When Christine Betts arrived at the University of Washington in 2016, she planned to study economics. After an introductory computer-science course inspired her, she changed her mind. Betts joins growing ranks of women at influential schools entering the software field. The numbers at some colleges offer a glimmer of hope in an otherwise male-dominated industry.
Alante Klyce wants to be a dancer. Yet here she is, inside a sun-filled classroom at Lindblom Math & Science Academy on the city’s South Side, throwing around tech-industry terms like "ideation" and working with friends to design her first mobile app. It’s all part of the introductory computer-science course that every student in Chicago must now take in order to graduate.
Educators have stressed that the computing curriculum, due to start in September, is not just about learning how to code or program but more importantly is about a young person’s journey in learning the necessary digital skills to solve real-world problems.
Kamau Bobb is senior director of the Constellations Center for Equity in Computing at Georgia Tech. In this column, Bobb cites the lack of students of color in STEM majors, a failure that he believes ought to be on everyone’s mind as Atlanta pursues Amazon’s second headquarters. He contends the plan to lure Amazon here must consider how Georgia can democratize computing so STEM opportunities are open to all students.
The idea of teaching coding to children is not new. Back in the late 1960s, my mentor at MIT, Seymour Papert, developed the first programming language for children, called LOGO. Although computers were big, expensive machines that occupied full rooms, Seymour anticipated that the technology would get smaller and the thinking bigger. That is to say, children could learn how to think in new ways by programming these devices. At the time, this was a novel idea. Today, few people would disagree with this statement.
In analyzing data from the Texas Education Research Center, SWE researchers found that less than 4 percent of female students chose engineering or computer science (ECS) majors compared to nearly 20 percent of men across two- and four-year institutions in the state. Evidence of a slight decrease in ECS major declarations among women comes despite more women than men enrolling in college each year.
Teaching computer science in K-12 schools -- and even making it a curriculum requirement -- is not just a lofty idea anymore. Schools around the country really began to embrace computer science in 2017, with a number of states moving forward with legislation to make it a mandatory subject. Advocates who have long been fighting for change said the hard work is finally paying off, and more achievements are ahead in 2018.
One of the earliest corporate efforts to get computers into schools was Apple’s “Kids Can’t Wait” program in 1982. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs personally lobbied Congress to pass the Computer Equipment Contribution Act, which would have allowed companies that donated computers to schools, libraries and museums to deduct the equipment’s value from their corporate income tax bills. While his efforts in Washington failed, he succeeded in his home state of California, where companies could claim a tax credit for 25 percent of the value of computer donations.
Code.org, the non-profit organization that aims to increase access to computer science education, has raised $12 million in philanthropic funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Infosys Foundation USA and PricewaterhouseCoopers. The announcement came as part of a Computer Science Education Week kickoff event in San Mateo. Meanwhile, eight states, 76 school districts and 102 organizations nationwide made pledges to expand access to computer science education to millions of students.
Earlier this year, it became the ninth state to adopt computer science standards. Since then, there’s been a concerted effort from state agencies, partner organizations and school districts to integrate coding into the curriculum, according to Janice Mertes, assistant director for instructional media and technology at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.