Overhauling Computer Science Education

“Students from elementary school through college are learning on laptops and have access to smartphone apps for virtually everything imaginable, but they are not learning the basic computer-related technology that makes all those gadgets work. Some organizations are partnering with universities to change that.”

THE Journal has run an important article about the efforts to overhaul Computer Science education in the U.S. (Overhauling Computer Science Education – Nov/Dec 2011.)

It’s long been a mystery to me that computer science isn’t being taught in U.S. schools. No, not computer literacy, which is also important, but often stops at the “how to use application x, y, or z” level. Why are we not teaching students how to program, master, and manage the most powerful aspects of the most important invention of the 20th and 21st century?

I believe there are two reasons, both based in fear.

1. Fear that adding a new “science” will take time away from “real” math and science. In my opinion, the US K-12 math and science curriculum has been frozen in time. It’s not relevant or real anymore, and needs a vast overhaul. But there are lots of forces at work to keep the status quo definitions of what kids are taught. And I do mean to draw a distinction between what students are taught and what they learn. For too many young people, what they learn is that math is boring, difficult, and not relevant, and science is about memorizing arcane terms. This is just a shame and waste.

2. Fear that computer science is too hard to teach in K-12. People worry that teachers are already stressed and stretched, that there aren’t enough computer science teachers, and that computer science is just something best left to colleges. That’s just a cop out. There are lots of teachers who learn to teach all kinds of difficult subjects – no one is born ready to teach chemistry or how to play the oboe, but people learn to do it all the time. Plus, there are computer languages and development tools for all ages, and lots of support on the web for people to try them out.

Please read this article – it covers a wide range of options and ideas for adding this very important subject to the lives of young people who deserve a relevant, modern education! Overhauling Computer Science Education

Sylvia

2 Replies to “Overhauling Computer Science Education”

  1. A quick reaction to your statement “It’s long been a mystery to me that computer science isn’t being taught in U.S. schools.”

    We ARE teaching CS in U.S. Schools. Our Scalable Game Design project has explored how to bring CS education to middle schools in inner city, remote rural and Native American communities in the USA. The results are overwhelmingly positive with an average of nearly 50% girls participating. Have a look at our results. It can be done. We even have early indicators of evidence of transfer between game design and simulation building activities. Here is a video showing some of the teacher training:

    http://www.9news.com/news/local/article/202987/222/Teachers-play-video-games-for-science-

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