QIS key concepts for CS

Incorporating QIS into High School Computer Science

Because of recent advances in the production of quantum computers and their associated potential to revolutionize society, quantum computing has been the subject of increasing media attention. Quantum computing leverages quantum mechanical phenomena to perform computation in new ways. Therefore, the integration of QIS into CS courses is a promising potential avenue for introducing students to QIS concepts.

Many computer science courses focus on solving computational problems, and computer science exercises need contexts in which to apply students’ developing computational problem-solving skills. The challenge is finding appropriate CS exercises related to QIS that 

  • Involve computational solutions of the appropriate difficulty that require the skills already being taught in the course.
  • Teach QIS concepts at an introductory level without requiring extensive math or physics skills.

The purpose of this document is to identify integrated activities that thread the needle between those two goals. We have identified several kinds of integrative activities:

  • Example: The instructor using a QIS context as an example when introducing a CS topic. This does not require the students to complete an assignment; it is introduced by the instructor.
  • Activity: Students engaging in an activity that has a relationship to QIS and CS but does not directly involve programming the computer.
  • Design: Students create a language-inspecific design that could be used to create an implementation for a QIS-related concept, but for which a code-level implementation is not required. This could include designing storage (identifying variables and their types) or computation (identifying functions, their uses, and their interfaces).
  • Implementation: Students write some code utilizing specific CS skills that implements something related to QIS.
  • Investigation: Students perform an investigation that requires using or writing code that gives insight into something related to QIS.

There are limitations currently to integrating certain aspects of quantum information science. For example, programming for quantum computing is still in its infancy, and there exist fewer than a dozen algorithm kernels that can be applied to real-world problems. The topic of algorithms is not directly in the K-12 QIS Key Concepts for two reasons. First, there is not yet a method for taking the kernels and adapting them for different problem domains using a programming language. Second, the level of programming and QIS experience necessary to truly understand those algorithms is more than what would reasonably fit in high school. While one can gain an intuitive understanding of a few toy algorithms that are stepping stones to useful ones, programming a quantum computer is not part of the K-12 QIS Key Concepts, and thus we do not include this in the current framework document.

QIS K-12 Key Concepts Computer Science Focus Group

The purpose of the QIS K-12 Key Concepts CS Focus Group was to create a document that would be useful to curriculum developers and teachers, providing guidance about places where high school computer science learning goals can be satisfied at the same time as content in the QIS K-12 Key Concepts. 

The focus group brought together 6 experts, educators familiar with teaching and research of computer science concepts at high school and/or university levels. The members were:

  •    *Diana Franklin, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
  •    Michael Rogers, King College Prep, Chicago, IL
  •    Daniel Rozanski, Pittsgrove School District, Pittsgrove, NJ
  •    Catherine Tabor, Canutillo ISD, El Paso, TX
  •    Tom Wong, Creighton University, Omaha, NE
  •    *Brent Yen, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL

*Designates working group lead, convener, or editor.

The result is a set of activities that both teach computer science skills typically taught in high school as well as very early QIS concepts. These are not meant to be full activities or lesson plans - different instructors may use different languages, choose to go into different amounts of depth, etc.  We hope, however, that by providing examples of synergistic activities, curriculum developers will be able to use these (and their own ideas) to create either individual activities or sequences of activities that build computer science skills and knowledge while, at the same time, introducing students to some basic QIS concepts. The link for the output is below.

We are releasing this first version for feedback from the community. Please reach out to us with your comments/questions at edwardse@illinois.edu.