Computing Education for the 21st Century

Today and tomorrow (Feb 2-3, 2012) I’m in Washington DC at a meeting hosted by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The meeting brings together researchers from around the country who’ve received funding from an NSF program to improve computing education.

What’s exciting is the broad range of research going on here: from middle school, to high school, to college, educators are working hard to figure out how to better teach computer science concepts. One important goal is to encourage more of our talented youth to choose computer degrees and careers, as a valued national economic strategy. A second goal is to improve computational literacy for everyone, regardless of their career path–after all, computer technology is everywhere (from our mobile phones to our microwaves, not to mention our personal computers, tablets, and e-readers).

I’m excited to be here because it’s a diverse and interdisciplinary group. There are professors of education, who know about psychology and how people learn. I’m happy to see many familiar faces from my colleagues in the learning sciences, such as Mitch Resnick, Uri Wilensky, Yasmin Kafai, and Kylie Pepper. But most of the researchers here are in departments of computer science, educators working hard to enhance their profession.

I’m here to represent a project I worked on at Washington University, to transform our undergraduate computer science major away from lecture classes and towards a more active style of learning, by using a “studio model” based on the types of group projects you might find in a design school, or an architecture school. It ties in perfectly with my latest research project, a study of teaching and learning at two different professional schools of art and design (SCAD and Washington University).

When I first saw how many people are here–about 100–my reaction was “This represents a lot of tax dollars at work!” After all, the taxpayers are paying for everything we’re doing here. I believe this is an important national goal, and I’m honored to be a part of this annual meeting.

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