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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Teaching Computer Science Is Great, But It's Not Enough | Education Week - Opinion

Photo: Jill Denner
Photo:  Florence R. Sullivan
"How to teach students to question the role
of technology" insist Florence R. Sullivan, associate professor of learning technology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Jill Denner, senior research scientist at Education, Training, and Research at ETR.

Photo: Getty

Self-driving cars, robot-assisted surgery, automated news writing, a huggable, humanoid Mickey Mouse character at Disney World—these are just a few examples of the many ways computer science is changing the way we live, work, learn, and play. This push toward the automation of tasks and jobs, and the creation of more intelligent technologies that can simulate human decisions and emotions, has substantial benefits for society. Many technological innovations are advancing health care, public safety, communication, education, and science, and are improving the quality of life for those who have access to them.

There is no one better to access these tools than the students who will shape the technology of our future. In recent years, the dizzying pace of technological innovation has motivated a surge of interest in creating quality computer-science-education experiences for all K-12 students in the United States. In early 2016, President Barack Obama announced the Computer Science for All initiative, which called for more than $4 billion in federal funding to expand computer science in elementary, middle, and high school.

Though Congress never set aside the proposed $4 billion, the initiative set in motion a new focus on computer science, triggering change across the country. Some states, including Arkansas, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia, now require all high schools to teach computer science, while districts such as San Francisco are teaching computer science at all grade levels. And we are both members of the CSforAll Consortium, a hub for the initiative, which is made up of more than 230 organizations that are continuing to connect schools, funders, and researchers together.

There is still much work to do, however. In an ongoing, multiyear study on computer science education conducted by Google and Gallup, researchers found that although students, parents, teachers, and school administrators value computer science, it is still not offered in many schools. This is because of a lack of time, funding, and qualified teachers. Only 25 percent of schools nationwide reported offering a computer science class in 2014-15, and while that number rose to 40 percent in 2015-16, we are still years away from providing sufficient computer science education in all schools.

As educational researchers focused on computer science learning, we welcome the push by more districts to teach the discipline to students. But we believe that our nation's current conception of computer science education does not go far enough. It is not sufficient to simply give more students access. As computer science continues to expand, we advocate for educators to teach functional computer science literacy, just as the field of science education has spent decades refining an approach to teaching socio-scientific reasoning (which integrates learning science content in the context of real-world issues)
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Source: Education Week


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