Working Together to Support Computer Science Education

September 3, 2014

Posted by Chris Stephenson, Computer Science Education Program Manager

(Cross-posted from the Google for Education blog)

Computer Science (CS) education in K-12 is receiving an increasing amount of attention from media and policy makers. Education groups have been working for years to build the infrastructure needed to support CS both inside and outside the school environment, including standards development and dissemination, models for teacher professional development, research, resources for educators, and the building of peer-driven and peer-supported communities of learning.

At Google, we strive to increase opportunities in CS and be a strong contributor to the community of those seeking to improve CS education through our engagement in research, curriculum resource development and dissemination, professional development of teachers, tools development, and large-scale efforts to engage young women and underrepresented groups in computer science. However, despite these efforts, there are still many challenges to overcome to improve the state of CS education.

For example, many people confuse computer science with education technology (the use of computing to support learning in other disciplines) and computer literacy (a very basic understanding of a limited number of computer applications). This confusion leads to the assumption that computer science education is taking place, when in fact in many schools it is not.

Women and minorities are still underrepresented in computer science education and in the high tech workplace. In her introduction to Jane Margolis’ Stuck in the Shallow End: Education, Race, and Computing, distinguished scientist Shirley Malcolm refers to computer science as “privileged knowledge” to which minority students often have no access. This statement is supported by data from the College Board and the National Center for Women and Information Technology.

Poverty also has a significant but often ignored impact on access to technology and quality computer science education. At present there are more than 16 million U.S. children living in poverty; these children are the least likely to have access to computer science knowledge and tools in their schools and homes.

There are many organizations and programs which focus on CS education, working hard to address these issues, and others. This gives Google the unique opportunity to analyze gaps in existing efforts and apply our resources towards programs that are most needed. In so doing, we hope to help uncover new strategies and create sustainable improvements to CS education.

Achieving systemic and sustained change in K-12 CS education is a complex undertaking that requires strategic support that complements both existing formal school programs and extracurricular education. Google is proud to be a member of the community committed to making tangible improvements to the state of CS education. In future blog posts, we will introduce you so some of the programs and resources that Google has been working on.