K12 Computer Science Education in Nebraska – Where we are and where we need to go

K12 Computer Science Education in Nebraska – Where we are and where we need to go

According to a report from code.org, Nebraska is lagging in providing opportunities in Computer Science Education. For example, in 2018 Nebraska had 570 graduates in Computer Science with over 3000 open industry jobs. To increase and diversify our computer science workforce, Nebraska needs to strengthen and improve its current pipeline supporting these industry opportunities and strategies.  Since the number of graduates is tied to the interest and orientation students develop during their time in K-12 schools, we must reach students earlier and provide a continuum of experience for them to build knowledge and a sense of efficacy in Computer Science.

Our Vision

As leaders in Computer Science Education in Nebraska, our vision is thatComputer Science matters for all students. Our goal is to make sure that all students have a foundation in Computer Science (going beyond coding). To achieve that, we need to make Computer Science required in K-8 education and elective in 9-12. To guide instruction, we need standards that include foundational ideas in Computer Science, including computational thinking, algorithmic thinking, coding, digital ethics, robotics, and understanding of data, to name a few. To teach these standards, we need teachers specially prepared to teach Computer Science effectively with in-depth knowledge, specialized pedagogy, enthusiasm, and attention to equity and inclusiveness.  Equipped with these standards, we envision further dissemination and curation of instructional strategies, student pedagogy, instructional resources, and classroom delivery to support both in-person and distance learning.  Finally, we also envision an active and engaged community of practice of PK-16 Computer Science teachers, sharing experiences and insights around the standards, instructional strategies and resources.   

Code.org has identified nine practices that make K-12 Computer Science fundamental. In 2020, Nebraska was working on the first one—making a statewide plan expected in January 2021. Nebraska offers Computer Science options in high school to just over 44% of students across the state, well below the US average of 52% . According to College Board, students from the class of 2019 who took Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles (AP CSP) were three times more likely to declare a computer science major in college, compared to similar students who did not take the exam.  Also, our data shows that students from rural communities and Native American students are much less likely to have the opportunity to take Computer Science in high school.

What is the University of Nebraska doing?

  • We are collaborating with other universities, K-12 schools, and community organizations to move the agenda of Computer Science Education ahead.
  • Researchers from UNL and UNO have been researching effective computer science education strategies with supports from the National Science Foundation, Google Tides Foundation, and local Family Foundations. This helped expand our knowledge base and provided invaluable professional development for teachers of computer science.
  • The innovative team in the Johnny Carson School of Media Arts is finding new and creative ways to reach students who are not STEM-oriented through the arts.
  • UNL is the regional partner for code.org providing free/low-cost professional development for teachers across the state: 364 Elementary, 81 Middle schools, and 54 High school teachers prepared to teach Computer Science using the code.org curriculum.
  • UNL, UNO, and UNK have worked with the Nebraska Department of Education in revising teaching endorsement and curriculum paths
  • Both UNL and UNO are involved in the founding and support of the two Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) Local Chapters, around Lincoln and Omaha, to help build a community of practice for K-12 Computer Science teachers.


Dr. Guy Trainin is the Melvin and Jane Nore professor of Education and Chair at the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Teacher Education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He focuses his research in the areas of teacher education, technology, literacy, and the arts. In recent years Dr. Trainin has been studying 21st-century learning in schools in Nebraska, South Africa, and China with a specific focus on mobile-devices, computer-science, and creativity. He has published numerous research articles and books, as well as extensive digital authorship.

Dr. Leen-Kiat Soh is a professor at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  His research areas include computer science education and computer-aided education, in addition to multiagent systems and modeling, intelligent data analytics, and image understanding.  He has published numerous research articles in the areas. Dr. Soh’s research project includes designing and evaluating a professional development program for K-8 CS teachers that have generated instructional materials, courses, and research results.  Dr. Soh has also been involved in activities aimed at broadening participation and increasing student diversity in computing.