Panel touts need for K-12 computer science

A panel discussion hosted at Rhode Island College on Dec. 19 identified weaknesses in computer science training in grades K-12 and emphasized the need to make computer science accessible to younger students to prepare the next generation of technology leaders. More

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Panel touts need for K-12 computer science

A PANEL at Rhode Island College on Dec. 19 stressed the need for early computer science education, pointing to a lack of adequate programming training for students in grades K-12. From left: Carol Giuriceo, Ann Moskol, Holly Walsh, Joe Devine, Dominic Herard and Jennifer Robinson.
Posted 12/24/13

PROVIDENCE – A panel discussion hosted at Rhode Island College on Dec. 19 identified weaknesses in computer science training in grades K-12 and emphasized the need to make computer science accessible to younger students to prepare the next generation of technology leaders.

The public panel was moderated by Carol Giuriceo, director of RIC’s Rhode Island STEM Center, and panelists included Joe Devine, partner at IT-staffing firm Bridge Technical Talent; Dominic Herard, computer science teacher at Times2 STEM Academy and vice president of the Computer Science Teachers Association of Rhode Island, Ann Moskol, RIC professor of mathematics and computer science and president of the CSTA; Jennifer Robinson, technology education instructor at Winman Junior High School; and Holly Walsh, e-learning and instructional technology specialist for the R.I. Department of Education.

In the course of the discussion, centered on the importance of computer science education, all of the speakers pointed to technology’s pervasiveness and how it impacts every aspect of society, “even shaping how we educate our children,” according to a RIC news release about the event.

According to Herard, in today’s digital age, school children are asked to bring not only pencil and paper to class, but their own tech devices, such as iPhones and iPads, to conduct research on the Internet. Yet while children are taught how to use technology, they are not taught how to build or program them, Herard said.

“I’d like to see our children become not only consumers but creators,” he said.

Other panelists pointed to a lack of understanding about the term “computer science” among younger students, a shift in focus at schools from teaching programming to teaching pplciations like Microsoft Office, and the waning of programming as a hobby since the era of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs launched the graphical user interface.

Robinson, who teaches computer science at Winman Junior High School in Warwick, said she integrates graphics, video, animation and the use of 3-D printers in her classroom teaching, as well as programming.

Devine, however, pointed out that schools offering such extensive programs are hard to come by in Rhode Island, and “only 36 of the 50 states make computer science a requirement in order to graduate from high school.”

As computer science continues to transform industry and bolster the economy, schools must recognize its importance in education, the panel experts agreed.

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