Celebrating Computer Science Education Week

December 7, 2009

Posted by Alfred Spector, VP Research and Special Initiatives and Maggie Johnson, Director of Education and University Relations

[cross-posted with the Official Google Blog]

Today kicks off the nation’s first Computer Science Education Week. The goal of this week is to encourage students to learn about the discipline that powers the computers, applications and technology they use everyday. Computer Science Education Week emphasizes that our society's aspirations will be met by individuals who have an increasingly deep understanding of computer technology.

We've been thinking about ways that Google could help with computer science education for several years. After all, our search engine has been used in education since its inception — how many essays, research papers and theses begin with a Google search? Today, we'd like to summarize some of what we've been doing at Google to advance CS education. Our efforts focus on four strategic areas, with an emphasis on computing in core curriculum.

Use of Google tools to support teaching and learning
Having a web-based shared document, spreadsheet or presentation that students in a group or class can all view and edit online has had an enormous impact on collaboration in education. So we provide a free suite of our communication & collaboration applications designed especially for schools and universities. We also used our tools and infrastructure to build and support a community of teachers who have developed classroom content and activities around these applications.

Increasing the access to and quality of Computer Science curriculum
We have many people at Google who know about all areas of computer science, many with backgrounds and experience in education. With this deep base of computer science knowledge, we developed Google Code University to help faculty update their undergraduate computer science curriculum, and the Summer of Code, which gives students the opportunity to develop programs for various open source software projects.

Integrating computing curriculum across K-12 core subjects
A group of Google engineers and K-12 "teaching fellows" is working on building and testing models of curriculum to encourage innovation. These curriculum models revolve around "computational thinking", a problem-solving technique that draws on the thinking and analysis skills that computer scientists use everyday. Our goal is to integrate computational thinking across subject areas in K-12 by connecting these skills, which are already a part of core curriculum, more explicitly to computer science. We're also taking this a step further by integrating simple programming concepts in appropriate areas of core K-12 curriculum, such as algebra. Our hope is that by making computer science more visible and showing its connection to every subject area, students will experience the full power and utility of technology in areas of interest to them. Integrating CS into other subjects will also have the key added benefit of leveling the playing field, so that many more students will have the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of computing.

Supporting organizations and individuals through community outreach
We've also worked for years with teachers and nonprofits to build early interest in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. Besides providing financial support and sponsorship for many external organizations, we've developed a number of scholarship and intern programs to increase the number of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM and computer science. In addition to these formal programs, every day Googlers all over the world organize visits with students at nearby schools and community centers to teach, present workshops and tech talks, and to share their personal stories on how they became computer scientists and engineers.

We're absolutely delighted to be a co-sponsor of the first Computer Science Education Week. As a company, we've benefited so much from advances in computer science and the creativity of computer scientists. We also know that the next great innovators in computer science are out there, ready to be inspired to create technologies that change our world and benefit our society. We urge our children, parents, teachers and educational institutions to pay more attention to this critical field, and we will continue to do our share.