Most children today have some access to technology from an early age. While many schools teach digital skills, Michigan has no formal standards for teaching computer science. Now, the Michigan Department of Education is gathering public input on a proposed set of K-12 computer science standards.
Nearly two decades into the 21st century, you might assume that computer science education is a basic staple in America’s schools. Many school districts have their own notion of what students should be learning on their digital devices. However, just 27 states have adopted formal computer science curriculum standards.
Michigan isn’t one of them. But that’s beginning to change.
“Right now we're one of 10 states that are working on computer science standards,” says Ann-Marie Mapes, an education technology manager with the Michigan Department of Education. “So, we do not want to be left behind. And, you know, we want to ensure that our students are part of the 21st century workforce and they are competitive.”
The department is holding a series of public hearings around the state to learn what teachers and parents think should be included in the new standards.
Michelle Ribant is the assistant director of the Office of Systems, Evaluations and Technology at the Michigan Department of Education. She says students need a much broader knowledge of technology than what they may already be accustomed to with games and social media.
“Students are really very good at consuming technology and software and all the rest of it,” Ribant says. “We're really asking them to shift to the creation. And so I think that all of the work that we talk about today with the academic standards associated with computer science our moving our kids in that direction.”
Educators say a mastery of digital content creation helps students learn to become problem solvers. Ribant says strong computer skills also promotes literacy. She points to an array of software products that help young students learn numbers, letters and words.
“When they're doing that, they're also learning the basics of technology literacy, that common language,” she notes. “It’s pushing them along with where they are around phonemic awareness, word recognition, all of the rest of it. Then, for their creation on the other end, instead of just writing a story, bring that to life with videos with images with music. That's where kids are at.”
The computer science standards hearings continue around the state until February 13. Organizers hope to submit all public comments to the State Board of Education by April.
However, even if the board adopts new standards this year, it may take as long as five years to implement them across thousands of Michigan schools.
Here are the remaining public comment sessions in February:
Tuesday, February 5, 2019 (5:30-7:00pm) - Cheboygan-Otsego-Presque Isle ESD, Indian River
Wednesday, February 6, 2019 (5:30-7:00pm) - KRESA Wile Auditorium, Portage
Thursday, February 7, 2019 (5:30-7:00pm) - Oakland Schools, Waterford
Wednesday, February 13, 2019 (5:30-7:00pm) - Boyd Auditorium, Wayne RESA, Wayne