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CompSci in the curriculum

HISD Trustee Paula Harris coauthors an op-ed in the Chron advocating computer science to be part of the standard school curriculum.

Paula Harris

While STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education is a hot topic in education circles these days, only math and science courses are required for graduation from high school. The few computer science courses that are offered are categorized as electives, not as core courses students need to graduate, so they do not receive the same emphasis as their higher profile STEM counterparts.

We need to start working with students at a young age to spark their interest in technology and computer science. Our children should not just know how to use apps and video games, they should know how to create apps and video games. Some very popular and very profitable apps have been designed by high school students.

We must elevate computer science classes to be part of our core curriculum. We need to train more teachers who are qualified to teach modern state-of-the-art computer science courses, and to find innovative ways to recruit and keep these teachers familiar with the latest technology.

According to Computing in the Core, a nonprofit coalition that advocates for K-12 computer science education, “By 2018, current government projections show that more than 800,000 high-end computing jobs will be created in the economy, making it one of the fastest growing occupational fields.”

We need the support, input and commitment from technology companies to help us educate technology-inspired, innovative thinkers to both fill available jobs and pioneer in the field of computer science.

I agree that computing should be a required part of the curriculum, but I’d like to see a proposal of what’s being required first. There’s a lot more to computing than programming – hardware, networking, mobile computing, security, etc etc etc – so my first question would be what exactly is it that we want to emphasize? What do we really think students need to know? Remember that unlike, say, math, what’s relevant and important in computer science changes rapidly, and sometimes radically. I mean, when I was in college, there was a debate over whether APL or Pascal was the right introductory language to use for programming concepts. How can you ensure that the curriculum you’re designing today will still be worth teaching by the time you’ve finished designing it? Sure, there are plenty of basic ideas in computing that are enduring, but if the idea is to prepare students for the job market, then being up to date on what’s in demand is critical. Are there other school districts already doing something like this? You get the idea. I like this idea and want to see discussion on it. What do you think?

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One Comment

  1. Paul Havlak says:

    I’ve taught programming and other computer science subjects, the former at both high school and college levels. Programming can be a tough slog for those having trouble passing algebra, and to what end?

    I’d rather see a course in data analysis at the high school level, required or not. This can include spreadsheets, limited programming, visualization, hypothesis testing, and statistics. Those topics can help math come alive, and teach students to understand and own data — not just for futures in research or business, but also as numerically litererate citizens.