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Meeting the K-2 Computer Science Standards with MATATALAB

The Importance of Computer Science Education

“Learning CS [computer science] is not just about giving students the skills to build the next mobile phone app. Much more significantly, learning CS helps students develop systemic thinking skills for problem solving, practice logical deduction, and learn to express themselves with greater precision and clarity.”

Professor Mehran Sahami (Article by Huffington Post)

School-based education, that is, from Kindergarten to grade 12, constitutes a large part of a student’s learning. In addition, these years are some of the most formative, and thus most important. At school, your children will be taught about computer science. And depending on the school or district, students may choose to study this most enthralling subject in more depth. They could then go on to work in the many exciting and promising fields of computer science such as software development, hardware engineering, robotics and artificial intelligence, game and app development, system and security analytics, and data science.

Regardless of how much detail your students go into, learning about computer science is a worthwhile venture. Computer science education also imparts other necessary skills such as critical thinking and problem solving. These skills are useful in many area of life and learning.

What are Teaching Standards and Why Use Them?

Teaching standards are essentially quality benchmarks — targets that teachers must reach and prove that they are doing so. Many districts, states and nations have formulated and implemented teaching standards for a range of different subjects. Standards are designed to ensure quality of learning, regardless of where a student attends school. They are also designed to ensure that teaching and learning goals are uniform.

In the United States, for example, the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) has put out a set of recommended computer science standards for grades K-12. Why did they feel that such a set of standards was needed? They explain, ‘Interest in computer science is increasing, and K–12 education is eager to meet the demand. However, computer science is fairly new to K–12 education, and states, districts, schools, and teachers need guidance for an appropriate K–12 pathway in computer science.’

A Bit More About CSTA’s Computer Science Standards for K-12

According to the CSTA, their standards ‘delineate a core set of learning objectives designed to provide the foundation for a complete computer science curriculum and its implementation at the K–12 level.’ The central goal of the standards is to transform students into citizens who can: 1) critically engage in public discussion on computer science topics; 2) develop as learners, users, and creators of computer science knowledge and artifacts; 3) better understand the role of computing in the world around them; and 4) learn, perform, and express themselves in other subjects and interests.

Broadly speaking, CSTA’s K-12 Computer Science framework is made up of five core concepts and seven core practices. The five core concepts detail the core areas of content knowledge, and the seven core concepts describe the related skills. There are also cross-cutting concepts, which refer to those that “cut across”, or apply across the five core concepts.

For simplicity sake, let’s focus on the five core concepts. They are: computing systems, networks and the internet, data and analysis, algorithms and programming, and impacts of computing. Through a child’s schooling, and provided these standards are used effectively, students will get a firm grasp on these concepts. Of course, if you are teacher set with the task of teaching these concepts, especially to the younger children, it is certainly easier said than done!

Teaching Coding Can Be Challenging

While it is true that coding overlaps with some of the other core areas, most of it falls under the area of ‘algorithms and programming’. Teaching the associated standards to children in grades K to 5, for example, sounds full on to say the least! Indeed, most teachers shudder at the thought of incorporating these concepts into their teaching!

For one thing, many teachers feel unqualified to teach suchlike topics, especially if they have had no prior experience with teaching them. Related to this is the lack of good teaching resources and tools for the classroom. Without these, it can be very challenging to teach coding, especially to younger children. Then there is the pressure of teaching and adhering to the prescribed standards.

Is there a simple solution to these challenges?

Matatalab Coding Set Address These Challenges

The good news is, matatalab coding sets are the perfect resource for educators teaching coding to kids aged 4 to 9. Our hands-on coding kits are designed so that children take control of their own learning. The teacher is simply there to facilitate the lesson, and of course, join in and have some fun too!

Not only that, the set allows teachers to easily and effortlessly adhere to CSTA’s K-12 Computer Science Standards. In other words, our coding set possesses all the features needed to ensure that your students are engaging in effective learning. Let’s briefly consider an example.

