The Tech Industry, Building Consensus, and Changing the Education Canon

December 4, 2015 at 7:39 am 6 comments

My most recent Blog@CACM post is on the K-12 CS Education Framework stakeholder’s meeting I attended last month in Chicago — see link here. The parts of the meeting where I learned the most were the first three talks, from Michael Lach, Heidi Schweingruber, and Michael Gilligan on mathematics and science education standards and what those efforts have to teach us in computer science. That’s what I wrote the Blog@CACM post on.

At the break, I congratulated Mike Lach on an excellent talk. I told him that I appreciated his message that we have to go slow. The CS education effort is the first attempt in decades to change the American Education Canon — what we teach everyone in US public schools. He agreed, and pointed out that the last time we changed the canon was in response to the Civil Rights Movement. I was confused. He explained that the Civil Rights Movement led to the creation of the African-American History Month. That’s the last time that something got added to all US elementary schools. He said that we should be glad that there’s not that kind of anger and violence fueling the push for CS education — but on the other hand, there’s also not that same kind of consensus about the importance of CS education.

Consider the two recent Google-Gallup poll reports. From one, we learn that parents think that computer science is about applications and Web search (see report here). In the second, we learn that parents (once they are told what computer science really is) want it for their kids, but administrators and principals are less enthusiastic (see report here). Commentators on the latter report have interpreted the result as suggesting that school leaders “underestimate demand” (see article here) and may be out of touch with what parents want.

There’s another way to read these two reports together. Parents don’t really know what CS is, and they don’t understand what they’re trading off when they say that want CS education. They want their kids to know CS, but at what cost? School leaders have to deal with implementation issues, and they don’t see enough demand for computing education to give it a slice of their meager budgets.

Computing education is being discussed today because of the technology industry. We would not be talking about CS in K-12 without technology industry needs. It’s the NYC tech industry who pushed for the initiative there (see their open letter). It’s the tech industry funding Code.org (see funders here). That’s not necessarily a bad thing to have the tech industry funding the effort to put computer science in schools, but it is a different thing than having a national consensus about changing public school education to include computer science. What I hear Mike Lach and others in mathematics and science education saying is that we need to build consensus if we want the implementation of CS education in schools to succeed.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. alfredtwo  |  December 4, 2015 at 8:27 am

    I think that having the tech industry involved is an essential part of creating the national consensus about changing public school education to include computer science. I think people are going to look to see if tech is supporting the movement. If tech is not supporting the movement people outside of tech will doubt that they should care if tech doesn’t care.

    Reply
  • 2. Joek van Montfort  |  December 4, 2015 at 11:14 am

    I’m not so sure tech industry is really interested in enhancing education. Initiatives like CodeX where X as you like all to often are just blind shots. Mass marketing to get a few percent extra interested in the field. That will solve some problems of finding qualified employees in the near future. It has little to do to prepare the next generation on the world we (will) live in.
    As an alternative the approach in the UK where Computing at school grassroots initiative took another starting point http://www.computingatschool.org.uk/about

    Reply
  • […] As Georgia Tech professor Mark Guzdial recently noted, “Computing education is being discussed today because of the technology industry. We would not be talking about CS in K–12 without technology industry needs. It’s the NYC tech industry who pushed for the initiative there (see their open letter). It’s the tech industry funding Code.org (see funders here). That’s not necessarily a bad thing to have the tech industry funding the effort to put computer science in schools, but it is a different thing than having a national consensus about changing public school education to include computer science.” […]

    Reply
  • […] mentioned my involvement in the initial meetings for the new K-12 CS Ed framework effort (see previous blog post). This effort is now formally announced with a steering committee and a […]

    Reply
  • […] United States is rarely done (successfully) and hasn’t been done in several decades (see previous post on this).  We’re changing the education canon, what everyone is taught in schools.  It’s a […]

    Reply
  • […] CS K-12 Framework was released Monday.  This has been an 11 month long process — see first blog post about the framework, first blog post on the process, and the post after my last meeting with the writers as an […]

    Reply

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