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It's a Great Day for CS!

By Deborah Seehorn

Ever since Computer Science Education Week, I couldn't help but notice all the positive signs that have come through my email about what a great time it is to teach computer science. Maybe it was the promotional efforts behind CS Education Week. Maybe it is the emphasis on STEM Education. Maybe all the educators out there just realized what a great educational bargain we have in computer science. In any case, it is a very positive sign to see CS education coming to the forefront. The signs have included articles that highlight using robotics to interest students in the study of science and technology (and computer science!), President Obama's STEM Instruction initiative (supported by high-tech industries), and increasing college/university degree offerings in cyber-security.

Robotics Programs Becoming Newest Trend
The Ramona (CA) Journal (12/31) reports that robotics programs "are one of the newest trends helping young people discover the thrill of science and technology." The piece highlights Olive Peirce Middle School's robotics team, which recently won their inaugural competition.
FIRST Participants Growing Up In "Time Of Renewed Interest" In STEM
The Washington Post (1/10, Turque) reported on the FIRST Robotics Competition that took place at McKinley Technology High School recently, noting that that participating students "are growing up in a time of renewed interest in science, technology engineering and math education." The Post notes the Educate to Innovate Campaign recently launched by President Obama. Locally, meanwhile, "Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee has designated six District public schools...as STEM 'catalyst' schools that will develop curricula that will weave science, math and technology through all major subjects." The Post adds, "Corporate and government sponsors, including Boeing, NASA, Northrop Grumman and Booz Allen Hamilton, hope the focus will broaden the pool of potential employees."
Wired Blog Urges Support For Robotics Programs
Chuck Lawton writes in the Wired (1/10) "GeekDad" blog, "If your school has one, consider having your child join and get some hands on experience working with exciting technology. And if you are a parent with related experience, consider getting involved in your school's program. Because solving tomorrows problems will take the bright and innovative students of today."
$250 Million Initiative For STEM Instruction Announced
The Washington Post (1/6, Anderson) reports that President Obama "will announce a $250 million public-private effort Wednesday to improve [STEM] instruction, aiming to help the nation compete in key fields with global economic rivals." The effort "seeks to prepare more than 10,000 new math and science schoolteachers over five years and provide on-the-job training for an additional 100,000 in science, technology, engineering and math." The Post points out that "it's unclear how much federal spending can grow in a time of rising budget deficits." For this initiative, however, there has been "mobilization on several fronts," with "high-tech businesses, universities and foundations" contributing. The Intel Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, UTeach, NASA and PBS are all contributing in some respect.
Wanted: Cyber Ninjas
New York Times (01/03/10) Drew, Christopher
U.S. colleges are adding courses and specialized degrees in the once-exotic field of cybersecurity to try to meet the growing demands for computer security skills in the public and private sectors. Banks, military contractors, and software companies, along with government agencies, are looking for "cyber ninjas" to keep investments and new projects safe from hackers. Polytechnic Institute of New York University in Brooklyn recently created a master's degree in cybersecurity, as did Indiana University, whose security degree is in informatics, which gears students toward finding new uses for information technology. Other U.S. universities, including Carnegie Mellon, Purdue, and George Mason, also have master's programs in cybersecurity. Georgia Tech offers a master's degree in information security online. Cybersecurity is seen as "the most technically demanding field, kind of like the fighter pilot of the information technology industry," says recent California Polytechnic State University graduate Jeffrey Henbest. Government officials expect the number of cybersecurity jobs to grow rapidly in the coming years.

Well, we all know that robotics is not a new development, but isn't it great that it is being re-discovered? What more fun way to interest students in computer science? And you can't ask for much better support than having the President of the United States cheer you on, with assistance from IT businesses and higher education. And how great it is that CS has such a prominent place in the career clusters (STEM and IT Clusters). It truly is a great day for CS! All we need now is to have our certification dilemmas solved, and all will be well.

What are you doing to promote CS certification in your state?
Have you read the information posted on the CSTA website concerning CS certification?
Have you advocated for computer science locally and in your state?

It truly is a great day for CS. Carpe diem!

Deborah Seehorn
CSTA Board Member


After reading your post this morning, I thought that I'd try a little experiment---granted this is far from scientific. I navigated to EducationAmerica.net and did a search open position in Computer Science, including all 50 states, all kinds of employers. 38 jobs are currently listed. I repeated that search for Mathematics: 1230 jobs are currently listed.

I see little to celebrate in 2010. In fact, I think that the NSF effort is lackluster and late (certainly too late for some of us). I hate to be the "downer" here, but I see no mention of Computer Science as part of the STEM curriculum; in fact, I've been explicitly excluded from any science-related programs within my school, and I am certainly not welcome at any Technology Meetings because CS teachers are not viewed kindly by Project Lead the Way types, who, by the way, are eating our lunch.

Whilst on the subject of Project Lead the Way: I do not see (nor have I ever seen) any corporate sponsors for CS. If Microsoft, Google, et al. were really concerned about the state of CS in the US, they'd vote with dollars. You know, Americans follow the money, and they don't see the investment being made in CS by the "market," so they completely dismiss any of our logically sound appeals to logic.

I don't know where you will find this "10,000"---certainly not in the United States if I can believe the postings on that particular site.

Lessons we should have learned:

1) Take nothing for granted; we did not cultivate any political support ten years ago when the Technology people were doing just that.
2) Define yourself---otherwise you will be defined by your adversaries. Make no mistake, in this post No Child Left Alive era where we complete for every student in the shrinking pool of available electives, these are adversarial relationships.
3) Speak with one voice---see point 2.
4) Be multiply certified if you wish to stay in the Public School system.


Tom R.

I cannot tell you about the rest of the industry giants, but I can tell you that Google, Microsoft, and Intel do walk the talk when it comes to supporting computer science education. All of them have supported and continue to support CSTA and to make many of our key projects (such as our annual conference) possible). I do agree with Tom, though, that a lot more companies should be stepping up, and not just the IT companies. Where would the banks and insurance companies and manufacturing industries be without all of the people who makes sure there computing systems actually work?

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