Fertile Ground in Africa for Computer Science to Take Root – NYTimes.com Edupocalypse Now: Removing the BS from the BS

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Alan Kay  |  December 7, 2011 at 8:29 am

    This sounds a bit wrong-headed, and so I went to Amazon to buy the book, but saw it was $32.80!

    Is it really worth this? (Rudimentarily trying out crowd sourcing here …)



  • 2. Amy Bruckman  |  December 7, 2011 at 10:23 am

    I’m not sure I buy this argument. Transfer is hard. Most of studies of using programming to enhance learning of something else have failed. We could have a long conversation about whether those studies were done right, but it makes sense intuitively–yes, teaching X through programming takes more time than just teaching X.

    More importantly, I think this is selling computation short. It is important in itself. And in terms of what we can eliminate in the curriculum to make room for computing… I don’t think candidates are too hard to come by if you really think about it. If you focus on what they are actually going to do with that knowledge in their lives and how other things will build off of it in an important way, then I think half the curriculum is optional!

  • 3. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  December 7, 2011 at 11:43 am

    I’m not sure I agree with Alan and Amy here. Even if your goal is to teach computer science, too much focus on teaching the language can detract from teaching the concepts.

    I’m working on a project to get bioinformatics into high school biology. There is no course more over-stuffed with “essential” material than AP bio, so adding bioinformatics to the mix is not going to fly if it is taught as a goal. I believe, however, that teaching with bioinformatics tools can make the biology easier to teach, and that is the explicit goal of our project.

    • 4. Mark Guzdial  |  December 7, 2011 at 12:28 pm

      Yes, that’s closer to what I meant. I’m sorry that I wasn’t clear enough in the original post.

      I see the argument as being one for contextualized computing education. Absolutely, computer science is worth knowing for itself. Is it so valuable that we should teach it to everyone? Hard to argue that for everybody. Is computer science useful in supporting other learning (e.g., visualization in mathematics; modeling and simulation in physics and biology; data management in business, etc.)? ABSOLUTELY, and now it’s easier to argue for teaching it to everyone. When you do teach CS like that, you want to relate it to why it’s useful. If you just argue “You should know swap() because it’s good for you,” nobody buys it.

      I agree with Amy — transfer just doesn’t happen. As for what can be removed — future post…

  • […]  That’s what Amy Bruckman was referencing (I think) when she talked about all the candidate school topics to remove so that computing could have a place.  Aaron’s point is well-taken about the high price of […]


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