Wisconsin defines computer science as “an academic discipline that encompasses the study of computers and algorithmic processes, including their principles, their hardware and software designs, their applications, networks, and their impact on society” (WI Department of Public Instruction 2017).
This working definition of computer science draws upon these five content areas from the Wisconsin Standards for Computer Science:
Algorithms and Programming
Data and Analysis
Impacts of Computing
Networks and the Internet
Often, there is confusion between computer science and other areas of computing, such as computer literacy, information technology literacy, or a digital technology career pathway. The following list of general definitions can provide clarity as to what computer science is and is not:
Computer Literacy: Computer literacy may be embedded into any discipline at any grade level to incorporate technology into teaching and learning. Wisconsin transitioned to the term “ Information Technology Literacy” when the academic standards were revised in 2017.
Information Technology Literacy: The ability of an individual, working independently or with others, to use tools, resources, processes, and systems responsible to access and evaluate information in any medium, and to use that information to solve problems, communicate clearly, make informed decisions, and construct new knowledge, products, or systems (Wisconsin Standards for Information and Technology Literacy 2017).
Digital Technology Career Pathway: The Wisconsin Regional Career Pathways (RCP) approach is a statewide effort to deliver high-quality career pathways in high schools that reflect the needs and vision of a regional collaborative group of employers, education, and economic and workforce development. Computer Science coursework should be considered part of this career pathway along with other technology-related academic courses.
Computational Thinking (CT)
A common connection between many academic standard areas in Wisconsin in K-12 education is computational thinking. According to the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and Computer Science Teacher Association (CSTA), CT’s K-12 definition includes:
- Formulating problems in a way that enables us to use a computer and other tools to help solve them.
- Logically organizing and analyzing data.
- Representing data through abstraction such as models and simulations.
- Automating solutions through algorithmic thinking (a series of ordered steps).
- Identifying, analyzing, and implementing possible solutions with the goal of achieving the most efficient and effective combination of steps and resources.
- Generalizing and transferring this problem-solving process to a wide variety of problems.