The first time I visited a computer science (CS) classroom, I watched a group of second graders race across the room in a sorting network. “We’re thinking like a computer,” one student explained. “It’s like when we do a project as a group and work on different parts at the same time, we can finish faster than if we had to work alone.”

For this student and her peers, CS is not just a discipline, but a way to understand the world. The foundational skill of computer science is computational thinking, a strategy for organizing and breaking down problems in order to solve them.

In the classroom

Today, millions of educators from around the world are engaging in computing activities with students and working to embed CS across the curriculum. We know there’s a strong economic imperative to prepare the next generation of CS-literate students — a labor market opportunity to the tune of $1 billion.

Teaching computational thinking is not only about preparing students for high-paying jobs, although that is a nice incentive. It’s about giving them the tools to create their futures and find meaning in the world around them. It’s recognizing that we’ll solve some of the biggest challenges we face using the power of computing, and we need everyone to contribute to those solutions.

Around the world

Students around the globe are already doing this. Take, for example, Kavya Kopparapu, who at age 16 developed an AI-enabled "Eyeagnosis" system that uses a smartphone app and a 3D-printed lens to diagnose diabetic retinopathy.

Or 15-year-old Anisa Valenzuela who designed a model — based on the age-old hot potato game — that helps younger children understand the importance of electronic circuits, computing power and technologies encountered in everyday life.

For this student and her peers, CS is not just a discipline, but a way to understand the world.

The International Society for Technology in Education believes that empowering students to excel as critical thinkers and problem solvers through CS will create active, collaborative and lifelong learners who are prepared to succeed in their future endeavors.

In the home

If computer science and computational thinking is to be an integral piece of students’ educational experience, it must also be a critical component of educator practice and a topic that parents are at least familiar with.  Educators and parents everywhere, we call you to engage in computer science education. Dip your toes in it. As one teacher put it, “Learn a little, teach a little.” You won’t regret it, and our kids will certainly benefit.