Now that I’m retired (and busier than ever!), I often reflect on how I learned to love science and computing. Back then, then computing didn’t really exist – it was math. I remember a middle school math class where I had to figure out how to turn on and off red, yellow and green lights. That was probably my first programming experience but they called it logic. I remember other similar activities in middle school and high school such as when we acted out directions EXACTLY as someone had written. The thinking concisely and with order was great fun and challenging! I loved it before I went to college and through a variety of twists and turns in my academic life, I ended back at (now known as) computer science.
The recent exciting news of being able to visualize a black hole because of an algorithm developed by a team lead by computer scientist Katie Bouman has certainly captured my imagination. If you’ve had the chance to read more about Katie, she credits her love of computing from her high school experiences. In graduate school, she didn’t even know what a black hole was but once she got involved, she was hooked on figuring out how computing could capture all of the data and integrate this information from the many different telescopes to produce an image. “If you study things like computer science and electrical engineering, it’s not just building circuits in your lab,” she says. “You can go out to a telescope at 15,000 feet above sea level, and you can use those skills to do something that no one’s ever done before.” (https://www.cnbc.com/2019/04/12/katie-bouman-helped-generate-the-first-ever-photo-of-a-black- hole.html)
Encouraging more students to try computing is one of the reasons I volunteer my time working with CSTA. I believe it’s K-12 that guides us to identifying what we find challenging and rewarding. Another organization that I have worked with extensively is National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT). While their primary focus is on girls and women in computing, many of their resources are applicable and valuable to all. For the K-12 audience, they have whitepapers with research references, podcast that are appropriate for high school students, tool kits which can help you organize events, great information in language that
everyone can understand, etc.
Some favorites include:
Communicating Research-based Interventions to Change Agents– to support the use of evidence-based interventions by change leaders;
Top 10 Ways to Engage School Counselors as Allies in the Effort to Increase Student Access to Computer Science Education and Careers – School counselors are eager to direct students to viable education and career opportunities. Consider these key points for collaboration as you
plan to meet with counselors to discuss ways their professional responsibilities align with your goals to increase student access to computing;
Computer Science Professional Development Guide – this computer science (CS) Guide not only empowers teachers, but also inspires students;
Computer Science-in-a-Box: Unplug Your Curriculum (2018 Update) – Computer Science-in-a- Box: Unplug Your Curriculum introduces fundamental building blocks of computer science — without using computers. Use it with students ages 9 to 14 to teach lessons about how
computers work, while addressing critical mathematics and science concepts such as number systems, algorithms, and manipulating variables and logic.
There are many many more resources of all forms that target the many facets of the K-12 world. The NCWIT website (NCWIT.org) has an easily searchable K-12 resource section. Take some time and take a look. I’ll bet you’ll find some interesting things.
We are lucky to be living in a time where computing plays such an important role in our daily lives. We’re even luckier to be able to help student learn just how cool computing can be!