Computer science education crucial

06-Dec-2017

Momilani Elementary's Technology Integration Specialist Shane Asselstine wrote a piece for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser to raise awareness about Computer Science efforts at the Hawaii DOE and schools.

As you read this, take a moment to look around you. Try to find something that has not been impacted by computer science.

It’s not an easy task. Computer science has been integrated with so many different industries and aspects of our lives, from coaching soccer games to tracking farm efficiency on Molokai.

There are currently 1,169 open computing jobs in the state, with an average salary of $80,000 per year. That works out to just about $93 million in opportunities annually.

However, in 2015, Hawaii only had 155 computer science graduates, and in 2016, only 188 high school students took the AP computer science exam.

These statistics illustrate that our system needs to change, and while Hawaii isn’t keeping pace, we are not sitting by aimlessly.

The Hawaii Department of Education has formed a workgroup for computer science in an effort to adopt a set of standards for the state. Additionally, more schools are looking at professional development opportunities for teachers in computer science. New organizations such as Computer Science Teachers Association-Hawaii Chapter are also forming and providing resources and professional development for our educators. We may have more than 60 new computer science educators by the end of the summer.

Some reports will tell you that 40 percent of schools are teaching computer science. The truth is, there are misconceptions about the definition of computer science, and it’s difficult to really say. After spending some time defining computer science with educators I’ve trained, many say that number is more like one in 10 schools.

Computer science isn’t just about teaching robotics, coding or cybersecurity. We have to take a look at the greater framework of it all. Main concepts such as computing systems, networks and the internet, data and analysis, algorithms and programming, and impacts of computing create the core. Then we bring in the practices of an inclusive culture, recognizing and defining computational problems, abstractions, artifacts, collaboration and communication.

When observing the behaviors of the younger classes and comparing that to classes that have had more exposure to computer science, there is a clear contrast. The younger students are still looking for answers and steps to be provided, they have a difficult time collaborating with classmates, while the older students tend to take on various roles within the group to get the tasks accomplished. They can have lively discussions and still be on task. Not only does computer science at Momilani Elementary School teach students about the core CS concepts, but it is also preparing them to be college and career ready, armed with 21st-century skills in an ever-changing landscape of our workforce.

Schools across the nation are celebrating computer science education this week with activities designed to raise awareness about this subject area. In Hawaii, there are more than 150 events going on in our public schools, ranging from an hour of code taught in a classroom, to schoolwide events that welcome community members to discover the importance of computer science to the future of our keiki through hands-on activities and learning tools.

There are many ways the community can get involved in order to help our state ramp up the momentum in computer science education opportunities (see Code.org). Every effort helps move us forward.

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