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How computer science education is bridging the digital divide


Amidst the chaos that the pandemic has wreaked on our lives, there are important lessons to be learned. It proved that tech-savvy people can navigate and succeed, and that many of the potential problems of the future can be solved with technology.

Many institutions and people who have embraced technology have survived and in some cases thrived. But for those without digital skills or access to a computer and internet connection, it was a very different story.

During the pandemic, the term “homework gap” was used to describe children without reliable or any access to the Internet and appropriate digital devices and who were unable to complete their assignments. At the beginning of the pandemic, approximately 15 million public school students in the US lacked the connectivity needed for online learning. This gap was particularly pronounced among low-income, black, and Hispanic families. As almost every school has switched to some form of online learning, students without computers and connections have suffered. Schools worked hard to address this situation, but others could only watch as their students struggled and fell behind.

In an increasingly digital world, a lack of technology skills can drastically reduce your options in life. Computer science has the potential to level the playing field and prepare students for the future. While the easiest entry point into schools is programming classes, the subject covers a wide range of areas. We use computer science to visualize and analyze data, design and develop complex yet intuitive visual interfaces for digital tools. After all, we approach life’s problems and ideas with minds honed for computational thought; breaking down ideas into smaller steps, thinking about a problem in both specific and general terms, finding and simplifying patterns, and ultimately creating a dynamic solution.

It seems incredible that in this context, teachers like me still have to fight to teach computer science in our schools. It remains a subject which only half of gymnasiums teach and only 5 percent of students are enrolled.

There are a number of reasons for this. Since computer science is not required in the vast majority of US states (only five are required), it requires teachers who are already passionate and educated in the subject to advocate for teaching coding classes. Not all teachers are comfortable teaching computer science unless they have the relevant skills themselves. Finally, affordability is a major obstacle. Between software licenses and purchasing the appropriate hardware, computer science education can be very expensive.

These challenges are real, but they are not insurmountable. Indeed, our education system has no choice but to adapt. I often tell my students:I don’t prepare you to solve the possibilities of today, I help you prepare for the unimaginable possibilities of your tomorrow.” If we are to create the technically skilled workforce the future demands and prepare young people for success, technology skills must be a top priority.

In my local Connecticut schools are answering the call. Today, the Connecticut Computer Science Dashboard shows that 92 percent of Connecticut students have access to a computer science course or curriculum, and 88 percent of Connecticut districts offer some computer science course.

Although the courses are available, only 12 percent of Connecticut students take them. We needed to make computer science accessible and attractive to everyone.

Learning through game design

Like other CSTA chapters, CSTA Connecticut was founded as a local computer science community. We work to connect computer science teachers, provide professional development and share the latest best practices in K-12 computer science education.

To encourage students to try computer science, we’ve worked with our schools to expand the range of courses available. As a lifelong gamer, both tabletop and electronic, I wanted to create a video game class. We now run two courses: Intro to Game Design and Advanced Game Design. The first is definitely a “platformer” course, where each student must understand how to create a traditional “platformer” game in Construction 3. The advanced course, however, is organized like a real-world game studio. Each student chooses a role such as programmer, artist, musician, game designer and producer. The playing teams then work together to create whatever style of play each team jointly chooses.

This intuitive way of approaching game development proves extremely useful for students with special educational needs and those who learn multiple languages. Construct 3 is simple enough for students just starting to code, but has more functionality for advanced courses, allowing students to develop at their own pace and go far.


In 2022 only 24 percent of Connecticut students participating in a computer science course identified as female. Additionally, only 11 percent identified as black, 19 percent identified as Hispanic, and 0.1 percent were Native American.

Students from underrepresented backgrounds need extra encouragement to try computer science and get equal benefits from computing skills. Breaking down stereotypes has proven important as many students, especially girls, still believe that computer science is ‘not for them’, ‘it’s for boys’ or because ‘it’s too hard’ and ‘just involves sitting in front of a computer screen’ .

When students learn that computer science can also lead to careers in things like entrepreneurship, automotive design, health care, music journalism, fashion, or sports analysis, they may be more receptive to the career opportunities that come with computer science. and offer them a way out of their current reality. Because these career opportunities are so broad, computer science can and should support greater diversity, equity, and inclusion. With the right skills, any student can almost leave school and have a very lucrative career.

Acquaintance of teachers with informatics

Given the limited definition of computer science and its mostly optional status, schools depend on teachers who have a personal interest in coding. The competence of the untrained computer science teachers in our state was extraordinary, and I wanted to help them take their courses to the next level. While researching game development options, I found Construct 3 to be the clear winner. Its intuitive user interface combines both block and text programming so students can switch between them as they progress. This makes it ideal for both students who have never seen a line of code and highly competent developers in high school. Its intuitive functionality means that teachers with no previous experience can also jump in and work with students.

The digital divide

Our computer science courses must be accessible to all students, including those without connectivity or sophisticated devices. We were able to bridge this digital divide by finding an accessible platform: Construct 3 can be downloaded for offline use and run on inexpensive Chromebooks. This helps close the homework gap, giving every student the opportunity to develop their skills, regardless of family income.


Organizations like the National Center for Women in Technology and our own local post-secondary institutions are also addressing these opportunity gaps through various scholarships and courses available.

In addition to formal academic training, many schools and libraries will host an Hour of Code during National Computer Science Week starting December 5th. These fun and casual activities give kids a chance to get creative with technology. Websites like Code.org will host free online coding contests, and CyberStart America hosted a free online cybersecurity contest for high school students. Our very own contest Lt. Governor’s Computing offers many entry levels for grades 3-12. Participating in an Hour of Code or an online competition is a great way for schools to test what a computer science course might look like.

Inequality in the US will not disappear overnight. To close the “homework gap” and give students an equal opportunity to succeed in today’s world, schools must be able to teach them computer science. Every student should graduate school knowing not only how to use technology, but also how to create with it. By exposing students to the joy of mastering technology and programming, they will enter adulthood hungry and ready to take advantage of all the possibilities of the digital revolution.

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