Learning, Innovation & Tech

Bombs & Breakthroughs


CJ Westerberg, December 30, 2009 9:50 AM


What Every Parent, Teacher & Administrator Needs To Know

The stereotypical image of the geeky nerd - the lonely male in a dark basement punching out computer code  - may soon be a picture of the past.    Instead, imagine both girls and boys learning, understanding, and embracing computer code as an everyday universal language and a necessary part of a well-rounded education.  It's happening right now across the country, not in big waves yet, but it is happening.

Science is in the forefront of the news recently, with computer science gaining mainstream attention with its connection to future jobs and career enhancement.  The link of computer science to science and math skills, logical thinking and problem solving is also a key driver to this conversation, which seems to building momentum even outside of tech circles.  From The New York Times, click dates for full articles on Dec. 21st and Dec. 22nd:

"... the National Science Foundation wants to reform high school computer science education in America, expanding its reach and updating the curriculum to better prepare students for a 21st-century economy. Professional organizations and major technology companies, including Google, Microsoft and Intel support the broad agenda, though companies are not getting into curriculum details.

There is some reason for optimism. The Obama administration is increasing federal support for science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, or STEM programs.

But in the United States, K-12 education is a state and local affair. Any agenda for change will live and die at the level of school superintendents, teachers and parents. And computer science programs, typically elective courses, have suffered in recent years because of budget cuts and the priority given to core courses that are the basis of standardized tests.

The N.S.F. seems to have a sound strategy for elevating computer science education in high schools by collectively raising its sights. Across the board, the approach is less emphasis on the digital equivalent of shop classes -- how to use PowerPoint and Excel, or do Java programming. Instead, the goal is to "teach them the magic of computing," said Janice Cuny, program director of the foundation."

The articles continue:

"Educators and technologists say two things need to change: the image of computing work, and computer science education in high schools."

"The agency is working to change this by developing a new introductory high school course and seeking to overhaul Advanced Placement courses as well. It hopes to train 10,000 high school teachers in the modernized courses by 2015."

How This Affects Future Jobs

"A solid grounding in computing, experts say, promises rewards well beyond computer science. Most new jobs in the modern economy will be heavily influenced by technology, said Robert Reich, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and former labor secretary in the Clinton administration. And they will require education beyond high school, though often two years or less.

"Most of them will not be pure technology jobs, designing computer software and hardware products, but they will involve applying computing and technology-influenced skills to every industry," Mr. Reich said. "Think Geek Squads in other fields," he added, referring to a popular tech-support service.

These workers, he said, will be needed in large numbers to install, service, upgrade and use computer technology in sectors like energy and health care."

C.J.'s Riffs: 
Maybe we should be giving computer code language equal weight as a relevant universal "foreign" language on par with Mandarin or Spanish?

How can teachers possibly be utilizing technology beyond "putting homework/textbooks on-line" if technology isn't an integral part of their development?

 Click here for cartoon from The New Yorker.
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