Saturday, May 26, 2012

So, why do we need CS Principles?

I have been asked a lot this past year about why CS Principles is being developed.

Even though computer science is all about change, and the changes in our field seem to zoom by at lightning speed, there are some core ideas and well, principles, that are central to understanding how they work.

For those of us in the AP Computer Science community we do a great job of delivering computer science education. We all can point to students we have launched into the world. These students have overcome obstacles and are working and creating jobs in all sorts of places.

Sadly, this is not enough.

The existing computer science curriculum in K-12 schools does a good job for the few students it reaches, but what about everyone else? Think about where you many schools around you have computer science? How many students in those schools have access to the classes?

Really, how many kids in your community even know what computer science is?

For me it is a question of literacy. To be a productive person you must be literate in the tools society is using to drive change. For that past few centuries this meant reading and writing. While these skills are still necessary for students, understanding computers and technology has become the new marker of literacy.

Simply put, anyone that does not have a foundation in computer science will not be as prepared for the changes to come.

This does not mean that every student needs to master computer science. There will always be a need for a core group of programmers that have reached a master level of understanding. These are the people that, to quote Virginia Tech, invent the future. We need more of these people. We also need these people to reflect the needs of the larger community they serve through their innovation.

And for everyone else? The computer is the tool of the future. We communicate, learn, work create...all with computing devices. To use them well means understanding some fundamental things about how they work and what they can, and cannot, do.

Think about Mr. Rodgers - "these are the people in your neighborhood". How many of them could do their job without a computer? How much of their daily life outside of work- communicating, playing, making, could happen without a computer?

Often in media computers are presented as magic. The character pushes a button and poof - the problem is solved. Those of us in CS know this is just slight of hand. Behind the scenes someone created a tool on a computer to solve the problem.

So this is why we need the CS Principles course. Every student in America needs a rigorous preparation for their future. That preparation must include computer science. Without access to computer science we run the risk innovation looking like magic, only available to those that know the trick.

Last week the CS Principles Phase II piloters met in Chicago. This is a great group of folks working hard to design the curriculum for this new computer science course. I have been so lucky this year to be a part of this community. It has been tiring, frustrating, humbling...and all totally worth it.  Hopefully after this year we have all pushed the rock a bit farther up the hill.

Everything you need to know about CS Principles. This page has all the documents that frame the course. One easy place for all the information.

Take a look, ask some questions. It is time for us as a community to really start the conversation on making the change happen.

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