In case you missed it, there was a great deal of passion expressed last week regarding the state of computer science education in our society. There were outreach efforts, programs highlighted, and a number of online discussions that ensued—overall, some really impressive growth in activity across the board over last year in broad awareness.
I decided to use the opportunity to spend a bit more dedicated time catching up on some online reports, material, and people.
I started with Alfred Thompson’s blog. He writes one of the most widely-read and highly-respected blogs on computer science in K-12. A former high school teacher, Alfred is smart, funny, and honest, but most importantly he has an amazing talent for appreciating the perspective of today’s youth, a solid understanding of pedagogy, and a passion and talent for computer science. His blog is stop #1, #2, and #3 for me on this topic.
Mark Guzdial’s Computing Education Blog is usually where I spend my time next. Mark’s comments are usually more education-centric than Alfred’s more broad technology posts. As a professor in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology, Mark sees, first-hand, the quality and quantity of students from our secondary school system. Mark is also very involved in the most active higher education debates on computer science and he frequently exchanges relevant opinions and ideas with other influencers in the field.
I also took time to read the September 2010 update of “Rising Above the Gathering Storm,” which is posted on the National Academies Press website. Sobering, alarming, convincing, and motivating. This revision is appropriate subtitled: Rapidly Approaching Category 5.
Doing a bit of reflecting, and potentially stating the obvious … the challenge is enormous and sometimes feels overwhelming, but it is also worth both support and action—even if the action seems small relative to the change needed.
It is extremely satisfying to work for Microsoft in this situation because I feel that we are working toward the public good in this area and that I am a contributing member of these efforts.
Microsoft supports thousands of people involved in outreach, including our own employees, who are frequent visitors and speakers at schools through a program called EduConnect, which enables Microsoft employees to share their knowledge and expertise with local school districts. We extend our outreach through the skills and enthusiasm of our Microsoft Student Partners—a program that recognizes top college students who are passionate about technology and communication, and equips them to share their computer know-how and enthusiasm.
We also attempt to motivate students through programs like the Imagine Cup and the upcoming Microsoft bliink 2011 web-design contest. Some students are more motivated by out-of-classroom learning situations and these programs encourage students to exercise both creativity and teamwork.
Obviously, our efforts would not be complete without connection through social medial, and I believe the Microsoft Tech Student effort is the best of the lot.
If you’re a computer scientist, an IT professional, or simply a concerned citizen, I encourage you to get involved with your local schools and work to ensure that our students are getting the 21st-century education they need.
—Jim Pinkelman, Senior Director in the External Research division of Microsoft Research