The education of Computer Science

It is soooooo exciting to see Computer Science starting to really take root in the U.S. education system. Through the efforts of national level organizations such as, CSTA, NCWIT. Through products and initiatives of innovative companies such as Lego, Microsoft, CoDrone….they are helping pave the way to getting Computer Science into classrooms. Professors and faculty from colleges, universities, high schools, middle schools, and even elementary schools are creating resources, partnering, putting on workshops, writing articles, and talking about it. Across private and public schools, rural and urban, and spanning socio-economic, religious, and gender boundaries as well. That is what is takes.

Why are we seeing this sudden “welcome”?

Robolink was established in order to encourage students to learn about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) in an engaging way with robotics kits.

Well, part of this huge wave is just people simply starting to finally understand and accept that technology and the ability to understand, program,control, re-program, and create software and hardware is fundamentally crucial in a society which is virtually 100% dependent upon technology, regardless of the industry.

Parents are starting to demand that the schools in their districts include Computer Science, not disguised as a typing course, easy senior elective, or desktop publishing course, but as true rigorous Computer Science.

Students are realizing that regardless of the major you choose in college, or the career you choose to explore afterwards….Computer Science is part of the backbone of that discipline and any industry. Many of the physical tools, devices, communication tools, promotion tools, analytical tools, sensors, controls, and even client acquisition tools….all of those at some level are resting on a layer of Computer Science. In some of the the same ways as language , math , and science.

So looking forward, we now need to think about how we actually implement this in our schools. Districts simply giving marching orders to bring Computer Science into the curriculum might sound good for a newspaper article, brochure, admissions tour stop, or campaign speech, but the devil is in the details.

Our vision is that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science.

I’ll argue that we have to really think about what an awesome opportunity we have here. The “textbook” of Computer Science is not the same as a textbook in a history class. The way to learn Computer Science is not to sit back and listen to a teacher talk about it. We do not want to have classes in Computer Science that do not embrace and reflect that dynamic engaging world of digital technology outside school walls. Think of the excitement kids get when they get a new laptop, smart phone, or gadget. There is a reason they love that. There was a time where only the super nerds got excited about those things, now you are considered a nerd if you DO NOT get excited about them. How far we have come.

Multiple choice tests, traditional lecture and note taking, the questions at the back of the chapter, and doing the odd problems for homework are not going to capture the essence of what we are after.

Equally as important in knowing what Computer Science is… what Computer Science can do….and then DOING it.

We have a chance to invent the Computer Science classroom exactly as we want it. We can look at how we have done it over the last several decades and consider what worked and did not work so well. We have a chance to realize that the audience that is attracted to Computer Science classroom NOW is not the same as the audience of 20 years ago. We are not just targeting our hard core techies; we are targeting students who are interested in exploring Computer Science as a way of thinking and as a set of tools/skills that allow them to address and solve the problems in the areas they have passion for.

TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) helps high schools build and grow sustainable computer science programs.

I am so excited to be a forefront of this movement. Building out what the educational side of the new Computer Science can be as engaging and dynamic as the industry/ discipline itself.

There is a different way to look at education. As a parent, teacher, student, administrator, or policy maker, keep your eyes and ears open, but look differently and listen better. If something I said here makes sense to you, then we should probably connect. Find me.

About Doug Bergman

Head of Computer Science at Porter-Gaud School in Charleston, SC
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