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The Good News about Computer Science

As is my usual practice, I have been mulling over what to write in my blog post for approximately the last month. The good news about computer science is that it is definitely in the news. Almost every day! There have been articles about Women in Computer Science, Computer Science in K-12 Education, Computer Science in STEM, Business and Industry Involvement in Computer Science, Interesting our Youth in Studying Computer Science, the Computer Science Employment Outlook, and the list keeps growing.

One issue near and dear to me is the issue of women in CS or the lack thereof. The first article I encountered was titled Fewer Women Obtaining Computer Science Degrees published in the Orlando (FL) Sentinel in September. The article notes that "Officials at the National Center for Women & Information Technology report that women accounted for 18 percent of computer and information-science bachelor's degrees across US colleges in 2010 - a 51 percent drop from 1985 when a wave of women earned high-tech degrees." Wow, 18% is woefully low. (The article also notes the abysmal lack of CS courses required for high school graduation as well as stereotype issues for CS.

But, the good news is that we can work to improve on both of those. An opinion piece in Mashable noted that only 25% of the STEM workforce is comprised of women and that it is critical to get girls interested in STEM early on. Yet another article noted that whereas the number of women in CS and IT-related jobs is still lagging, there are more startups that are actively recruiting women by giving them the "red carpet treatment" because "two-thirds of my users, my most valuable users, are women". Another article in Science Daily noted that the problem is world-wide. The report found that "the number of women working in the science, technology, and innovation fields is very low, and in some cases declining, in the world's leading economies". The research shows that women have greater parity in countries that support health and childcare as well as equal pay.

More good news came in the form of articles about how people are addressing the gender gap in CS. Chicago Tech Academy is "pretty evenly split between male and female students" and the girls don't seem fazed by the gender gap they will face in the world of employment. (Isn't that the way it's supposed to be?) The Girls Who Code program in New York City enrolled female students, ages 13 to 15, in their summer program and exposed them to CS, Web design, robotics, and other STEM subjects. Tech Crunch reports that Square is hosting a Code Camp Contest, "a three-day, expense-paid immersion program at Square's San Francisco headquarters called Code Camp" for female engineering students. Forbes pondered whether toys would inspire girls to pursue engineering. We do in this in CS with Legos and robots, but they are considering something called "GoldieBlox" designed to appeal to young women the way American Girl dolls did. USA Today reported that a Seattle middle school invited female engineers to spend time at the school teaching girls to write computer code. This is a great way to provide role models! Gamasutra.com reported that the Entertainment Software Association Foundation provided 30 scholarships to women and minority college students who are studying game development and computer science. And, the University of Texas at Austin received a grant to attract more women to the engineering and computing fields and to retain more women in those fields.

STEM was another area of good news for CS. Most of us realize that CS is an integral part of STEM, but I'm not so sure that the general population realizes that. US News and World Report noted in an article titled High Schools Not Meeting STEM Demand that of "the more than 42,000 public and private high schools in the United States, only 2,100 high schools offered the Advanced Placement test in computer science last year, down 25 percent over the past five years" according to a report conducted by Microsoft. This is a great way to look at the need for improvement in STEM in our nation's high schools. The article, drawing on research conducted but CSTA and ACM, goes on to note that only nine states allow computer science courses to satisfy core math or science graduation requirements.

CS in our K-12 schools was another notable topic in the good news. In an Education Week article, Tony Wagner notes that we need to graduate all students to be innovation-ready. His method for inspiring students to be innovators involves focusing "primarily on teaching students skills and not merely academic content, including critical thinking and problem-solving, effective oral and written communication, and many of the other survival skills, such as collaboration and initiative". These are things that we can do so well in computer science! US News and World Report reports that Microsoft finding that "high schools nationwide are not training enough students in computer science" and that the participation rate in the AP CS exam has declined 25% within the last five years. Ross Pomeroy cites that Microsoft report and declares that CS should be required in K-12: "Implementing and requiring uniform computer science education, a course that actively encourages modern age computational thinking, logic, reasoning, and problem solving, and leads to riveting, futuristic careers in video game design, robotics, cognitive science, cryptography, and computational physics, is a good way to catch up."

