Support and standards for computer science education in America has a long way to go, a trio of industry and educational leaders argued April 25 at the U.S. News STEM Solutions Conference
At a panel entitled “Giving Computer Science a Boost,” subject matter specialists sounded the alarm about the state of computer science education in America. Panelists included Kimberly Bryant, founder and executive director of Black Girls Code; Deborah Seehorn, chair of the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA); and Allison J. Derbenwick Miller, vice president of Oracle Academy, the company’s flagship educational initiative.
CSTA is “trying to draw attention to the fact that there is a crisis in computer science education in our country,” Seehorn said. To help highlight the shortcomings, CSTA has put out a report, “Running on Empty,” that compares and contrasts computer science education on a state-by-state basis.
Though code.org founder Hadip Patovi painted a dire picture of the state of computer science education in America during his keynote speech on Thursday, Derbenwick Miller expressed concern that code.org’s success might give people the false impression that there isn’t a computer science crisis in the country.
The figures that code.org shares “don’t tell the whole story,” Derbenwick Miller said. Though code.org should be proud of what it has achieved, what the U.S. needs is a “long-term investment where computer science is a core academic literacy and an education requirement in high school.”
Bryant pointed out that women of color are the most under-represented category in STEM fields; her organization aims to reverse that trend.
Since she founded Black Girls Code in 2011, the organization has reached some 3,000 students and has chapters in seven cities. But the organization needs help, meeting the demand for workshops, she added.
She encouraged attendees to “Find ways to partner with organizations like mine to “bring what we are doing in the after school setting into the school setting.”
Other key takeaways from the session:
- Access to a quality computer science education will be a defining social justice issue of our time.
- There is a need for better collaboration between industry and educators.
- Students need not only to understand technology, but also know how to use it. “Students today have to be more than tech literate, they have to be taught to be tech creators,” Derbenwick Miller said.
- Legislative policies must support certification of best teachers for computer science.
- More funding is needed to support professional development of computer science teachers.
- Parents play a key role.
- Computer science is hard. It take perseverance and patience.
- Start early. High school is too late to inspire students to go into a STEM career.
- It’s important to engage students in their areas of interest. Not everyone will be enticed to become involved in computer science by the same video game, there needs to be variety.
- Learning computer science takes sustained commitment, much more than an hour-long project here or there.