Matatalab Features That Fulfill the K to 2 Computer Science Standards

Consider the following standard taken from Level 1A, Grades K-2:

1A-AP-10: Develop programs with sequences and simple loops, to express ideas or address a problem.

That standard aptly describes what matatalab coding sets are all about! The set is a block-based, tangible programming tool that allows students to move a robot through an environment by way of a Bluetooth-enabled command tower and board. When the coding blocks are placed on the control board in sequences and loops, and the orange start button is pushed, the command tower reads the code of the blocks through image recognition, and the code is sent to the matatalab robot.

There a different coding block types. Basic blocks are simply directional (forward, backwards, 90o turns). The advanced blocks are: function, fun, number (control how many times a move is repeated), music, melody, angle (for drawing and geometry), and loop (for repeating a sequence). The robot will then carry out the given instructions, whether that involves moving through an obstacle course, drawing a picture, or making music.

In other words, students are effortlessly programming, or creating algorithms, with sequences and simple loops to express ideas! Sound familiar?

Matatalab Coding Set the Perfect Foundation for ALL K-2 ‘Programming and Algorithm’ Related Standards

Consider some of the other relevant ‘programming and algorithm’ standards for K-2:

1A-AP-09: Model the way programs store and manipulate data by using numbers or other symbols to represent information.

1A-AP-11: Decompose (break down) the steps needed to solve a problem into a precise sequence of instructions.

1A-AP-12: Develop plans that describe a program’s sequence of events, goals, and expected outcomes.

1A-AP-14: Debug (identify and fix) errors in an algorithm or program that includes sequences and simple loops.

1A-AP-15: Using correct terminology, describe steps taken and choices made during the iterative process of program development.

Upon reflection on the standards above, and the way matatalab coding sets teach programming, it’s easy to see how easily MATATALAB will help educators meet the prescribed standards! In fact, the standards listed above constitute 75% (6 out of 8) of the entire ‘programming and algorithms’ standard set for K-2! The remaining standards cover slightly different, more theoretical content, but could easily be covered with supplementary lessons, possibly even as a segue into using the sets. The sets could also be used to review some material.

What About Grades 3-5?

MATATALAB has designed a resource that will be called upon throughout many years of schooling. As such, they are a necessary part of a teacher’s toolkit for teaching the ‘programming and algorithms’ standards for grades 3 to 5.

For the sake of brevity, we won’t list all the relevant standards. It suffices to say that the standards for grades 3 to 5 are similar but include additional elements and are more difficult. Even so, MATATALAB has it covered! And the beauty is, students can progress through assigned tasks at their own rate, or according to their own interests, which makes it easy to differentiate the learning according to your student’s leaning profiles

Wrapping It Up

A high-quality computer science education will equip students with the knowledge and skills needed for post-school challenges. Some may gain employment in related fields; and there certainly are many jobs available. Even If your students don’t choose to pursue a career in computer science, basic computer skills are still important in the current employment landscape. In addition, computer science education teaches children critical thinking and problem solving — useful qualities indeed!

In many schools and districts, teaching standards such as CSTA’s Computer Science Standards for K-12 have been implemented. If teaching computer science, especially coding, to young children already seemed daunting, teaching up to these standards adds another layer of responsibility. That being said, if we can teach up to the prescribed standards, we know our pedagogy will be effective and worthwhile.

That’s where matatalab coding sets come in! Not only are the sets a breeze to use and promote individualized, hands-on learning, they allow educators to effortlessly meet the ‘programming and algorithm’ related standards.

In fact, on the back of their product’s impressive features, MATATALAB won a Reddot Design Award in 2018! According to Reddot, ‘the Red Dot Design Award is a renowned international design competition, which singles out products and projects with outstanding design and presents their designers with an award every year.’

Indeed, this is an amazing achievement and highlights just how good matatalab coding set is. And we’re confident that with matatalab, you will meet the K-2 Computer Science Standards with ease. We encourage you to give it a go!

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