afternoon clubs. These clubs, in turn,
attracted only the usual suspects, that
is, self-selected kids (mostly male) instructed by self-selected teachers (also
mostly male). To make computing
more relevant to schools it was crucial
to focus less on tools supporting programming per se but to create tools to
forge explicative ideas through computing, or as Papert started to call it, computational thinking. 6
I developed computational thinking
tools to allow students to get past the
cognitive and affective challenges7 at
the University of Colorado. Computational thinking tools have the ultimate
goal to transform people’s perception
of programming from “hard and bor-
K– 12 COMPUTER SCIENCE Edu- cation (CSed) is an interna- tional challenge with differ- ent countries engaging in diverse strategies to reach
systemic impact by broadening participation among students, teachers and
the general population. For instance,
the CS4All9 initiative in the U.S. and the
Computing at School4 movement in
the U.K. have scaled up CSed remarkably. While large successes with these
kinds of initiatives have resulted in significant impact, it remains unclear how
early impact3 becomes truly systemic.
The main challenge preventing K– 12
CSed to advance from teachers who are
technology enthusiasts to pragmatists
is perhaps best characterized by Crossing the Chasm, 5 a notion anchored in
the diffusion of innovation literature.
This chasm appears to exist for CSed.
It suggests it is difficult to move beyond
early adopters (Figure 1, red and orange
stages) of a new idea, such as K– 12
CSed, to the early majority (Figure 1,
green stage). Switzerland, a highly affluent, but in terms of K– 12 CSed somewhat conservative country, is radically
shifting its strategy to cross this chasm
by introducing mandatory pre-service
teacher computer science education
starting at the elementary school level.
Three fundamental CSed stages,
captured in Figure 1, are characterized by permutations of self-selected/
all and students/teachers
combinations. It took approximately 20 years
to transition through these stages.
Each stage is described here from a
more general CSed perspective as well
as my personal perspective.
Stage I: The “Friday Afternoon Computer Club” Stage (Self-Selected Students/Self-Selected Teachers): Stage I
focused mostly on the “right” tools. In
the 1990s the overall negative perception of programming by children, best
described as “hard and boring,” 7 suggested cognitive as well as affective challenges. Being constantly just one semicolon away from total disaster with
traditional programming languages
such as C or Pascal, is an example of
syntax being a cognitive challenge. But
even with the presence of early educational programming languages, such
as Logo and BASIC, programming in
schools was typically marginalized into
after-school contexts such as Friday
Scale or Fail
Moving beyond self-selected computer science
education in Switzerland.
Figure 1. Switzerland is crossing the computer science education chasm with mandatory
pre-service teacher education.
Self-Selected Students/Self-Selected Teachers
Stage II All Students/Self-Selected Teachers
Stage III All Students/All Teachers