salaries. Research also finds that teachers leave the profession much faster if they
have less preparation before they enter and
less mentoring support when they arrive.”
In Lijun Ni’s research on CS teacher identity ( http://bit.ly/1qyJROS), we
heard similar stories from math teachers who did not want to teach computer
science—it was the lack of community
“I’m a better math teacher, just because
I’ve had so much support. Whenever I have
problems, I can talk with the people that I
work with, most of who[m] have taught for
many years in math. …Every day, I’m eating lunch with math teachers. With computer science, I’ve got nobody to talk to.”
If we want to teach kids CS, we first
have to teach adults CS. We need more
teachers who know computer science. We
need more administrators and principals
who value CS and build support for it within their schools, including mentoring support for new teachers. Yes, we also need
legislators to define education policy to
value CS so teaching a science class does
not take priority over teaching a CS class.
I propose a specific, concrete step to
improve CS education and bring us closer to Vint Cerf’s goal: Require computer
science as part of the general education
requirements for all undergraduate
majors in all universities and colleges.
Undergraduate students would take
courses in social sciences, humanities,
science, mathematics, and computer
science. If computer science is so important that all school children need it,
then it is obviously even more important
for all students who are choosing career
paths that require higher education. Implementing this requirement is far easier than implementing a requirement in
K– 12, since most colleges and universities already have a CS department with
teachers who know how to teach CS.
The positive impact of this step is
that it makes long-term change. All new
teachers will already have had a course
in computer science, making professional development in how to teach
computer science much easier. Administrators, principals, and parents with
undergraduate degrees will have had a
CS course that helps them understand
the value and importance of computer
science for children.
The ECS working paper ends with
an important admonition. The desire
to improve computing education in
schools is going to lead to short-term
quick fixes. An example quick fix is
asking IT professionals to teach CS
classes so that something gets offered
in schools. That kind of quick fix does
not do anything to grow support for
teaching CS in schools so teachers are
recruited, mentored, supported, and
retained. That kind of quick fix does not
lead to change in how we teach CS, so
we broaden participation in computing
and grow a more diverse CS workforce.
We need to plan for teaching
computer science for the long term.
Think in terms of decades (http://bit.
ly/1kF6O1u). We have to create a system
for growing CS in schools. To do that,
we need to grow teachers and schools,
which means we first need to think
about teaching the adults about CS.
I agree adults should be taught for them to
value and pass CS to the next generation.
—E. A. Ichu
As a 1989 college CS graduate I can
attest to its value, though how I arrived at
becoming interested in CS was not through
a mandatory requirement from the small-town public school I attended. My interest
began more as a curiosity of computers and
how they worked. The truth is I spent many
hours playing games on my Commodore 64,
which led to eventually writing very simple
programs for the C64. What I found as a
curiosity, most kids today take for granted.
If parents, teachers, and schools want to
promote CS, they should recognize there
are numerous channels in which kids can
be invited to explore what CS is about.
Introductory CS classes should focus on
fun and multiple disciplines of CS as a way
for the student to explore and develop their
Lawrence M. Fisher
August 11, 2014
This is my first time attending SIG-
GRAPH, and only the first day of the
conference, and I am already struck by
the spirit of teamwork, volunteerism,
and contributing to humanity underly-
ing much that I have seen.
That spirit is as pervasive as the
youngsters bedecked in brightly colored shirts patrolling the halls, ballrooms, and meeting rooms of the Vancouver Convention Centre, who have
donated their time to provide information and directions to those of us new to
the venue. It was notable in each of this
year’s recipients of ACM SIGGRAPH
Awards, but none more than Scott Lang,
an educator now at the Bergen County
Academies, whose association with SIGGRAPH began as a volunteer many years
ago. It was blatantly obvious in the keynote remarks of Elliot Kotek, co-founder of Not Impossible Labs, a firm whose
founding tenet was “Technology for the
Sake of Humanity,” and which brings
together “people with technical savvy”
in multiple disciplines to develop open
source assistive technologies to help
people who are paralyzed to communicate, those missing limbs to walk and
feed themselves, the silent to speak.
Conference chair Dave Shreiner observed that the themes exemplified by
the Special Interest Group on Graphics and Interactive Techniques include
how technology can be used to enhance
people’s lives; compassion, in using
technology to help make people’s lives
better, and “bridging a collection of
communities” across computer and
other scientific disciplines to cross-pollinate or innovate useful technologies.
ACM SIGGRAPH president Jeff Jort-ner discussed the value of volunteering in
an organization like SIGGRAPH, including the opportunity to network with mentors and peers, develop leadership skills,
interact with a wide range of disciplines,
make friends from all over the world, and
contribute to the larger community.
Quite an unexpected perspective,
for a group best known for its development of complex computer graphics and special effects for blockbuster
ACM president Alex Wolf noted SIGGRAPH is just one of ACM’s 36 Special
Interest Groups. ACM, he said, is actively
“building and nurturing communities of
excellence in computing.” That seems
an apt description for SIGGRAPH.
Mark Guzdial is a professor at the Georgia Institute of
Technology. Lawrence M. Fisher is Senior Editor/News
for ACM Magazines.
© 2014 ACM 0001-0782/14/10 $15.00