Get Serious about Computer Science Education
When we carry in our pockets more computing power than the total computing power there was in the world in those days when we were racing to the moon, shouldn’t our students know more about how their computing devices work… and how to program them? Computers in our pockets should make this a lot easier than what some of us did in those ancient times… when huge computers with punch cards meant going deep into the basement of a university building, but it hasn’t. Why is it that our students are lacking the most important universal languages of today? Why is it that many computer-programming educators are teaching it using one teaching computer, from a whiteboard, and their students are pantomiming programming at their desks without devices? Shouldn’t computer programming be a graduation requirement rather than an elective… if it is an elective at all?
When Google is talking about creating robot companions, and Amazon talking drone deliveries, shouldn’t education future-thing, too? Maybe if reality TV offered America’s …or Britain’s Got Computer Scientists… with judges like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and will.i.am it would help. For now, events like Computer Science Education Week are a start at sharing with educators and students that computer science is cool, and programmers are rock stars—and gender, physical appearance, socio-economic status, or place on the globe doesn’t matter. So, isn’t it time education gets serious about computer science and takes it beyond just an Hour of Code? Grace Hopper would have had education leadership at attention—for sure.
Certainly, this is not as easy as saying you’re going to do it. Nothing, especially in education, ever is. In the UK the longstanding ICT programs (Information and Communications Technology) have already changed to move toward the computer science direction in all subject areas. Previous ICT programs have been disapplied, so schools have had to step up out of necessity, mostly on their own, to create curriculum that has a computer science component. Educators who had previously taught ICT have had to upgrade their computing skills and certification to continue teaching those skills, which now include programing. In the US, computer science educators have really been on their own, too, speaking out in their districts, schools, and personal blogs (ex. Computer Science Teacher) for more support, including computing equipment. National organizations like the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) (http://www.csta.acm.org/) continue to beat the drums louder, but they need help.
While it is very obvious that we’ll need more computer scientists and programmers in the work force than singers on reality show stages by 2020, education at its local and national leadership levels still hasn’t gotten serious about computer science and programming in school and for students. Supporting computer science education should be more than a week’s plan, and far more than an hour of coding. If you ask computer science and STEM educators, you’ll hear that. And when you ask students who are actually programming in classes today, you’ll hear excitement as they share what they’re learning, doing, and creating. You’ll also hear from students and teachers alike that it’s downright fun, and that’s not bad either!