One of the really bizarre things is that, while the use of technology is omnipresent (and growing), the number of students taking Computer Science courses is actually decreasing. As a Computer Science educator, that really concerns me.
Ultimately, it will mean that the end user has a smaller and smaller impact on the direction technology takes. You experience it now. Install a new piece of software or upgrade some and you’re presented with terms and conditions and privacy invasions written by someone else. Your choice? Take it or leave it. Wouldn’t it be better if we actually knew the implications completely and, in some cases, write our own application rather than conceding rights to someone else?
I know it’s probably unrealistic but I don’t think that we can overlook the need for education so that students know about these things and have the skills and knowledge to make intelligent decisions about their use.
At the Computer Science Teachers Association Conference, one of the sessions that I proctored was “CS Education for Early Learners (Techie Club)” and I had the honour of meeting Aung Nay and Lisa Chambers from Tech Corps.
Tech Corps is a non-profit whose goal is to hack away at the problem of getting young students involved in Computer Science through Techie Camps and Techie Clubs. It’s a marriage between students and community volunteers to provide the opportunity and insights into Computer Science. Both Aung and Lisa spoke with a passion for their project. It’s limited in location right now but it’s worth check out their goals and what they offer. http://hadron.techcorps.org/
This is an initiative that needs to grow. It’s good for kids; it’s good for the community; it’s good for Computer Science.
Some statements from their website…
- Computing careers consistently rank among the top 10 fastest growing occupations in the US. The US Dept of Labor estimates that by 2020 there will be more than 1.4 million computing-related job openings. At current rates, however, we can only fill about 30% of those jobs with US computing bachelor’s grads.
- As the role and significance of technology has grown, the teaching of computer science in K-12 has faded. Since 2005, the number of US high schools offering rigorous computer science courses has fallen from 40% to 27%.
- Today’s students are the most tech-savvy generation ever, yet many have no interest in technology-related degrees or careers. 96% of teens reported “liking” or “loving” technology but just 18% indicate an interest in pursuing a technology career.
- Girls, African-American and Hispanic students are avid users of technology, but they are significantly underrepresented in its creation. In 2008, women held 57% of all professional occupations in the US workforce but only 25% of all professional IT-related jobs.
These things should concern us all.