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To what extent should the standards of the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), a US-based professional organization for computer science educators, inform what is on-topic in this community?

I ask this in response to several questions of late that have got me pondering how we understand the computer science side of this community.

For example, one of the framework concepts of the standards is "Impact of Computing." A K-2 (ages 5-7) standard representative of that is "Compare and contrast examples of how computing technology has changed and improved the way people live, work, and interact" (1A-I-7-15). A "Networks and the Internet" standard for the same age range is as follows: "Use computers or other computing devices to connect with people using a network (e.g., the Internet) to communicate, access, and share information as a class" (1A-N-2-16). Using a shared Google Doc would be appropriate for this latter standard, yet that might seem to be off-topic here. Those standards certainly aren't at the level of machine learning, but are they the early stages of computer science?

I don't want to presume that we should be beholden to these standards, yet this is all there is for K-12 (ages 5-18) education in the US as far as standards go. Does that mean any/all standards from 5-year-olds using Google and 18-year-olds studying dynamic programming make for on-topic questions? If not, where and how do we draw the line?

Moreover, is anything under the umbrella of "computational thinking" acceptable in this community as it is constitutive of computer science?

The standards define computer science in this way:

The study of computers and algorithmic processes, including their principles, design, implementation, and impact on society.

That has a much different tone from the Wikipedia definition that's come up. Which do we use? Both? Neither? Our own?

Before we go public and invite teachers, it will help to have a clear line as to what is appropriate here and what is not. If something is based on a CS standard, is it automatically acceptable?

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  • $\begingroup$ I think now is probably a good time to get this discussion rolling. It will help fill an important part of our Help Center, "What topics can I ask about here?" Frankly, however, I'm not set in what is CS and what's not. Only major point I can think of at the moment is that while it might be taught in a CS class in some places, it is not, per se, on-topic here. Many schools have topics that they choose to teach, without having a good place for them, and they are placed in the next best place that the school can find. $\endgroup$ – Gypsy Spellweaver Jun 8 '17 at 23:25
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I don't see a need to preference CSTA over any other organization, though it seems like some of their definitions could be very useful for us, either by overt adoption, or as starting points. (ie. if they change their definition, that should not change ours by default.)

Obviously, our interests and theirs have an extreme amount of overlap. However, I am wary of over-broadening our scope, and they seem to have written up a very broad take on CS. Part of what they do is political lobbying, so they might be trying to cast a bigger tent than would make sense for our site.

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I'm against defining this site's scope based on some definition from a US association. Too volatile, susceptible to change as governments and lobby groups come and go and interests change. Also, pretty meaningless in the rest of the world, or for anyone not among their 25000 members.

Computer science is pretty well definable, so I say we should go with the strict definition (e.g. Wikipedia). I say this even though I'm still a bit disappointed, as I thought this site was going to be IT educators (meaning everything IT teaching related) - my mistake there.

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    $\begingroup$ What would be an example of IT training that wouldn't be in scope of CSE? I wouldn't expect things like teaching about routers and networking to be off-topic. $\endgroup$ – Ben I. Jun 8 '17 at 20:26
  • $\begingroup$ I would hope those concepts would certainly be on-topic. I do agree that one association should not be the sole arbiter, but it is a reliable source for education standards. It's easier to draw the line for CS than it is for CS Ed, so I'm just trying to find some sort of authority (or authorities) that provide site members, especially newcomers, some set of clear guidelines. I'm fine synthesizing multiple sets of standards based on our community; I'd just like those standards acknowledged clearly and consensus reached on them. $\endgroup$ – Peter Jun 9 '17 at 2:10
  • $\begingroup$ @BenI. According to this meta, internet safety for kids is out of scope, just like MS Office application usage, internet searches, etc. Practically everything that is not programming related somehow is out of scope. I think this is a big loss for the site, but the name is CS, not IT... $\endgroup$ – vacip Jun 9 '17 at 7:33
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    $\begingroup$ @vacip Which is why I started this topic. If teaching about the Internet is in scope and so is early primary education, say K-3, then I don't see how that would NOT be in scope at least in some way. Internet safety can certainly be discussed through lens of how networks work to begin with. Why I like the CSTA standards is they choose for a broader scope yet provide clear educational definitions. I still see this as unsettled, but I'm okay for now. We will have to see what happens with more questions in this spirit. $\endgroup$ – Peter Jun 9 '17 at 22:33
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    $\begingroup$ I wonder if a relevant question is: is there another site where discussions of IT education would be on-topic? If not, then from a US perspective, there's no reason not to discuss them both on the same site. We do a lot of blending of the two in the US, so I'm not sure where the line could be drawn. I think application usage is probably not on-topic, but general concepts in internet safety should be. $\endgroup$ – Kristen Hammack Jun 15 '17 at 13:26
  • $\begingroup$ "Computer science is pretty well definable, so I say we should go with the strict definition" -- I would be interested in a definition that more than two people can agree on. To my knowledge, no such thing exists. See also here. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Jun 16 '17 at 9:16
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The CSTA standards have undergone another revision to more closely align with the K-12 Computer Science Framework and will be released this summer. The Framework might give you some insight into the vision for K-12 Computer Science in the US.

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