Why Teach Computer Science?

Computer science and technology skills have become a focus in schools, as educators and policy-makers alike are starting to recognize how important these skills are to our 21st century learners. 

When we look at how much our world has been changed by computers, it's easy to see why these skills are so necessary. Everything from agriculture to medicine relies on technology in some way. Think about how often you interact with computers: the self-checkout at your grocery store; your cellphone and all of its colorful apps; gaming consoles; FitBits; ATMs; GPS; even your microwave.

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You may not have considered these things computers, but they all operate using embedded systems: instructed to carry out a specific set of tasks using computer technology and incorporating a user interface. Whether simple or complex, computers are a ubiquitous part of our modern society. Today's learners will be tomorrow's innovators. Many of them will need to understand the basic principles of computer science to stay ahead of the game.

According to the 2017 NCM/CoSN Horizon Report, 'Computer science remains one of the fastest growing industries across the world and preparing the future workforce is critical for economic success. Coding literacy is becoming increasingly necessary across all industries as fields including data analysis, marketing, web development, and more require some form of coding proficiency.'

The report highlights computer science efforts being made today in education, and makes recommendations and projections on how schools can better teach computer science literacy. It stresses the importance of diversity in computer science, and shows that coding and robotics can be implemented across subject matter areas. 

Hands-on and interdisciplinary applications of coding and robotics from the report include:

  • After visiting the Sterkfontein caves and seeing litter dropped by other patrons, sixth-grade students at a South African school designed a robot to clean the caves. The robot’s tires can navigate groundwater and sand, so it can pick up trash in areas inaccessible to humans.
  • In an American Literature class [...] students used Spheros, balls that can be programmed using instructional coding apps, to represent the journey of characters in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
  • Fifth- and sixth-grade students from the Gems Modern Academy in Dubai have invented a robot that tracks the sun’s movement and adjusts solar panels throughout the day, allowing the panels to capture the maximum amount of sunlight (and energy).

The video below demonstrates how computer science is integrated across diverse industries:

Next week we'll take a closer look at some of the computer science tools teachers are using in their classrooms.

Resources

Five reasons to teach robotics in school

Coding, robotics programs are engaging learners worldwide

Code.org: Promote computer science (statistics and advocacy)