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Education

Keeping the Machinery in Computing Education


Keeping the Machinery in Computing Education, illustrative photo

Credit: Ozobot

We do not think there can be "computer science" without a computer. Some efforts at deep thinking about computing education seem to sidestep the fact that there is technology at the core of this subject, and an important technology at that. Computer science practitioners are concerned with making and using these powerful, general-purpose engines. To achieve this, computational thinking is essential, however, so is a deep understanding of machines and languages, and how these are used to create artifacts. In our opinion, efforts to make computer science entirely about "computational thinking" in the absence of "computers" are mistaken.

As academics, we were invited to help develop a new curriculum for computer science in Scottish schools covering ages 3–15. We proposed a single coherent discipline of computer science running from this early start through to tertiary education and beyond, similar to disciplines such as mathematics. Pupils take time to develop deep principles in those disciplines, and with appropriate support the majority of pupils make good progress. From our background in CS education research, we saw an opportunity for all children to learn valuable foundations in computing as well, no matter how far they progressed ultimately.


Comments


Jeffery Howell

Thank you for your article and your efforts to create and publishing the "Teaching Comuter Science: A Guide for Early Years and Primary Practitioners". I believe you are spot-on with the observation that introduction to "...the computational mechanisms themselves..." is too often neglected in basic computer education.


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