Computing education that everyone needs but isn’t about learning programming

May 6, 2015 at 7:53 am 3 comments

My colleague, Amy Bruckman, wrote a blog post about the challenges that nonprofits face when trying to develop and maintain software.  She concludes with an interesting argument for computing education that has nothing to do with learning programming that everyone needs.  I think it relates to my question: What is the productivity cost of not understanding computing? (See post here.)

This is not a new phenomenon. Cliff Lampe found the same thing in a study of three nonprofits. At the root of the problem is two shortcomings in education. So that more small businesses and nonprofits don’t keep making this mistake, we need education about the software development process as part of the standard high-school curriculum. There is no part of the working world that is not touched by software, and people need to know how it is created and maintained. Even if they have no intention of becoming a developer, they need to know how to be an informed software customer. Second, for the people at web design firms who keep taking advantage of customers, there seems to be a lack of adequate professional ethics education. I teach students in my Computers, Society, and Professionalism class that software engineers have a special ethical responsibility because the client may not understand the problem domain and is relying on the knowledge and honesty of the developer. More people need to get that message.

via Dear Nonprofits: Software Needs Upkeep (Why we need better education about software development and professional ethics) | The Next Bison: Social Computing and Culture.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. carpetbomberz  |  May 6, 2015 at 11:31 am

    Reblogged this on Carpet Bomberz Inc. and commented:
    Full credit goes to Mark Guzdial and his blog: Computing Education
    An interesting article by Amy Bruckman about both being a good software customer (knowing how software is developed and maintained). The reverse side of this is teaching professional ethics to the developer/web-designer/programmer selling their services to people. It seems still there’s very much a Wild West, frontier days attitude similar to year 2000, Internet Bubble era. Once both sides of the transaction are fully educated, much better outcomes will occur I believe.

  • 2. geekymom  |  May 6, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    This is exactly how I worked my way further into CS. I understood long before how I learned to really program how the software engineering process worked. Most of my last 15 years, I’ve been deeply involved with various software and hardware purchasing processes, most recently the redesign of a web site. I would add to the maintenance imperative, the idea of understanding how systems work together. I spent over an hour explaining to the person who maintains our backend database for student, parent, and alumnae information how SSO works. I couldn’t create a SSO system to save my life, but I understand enough about how they work to ask the right questions.

    I could go on. I have had so many conversations with people in charge of technology who don’t have a deep enough understanding to make good decisions.

  • 3. chris verhoeven  |  May 10, 2015 at 8:28 am

    i totally agree with you here. I’m 32 years old now and i’m stunned about how little people know basics on computers. Offcourse, people of my age had computer class at school. But i remembered this time when i signed up for an advanced computerclass, but i went into the wrong classroom. I ended up in the basic computerclass for teachers. And they were litteraly told on how to turn on the pc. I was thinking to myself: “are they joking?”

    Personally i would love to get a basic programming class at school. Nowadays you only have that when you follow some sort of IT degree. I think if schools teach more on computerbasics (not just to how to turn on the pc), people would be more familliar on the subject matter.

    Since a long time, i help people with computer issues and by explaining them what they did wrong and help them improve their basic skills, i see them becoming more confident. Especially in this computer era it’s a very important way of life.

    Chris Verhoeven


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