Monday, October 26, 2009

National Computer Science Education Week

Last week, Congress (trying to push off health care reform for as long as possible) passed house resolution 558 to create national computer science education week, the week of December 7th. Why the week of December 7th? Grace Hopper's birthday was December 9th!

If these statistics (from the ACM) are still accurate, then we're badly in need of more computer science education. Talking with a friend about this recently, I found myself defending the position that computer science is not so hard that many more people can't learn it. Though originally a devil's advocate position, I talked myself into believing it. While it's unreasonable to expect that many people could get Ph.D.s in computer science, it does seem reasonable to expect many people to be able to understand basic algorithms and master basic programming skills. And that needs to happen. As money leads, so people will follow. Or, people will follow if the government leads. The government's encouragement is nice, but not actually transformative unless they put muscle behind it - perhaps a mandate for computer science education in high schools, or at least less focus on NCLB testing so that schools can teach subjects other than math and English. Meanwhile, we can all do our best to lure unsuspecting freshman to our classes with robots, videos, and other shiny things.


Benoit said...

Jeannette Wing is big on saying that pretty much anyone can do "computational thinking" -- if we teach them how.

Wicked Teacher of the West said...

I'd argue that even if the statistics aren't right, everyone needs some computer science education. Understanding the logical underpinnings of our technological world and engaging in computational thinking are important for everyone, not just future computer scientists. It might be *less* important for future computer scientists than for future doctors, legislators, parents, secretaries, and anyone else.

You have a good point that it isn't beyond the ability of nearly everyone. We teach higher order math in schools; computer science isn't any harder than that.

Anonymous said...

Are those computer science jobs or computer programming jobs or just "IT" jobs?

Anonymous said...

Teaching small children about a computer is simpler now, but teaching them to know and identify parts are difficult. I created some concise flashcards,which I am planning to use with the class next month. What is your opinion on this method?( and also on these flashcards)