The theme of this year's To Code and Beyond was Computational Thinking. Mark Guzdial gave the keynote. While the talk isn't currently online, check out this talk that Mark gave last March. It's not the same but the second halves are and well worth a look.
In the first half, Mark talked about other types of "thinking." Scientific thinking, engineering thinking and even historical thinking. All had a good amount of overlap with both each other and with computational thinking even as we haven't yet settled on what computational thinking actually is.
This overlap is why I think that bringing CS into the primary grades gives us an opportunity to reduce the achievement gap between rich and poor.
I've already said that I'm not sold on hardcore CS and programming in the early grades but rather it's CT - the problem solving and methodologies of CS that can effectively be part of the earlier grades.
Of course, that's easier said than done. While there has been some pushback recently we still have far too much emphasis on standardized tests and elementary school teachers are way overworked. Trying to get already overburdened teachers to add in a whole new subject area is a big ask. The opportunity is that we might be able to develop aspects of CT in a way that supports what elementary teachers are already doing, possibly under the unlabeled guise of scientific thinking, historical thinking, engineering thinking or some other thinking.
This is already going on to a certain extent with individual teachers at individual schools. Logic games and problem solving techniques have always been explored by elementary school teachers who have freedom from tightly packed test based curricula. These could be considered CT and you could also add data collection and processing and I'm sure many other things as well. This is where CS/CT can fit in the elementary schools without adding to the teacher's current load. What's more, if we can figure out how to incorporate these CT concepts to support the subject matter already being studied we could help close the gap between the haves and the have nots.
I've said many times before that I'm not an elementary school specialist but I still suspect this is the approach for CS in the primary grades at least for the near term.
I've already got a pretty full plate between my work with Hunters Daedalus CS honors program along with our pre-service programs being very close to going live but I'm also hoping to do some work in relating to this in the near future.