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It is Not Life in Dilbert-Land

Sometimes it is difficult to know exactly what motivates kids to make the choices that they do, even when it comes to important life decisions such what to do with the rest of their lives. I remember at one point my niece's life ambition was to be a fire truck. Granted, she was only three years old, but we were worried for a while.

One thing we do know, however, is that students are seriously misinformed about career opportunities in computer science and information technology. The media coverage of the dot bombs and the concerns over outsourcing have convinced many students (and perhaps more importantly their parents) that a computer science education is a fast trip to a professional life as a cab driver.

There is no denying that the cyclical and volatile job market and the national economy continuously reshape the kind and number of jobs that are and will be available. There is also no denying that many families, especially those in Silicon Valley, have been devestated when jobs have moved away or disappeared altogether. No one needs to tell me what this is like. Five generations of my family have worked in the auto industry.

But the fact remains, and this is supported by every economic prognostication we have, that computing is and continues to be one of the best possible areas for a fulfilling and lucrative career. And please, we are not talking here about life in Dilbert-land churning out code. We are talking about being part of every scientific breakthrough that is going to happen in the next century. We are talking about solving real-world problems using the combinatorial and computational sciences. We are talking about an opportunity to do something important, to make a difference.

Whether your students are motivated by the dollar or by the desire to change the world, help them see the connection between your computer science classroom and the world that awaits them. The opportunities are there for those willing get the kind of education they need to succeed.

Comments

Thank you for your entry, it is really inspiring. I am 24 and on my fourth (and final) try at post-secondary education. After High School, I kind of floated through limbo "finding myself" if I may coin the cliche. About 2 years ago I finally woke up and realized how much I loved the technical side of computers and how intrigued I was by all of the information available out there. I am now almost 100 credits into my undergraduate degree in Information Technology. I have loved every class I have taken in this field (including project management which really made me sweat). Recently I have been volunteering at the local community center teaching basic computer skills to adults and seniors. This new activity sparked a new love in me: teaching, which is how I stumbled upon the CSTA website. I have been giving graduate school a lot of thought and am now thinking heavily about becoming an educator, I really enjoy teaching people what I know, especially when it comes to computers and computer science.

Do you (or anyone reading this for that matter) have any suggestions for me as to what focus I should pursue in grad school? I notice that there are a lot of schools that have begun to offer a Masters in Education with a focus on Teaching with Technology. I am unsure whether I should follow this sort of path, or if I should focus on traditional computer science and get my teaching certificate.

Any advice is more than welcome.

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