Computing Education Will Not Be One Size Fits All
More than 20 years ago, Anita Borg first presented to me the idea that people are
experts in their own lives, and technology can be used to solve problems in people’s
lives only when developers talk with those experts. This is as true today as it was then.
Significant thanks to Revi Sterling for feedback on a preliminary draft and for many
discussions over the years, particularly one in late 2017 that helped me crystallize my
thoughts about IC T and computing education. I also thank the participants in the
December, 2017, meeting of the UN I TU EQUALS Project ( https://www.equals.org/)
research group, particularly Tim Unwin, for the speediest ever introduction to the rich
area of IC T4D (IC T for Development). They also underscored the lesson learned from
Anita so many years earlier, that those of us in computing should never presume that
we can dictate what is needed by others.
1. 2001. Computing Curricula 2001; https://www.acm.org/binaries/content/assets/
education/curricula-recommendations/cc2001.pdf; Accessed 2018 August 4.
2. 2008. Computer Science Curriculum 2008: An Interim Revision of CS 2001; https://
computerscience2008.pdf. Accessed 2018 August 4.
3. 2013. Computer Science Curricula 2013; https://www.acm.org/binaries/content/
assets/education/cs2013_web_final.pdf. Accessed 2018 August 4.
4. ACM Code of Ethics; https://www.acm.org/code-of-ethics. Accessed 2018 August 4.
5. Acton, Annabel. Why You Need a Digital Detox. Forbes, October 19, 2017; https://
detox/#177bcab57b7c. Accessed 2018 February 17.
6. Atchison, W.F., Conte, S.D., Hamblen, J. W., Hull, T. E., Keenan, T. A., Kehl, W.B.,
McCluskey, E.J., Navarro, S.O., Rheinboldt, W.C., Schweppe, E.J., Viavant, W., and
Young, Jr., D. M. ACM Curricula Recommendations for Computer Science. Technical
Report. (ACM, New York, NY, 1983).
7. Computer History Museum. Timeline of Computer History; http://www.
computerhistory.org/timeline/computers/. Accessed 2018 February 17.
8. Estrin, Debra. http://destrin.smalldata.io/. Accessed 2018 February 17.
9. Ethical OS; https://ethicalos.org/. Accessed 2018 August 12.
10. GSMA Connected Women Global Development Alliance; https://www.gsma.com/
mobilefordevelopment/connected-women/ . Accessed 2018 August 29.
11. Harvard Humanitarian Initiative; https://hhi.harvard.edu. 2018 August 12.
12. Hill, K. and Mattu, S. The House That Spied On Me. Gizmodo; https://gizmodo.com/
the-house-that-spied-on-me-1822429852. Accessed 2018 February 17.
13. Singer, N. Tech’s Ethical ‘Dark Side’: Harvard, Stanford and Others Want to Address
It. New York Times, Feb 12, 2018.
14. Stolzoff, S. Are Universities Training Socially Minded Programmers? The Atlantic,
July 24, 2018.
15. Toyama, K. Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology.
16. Tucker, A.B., Aiken, R. M., Barker, K., Bruce, K. B., Cain, T. J., Conry, S. E., Engel, G L.,
Epstein, R.G., Lidtke, D. K., Mulder, M.C., Rogers, J. B., Spafford, E.H., Turner, A. J..
Computing Curricula 1991: Report of the ACM/IEEE-CS Joint Curriculum Task Force.
Technical Report. (ACM, New York, NY, 1991).
17. Turkle, S. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from
Each Other. (Basic Books, 2011).
18. Turkle, S. Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. (Penguin
19. UNICEF. The State of the World’s Children 2017: Children in a Digital World; https://
www.unicef.org/sowc2017/. Accessed 2018 August 16.
20. Unwin, T. Reclaiming Information and Communication Technologies for
Development. (Oxford University Press, 2017).
Department of Computer Science
Mount Holyoke College
50 College Street
South Hadley, MA 01075
DOI: 10.1145/3276305 ©2018 ACM 2153-2184/18/12
nology, what differences can develop between those with access
and those without access, and who will have access to collected
data. While they are not encouraging people to drive technological decisions based on developmental needs, they at least make
explicit those areas that, if disregarded, can lead to unintended
negative consequences from new technology development.
Computing education also must provide a suitable knowledge base for those in the developing world who are the local
experts, who should be equipped to be part of the conversations about technological needs and implementation, that is,
the conversations about appropriate uses of technology to solve
local problems. This is a complex area since local needs vary
tremendously, technology deployment is dependent on the
state of and improvements in necessary underlying infrastructure, and education efforts need to align with the specific types
of technology employed. One thing is certain—we cannot view
computing education in the developing world only through the
western model of post-secondary computing education that
then trickles down into elementary and pre-secondary schooling. Computing education must be a rich mix that is geared
locally toward many constituencies, including end-users, policy
makers, and future developers.
The next 50 years will see a large focus on the use of computing
to solve problems in a range of fields. It is likely that the very
name of what we call our educational endeavors will change to
better reflect this interdisciplinary role of our field. Less certain
to take place, but potentially more important, are changes in
computing education that will ultimately help developers work
collaboratively with all sorts of end-users, including those in
the developing world, to contribute to efforts that effectively
decrease inequality and improve quality of life.
Less certain to take place,
but potentially more important, are
changes in computing education
that will ultimately help
developers work collaboratively
with all sorts of end-users, including
those in the developing world,
to contribute to efforts that
effectively decrease inequality and
improve quality of life.