Welcome to the first of a series of blog posts about Computer Science curriculum around the world. The purpose of this series is to highlight the similarities in Computer Science curriculum across the globe and how Replit can be used to support students and educators.

This time around we are delving into the increasingly popular International Baccalaureate (IB) which is now taught in over 5000 schools, with the majority of these located in North, Central and South America.

So what is the IB?

The International Baccalaureate was founded in Switzerland in 1968 with the intention to pioneer a student-centred, inquiry-based education program.

Students in their final two years of studies select six academic subjects (three at higher level, three at standard level). They also complete a compulsory Theory of Knowledge course, write an Extended Essay and take part in 150 hours of non-academic activity. Exam results in each subject are scored from 1-7, and up to 3 additional points may be awarded for Theory of Knowledge and Extended essays. Students who achieve 24 points obtain the diploma. The maximum number of points that can be achieved in the IB is 45.

If students choose Computer Science they also have to decide whether they wish to be presented at standard or higher level.

What concepts are covered in IB Computer Science?

At Standard Level in the IB the programming section explores high level language constructs such as selection and iteration as well as 1D arrays, 2D arrays, standard algorithms, sorting algorithms and understand the basics of object oriented programming.

If students take the Higher Level in this subject they will also have to learn a variety of abstract data structures (linked lists, stack, queue and binary trees) and file input/output. They may also spend time looking at more complex algorithms associated with real world computing.

Students may also explore Databases, coding (creating, editing and searching) a variety of database tables. Alternatively they could investigate additional programming paradigms such as HTML & CSS. If the teacher chooses to teach OOP then students will take a deep dive into the nuances of object orientation.

How is IB Computer Science assessed?

Although the course is assessed in the traditional manner a percentage of the students' grade comes from creating a solution to an identified problem pertaining to a real client. This requires an intricate understanding of how the theory of the course presents itself in practical terms. Students are actively encouraged to try out the skills they have learned and to use the concepts covered in unfamiliar contexts. This usually starts as a simple hello world task and could end with a full solution to a problem requiring several object oriented classes. Students who complete Option D (Object Oriented Programming) will spend the majority of their IB Computer Science course writing code.

How is IB Computer Science taught to students?

There are six principles that underpin the Approaches to Teaching in the IB curriculum:

  • based on inquiry
  • focused on conceptual understanding
  • developed in local and global contexts
  • focused on effective teamwork and collaboration
  • differentiated to meet the needs of all learners
  • informed by assessment (formative and summative)

(myIbo.org accessed 8th June)

Inquiry based learning is one of the key components of an IB curriculum. Building inquiry into coding enables students to understand the fundamentals of how to solve problems rather than rote learning.

How can Replit help support IB Computer Science students?

Replit can help students develop their inquiry skills as teachers are able to share pre-written or partially completed programs and students can spend time getting to understand how to code effectively through pedagogical approaches such as PRIMM (Predict-Run-Investigate-Modify-Make) introduced by Sue Sentance in 2017.

Replit's Multiplayer feature is also particularly useful as it allows students to develop code together where everyone is accountable and can have an active input into the program.

How can Replit help support IB Computer Science educators?

Teams for Education recently became freely available to all schools and can be used to organise and share units of work or projects for students to complete. It also includes at-a-glance tracking of progress to identify when students need support or a gentle nudge to complete a task.

The ability to share different levels of comments with different students through threads allows teachers to differentiate in a discreet yet effective manner.

The Replit community can also provide quick answers to common queries and access to expertise from other teachers around the world. There is also already a growing curriculum hub where amazing Replit Certified Teachers have shared their work for you to import to your Teams for Education classes immediately!

This article references the IB Computer Science syllabus which was released in 2014.

Lindsey Stephenson is a teacher of DP Computer Science, Theory of Knowledge and MYP Design at ISZL in central Switzerland. She is passionate about Computer Science, helping students to challenge themselves with coding, keeping CS curriculums relevant and inquiry-based learning.