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Getting Students to Think Beyond the Classroom in CS Ed Week

During CS Ed Week I thought I would find some things that may not be what I normally "teach" in CS. I thought I would find things that would make my students think about the world, think about things bigger than themselves, and think about "things that make [them] go hmm" (yes that was a sad 90's music plug).

So in my quest I remembered Luis Von Ahn who I had the privilege of hearing speak twice in the past couple of years. I found this interview from 2009 at:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/profile-von-ahn.html

It profiles him, captchas, and re-captchas. I thought that this was extremely revelant since all of my students have had to type one at some point.

I started each class with the question " what is a captcha?" To my surprise at least one student in each class knew. Actually all of my students knew what they were its just that not all knew they were called captchas. After the video we discussed the idea of CS solving a problem that couldn't easily be solved with just math, science, or another discipline. We talked about what happens behind the scenes with a database, how the words have to be compared and how a computer can create something it cannot solve itself. I saw wonderment in some of their eyes. I saw my students connect real world with CS. I also had one student that said he was going to be more careful when he did a recaptcha since he was actually working on digitizing books. He said he wasn't going to just type stuff until one of them worked. While it may seem small to some, when a student wants to change a behavior because he has learned something about his world I think it is time well spent.

I told the students that this week we would look at things that were just to make them think and understand the computing world they are living in. It appears to be working and even though it is not "testable" material they may be learning more than on a regular day.

I hope all of you have had a positive experience during CS ED Week!

Stephanie Hoeppner
Ohio CSTA Cohort
Ohio Chapter Vice-President

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