Advocating the “Coolness” of CS

Quick – what is one “cool thing” about computer science? Hopefully several thought flooded your brain and you probably had trouble deciding what one thing you would reply with. I would assume that would be the case with most CS Educators and supporters; however, what would your students say?

It is scheduling time at our high school and students are making decisions about what courses to take and why. When a student looks that the computer science offerings what comes to their minds? What message have you gotten out to the students? Do they think it is cool? Important? Necessary for future? Fun?

We send messages to all students in our classes and I think we need to be purposeful about those messages sometimes. Over the past month I have reiterated how cool computer science is in my programming class by promoting “there is no one right answer – you can solve problems how your brain works and thinks”. My programming class had an ah ha moment when we were working on a program and I showed a couple different ways it had been completed and that both ways worked. For my part I did mention that as you learned more there may be better solutions in term of speed, efficiency, etc. but that right now I just wanted them to solve problems how they saw them.

A couple days ago we were removing an object (a car) that got to the edge of the screen (a frogger simulation game). We discussed a removeObject method and how you would go about using it and they all were happy they could now remove the pile up occurring on the side of their screen. I stopped them though and said….there is another way of doing this – maybe better or maybe not – but it is how I saw the program for the first time. Then I began to explain I wouldn’t remove the cars. I would reset their location on the screen and reuse them as if they spawned on the other side. Because of that I also would not continually create new cars, instead I would create a set number and kept reusing them. I said that is how my brain envisioned the game the first time I saw the program. There were some nods of understanding and then I said “but that is the beauty of programming, I could do it that way and others could remove cars but we would all still have a working frogger style game.”

I think we need to remind students why CS is awesome, why we love CS, and I think it is important we share how we view solutions especially when they may not be the most common way. It makes other students more comfortable to solve something the way they see it. Then maybe they tell their friends “Computer Science is cool. I can solve problems the way my brain thinks.”