Computer Science is for Everyone!

This week, we’re celebrating Computer Science Education Week (CS Ed Week), which highlights the importance of computer science in our education system.  To recognize CS Ed Week this year, we encourage everyone to participate in the Hour of Code. It’s an easy way for anyone to learn computer science and see that it’s fun, creative, and challenging.

Advances in computer science—which includes problem solving, creativity, abstraction and programming—have transformed the way we live, work, learn, play and communicate; they are actually changing the world. Whether designing artificial limbs, developing algorithms for self-driving cars, analyzing medical data to develop more effective treatments, creating simulations to better explore and understand complex scientific phenomena, or creating multimedia art—just about anything you can think of—computational skills are empowering. 

Computer science also leads to great jobs.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million computer-science-related jobs available and only 400,000 computer science graduates with the skills to apply for those jobs. Further, Information Technology (IT) workers have been estimated to earn 74 percent more than the average worker. Even beyond IT jobs, computational skills will make you more valuable to employers.

The National Science Foundation (NSF), with its long legacy of nurturing communities of research and education practitioners, is leading a transformation in CS education and learning at the national scale. NSF’s CS 10K Project aims to build the foundation needed to get engaging, rigorous academic computer science courses into 10,000 schools taught by 10,000 well-prepared teachers. To begin this, NSF has funded the development and implementation of two new computer science courses—CS Principles (to be a new College Board Advanced Placement course starting in the Fall of 2016) and Exploring Computer Science. Both courses are designed to teach the fundamental concepts and big ideas of computing along with coding, and to inspire kids about computer science’s creative potential to transform society. These courses were designed to be accessible and engaging for all students, with the particular goal of increasing inclusion of women and other groups that are significantly underrepresented in computing.

Though CS10K, more than 300 teachers have already been trained, and the Exploring Computer Science and CS Principles courses are starting to be offered in cities across the country, including in Los Angeles, San Jose, Chicago, New York City, and Washington, D.C.  A range of organizations, corporations, and nonprofits, including Code.org, the College Board, the National Math and Science Initiative, Teach for America, and Project Lead the Way have become involved in promoting, piloting, and offering the courses as well.

We hope that teachers, parents, and school administrators use the interest and excitement generated by this year’s CS Ed Week celebration and the Hour of Code to build momentum for introducing quality computer science courses at their schools.   Let’s give our students the skills they need to shape the technology that’s changing the world!

Tom Kalil is Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation at OSTP

Farnam Jahanian is Assistant Director of the National Science Foundation for Computer and Information Science and Engineering

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