By Ben DeSantis and Julie Ortlieb (Office of Organizational and Professional Learning)

In the realm of modern education, computer science (CS) has become an essential skill that equips students for the challenges of the digital age. In the 2022-2023 school year, a team of educators and facilitators at the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit (MCIU) aimed not just to introduce Computer Science tools, but to foster a deep understanding of Computer Science concepts. Their efforts led to the development of a curriculum map tailored for students with complex needs in grades K-12, rooted in the 5 Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) core concepts. This blog post delves into the journey of how educators and consultants from MCIU collaborated to create a curriculum that not only aligned with the core concepts but also catered to the developmental needs of each student.

K-12 Computer Science Framework 

The K–12 Computer Science Framework is designed to guide computer science from a subject for the fortunate few to an opportunity for all. The Core Concepts and Practices outlined in this framework were utilized in the creation of the CSTA Standards for Computer Science Teachers, which provide guidance around effective and equitable CS instruction in support of rigorous CS education for all K–12 students. Lesson development for this project was anchored in the 5 Core Concepts outlined below.

    THe core concepts and practices of the K-12 CS framework

    Making it About Concepts, Not Tools!

    In a world where technology evolves rapidly, it’s easy to get caught up in teaching specific tools that might become obsolete. However, the MCIU project emphasized that true empowerment arises from understanding the underlying concepts. The experiences were grounded in the understanding that effective CS education goes beyond teaching students how to use specific tools. Instead, the emphasis was on cultivating a strong foundation in CS concepts that could be applied across various landscapes. Students were encouraged to explore computational thinking, problem-solving, and algorithmic approaches that would serve as lifelong skills.

    Collaboration Between Team Members

    A key factor in the success of this initiative was the collaboration between consultants, teachers and therapists. Together, they prioritized modifications and accommodations to ensure all students had equitable access to the CS curriculum. This partnership was crucial to maximize accessibility for all students and to create a learning environment where every student could thrive.

    Inclusion Opportunities

    The journey through this project not only emphasized the importance of CS education but also highlighted its potential for inclusion. Learning experiences focused on broad concepts and big ideas, with multiple access points throughout the lessons. Student specific needs, including the use of Assistive Technology, were considered throughout the planning process. The students in this project receive their instruction primarily in more segregated settings. This project intentionally pushed for inclusive opportunities to involve students from other classes to share in a collaborative experience and to give students with complex needs an opportunity to more deeply learn material they may encounter in their STEM related classes. 

    As we look ahead, it’s clear that the path to equitable and inclusive CS education is one worth pursuing as it empowers all individuals to be a meaningful part of our interconnected world.

    Uncover the essence of computer science (CS) in this workshop, going beyond coding to explore core concepts and practices. Discover the relevance of CS for both educators and students, and learn practical strategies for integrating CS principles into classrooms.

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    Ben DeSantis

    Project Consultant

    Julie Ortlieb

    Project Consultant