Scaling Computer Science Education

March 13, 2013

Posted by Maggie Johnson, Director of Education and University Relations

Last week, I attended the annual SIGCSE (Special Interest Group, Computer Science Education) conference in Denver, CO. Google has been a platinum sponsor of SIGCSE for many years now, and the conference provides an opportunity for hundreds of computer science (CS) educators to share ideas and work on strategies to bring high quality CS education to K12 and undergraduate students.

Significant accomplishments over the last few years have laid a strong foundation for scaling CS curriculum, professional development (PD) and related programs in this country. The NSF has been funding curriculum and PD around the new CS Principles Advanced Placement course. The CSTA has published standards for K12 CS and a report on the limited extent to which schools, districts and states provide CS instruction to their students. CS Advocacy group, Computing in the Core, even provides a toolkit for communities to follow as they urge legislators for integration of Computer Science education into core K12 curriculum.

All of this work has made an impact, but there is still more to do.

I see our priorities in CS education to be ones of awareness and access. As CS educators, we must continue to raise awareness about the tremendous demand for jobs in the computing sector, and balance misconceptions with accurate data. Many students, parents, teachers and administrators remember the hype and disillusionment of the Dotcom period and myths on outsourcing and dwindling jobs yet the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that ⅔ of all job growth in Science and Engineering will be in Computer Science employment over the next decade. (See 2010 BLS report here.) Clearing up this misconception is essential if we hope to satisfy US labor needs with recent graduates over the next several years.
Source: Gianchandani, Erwin. Revisiting ‘Where the Jobs Are’. The Computing Community Consortium Blog post on 23 May 2012. Link accessed on 8 March 2013.

Another misconception surrounds the range of CS-focused occupations that exist. The world of CS is expanding rapidly and we should celebrate the diversity of CS applications that are gaining momentum. Instead of the archetype of a sun-starved computer scientist, or software engineers working in isolation with little teamwork or communication opportunities, educators can encourage project-based learning, video game development, robotics, and graphic design as more concrete representations for abstract computational thinking.

Google believes that computing and CS are critical to our future, not only in the high tech sector, but for everyone. Our economy is becoming more and more dependent on technology-based solutions, which will require a future workforce with significant levels of CS knowledge and experience. In addition, we anticipate new career opportunities opening up in the next 3-5 years as more businesses move into the cloud and shift the way they run their IT departments.

Help us get the word out about the great opportunities in computing through organizations such as, ACM, and NCWIT. Google is doing its part to support CS education and outreach through many programs including CS4HS, our Exploring Computational Thinking curriculum, and several student and teacher programs. So much opportunity, so little time!