Computer Science Curriculum: Development & Instruction

Instructor: David Gloag
In this lesson, we'll take a look at a computer science curriculum, the features of a K-12 computer curriculum and college computer science curriculum, and how the roles and responsibilities of computer science teachers change over time.

The Paths in Computer Science

Computers are prominent in today's society. They are used to generate weather reports, conduct business of various types, and they are embedded in many of the devices we own and use. In fact, many of the things we do would be difficult without them. So, it goes without saying that people would go to school to learn about them. But as with all things, there are many facets to computers, many roads that can be taken and explored. Educational institutions make a significant effort to identify and offer paths that can take students down a number of those roads. And they accomplish this through a computer science curriculum.

What is a Computer Science Curriculum?

A computer science curriculum is a set of courses, offered by an educational institution, designed to teach an individual about the various elements involved in computer science. For example, it might contain a course on computer history, or maybe something on a specific programming language or building a website. The specific makeup of the curriculum is not set in stone and will be determined by a number of factors including:

  • The Target Audience - Obviously, you wouldn't teach the same thing to a ten-year-old as you would to a college student. Curriculums must adjust for the needs of each target group.
  • Local Business Needs - Educational institutions have an underlying purpose, to prepare their students for life in the real-world. Curriculums must adjust to provide training in the areas where there are jobs.
  • Faculty Interests/Abilities - Educational institutions need people on staff that are willing and capable of teaching the material they would like to offer. Students are looking for high-quality instruction.
  • Funding - Money is needed to buy equipment and software for the programs that are offered. And, it isn't cheap. Some things just can't be learned on a personal laptop, tablet, or cell phone.

Features of a K-12 Computer Science Curriculum

The features of K-12 Computer Science curriculum are tailored to a young institutional learner. In other words, the student has to be there, won't have a lot of experience with a computer, and may only have rudimentary problem-solving skills. With the focus on STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) the features of a modern curriculum for K-12 may include:

  • Computer Recognition and Familiarity - This would be emphasized in the K-5 age group and is focused on identifying computers, their basic operation, and understanding how they contribute to our lives. Many elementary schools start their students working with tablets.
  • Basic Problem Solving - This would be more of a focus in grades 5-12 and emphasize problem-solving and logic, solving rudimentary problems and even beginning web development and coding.
  • Basic Algorithm Development - This reflects more advanced students studying the development of computer-based methods or means to solve problems.

The idea is to get kids to have fun with computers so they become interested and comfortable with computers and computer technology.

Features of a College Computer Science Curriculum

The features of college Computer Science curriculum are tailored to an adult learner. In other words, the student is motivated and may have considerable experience with computers and hopefully significant problem-solving skills. As such, the features of curricula for college-level tend to include:

  • Numerous Choices - Computer science majors will need an array of courses that cover many topics including advanced math, physics, and engineering.
  • Advanced Computer Content - Computer classes include not only general classes, but advanced and experimental content in programming, organization, theory, data structures, and algorithms.
  • Relevant Themes - Computer science trends change and technology advances. Courses and materials need to adapt as well.
  • Complete Coverage - Content needs to not only include the basics but must also be cutting edge.

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