I’m not judging whether this is a positive or negative reality; I’m simply stating it is a reality. With this change over the last decade or more, we need to acknowledge the need to start computer science education at a young age.
Many people consider technology curriculum and computer science very technical, like coding or networking systems that are too advanced for kindergarten students. Computer science does include coding and network systems but there is also so much more. The following are Five Reasons Computer Science Must Start as early as Kindergarten.
1 – The Littles Need to Understand Devices, Hardware/Software, and Troubleshooting
Since today’s generation grows up with these devices in their hands, as soon as they can grab things, they must know how to troubleshoot and begin to understand how they work. Learning how to play music, videos, draw, or take pictures are all tasks that young kids can do.
Occasionally, devices or apps freeze and need to be closed or restarted. These are simple tasks for young ones to do independently, and they usually figure them out by themselves too. These troubleshooting steps help them think critically and solve problems at a very young age.
Hardware understanding includes knowing how to work buttons, keys, dials, etc. The software includes using applications, games, web browsers, and a mouse and recognizing and using the screen’s print, save, and exit buttons. These skills help kids form the foundational skills in understanding, navigate from application to application and save their work as they go.
2 – The Littles Need to Understand Networks and the Internet
Young ones need to understand that not only does their device entertain them, but it is also connected to people, places, information, and ideas. They can connect with people worldwide through the Internet or cellular towers. They may experience this when they connect with family or friends through video chatting. It helps them connect with people anytime, anywhere.
Given the capability to connect with the world with the push of a button, students must understand the associated risks. Facial recognition, passwords, or fingerprint logins are necessary to protect data and privacy. At a young age, kids may have trouble remembering passwords; adult supervision and help are necessary to authenticate the user’s identity, including online purchases and overall access to the device.
3 – The Littles Need to Understand Data and Analysis
Understanding data and analysis sounds very advanced. Let me explain a bit more. Kindergarteners can begin to understand that devices collect and display data over time. They can recognize when passwords and usernames are auto generated and how text starts to fill in as they type. Many apps, such as YouTube, will continue to play videos related to what the user is watching, thus using data collection strategies that young users should be aware of.
Storage on devices is very prevalent. Kids can pick up where they left off on a video, game, song, etc. Photos they took the last time they used the device are still stored on the device and even across devices if a cloud service is set up. It is essential to discuss how deleting, emptying the trash, saving, and long-term storage work for young users when they are trusted to use devices with little supervision.
Early users can also learn how to understand data when it is displayed in multiple ways, like graphs and numbers. The pictorial representation helps students make sense of numbers and how multiple forms can mean the same thing. Computers and tablets make this visual easier to transform.
Devices and early computer science education can also help young ones see multiple representations of data, images, and content to help them make predictions and inferences. They can use images of someone’s attire to infer about the weather. They can look for patterns in data to make predictions for future data. These are all part of the P21’S Framework for Learning we need to instill in today’s learners.
4 – The Littles Need to Understand Algorithms and Programming
Algorithms can also be known as routines or a schedule. In Kindergarten, young ones learn to make sense of processes, sequence of events, and order of operations. These items can be put into device calendars with reminders. Procedures for accomplishing a task are also known as algorithms.
Connections can be made at this young age for kiddos to understand how to make a sandwich. What comes first? Next? Computers use the same language of procedures to make sense of what to do, known as algorithms and programming. Teaching kinder students about different variables is crucial as well. They can begin to understand that different actions are required for different applications. They might use their finger to draw or write in some applications, while they must use the keypad in others. They can understand which programs can be manipulated with figure pinches in and out to zoom in or even use the mouse to drag and drop other objects.
Learning computer or device operating procedures helps young kids learn how actions lead to other reactions. They learn how to control outcomes. They learn to follow directions in a specific sequence to trigger an action.
Learning complex concepts like modularity teaches kids to break down tasks into simpler ones. For instance, copy and paste allows them to create the same content repeatedly, quicker than if they’d have to recreate each time. They can also apply what they learn and know about composing a combination of items to create a group, like building a community or ecosystem, by building upon each other and repeating actions to create depth and breadth.
Students can begin to learn how to program for an intended purpose. Tools like Scratch simplify programming codes to be understood by young users. Kids can work together to plan, create, and test their programs to create a digital story, make characters move, or create games.
5 – The Littles Need to Understand the Impacts of Computing
Understanding the impacts of technology on people is essential to find a healthy balance. Technology affects culture in the way of media, entertainment, and communication. People can use it to learn about anything without leaving their homes.
They can use it for health and fitness in many ways. Additionally, understanding a healthy balance of being sedentary and active is essential for entertainment, gaming, or watching videos. Having these discussions with young ones is crucial for them to set healthy practices early.
How we use technology to communicate should be taught at a young age. We now live in an age where keyboard warriors hide behind their screens and say things they’d never say if they were face-to-face with these people. We must teach young children that words hurt and that what you say online has a person on the other side of that.
This can hopefully deter cyberbullying and promote kindness online. They need to understand the instantaneous nature of online communication as well. Not unlike not being able to take something you say back, something you send cannot always be undone, and more, there is a permanent record of it. On the positive side, kids can connect with other cultures and people like them worldwide. They can use it to speak their native languages and connect with family and friends in real time. They are truly creating a global connection.
Finally, safety is paramount for all students and especially young ones. They must be taught to be careful of strangers and never connect with people they don’t know unless a trusted adult connects them. They must protect their passwords and private information to safeguard their personal information. Setting procedures like logging off and not sharing information are good habits for young users.
Many of these concepts seem like they may be too advanced for children as young as kindergarten, but as long as they are using devices, it’s never too early to educate them on the positive and negative potential they may hold. The K12 Computer Science Framework informed these concepts by grade band. For more information, please see their website.