Written by: Jacki Reid
At the beginning of November, I attended the global Computer Science (CS) Education Conference in Los Angeles, California. Hundreds of leaders in education gathered in-person and virtually to learn about the current state of computer science education. I had the pleasure of hearing from industry leaders like Stephen Pruit, Southern Regional Board of Education (SREB), United States; Carolina Oses, Generación Code, Ecuador; Monica Retamal, KODEA, Chile; and Juliet Walters, Kids Code Jeunesse, Canada, who are all impacting education in exciting ways.. During the conference, a clear theme emerged as I heard stories highlighting the inequities within education, which directly influence the opportunities that students get, or more often don’t get. These stories emphasized the continued misunderstandings that promote complacency for underserved students. As educators, we are responsible for the welfare of the future, our future, and we can fulfill that responsibility by ensuring we have instilled the most relevant skills and knowledge into emerging generations.
Stephen Pruit made a statement during an interview which has continued to resonate with me: . "By 2030, 18 million people will be unemployable in the Southern Region of the U.S.” As detailed in an economic impact report by SREB: over the next nine years, a majority of the workforce will change due to advancements in technology like artificial intelligence and automation. This will affect many entry level careers and positions that have in the past been referred to as "blue collar" jobs. A different skill set is required for individuals to excel in a modern workforce. Students are ten times more likely to work in similar types of jobs as their parents or guardians. Students need to be learning computer science in a way that is relevant to their environment, especially considering the economic landscape across the U.S. where there are dense pockets of manufacturing, agricultural, service oriented, and managerial job demands.
A big misconception that continues to surround Computer Science Education is, that it is merely coding and programming. Computer Science allows for creativity, innovation, and skill building while simultaneously encompassing how technology works. This empowers students with the foundational skills they need and a baseline of knowledge they can use in the digital age we live in today. Guest Speakers like Carolina Oses and Andres Munoz Castillo believe we, as a global society, are in the next industrial revolution and this is how they have approached the integration of CS Education in their countries.
Of course, not all students will be coding and programming in their futures, and that is not what a computer scientist expert or enthusiast would suggest. Effective and comprehensive computer science programs are required to support students working within systems where they will rely heavily on computational thinking skills. These skills are also imperative to their success in everyday life. Programs like Couragion are designed to give students a glimpse into the lives of everyday professionals within a plethora of CS focused careers. Students have the opportunity to learn from diverse role models and complete activities that prepare them for future career opportunities. Couragion opens doors for students beyond coding and programming and gives them experience applying relevant Computer Science skills to real world problems.
Computer Science needs to be a pillar in our educational infrastructure, and it was said best during a session titled, A Global Perspective on the State of CS, “we need to have a change of heart and a change of minds” to respect CS education as pivotal knowledge that we are responsible for building into our education system and teaching. #CSEdWeek is December 6-12 and it is a great time to get started or dive deeper into CS Education. It is a global celebration bringing attention to CS Education. Both #CSEdWeek and Hour of Code activities will align with the theme #CSEverywhere. This year, MindSpark is supporting schools and districts across Colorado and Utah with their #CSEdWeek initiatives. Be sure to look locally for any events happening near you and the many opportunities to get involved and make a positive difference in an education system that needs change and innovation.