Last week was an exceptional week for computer science education in the UK: Google donating 15,000 Raspberry Pis to UK schoolchildren, Microsoft calling for computer science to be taught from primary school, the Department for Education including computer science in the EBacc as the “fourth science” and UCAS 2013 entry statistics showing the highest increase in total applications for Computer Sciences (up 12.3%). This follows on from the launch of the CAS Network of Computer Science Teaching Excellence in September, the publication in November of the draft ICT Programme of Study for England and the announcement in January of a review of the ICT curriculum in Wales, reporting back in June.
So it appears we’ve sold the rigorous academic discipline of computer science; but not to simply increase the supply of programmers for the IT industry or to get more people to study computer science at university — the rationale has always been based upon computer science being of wider educational value to everyone, in the same way as we value physics and mathematics. But after a discussion with Pete Yeomans (@ethinking) at the CAS fringe event at Bett 2013 last week, it appears that we are now facing a more subtle and refined challenge:
We need to do more than ‘sell’ computer science as a discipline…we need to sell what it feels like to be/think like a computer scientist.
— Dr Tom Crick (@DrTomCrick) January 31, 2013
This is the real marketing challenge: to truly change the wider perception of the discipline, we now have to sell what it really means to be a computer scientist, how to think like a computer scientist and the universal potential of this mindset.
And everyone needs to understand and value this.