we say computer science,” said Dennis Brylow, an associate professor of math, statistics and computer science at Marquette University and co-chair of the state’s Computer Science Standards Writing Committee.

“When you talk about computer science, it’s very common to have teachers, principals, parents say things that confuse merely operating the machine, being able to type their term paper into Word, being able to search for things on Google, being able to balance their checkbook on a spreadsheet,” Brylow said.

“Those are very important digital literacy skills. That is not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about the understanding and the skills that go into making those tools (like Google and Word) in the first place,” Brylow said. “aking a new app that works on your smartphone, creating a new website that supports some new idea you have.”

This confusion is akin to equating drivers’ education with teaching students how to build a car, he said.

Jobs in the traditional science, technology, engineering and math fields as a whole are shifting towards more computer science jobs, Brylow said.

“Projections for the last several years have shown that something like 70 percent of the new jobs being created in STEM fields are in computer science and related areas. Something like 53 percent of all STEM jobs in…

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