Computer Science Teacher: How is Computer Science NOT a 21st Century Skill?

December 25, 2013 at 1:31 am 7 comments

Thanks to Alfred Thompson at Computer Science Teacher: How is Computer Science NOT a 21st Century Skill.

Entry filed under: Uncategorized. Tags: , .

Chicago State tries to shut down faculty blog (and Time for End of Year Break) The ACM/IEEE 2013 CS Curriculum is released (in the nick of time!)

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Matt M  |  December 26, 2013 at 10:54 am

    Reblogged this on Educational Technology from Absolutely Learning and commented:

  • 2. Liza Loop  |  December 29, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    A note about 21st Century Skills:

    1. Agreed, any school that does not offer computer science in this century is failing to provide its students with a critical career avenue. On the other hand, I disagree that every student needs to study ‘computer science’.
    2. Every student does need to be able to engage in ‘scientific thinking’ which includes hypothesizing, experimentation, inductive and deductive reasoning, sampling and evaluating implications/conclusions. This kind of thinking can be learned just as well with a focus in biology, physics, or astronomy, to name a few, as in computing.
    3. Every student needs to understand, at a truly gut level, the principle of ‘garbage in – garbage out’ in order to be inoculated against tyranny perpetrated by those who control mass communication outlets. This may be effected by teaching coding. However, there is a long way between composing a simple program and being a computer scientist. Since so many of our household appliances now have embedded computers for controllers and are programmable we could teach coding in cooking class as well as computer science class.
    4. This issue of embedded devices is making the term ‘computer science’ difficult for the lay person to interpret. Those of us who are either geeks or over 50 (or both) are likely to recognize that ‘computer’ in ‘computer science’ means a general purpose machine that may only have special purpose features activated. But John Q. Public is more likely to believe that opening the black box will void his warranty. Our challenge may be to ‘demystify’ the concept of a computer before we can attract large numbers of people to computer science.
    5. In the 21st century ‘science’ is often seen as antithetical to ‘religion’ and, in the US at least, religion is increasing in popularity. We may need to do some PR to put down the idea that computer science is somehow un-Godly.

    Don’t get me wrong. I am solidly in the computer science/coding camp. I’m delighted with the success of the Hour of Code. Therefore, as a problem-solver, I’m turning my attention to the folks we aren’t yet reaching. These points suggest to me that we need to add something, maybe called ‘computer literacy’ to the present computer science/coding initiative. This might help us intrigue those students (and perhaps, teachers) we may be missing these past few weeks.

    What have we got to lose?

    • 3. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  December 30, 2013 at 12:47 am

      Liza, where do you get statistics showing religion increasing in popularity in the US? The statistics I’ve seen show a gradual decrease in the popularity of religion over the last couple of decades, with an increase in the number of people who identify as atheist or agnostic, though I can’t seem to find a good historical chart. Most of the Google and Wikipedia hits seem to lead back to the 2009 ARIS study, which is summarized at

      • 4. Liza Loop  |  December 30, 2013 at 2:46 am

        I don’t have statistics, just personal observation. Maybe my vision is blurred by the noise made by religious radicals. Do you know any programmers who subscribe to creationism or promote prayer in schools and government meetings? And my European friends tell me they are amazed by the apparent amount of religious activity on this side of the pond. Even without statistics I’ll stick to the point that enough people see science and religion as conflicting to make it important to reach out to this segment of our population.

        • 5. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  December 30, 2013 at 3:39 pm

          The religious right have been particularly vocal lately, because many media outlets have been purchased by right-wing zealots, not because they are actually representative of the US public.

          I don’t think that education in computer science has much to do with religious beliefs, though, so I’m still not sure why you brought it up. There may be some slight correlation through other factors (like education in general or social class), but CS and religion seem not to be in opposition. (Unlike biology, where the primary concepts of the science are rejected by some religions.)

    • 6. Mark Guzdial  |  December 30, 2013 at 8:43 am

      Liza, I agree that we need to think through our definitions of “coding” and “computer science.” Brian Dorn’s work with graphic designers is a good start in this direction, by figuring out what adult, professional graphic designers are trying to do with computing and what computer science they need to succeed. I disagree, though, that the next step is to think about the students who we’re not reaching with “Hour of Code.” The “Hour of Code” wasn’t necessarily an hour of learning, and one hour isn’t enough to learn a whole lot. “Hour of Code” was an invitation, and that 15 million students opened. We have to make sure that we have the infrastructure to make good on that invitation.

      • 7. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  December 30, 2013 at 3:40 pm

        I agree that there is not much infrastructure for going beyond the “Hour of Code”. That PR exercise may it clear that there is some unmet demand (though probably nowhere near 15 million students).


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