Pushback in California on Computing in Schools

I’ve been participating (replying to posts) in the Computing Education blog by Mark Guzdial, a professor in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology. Mark is a strong advocate for teaching computing concepts in schools from an early age. The discussion is somewhat of a reprise of the ‘Computer Literacy’ controversy that raged on the late 1970s and early ’80s.  The question is, does everyone need to learn to write computer code?  My answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no’ and ties back into the ‘Computer PlayShop‘ classes I  used to teach at LO*OP Center and the Palo Alto Junior Museum. We covered rudimentary programming in the Pilot and BASIC languages, the logic in lots of games and the social impact of computing in our lives. 35 years later we’re still debating.

Immediately below is what I wrote to Mark’s contemporary audience this morning in response to a comment on Mark’s most recent blog (which is below that).  Another blogger, Gas Station Without Pumps, has made further additions to the multilog. Do weigh in with your own point of view…

Liza wrote…

1. Schools are most important to help children learn things they don’t acquire spontaneously or through non-formal means. Most children in literate societies acquire “coding” in its general sense, including talking and using scribed symbols, at home and in their communities. I think we should encourage this by offering more non-formal opportunities to learn. Computer coding, aka programming, works well when offered in recreational settings such as clubs and museum classes.

2. While I support the effort to bring programming into schools I’d like to see us also emphasize the concept of each person taking charge of his or her own learning. Because programming languages change so rapidly anyone who intends to do serious coding will have to repeat the learning process over and over. Our introductory CS classes need to focus more on “learning how to learn” than on the specifics of any one coding language.

Computing Education Blog

I’ve been thrilled to see the legislative progress in California around CS education issues.  The governor has now signed Senate Bill 1200 which starts the process of CS counting for UC/CSU admissions.  Dan Lewis’s article in The Mercury News tempered that enthusiasm (linked below).  I wasn’t aware that UC was pushing back, nor how the number of CS classes and teachers is dropping in California.  Lots more work to do there.

The Legislature just passed two bills to address these issues. Senate Bill 1200 allows but does not require the University of California to count computer science toward the math requirements for admission. However, there’s been a lot of push back from UC on this, so for now, all we really have is an expression of intent from the Legislature. Thankfully, AB 1764 allows high schools to count computer science toward graduation requirements. Of course, that may not mean…

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About lizaloop

Social philosopher, educator, teacher, parent, grandmother, musician, horseback rider, skier, dog owner, writer, trouble-maker, idea generator.

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