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Doug Bergman: The Value of and Need for Computer Science

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by Doug Bergman
Expert Educator Columnist, USA

How many times have you been using an app on your phone and it did not work quite like you wanted? How many times have you been with your friends and someone said, “They should make an app for that”? How many times have you complained about the location and functions of the buttons on your smartphone? How many times has the software program you are using not been able to do what you wanted—or worse –you just could not figure it out?  What options did you have? Stop using it. Try another program or buy another device.

What you are experiencing is called being a consumer of technology.   It’s not a bad thing, in fact we need folks like that to use and buy the things that the “creators” make.

That’s the difference: users vs creators.

We need more creators.

In a digital world, those who can create using technology are the leaders of research, business, politics, and academia. They are ones who explore, innovate, build, and discover. They are the ones who build the tools so other can solve problems in their own fields and discipline

I am not suggesting that everyone major in Computer Science. Students take English (in the USA) every year of school for 16 years, and yet most don’t major in English. Students take science and math for 10+ years, and yet most don’t major in those areas. What I am suggesting is that Computer Science be looked at in the same ways we look at language and science and math. They are concepts and skills that allow us to understand, synthesize, and push the envelope in all industries and disciplines. It is a way of thinking that is part of the underlying fundamental groundwork of every discipline and industry on the planet. That has not always been true, but it is now There are few, if any , industries that are not almost entirely dependent upon technology

So, we need more people who think like Computer Scientists. We need people who have programmed a computer to do something or simulate something. We need people who are not afraid to open up a computer to troubleshoot and upgrade. We need people who have commanded a device to do something (such as move a robotic arm, read the temperature sensors, or use an infrared detection). We need people who have made their own app for a smartphone. We need people who have designed an interactive digital experience on a computer (such as a game or activity). We need people who have written their own code for a website or a script for a social media site. We need people who can design a 3D model.

We need people who can build things, make things, design things, program things.

Computer Science gives you a set of tools which allow you to communicate, solve problems, improve something, redesign something, or bring to life an idea in your head.  Never before in history has there been a time where we can think of something, design it, try it, and make it available to the world—within days or even hours. And with 3D printing and internet technologies, those times are reduced even further.

Computer Science is as crucial to our educational system as learning to read and write.  For countries who are looking to be leaders in the world economy, Computer Science is no longer a luxury for their top students & researchers at elite universities or international corporations with unlimited funds.

It is not easy, and it’s not for everyone, but it is available to anyone who is looking to distinguish themselves and are willing to put in the time and energy and effort to learn. It’s like power and currency.

We cannot possible know what the world will look like in 10 years, or even 5 years. Who knows what new technology will be there, or what problems will have to solve.  The skills developed through learning Computer Science allow us to embrace that unknown.

Doug Bergman is a Computer Science teacher at Porter-Gaud School in Charleston, South Carolina. He’s been teaching 20+ years, the majority of that in Computer Science. His Column “It STEMs From Here” focuses on computer science education and runs every other week.

5 Comments

  1. Hi Doug, good start to your postings. There is no question about the movers of the world being the creators. In my country, many forward looking people are becoming critical of the education system here (Uganda) where greater emphasis is laid on the lower order of thinking in learning – cramming, memorizing to pass exams and that’s the end of it. This, am sure explains the high rate of unemployment in our country. Everything else is in place but the mind that thinks about creating out of the resources…

  2. Doug,
    This post was the last straw that broke my “I can’t do it” mantra’s back. I have never coded. I know nothing about CS, but that’s not an excuse anymore. If we are in education, we must do the right thing for our students and open this world to them.
    So… This self-confessed CS phobic is hosting a week of coding in the library during Hour of Code week. I’ll be learning with the kindergartener and the 5th graders will take great pride in teaching me what to do!
    It’ll be a blast! Thanks for pushing for what you know is viral for our children’s future.

  3. Shafaque Riaz says

    Doug, It’s definitely STEM everywhere, We are also hosting Hour of CODE. You are inspiration

  4. lincolndemo says

    When using technology for teaching, there are four basic principles to be kept in mind:

    1. Alignment: Technology should be used for a purpose—not for the sake of being flashy and not as a distraction from other forms of pedagogy . Carefully consider the ways in which video or other media that you share with your class are aligned with your learning objectives .
    Consider the technology that is most closely in alignment with your teaching skills and the needs of your students —if you don’t like to teach with Power Point, consider giving students a handout outlining the main points of your lecture and listing major concepts to assist them in note-taking.

    2. Accessibility: Be sure that the technology that you intend to use is accessible to your students . While computers are virtually ubiquitous , and students living on campus have ready access to computing labs and other technology on campus , do consider whether or not your students have access to technology that you want them to use. Also , consider your own access to technology : make sure that you are familiar with all of the technology that you use and that media technology in your classroom is functioning correctly before the class . Plan ahead. If you are going to show a film, for example, don’t wait until you walk into class to find out if the player in your class room supports your DVD’s regional format, or you will find yourself scrambling to come up with a lesson plan that does not include the film. By checking the regional format in advance, you will be able to have a matching-format DVD player delivered to the class room by Technology Services .

    3. Assessment: As with lectures , discussions , and labs , provide your students with guidance when dealing with media technologies . If you are showing them a film, provide them with the learning objectives that you have for them in watching the film. Consider giving them a short assignment to be filled out as they are watching it, for example, to structure their interaction with the media and to assess their learning at the end of it. Likewise, if you are using Tweeting or Blogging as a means to generate discussion on course content online, be clear about how you will grade their online contributions —Do they receive points simply for participating or will they receive different amounts of points for different qualities of contributions ? Is there a minimum or maximum amount of participation that you expect?

    4. Reinforcement: Technology should be used as reinforcement of and supplement to your teaching, but it should not be a simple reiteration of exactly what you have done in another format. For example, PowerPoint presentations can be useful in structuring a lesson, but your slides should not match your lecture word-for-word, such that you are simply reading from the slides . Videos of dangerous or otherwise inaccessible procedures or experiences can be used to augment your lecture or description of them.
    Olalekan Adeeko, Nigeria

  5. Pingback: Guest post by Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Worldwide Education: 2014 Hour of Code: Helping Build a New Generation of Creators - Microsoft in Education blog - Site Home - TechNet Blogs

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