The Need for Computer Science


I think most of us have seen it and some of us have lived it. Everyone wants to use computers and technology and be on the cutting edge. “I gots a blog” – “I’m on Facebook” – “I’m a power user of spreadsheets”. And, they work fine in their own little world and are productive.

Until something goes wrong. “How do I open a .pptx” file?

Then, what to do? If you’re lucky, there may be a person that you can call for assistance.

Who are the best people to call? Sometimes, it’s the person who has clicked enough buttons to know where various configuration controls are. That can be time consuming and often only solves part of the problem. The best resource is an individual who understands the whole picture; how all of the components interact; how the basic functionality is provided by machine to humanity.

The discipline of computer science and computer engineering is based upon understanding fully how components and objects interact with each other.

In a recent article, Computer Science Education: Where Are the Software Engineers of Tomorrow?, http://www.stsc.hill.af.mil/CrossTalk/2008/01/0801DewarSchonberg.html, the question is asked. Does anyone have an answer?

If you take a look at the discipline of Computer Science, enrollments are down – way down. In many cases, I think it’s because the whole discipline has been devalued by “the organization”. In Ontario, with the new secondary school curriculum, in a world where courses are classified as academic or applied, the computer science courses are “M”. Couple that with an increased need for literacy and numeracy and just getting started in Computer Science isn’t always appealing. Those very talented students need to stand up for what they really want and demand that they be permitted to take this course, even though it doesn’t carry the “A” classification.

In the article, the authors get to the heart of Computer Science at the university/college level and make excellent points. But, for them to even have the problem, we need to provide the students to the university. We also live in a society where the average home user is increasingly asked to have higher than average computer skills. While the study of Computer Science doesn’t have all of the answers, it does have the connections and the deep knowledge to understand how parts (including the person behind the keyboard) interact.

This is a major issue. Just as online bullying is something that needs to be addressed, so does the general computer literacy of a generation. The Computer Studies curriculum is under review and I hope desperately that Computer Science is restored to its rightful place as discipline that has various levels including a heavy academic strand that’s important to kids or society.

Can we afford to have society that need to pay for advice like “Save As”?

CSIT Reflections


The Computer Science and Information Technology Symposium was held the day after the NECC Conference ended.

I had no idea going into this what a Spelbot was but I do now. Reaching and motivating students to consider Computer Science was foremost in the minds of everyone at the Symposium. We all recognize that students won’t all become computer programmers for a career. However, when you take a look at society, where don’t you see the infusion of new technology that somewhere has a chip or two to function. You need more than ###### drawing skills to be successful. (guess what program is behind the #s)

I think we’ve all seen pathetic attempts to show computer prowess! Working with computers and information technology isn’t second nature and like most things worthwhile, it does require some effort. And collaboration.

In these days of easy interfaces, I think that a lot of people feel that somehow we’re more productive just because we can point and click and do something that used to take a command line in the past. Well, guess what, that will only get you so far. Behind those buttons and glitzy interfaces, there is some really powerful and interesting code.

How do you refine your productions? By digging into the code.

At the Symposium, participants got a chance to look at ArcView, Flash, Alice, Python, and even Google’s KML. All require the use of code and all crucial if you’re going to get the most from whatever it is you are trying to do. For Computer Science teachers, it really is a confirmation that what is taught is an incredibly useful life skill.

It was noted that, in one of the keynotes, that Microsoft alone has positions for about 5000 people that it just can’t fill. Where are they going to find these positions?

It may seem strange but it’s time that educational curriculum includes computer literacy in addition to language and mathematics.