Friday, January 13, 2012

Real Computer Science in High Schools

As someone who is always looking for outreach opportunities with middle and high school students, I enjoyed The Guardian's recent article called Michael Gove to scrap 'boring' IT lessons: Schools to be given freedom to run cutting-edge computer classes under plans for open source curriculum.  From the article:
In a speech, the education secretary will say the existing curriculum in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has left children "bored out of their minds being taught how to use Word and Excel by bored teachers".
Instead he will, in effect, create an "open source" curriculum in computer science by giving schools the freedom to use teaching resources designed with input from leading employers and academics, in changes that will come into effect this September.

I interpreted the initiative to be similar to the curriculum I designed for our department's elective introduction to computers class for arts and social science students.  That course, too, has traditionally been mostly about how to use Microsoft Office software.  My version covered that only briefly, focusing instead on computer science topics from programming in Scratch and searching and sorting algorithms all the way to human computer interaction.  Based on feedback from students and TA's, this was definitely a move in the right direction.  It's great to see similar changes happening in high schools.

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