Talk on Meeting Everyone’s Needs for Computing

November 5, 2009 at 6:46 am 5 comments

I just gave a talk at Informatics Education Europe IV in Freiburg, Germany, on Meeting everyone’s need for computing: IEEIV-ComputingForAll-Oct2009-v5.ppt

My story in this talk is that we have a bigger computing education problem than just being concerned about the number and diversity of students who are majoring in computing or informatics.  The “bigger” problem is the number of people who program and who want to learn more computer science, but who do not want to become CS majors or learn to be software engineers.  A paper out of CMU predicts that we’ll have around 3 million software developers in the US in 2012, and about 13 million end-user programmers.  There are four times as many people who will want to know some CS and some programming (from Brian Dorn’s graphics designers, to computational scientists and engineers, to high school teachers), but reject software engineering.  I argue that we should care about them, too, and that approaches like Media Computation will reach and help these audiences.

The questions went on and on, eating up 10 minutes of our coffee break.  The part that got people stirred up was, “Are you giving up on getting women into software engineering?” and “Don’t you think we need software engineers, too?!?”  And of course, I agree, we desperately need software engineers and more diversity in computing — that’s what I’m focusing on in “Georgia Computes!”  However, I really do believe that we are missing an opportunity to have impact and to improve the world, if we don’t also teach those people who want computing, but do not want to be professional software engineers.

There were also questions about implications of this model.  “Are you suggesting whole  new degree programs, to ‘hide’ the informatics or computing?”  I said that I wasn’t about “hiding” anything, and while we are finding that new degree programs like Computational Media are successful, I mostly see the need for new classes.  “Do you design contextualized computing from the careers back, or from student perceptions forward?”  We started from the former, but shifted to the latter.  The problem is that students don’t really know what their careers are really about. When we talk to engineering students about modeling differential equations in code, they don’t really believe us — they themselves don’t know what engineers do with code.  So we end up having to explain to them what the career choices they’ve made are, what practitioners in that field really do.

I’ve been asked to blog the conference on Blog@CACM.  I’ll link back here.

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Georgia Board of Regents accepts APCS as “counting” BLOG@CACM on first day of IEE IV

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mark Guzdial  |  November 5, 2009 at 7:51 am

    Ingo Dahm of the Microsoft Academic Relations Team here in Germany blogged my talk. I can’t read it, but I’ll leave a pointer here for those of you who do and who might be interested:

    http://ingodahm.spaces.live.com/default.aspx

    Reply
  • [...] the basics at a fairly good level. Mark Guzdial talks about some of this on a recent post called Talk on Meeting Everyone’s Needs for Computing The “bigger” problem is the number of people who program and who want to learn more computer [...]

    Reply
  • 3. uberVU - social comments  |  November 5, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by lsudol: Mark Guzdial about his talk on meeting everyone’s need for computing. http://tinyurl.com/ydgfxcr all I can say is YES!…

    Reply
  • 4. Rita  |  November 6, 2009 at 8:21 am

    I’m working in this area for several years now, teaching students in computer science who don’t want to become CS majors. They are highschool teachers, designers, or newly created degree programs like “media education”.
    From my work with teachers I know how important it is to integrate “computer education” in schools. We are still working on ideas how that could look like, starting with etoys projects in elementary schools, teaching “media education” students how to create applications for kids and train teachers how to use technology.
    For me, that is not “hiding” computer science within new programs, we even tell students from the beginning that CS is an important part, but it is interdisciplinary work. It is an opportunity of adding CS to other fields.

    Reply
  • [...] going to have our greater impact on society and meeting these needs by shifting our focus, to helping to teach the large numbers of non-CS/IT students who will end up doing CS/IT jobs. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Alaska economy booming – lots of jobsHow to [...]

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