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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Let's Celebrate Computer Science Education at our Schools



Computer Science Education Day?

In his post: Let's Celebrate Computer Science Education at our Schools:, Alfred says:
"Brian Scarbeau came up with what I think is a completely wonderful idea (read his proposal here). The short version is that while most subject departments at most schools have annual 'days' or 'weeks' that they celebrate there is no one special day or week to celebrate computer science education. There is Latin week, French week, school library week, and the list goes on and on. Why not a Computer Science Education day?"
Grace Hopper's Birthday?

The article goes on to quote Brian from the Computer Science Teachers Association who suggests putting this day on December 9th which is Grace Hopper's birthday. Grace Hopper was regarded as a computer "futurist" of her generation, beginning her work with the Navy on the Mark I and moving to the Mark II by the end of the war. She' s my kind of woman. On her first day on the job, here is what she was told:

She was the third person to join the research team of Professor (and Naval Reserve lieutenant) Howard H. Aiken, who had requested her months earlier and greeted her with the words, "Where the hell have you been?"

Then he pointed to the Mark I electromechanical computing machine: "There's the machine. Compute the coefficients of the arc tangent series by next Thursday."
She worked on compilers and programs that led to the development of COBOL and upon her death in 1992 was still consulting for Digital.

People who knew her

Alfred of the Computer Science teacher blog, says:
I was privileged to meet Grace Hopper on a couple of occasions. She really inspired me to study computer science. But more than that she was an inspiration in life. She was a scientist, a naval officer (something she was very proud of) but in a real sense she was also a teacher. Several generations of military people learned about computers directly from her lectures.
I am all for a day of celebrating computer science!

How important is the date?

I am sure that there will be many discussions and dissertations concerning the DAY that should be selected. In reality, when we select a day we are celebrating the contributions of every person from Augusta Ada Byron to Vinton Cerf who has participating in this completely new field. I'm not going to get caught up in that discussion of the date, although others will, I'm sure.

Computer Science must be recognized as a field of study!

When science began it was as a discipline of philosophy. It actually took time for it to be recognized as its own field of study! I believe that computer science has rapidly become its own branch of study. Of course it is interrelated with math, science, and language skills just as those disciplines are related with one another, however it is a discipline that deserves to be recognized.

Yes, the computer itself must be integrated with all aspects of teaching just like paper and pen. And yet, there is a whole field of study of how it works, how to make it work, the history of technology, and beyond. Many think that it only belongs at the college level. I disagree.

The Certification Debaucle!

As I have worked with standards and becoming certified in "computer Science" I have three routes to go:

1) The vocational education route - I can go take classes with the "welders" and others as this subject is relegated to vocational teaching in most schools, (welding is important, but not related to computer science!)

2) The business education route - Closely related and synonymous with Option #1 at many locations this would include many unrelated topics to computer science and not necessarily computer science itself.

3) I can become certified as a middle school math teacher, take a break from one of my computer courses and teach middle school math to receive my certification. Then I can take the test to transfer the certification to Business education. (This was actually the best option and I considered it. It did leave me scratching my head!)

These options are from a counselor at a local college. Perhaps I have oversimplified. However, none of these would give me a true certification in what I am teaching: Computer Science! I'm not to good to go learn welding if it will make me a better computer science teacher. I have one life to live, however, and three kids, and I'm not going to waste it running down pointless bunny trails. Distractions!

Computer Science is a discipline!

Computer Science is a discipline unto itself. It is vital. It is important. Every student needs a good amount of literacy in this new electronic playing field, board room, and communications method. We must be unafraid and able to interact.

But to begin to educate on a wide scale we must be moved out of the vocational track, onto the college prep track ALSO, and be treated as a discipline worth covering at the high school level and below.

My good luck!

I am fortunate to be at a school that recognizes the importance of Computer Science. Under our accreditation my 150+ hours of college computer science and related courses qualify me to be teaching in field. I continue to be dissappointed in the system that seems to be slow to react to the facts of life as I seek to advance my knowledge and be a better teacher!

While our world moves at the speed of Exa-bytes, the field of education seems to be lagging behind a mega - bit!

Join in the Chorus for a Computer Science education day.


Let's not get distracted by the date we select!

I applaud the efforts of the CTSA and encourage you to join if you are a computer science educator!
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