New Year, New TEKS

Advancing Computational Thinking in Elementary Classrooms In Texas

    None

    Getting Started Early

    In an era defined by rapid technological advancements, computational thinking and digital literacy are skills that will have a significant impact on population well-being, success, and quality of life. With this in mind, educators are — and should be — preparing their students as early as elementary school for navigating a tech-savvy world in a manner that empowers them to be creators — and not just users — of technology. Texas is making strides in realizing this for students across the state.

    Children together at a table engineering.

    The Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) serve as comprehensive educational standards established by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) for different grade levels and subjects, including Math, Science, Language Arts, and Social Studies. In addition to the core subjects, there are also standards for more specialized areas like Health and, relevant to computer science (CS) education, the Technology Applications (Tech Apps). The Tech Apps standards, previously divided by grade level bands, were updated and adopted in 2022, introducing a Computational Thinking strand for K-8, emphasizing problem-solving processes like decomposition, pattern recognition, abstraction, and algorithms. The TEKS underwent a necessary revision in 2022 and now provide nuanced standards for each grade level. This update, set to be implemented in the 2024-2025 school year, reflects a forward-thinking approach in aligning CS education with the developmental stages of young learners. Our team at WeTeach_CS created a Vertical Alignment map to help illustrate how each standard evolves across grade levels, emphasizing a holistic and developmental approach to CS education.

    Leveraging Community Partners

    Industry partners, with their deep portfolio of resources and skill, play an invaluable role in helping the community advance CS education. A prime example of this is the relationship between Google and our team at WeTeach_CS, a premiere CS education and professional development organization. To kick off Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek), we hosted over 70 Texas elementary school educators at Google’s Austin campus for a day steeped in CS education. The event was tailored to teachers of grades 3-5 and focused on fostering strong relationships amongst educators and technology experts, sharing best practices for integrating computational thinking into elementary classroom learning, and exploring alignment to the Tech Apps TEKS. As part of Google’s ongoing effort to increase access to digital skilling and help educate the next generation of tech innovators, the company has provided almost $180,000 in funding to WeTeach_CS in 2023.

    Teachers at Celebrate CSEdWeek with Google and WeTeach_CS on December 1, 2023

    When asked about what she found to be most illuminating at the event, 3rd grade teacher at Windermere Elementary School of Pflugerville ISD, Rebecca Feronti shared: “The way I can apply coding to so much of what I’m already teaching opens doors for integrating tech with curriculum that I’m already using to prepare our students for a 21st century workplace. I always thought it would be something separate that I would have to add on to my day, but I’m learning it’s something I can integrate.”

    A unique and particularly attractive-to-educators component of the event was the opportunity to receive mentorship from Google volunteers. Each teacher was assigned a Google volunteer who will visit their classroom to help facilitate a career talk with their students.

    Amy Carrell, Director of Outreach for the Expanding Pathways in Computing (EPIC) group, the flagship program in which WeTeach_CS is housed, said of the event: “For many elementary school teachers,” ‘computer science’ can seem intimidating and outside of their comfort zone. In line with our mission at WeTeach_CS, we want to ensure CS education is accessible to all — and that starts by engaging students and their educators in computational thinking and learning. Google has been an incredible partner with us in this mission of demystifying computer science by sharing their resources and expertise. The mentorship element of this event was so great for the day, and we hope it will foster a sustained relationship between the teachers and Googlers.”

    Visit our website to learn more about the new Tech App TEKS or to access new integrated lesson plans.