How many of you have run into this situation: You’re explaining something about one of your systems and the other person just glazes over and says, “…oh, I don’t know what you’re talking about…I’m not technical…” It’s a defense mechanism. After all, YOU are the technology professional, right? You should just handle everything related to the company’s computer systems, right? While everyone has their area of expertise, everyone needs to have a decent understanding of computer systems and how they work. Just like everyone learns about photosynthesis and mitosis in school even though few intended to be biologists, so it must be with computer science education.
I’d like to take one post for a rant…or more politely, a call to action. I believe that we all should call out the computer education elephant in the room. Granted, this is slightly off the general topic of technology in the workplace. However, if we don’t educate the next generation of technology professionals better, we won’t have many technology jobs available in the U.S. when – say my son – gets into the workforce. Yes, you guessed it…this is now personal with me.
While listening to NPR a while back, I heard the story of a study done by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) about the lack of computer science education in the US. The key finding: “…generally, computer science is not considered by states and/or local school districts as part of the “core” curriculum that students must take in order to graduate from secondary school…” I was stunned. However, I have to admit that my personal experience with two different elementary school systems does validate the ideas in the study.
I have a 10-year-old in fourth grade. So far, his computer education is focused on how to use a computer not how computers and networks work. With everything else that teachers are challenged to pack into the curriculum, it doesn’t seem that this kind of computer education is in the collective psyche of educators. If I’m wrong, please let me know what grade this kicks in.
For now, I thought that I would pursue computer science education on our own. So I thought that I would start with a summer camp or two. Much to my horror, I found very few computer summer camps in my area…and those were outrageously expensive. So expensive that it would be worth it to take a week off of work to teach him myself! At this point, I’m going to on-line tools for help. For example, he’s really enjoying working with Scratch to make some fun animations. This teaches the concepts of programming like executing a command on some event, loops and knitting together several actions simultaneously. While this is a great educational tool, it only teaches programming concepts. My son doesn’t learn anything about networks, servers or other real-world aspects of technology.
So both a study and my own personal experience shows that we have totally dropped the ball when it comes to educating our youth on THE fundamentals that will continue to run everything. Think about the idea that EVERY company in EVERY industry is reliant on computer networks, servers, applications, etc… for its existence. Even people who can’t afford much in this world, will buy smart phones. I don’t think anyone can overstate the importance of computers and networks now and going forward. Other countries will ‘eat our lunch’ in the future if we don’t get serious about educating everyone and at an early age. We can’t continue to think of people as “technical” or “non-technical”.
Please leave your comments on how to get the word out and how to change our current collective mindset.