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.