Saturday, April 25, 2009

CS education (literacy) through the school system

Getting a CS literacy curriculum through the state / district level is the most obvious, and probably the hardest way to get CS into kids' hands.
First of all, changes to the state curriculum is no easy task.  California, of all places, home to the world's 8th largest economy and silicon valley, has no CS curriculum requirement for graduation.  The amount of bureaucracy to get this done will be huge.  The state and school districts will have other priorities, and will face big challenges from teachers unions, parents, other competing programs (the arts for one) for money.  
Working CS in the state curriculum guideline is one thing, then there's the implementation of it at the district level.  Current district level technology directors (if they have one), is more of a position where the objective is to integrating technology into education, not technology education itself.  
Teachers Unions will obviously have a say in this matter as well.  A whole certification program will have to be spooled up.  Guidelines for hiring, and evaluating CS teacher, and people with enough expertise to do so.  Indeed, there will also be a problem of teacher supply.  Imagine during the dotcom bubble, how many CS teachers would have taken the scale instead of jumping ship to industry.
Parents will have many different opinions on this as well.  Perhaps money spent on CS would be better spent on another science, band, art, auto shop.  A whole host of voices saying that why computer science instead of X.  Textbook choice will yet be another matter, which one?  Do we want kids to memorize, or go with constructivism?  Parents will have an opinion on this.  Especially parents in the tech industry.
Well, why would this be a good idea?  The entire infrastructure will already be there for teaching kids CS.  Just add teacher and curriculum.  Once in the state curriculum, every student will have to go through the class for graduation.  That is a huge plus.  There will be standardization, assessment, state funding, etc...
The long range goal for CS education will have to be this.  Despite record number of H1B visas, and ever fewer number of CS grads (economy has something to do with this), the push for STEM, there just isn't a national push for this.  There's no single huge moment like when Russia launched Sputnik that spurred the country on.  

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