Category Archives: Literacy

Time for a Computer Science (Not Just Coding) Focus

We really need to work together so that 21st Century Learning grows in our classrooms. Can students really escape the skills taught through Computer Science in the their futures? There is a tendency to equate coding and Computer Science as being the same thing. Coding teaches many of these needed skills, but Computer Science is a broader study. Coding is part, not a whole, of this discipline. I am referring to the whole subject area of CS, and not only coding. Computer Science teaches these skills:

  • Data structures
  • Information extraction
  • Information organisation and presentation
  • Computational thinking
  • Design
  • Mathematical thinking, processing and application
  • Algorithms and the formation of algorithms

Opponents of computer science will say that technology is not the solution to our problems and is merely a teaching tool (I agree since I’m talking about Computer Science not technology). Others will say that coding is a well-publicized fad that is being pushed on schools by code.org or tech companies (Coding is an important part, but I am still discussing computer science as a whole). While many will add that other subjects are important / more important and that technology can be integrated into other subject areas (Yes incorporate technology, I am talking about Computer Science). Finally, some may say these skills can be taught in other areas (possibly, but Computer Science ties these areas together and is my focus).

When I think of an example of Computer Science, I think of Sheldon Cooper’s friendship algorithm. His visual to think of any possible scenario when talking to a friend, and his possible solutions to arrive at a desired outcome. This episode made me laugh and think. Anyone do a Sheldon-style algorithm in their class lately? Sheldon’s work is a non-tech example of design thinking, mathematical processing and information flow / presentation. It is a perfect example of Computer Science without the use of technology.

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It’s time for a 21st Century Learning Curriculum that focuses on tasks that accomplish or teach these skills. With a bevy of apps that teach Computer Science for areas as vast as 3D printing, film making, web design and coding, the education curriculum is playing catchup with the tools in our grasp. We need to identify and overcome obstacles. We need to hash out our ideas. We need information from the jobs sector. While I believe we are moving in this direction, I can’t help but identify a certain amount of hesitation.  At the same time, I feel excitement from some teachers as well.

Maybe we need to stop over-analysing and just try something new.  In the Sheldon example, he gets caught in a loop and needs help to fix his algorithm. Could we be stuck in a loop of self-doubt and “What if” questions? Who can help with our uncertainty? In researching my blog, I found this video that explains the need for Computer Science (not coding) by Simon Peyton Jones. For me, other subject areas often try to highlight their importance based on less of an argument. Computer Science is the only subject area that has become so obviously important yet is not represented in our schools today. Please let me know your thoughts. I have a feeling that I will return to this subject in a future blog.

 

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Filed under Coding, Literacy