My Last Blog on CS: Technology Consumption vs Technology Creation

You have read the title correctly.  I no longer feel the need to blog about Computer Science and/or Coding.  The truth is that I have other interests in education and learning.  For example, I love trying to piece together math strands to come up with something new.  I also enjoy working with special needs students.  In truth, I am running out of things to say.  My last blog does not mean I end my advocacy for something that I feel is VERY important.  On the contrary, I am prepared to reach new levels of advocacy and sharing.  Who knows?  Maybe in a couple of months, I’ll have something new to say about the subject that is very dear to me.  Maybe it’s not the end . . .

In talking to Brian Aspinall, we often share stories about how coding and CS are viewed as just another means of using technology in the classroom.  We view it as much more than that.  Teachers might point out that they use a few of the following tools to facilitate the use of technology:

  • Creating Powerpoints
  • Using Google Docs
  • Preparing iMovie
  • Internet / database research
  • Communication through Skype
  • Website creation through WordPress

I could obviously extend this list, and no teacher uses all of these tools at once.  In discussing coding and Computer Science, it is not my intention to diminish the importance of using technology.  In truth, Computer Science and coding are something completely different than using these tools.  Consider the definition of Computer Science:

Computer Science:

Is the study of computers and algorithmic processes.  It includes their principles, their hardware and software design.  Computer Science examines technology’s need and impact on society.

Computer Science and Coding are not about the use of technology at all.  The use of technology is equivalent to technology consumption.  I am advocating for something completely different that is not present in schools today: Technology Creation.  Computer Science is built on fulfilling a need in society.  Consider a student who has a physical disability such as little or poor vision.  Computer Scientists collaborated to problem solve so that they can create technology that would help this student.  I want to see this problem solving, collaboration and computational thinking in every school.  It is very different than writing a document using Google Docs.  In more simplistic terms, it is the difference between EATING a pizza and LEARNING HOW TO MAKE a pizza.

Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 10.44.11 AM

The SAMR model above highlights my point in more detail.  If a student is using Excel as a learning tool, they are enhancing their work since technology acts as a direct substitute with functional improvements.  Whereas if a student is creating a circuit using Arduino or changing a circuit to come up with something more efficient, they are modifying and redefining technology.  With this circuit, they are creating something that was previously unknown to them whether they succeed or not.  Obviously people have demonstrated circuits before, but this student is experimenting with new learning for them.  Coding and Computer Science belongs at the top of this SAMR model.

We need to build on these skills because there is such a need for this thinking.  As points out, 100,000 jobs each year go unfilled due to a lack of graduates with these qualifications.  Statistically, these jobs are the highest paying and most stable.  I also feel that computational thinking, collaboration and problem solving are transferrable skills.  I recall watching a video that states, “We are preparing students for jobs that do NOT exist yet.”  While valid, we need to prepare students for jobs that actually DO exist and will continue to exist in CS.

For everything that I have discussed above, is an annual Hour of Code enough?  I was very pleased to see Doug Peterson refer to my recent blog and extend my ideas:

One hour does not a curriculum make.  We don’t even go on field trips without some sort of pre-activity, a follow up activity, and a rationale for the principal for the trip, tying the activity to the curriculum.

If there’s no followup and inroads made into making coding and computational thinking part of the curriculum, you might as well just rent a movie and watch it in class.

In closing, I hope that 2016 is the year when Computer Science takes root in all of our schools.  My last blog on this subject is my most passionate and direct.  I continue to make myself available to assist anyone or any school to make Computer Science an option for students.  Let’s work on this initiative together!



Filed under Coding

2 Responses to My Last Blog on CS: Technology Consumption vs Technology Creation

  1. I hope that you can be convinced to step back from this position about not spreading the news of the merits of Computer Science via blogging. Think of the quote “Anything Worth Having Is Worth Fighting For”. Students need more advocates fighting on their side for providing the best opportunities. This isn’t a new fight and I’m afraid that it won’t end anytime soon. I am glad to see that you very eloquently distinguish just coding from Computer Science. I think that’s very important and I’m sure that so many still confuse the two. The conversation needs to continue and it will only get richer when people who truly understand get involved.

    • Hi Doug, maybe I was being over dramatic in saying “it’s my last one.” I am working on other projects related to CS. By no means am I done with the issue. In my advocacy, I often found that I put other views aside usually because there was a need. Maybe someone asked me about CS and needed clarification. Or maybe I felt that I was among a group of educators who needed to keep the cause going. Lately I have felt that in terms of blogging, coding and CS were my constant topics. In order to blog, you really need something to say without being repetitive. So I want to blog on other interests for some time. If I feel something CS-related pop into my head, I will be sharing absolutely. Don’t worry, I’ll still be in-the-thick of it!

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