Archive for January 28, 2010

“Who do I have to fight now?”: CS != Apps++

Our high school daughter came home last night with her Sophomore year course elections form.  She’s considering taking Computing in the Modern World, Georgia’s version of the similar course in the ACM Model K-12 Curriculum.  She might take Beginning Programming at some point, but she’ll need the pre-requisite…which is listed on the form as the course in “Computer Applications.”  Which is WRONG! Barb, who helped write the state standards, knows that Beginning Programming should require Computing in the Modern World. Barb’s comment was, “Who do I have to fight now!?!

The notion that computer science is just beefed up applications (CS == Apss++) is prevalent in high schools.  Lijun Ni, my student studying high school CS teachers finds it all the time.  “Oh, I’m a computer science teacher!  It’s important for students to go beyond computer applications into real computer science!”  That’s a true sentiment, but there doesn’t have to be a connection between applications and CS.  You can be a great computer scientist and not be able to figure out Word or Excel.  Last time I spoke to Jane Margolis, she was facing it in in her new pre-AP course in the LA Unified School District.  She said that the teachers complain, “How can they learn computer science when they have weak keyboarding skills?  We’ll have to do two weeks of keyboarding first.”

Is the problem that computing has been too successful?  That you can do so much with applications, that it’s considered the fundamentals, the base of all of computing?  Or is that teachers do not understand computer science as a real, academic, rigorous subject?  Or is that high school leaders don’t understand computer science at all?  I suspect that we have a chicken-and-the-egg problem.  How do we get real computer science valued in schools when the people making the decisions don’t understand computer science?

With all the excitement over “apps” on the new iPad, maybe now is the time to push: CS != Apps++

January 28, 2010 at 9:33 am 11 comments


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