What do you want your students to know?

As I was rethinking some of my courses and the approach to take with my students this year I thought about why I want them to take my classes. While I had lots of great philosophical answers and typical CS catch phrases, I kept coming back to I want them to know how to think and to have fun. Those really are two of my core beliefs as I look at lessons and assignments. I want them to be in awe of what computer science is and what it can do. I want them to be excited. I want it to change the way they think about things. I love the #3 reason in the article Six Reasons Why Studying CS is Worth It. I laughed when I read it because I break everything down in my mind as well. This is what I want my students to do. Do I want them to major in CS? – sure that would be fantastic but if they don’t, I want them to think like a computer scientist and I want them to know that solving problems can be exciting and fun.

So what do you want your students to do with computer science? Is it different for different courses? Do you find that you focus solely on programming or do you encourage them to think about other perspectives of computer science? Here are some resources* I use to broaden my students thinking and how they should look at computer science in the world around them.

  • Blown to Bits – I use different chapters in different classes. I use this to also fulfill my districts reading and writing across the curriculum requirement.
  • Videos of CS from University of Washington – I use the Pathways in computer science to dispel the concept of CS people sitting behind a computer in a cubicle.
  • Luis Von Ahn – I don’t have a specific link because there is so much out there. In one of my classes we start talking about captchas and I let the students complain about them and how sometimes they can’t read them, etc and then I tell them about what really is going on and show them a talk he gave about it. We then talk about computer scientist are people who can solve larger problems. Again this is not the stereotypical geek image of CS and they see what it is doing. I also go on to show them Duolingo and the students are amazed.
  • Code.org – of course I also use the viral video that shows famous people talking about code but I only use this when we are specifically coding as I want my students to understand the multiple facets of computer science.
  • CSTA Resources – There also are several great videos and resources from our own CSTA website. There are posters and past those link are videos and resources about careers in CS.

Many of these resources still point students to a career in CS and above I claimed I know they all will not. What I think these resources do is show how problem solving, computational thinking, and aspects of computer science are different than what my students believe them to be. I think some students do not want to go into CS because they have a misconception of what it really is. So yes I love CS, I love teaching, but most of all I want my students to see the excitement and wonder of the world through the lens of CS and how the skills they learn could aid them in anything they chose to do.
(* There are many resources out there and I am only listing ones I frequently use – feel free to comment below this blog with your own resources)

Stephanie Hoeppner
9-12 Representative

One thought on “What do you want your students to know?

  1. Thanks for the links! I hadn’t read the article “Six Reasons Why Studying CS is Worth It”, and enjoyed it.
    For those classes I teach that are more focused on CS Careers, I like to show the latest Top 10 lists from Forbes, Wall Street Journal, etc. You can always count on CS careers being prominent in these lists!

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