Archive for December, 2009

Computer Science in Middle School

First, this thread comes up on Reddit about the failings of early computer education.

Then, Google tweets a link to “Getting Computer Science Into Middle School,” which talks about how MS students should, er, learn computer science–as in programming, not word processing.

I think that programming will only become more and more useful–even if the programmers never take a CS class in college or go into a career in development. Like Calculus, French, and being in the musical, learning how to program is great for the process involved, not just the end result. Critical thinking, creative thinking, problem solving, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

And I can even boast that a Python interpreter has helped me in almost all of my classes. Yes, it’s a good calculator, but it also lets you define a function (like Hooke’s Law) and then just plug different numbers into it. And sometimes I need specific documents–like a template involving the numbers 8-36 with four newlines between each one. That would be pretty annoying with a word processor, but it was a four line Python script. And one time I needed flashcards, and didn’t have paper or the internet. Ten minutes later I had a perfectly satisfactory program.

But I’m drawing attention away from the main point with petty examples. Learning how to program has radically changed the way I think, and has greatly increased almost all of my cognitive abilities. Teaching people how to make schlocky animations in a PowerPoint presentation is NOT helpful, and may even turn people off computer classes forever.

…just my $.02.

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