Expanding the Accessibility of Computer Science

Business professor Ranfall Stross stressed the importance of computer programming and “computational thinking” skills, citing a number of computer science professors. College graduates don’t all need to be skilled programmers, but basic competency in the fundamentals makes students well-rounded and helps their professional careers. However, students who are not majoring in fields such as math, engineering, and science generally find it difficult to understand the concepts and principles employed in computer science.

Many colleges are offering introductory computer science courses aimed at students of the humanities and liberal arts. Carnegie Mellon encourages students who are not majoring in computer science to try “Principles of Computation,” which covers the history of computer science, as well as the programming language Ruby and other important topics. Professor Mark LeBlanc of Wheaton College teaches computer science by breaking down “large problem[s] into small manageable problems” because he recognizes that students without previous experience are often overwhelmed at first by the unfamiliar material and concepts..

Professor Marie desJardins, who teaches computer science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, uses a simpler computing language – Scratch – in the department’s introductory course. Although Scratch was developed for elementary and middle school students, desJardins explains that most students taking the course have been taught English, math, and science in high school, but not computer science. In other words, students lack “computer literacy” and “computer fluency.” Michael Littman, head of the computer science department at Rutgers University, believes that the problem can be remedied by adding “computational thinking” to the secondary education curricula.

 

Posted by: Pokyee Yu

Sources: The New York Times

Photo Credit: Spring 2012 Student Hackathon Coding courtesy of flickr user hackNY

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