A great way to promote CS for high school students is to reach out to parents and administrators about the employment outlook for CS. TechRepublic reported that there is a predicted 19% increase in CS jobs by 2020. The Washington Post cited a report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers that its members plan to hire 13% more new college graduates in 2013 with a particular demand for graduates with degrees in finance, computer and information science, and accounting. The increase in the demand for CS graduates has prompted business and industry to partner more with K-12 education. A New York Times article noted that Microsoft is sending employees to the front lines and encouraging them to teach for a full year in a high school computer science class. The Microsoft engineers earn a small stipend for their classroom time and are in two to five hour-long classes a week. Time reports that a New York City non-profit group is teaching students in underserved areas "the computer science skills they need to land jobs in this high-tech economy," by teaching JavaScript to high school freshmen twice a week after school.

So, the good news is indeed that CS is in the news. But we do need to continue to promote our message and to attract young people, especially women and other underrepresented groups to computer science.

Websites:

Fewer Women Obtaining Computer-Science Degrees
http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-09-24/business/os-women-in-technology-20120924_1_computer-science-majors-computer-science-high-tech-degrees

Graduating All Students Innovation-Ready
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/08/14/01wagner.h32.html

The Growing Field of Computer Science
http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/career/the-growing-field-of-computer-science-where-are-the-jobs/4624

Why more women should consider STEM
http://mashable.com/2012/09/23/stem-technology-careers/

Microsoft Sending Engineers to High Schools
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/01/technology/microsoft-sends-engineers-to-schools-to-encourage-the-next-generation.html?src=busln&_r=0

High Schools Not Meeting STEM Demand
http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/high-school-notes/2012/10/01/high-schools-not-meeting-stem-demand

Why Women are Getting the Red Carpet Treatment at Startups
http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-10-02/women-flock-to-startups-while-trailing-in-computer-science-tech

High Schools not Focused Enough on Computer Science
http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/high-school-notes/2012/10/01/high-schools-not-meeting-stem-demand

STEM Program Helps Girls Overcome Stereotypes
http://www.fastcoexist.com/1680646/empowering-young-women-by-teaching-them-to-be-the-next-tech-genius

Female Engineering Students Sought for Code Camp
http://techcrunch.com/2012/10/02/square-launches-code-camp-contest-to-inspire-women-engineers/

New York Non-Profit Teaches Underprivileged Students Computer Coding
http://techland.time.com/2012/10/04/non-profit-scripted-nyc-teaches-coding-to-underprivileged-students/

Numbers of Women in Science and Technology Fields Alarmingly Low in Leading Economies
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121003082719.htm

Chicago High School Tackles Tech Gender Gap by Teaching Girls to Code
http://www.wbez.org/news/tackling-tech-gender-gap-teaching-girls-code-103078

Can Toys Inspire Girls to Pursue Engineering?
http://www.forbes.com/sites/siliconangle/2012/10/15/women-engineers/

Computer Science in K-12
http://www.realclearscience.com/blog/2012/10/should-computer-science-be-a-required-course.html

Outreach Efforts to Encourage Girls to Pursue Technology
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/10/15/teaching-for-future-steering-girls-science/1630391/

Class of 2013 to Find Improved Job Market
http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/for-next-years-college-graduates-a-better-prospect-of-getting-a-job/2012/10/14/9466320a-125a-11e2-ba83-a7a396e6b2a7_story.html

Scholarships to Support Women, Minorities in Game Development
http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/179573/ESA_scholarships_promote_diversity_in_the_game_industry.php

University of Texas at Austin Receives Grant to Increase Number of Women in IT
http://www.bizjournals.com/austin/news/2012/10/18/ut-gets-1m-to-increase-women-in-it.html

Deborah Seehorn
CSTA Chair-Elect

Comments

I am currently enrolled in a CS degree through Baker College. For my presentation speaking class we have been assigned to present an issue in our current field of study. I have choosen the gender issue in CS. I would love to interview you on this topic. If I sent you some interview questions would you be willing to fill them out and send them back to me? Please let me know as soon as possible. Email: jacquelinej@q.com

Thank You,

I am also computer sci student

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