What’s a Computer For? Part 2
Computer science is the new basic skill
Originally published in the July 2008 issue of District Administration Magazine – Read part 1 of this article
In an educational setting, granting agency to the learner represents the wisest allocation of resources with the greatest potential return on investment. When used as material, the computer can help a student learn what we have always valued with greater efficacy, efficiency or comprehension. Yet the real power emerges when a student is able to learn new things that were previously not learnable, and in new ways. The power of the computer lies in its ability to be used to create a wider, deeper range of personally meaningful projects.
A teacher’s technological fluency and awareness of computers’ potential predicts what students can do. Despite popular myths and a few exceptions, children rarely know more about computers and their applications than adults.
Teachers who lack technological fluency may still value the computer as an instrument for project-based learning. In their classrooms, kids can make a five-slide PowerPoint presentation about frogs, write a five-paragraph essay on a blog, publish a book report via a wiki, or use iMovie to report on a summer vacation. These are hardly transformational activities, but they grant some agency to the learner.
According to renowned computer scientist Alan Kay, the computer revolution hasn’t happened yet. Look at the average American student’s twelve-year course of study and you will be hard-pressed to find any study of computer science. MIT mathematician Seymour Papert suggests that an impartial observer might conclude that we have enacted a conscious policy of depriving children of understanding the very technologies central to their lives, which seems antithetical to education.
Don’t believe me? ISTE’s National Educational Technology Standards and groups such as the Partnership for 21st Century Skills don’t mention programming or computer science once in their educational visions for the future. One of the AP computer science tests has just been dropped, and few students have any meaningful computer science experiences during their K12 careers.
Computer science matters for several reasons: (1) mastering the machine, (2) addressing economic imperatives, and (3) understanding the world.
Mastery of the computer leads students to understand the strengths, weaknesses and appropriate use of technology. It places them in a position where they are empowered to make informed decisions, explore powerful ideas, and express themselves in ways we have yet to imagine.
It is undeniable that knowledge of computer science has great implications for personal career prospects and our nation’s economic development. Curiously absent from the hyperbolic discussions of flat worlds and global competitiveness are concerns over statistics such as those from the Computing Research Association that show that the number of college freshmen who list computer science as a probable major has fallen by 70 percent since 2000, or that computer science remains a rarity in the K12 curriculum.
The Power of Computer Science
I disagree with those who protest that not every child needs to be a programmer. We expect students to have all sorts of learning experiences. Why not explore the most powerful new science of the past century? In 1975, my junior high expected every student to learn programming in a nineweek course between baking a souffl? and making a wooden tie rack. Nobody ever questioned the value of souffl? baking, yet anti-intellectualism or fear of computers makes us question the value of programming. More than three decades later that school’s computer curriculum consists of keyboard instruction. The “Algebra II with Computer Programming” course I took is now part of the fossil record.
If mathematics is a way of making sense of the world, computing is a way of making mathematics. The power of computer science is evident in all of the natural and social sciences, not to mention the arts, commerce and politics. Agency over the computer not only has vocational benefi ts but also is required for understanding the world. The computer should be used transparently across grades and disciplines, but students also need the formal understanding necessary for solving problems unforeseen by the traditional curriculum. Computer science should be taught as a basic skill.
Veteran educator Gary Stager, Ph.D. is the author of Twenty Things to Do with a Computer – Forward 50, co-author of Invent To Learn — Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, publisher at Constructing Modern Knowledge Press, and the founder of the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute. He led professional development in the world’s first 1:1 laptop schools thirty years ago and designed one of the oldest online graduate school programs. Gary is also the curator of The Seymour Papert archives at DailyPapert.com. Learn more about Gary here.
5 thoughts on “What’s a Computer for? Part 2 – Computer science is the new basic skill”
A friend and I, both Maths teachers (we add an s to Math in Oz), have been solving problems on ProjectEuler.net using computer programming. We crave the opportunity to enable our students to do the same. We’re seeing a small number of grade 7s at some lunchtimes to teach them Scratch/BYOB and are hoping to equip others to use Lua in an after school club. It is a lot more interesting to ask what is the sequence number of the first Fibonacci number that is 1000 digits long than to give them columns of meaningless questions about the Fibonacci numbers. With tools like Scratch and the ability of modern calculators to be programmed, it is strange that programming is nowhere to be seen in our “new” Maths curriculum. Sorry for the long reply. You have struck a chord, Mr Stager.
A Wonderful Career With Computer Science
Any job hunter wants the energy to be self adequate. How about having the energy to modify truly the community through quick interaction and on the Internet engineering? Furthermore, as we become more reliant on technical techniques to perform cohesively, the need for software experts will be almost pressing. PC technological innovation hands you with a unique systematic and innovative viewpoint in troubleshooting. In addition, you benefit a hand on experience in managing delicate information on the Internet, or you may be accountable for guaranteeing technical techniques are functional. Authorities depend on technical techniques to perform. Your perform as a software professional can be used in nearly every level, on any range, from small to large companies, from private to the public industry. Efficient processing procedures is respected above any expertise set, so having abilities in this type of systematic process will be complicated and similarly as fulfilling. Since technical development is unlimited, so are the opportunities of the occupation. Think about being a character of an ever-evolving, interesting profession.
Another benefit is that you can acquire this level on the Internet from an approved on the Internet college. You can even are dedicated to a software area of your choice – for example medical center functions or system security. Whatever your specialized, you will have a great side in your job explore since you are with crucial troubleshooting, sensible thinking, and innovative abilities necessary to be successful.
A software level is the level you want if you care to be inhibited and can modify the community.
of higher discovering are however not in agreement of what is recommended by many technical levels, such as application technological innovation and pc technological innovation. These areas, along with it, Computer Science
, and pc technological innovation technological innovation, are simply too newly. Thus, such one school or company thinks as a requirement pc technological innovation may be viewed by another as application technological innovation. In the beginning, Computer Science
constituted hard-wire to do a certain function.
I think it is the parents and teachers who should make education relevant to students. Technology must become an inclusive tool. Where alll are able to obtain access to hardware and applicationsif needed.Laptops, iPads, and laptop computers — paid for with the help of state dollars — are becoming an increasingly common sight in classrooms.
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