COVID, Computer Science, and System Thinking, Part 1


I heard this conversation from a group of secondary school age students last night while walking the dog in the park. It must have been quite a heated discussion since I could here it from quite a distance.

As we know, students entering school today have to submit to a screening as you’ll find here.

The concern here was that the screening at their school was done on paper and a Q&A with a teacher or educational assistant. The solution which I also heard from across the park was

Why don’t they computerize it?

Well, actually there is an online version of the questionnaire but apparently their school opted for the other approach.

That got me thinking … what would any self-respecting Computer Science student do? They’d write a piece of software, of course. Many Computer Science classes even are offering programming for their smartphones so that, it seems to me, would be a natural.

Actually, the questions and the format lend themselves easily to be answered with an online form but there’s something even more exciting about writing a piece of software for it. You could drop all your answers into a text file and accumulated results over a period of time. In addition, you could add your own fields and include things like the names of those people you were hanging out with at the park when there are restrictions against doing so!

And, once you’ve accumulated a number of days, you’d have some data to review and draw conclusions from. In my heart of hearts, I would hope that it would be the most boring data set ever. However, if someone happened to catch the disease or you noted a pattern, you could pinpoint just exactly where it happened and who you might have been with at the time. I think they call that contact tracing …

Above and beyond the simple task of writing the program and using it, there are other things …

  • it opens a discussion and data security, privacy, need for a password
  • a sense of just how much data is being recorded at this time – take your results and multiply it by the number of students and education workers in the building
  • finally, a real world example in class that is relevant personally
  • the immense satisfaction that comes from writing a program that serves you a purpose

The program could be as simple or as elaborate as the skill of the student provides. The result would be a keeper as a reminder of today’s times. And, it should open eyes to the fact that it’s a big concern that goes far beyond having to wear a mask to protect just yourself.

Tomorrow, a bigger example.

OTR Links 04/07/2021


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.