Monday, December 21, 2009
New Programs Aim to Lure Young Into Digital Jobs
From USA NY Times: The nation’s economy is going to need more cool nerds. But not enough young people are embracing computing — often because they are leery of being branded nerds.
Educators and technologists say two things need to change: the image of computing work, and computer science education in high schools. Teacher groups, professional organizations like the Association for Computing Machinery and the National Science Foundation are pushing for these changes, but so are major technology companies including Google, Microsoft and Intel. One step in their campaign came the week of Dec. 7, National Computer Science Education Week, which was celebrated with events in schools and online.
Today, introductory courses in computer science are too often focused merely on teaching students to use software like word processing and spreadsheet programs, said Janice C. Cuny, a program director at the National Science Foundation. The Advanced Placement curriculum, she added, concentrates narrowly on programming. “We’re not showing and teaching kids the magic of computing,” Ms. Cuny said.
The agency is working to change this by developing a new introductory high school course and seeking to overhaul Advanced Placement courses as well. It hopes to train 10,000 high school teachers in the modernized courses by 2015.
One goal, Ms. Cuny and others say, is to explain the steady march and broad reach of computing across the sciences, industries, culture and society. Yes, they say, the computing tools young people see and use every day — e-mail, text-messaging and Facebook — are part of the story. But so are the advances in field after field that are made possible by computing, like gene-sequencing that unlocks the mysteries of life and simulations that model climate change.
That message must resonate with parents and school administrators, they say, if local school districts are to expand their computer science programs.
“We need to gain an understanding in the population that education in computer science is both extraordinarily important and extraordinarily interesting,” said Alfred Spector, vice president for research and special initiatives at Google. “The fear is that if you pursue computer science, you will be stuck in a basement, writing code. That is absolutely not the reality.”
Others choose to make simple computer games.
“It’s much more engaging,” Mr. Landa said. “And the idea is not to have most or all of them go into computer science, but to give kids a chance to try things out. The course is designed to give kids a sense of computational thinking no matter what they do after this.”
A solid grounding in computing, experts say, promises rewards well beyond computer science.
“Most of them will not be pure technology jobs, designing computer software and hardware products, but they will involve applying computing and technology-influenced skills to every industry,” Mr. Reich said. “Think Geek Squads in other fields,” he added, referring to a popular tech-support service.
These workers, he said, will be needed in large numbers to install, service, upgrade and use computer technology in sectors like energy and health care.
“These are jobs for what I think of as digital technicians,” Mr. Reich said. “And they are at the core of the new middle-wage middle class.”
Still, the revamped high school courses, educators say, should entice more young people into computer science careers as well.
At South East High School, Mario Calleros, an 18-year-old senior, may be one of them. He took the new course last year, after his interest was piqued by his experience playing computer games. “I really wanted to know how they worked,” he said.
Mr. Calleros picked up a sense of game technology by making his own, an action game with a knights-in-armor motif. Last summer, he won an internship at the Center for Embedded Networked Sensing at the University of California, Los Angeles. In the summer program, Mr. Calleros and a partner built a smartphone application, linking pictures, text descriptions and GPS location data to explain the history, architecture and amenities of individual buildings on the U.C.L.A. campus as users walk by.
Continue reading here http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/21/technology/21nerds.html?_r=2&em=&pagewanted=print
And so many jobs now in computer graphics design but no courses teach it in college sad/
Posted by Blogger at 4:25 PM