Wednesday, September 17, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Bridging the digital divide with computational thinking

By
From page A10 | August 22, 2014 |

By Terry Toy

Google, Apple and Facebook recently published diversity data about its workforce, and the results are clear: Technology has a diversity problem!

At Google, for example, only 17 percent, 2 percent and 1 percent of its technology employees, respectively, are women, Hispanic and black. These statistics reveal a sobering fact. Groups that have historically struggled to gain equality in the workforce are not being represented in the jobs of the future.
The roots of this problem are complex, but begin in our educational system. On one hand, we have an equality and access issue. The Computer Science Teachers Association estimates that only 10 percent of high schools offer any form of computer science. Of those that do, most are in affluent areas. So students in socioeconomically poor communities have no access to these new skills.

On the other hand, we have a cultural problem. Girls avoid computer science. In 2013, 58 percent of students taking the Advanced Placement biology exam were girls, 48 percent of students taking the AP calculus (AB) were girls, but, for computer science, the drop-off was stark — only 18 percent of the students taking the AP computer science exam were girls. We need to find ways to keep high school girls engaged with computer science.
There are many obstacles to teaching computer science in our high schools. Finding qualified teachers is difficult given 1) high demand for computer science graduates; 2) lack of a computer science teaching credential program; and 3) the fact that high school computer science teacher jobs are usually only part-time.

In addition, most high schools are not prepared for the complexity and nuances of teaching computer science. Schools must invest in professional development, curriculum and hardware. Then, CS curriculums become obsolete in a few years.

Changing cultural attitudes about computer science may be even a greater challenge. Until we view computational thinking as a core discipline, part of a rounded education, rather than a niche field, we will not make the changes needed to modernize our educational system.

Consider the accelerating impact of technology on our economy:

* Software, still in its infancy, represents three out of four of the most valued companies in the world. We use these products and services every day.

* Technology companies are lobbying to increase the number of H-1B visas for foreign technology workers allowed in the United States. Advocates for more foreign workers contend that the U.S. workforce lacks the skills needed for today’s technology jobs, despite a prolonged period of high U.S. unemployment.

* Digital data is doubling in size every two years. Today, businesses, research centers and organizations, both big and small, in all industries need people who can analyze and process digital data. The only way to process digital data is with computational methods.

* Learning to code is a valued skill that can lead to well-paying jobs. Contrarily, a college degree no longer guarantees a middle-class job, and is leading to unprecedented student debt.

Technology is transforming our economy. This is not to suggest that everyone needs to be a programmer, but rather, learning basic computational thinking skills makes one a better economist, scientist, artist or whatever one’s final career choice.
“For computational skill to become a true literacy, integrating it with the teaching of other disciplines would probably be ideal,” says professor Bruce Sherin of Northwestern University.
One method of expanding computational thinking in high school is integrating it with math. Since all schools have a math department, integrating computational thinking into math classes, while still challenging, is far easier than starting a computer science curriculum from scratch.

Similarly, math and computer science are closely related fields and even share a common vocabulary: variables, abstraction, functions. By integrating these two subjects, students learn new computational methods to solve familiar math problems.

Another goal is to teach computational thinking in a familiar context. One example is web pages. By teaching JavaScript (the language of the web) instead of traditional command prompt languages (usually taught in introductory college courses), we make computational thinking more relevant.

Creating interactive web pages that solve familiar math problems has an element of creativity, which might attract students, who otherwise would avoid a traditional computer science course. (See samples of interactive web pages that solve math problems at http://mathcode.net/video.html.)

If technology companies are a harbinger of the future workforce, we need to ensure that everyone has equal access to the skills that will drive the digital economy. The only way to do this is to make computational thinking an appealing and integral component of K-12 education.

— Terry Toy of Davis is the founder of MathCode, whose goal is to help schools start code clubs and computational math courses. MathCode is supported by Davis Roots, a local business accelerator. Reach Toy and interact with actual student projects at http://mathcode.net

Comments

comments

Special to The Enterprise

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    New water rates take effect in November

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

     
    A pot o’ gold for Rainbow City revival

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Marsh trial guilt phase enters home stretch

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

     
    Weakened Odile heads toward U.S.; tourists evacuated

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Three women stuck in Putah Creek while paddleboarding

    By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A2

     
    Bob Dunning: News about our modest college town

    By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

    Crews battle wildfire’s explosive growth

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    AAUW hosts conversation with Gilardi

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Master Gardeners will answer questions Sunday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Storyteller will draw on music, dance

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Show off your electric vehicles on Sunday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Learn about youth leadership program on Sept. 28

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Sign up now for free Community Yard Sale

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Saylor meets constituents at Peet’s

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Free introductory yoga, chanting workshop offered

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Rotary seeks project requests

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Sign up soon for a new year of Writing Buddies

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

     
    Register to vote by Oct. 20

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Senior Center to host jewelry sale

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    .

    Forum

    Time to go get help

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Bicycle bells needed for safety

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Are we going to wait until someone here dies?

    By Rich Rifkin | From Page: A6

     
    Firefighters went above, beyond

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Grocery bags are biohazards

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Can’t we work collaboratively?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Please vaccinate your children

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

    Mental-health treatment lacking

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Braly’s column lightens the heart

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    .

    Sports

    UCD women take third at elite golf event

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Aggie men stay in 10th to finish St. Mary’s Invite

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Formidable UCD defense melts Hornets

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Devils go the distance to triumph at Chico

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Diamondbacks slam Giants

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

     
    Baseball roundup: Peavy, Posey lead Giants past Arizona

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Sounders win U.S. Open Cup in overtime

    By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B2

     
    AYSO roundup: Ultra Violet illuminates a victory

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

    Alliance roundup: Soccer success comes on the road and at home

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    Legacy roundup: Gunners get a win over Woodland

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    .

    Features

    Name Droppers: Bamforth leads international brewing institute

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

     
    Name Droppers: UC Davis announces eight new fellows

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    Just desserts? A sweet treat is worth the effort

    By Julie Cross | From Page: A10

     
    .

    Arts

    Apply now for Davis Community Idol

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Classic ‘Hello, Dolly!’ wows at Woodland Opera House

    By Bev Sykes | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    Davis students prepare dishes for Empty Bowls fundraiser

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    Nine Davis artists chosen to show in KVIE Art Auction

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

     
    Sacred Harp singers will gather

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Wednesday, September 17, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: A8