The IT Crowd: Technology in Schools and the World

Emily Esser, Staff Writer

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Ugh, programming is boring. Why am I reading this? Psh, schools don’t need computer classes. I imagine most of you are thinking along those lines; I’d be too, and my dad is a programmer. But, don’t lose interest yet: programming isn’t the only thing computer science (CS) and information technology (IT) people do. And, it isn’t always as dreary as it may seem.
First and foremost, IT and CS are not the same thing. I talked with Michelle Brunik, a computer science teacher at MME, to get a bit more insight into the differences between them.
“A career in IT would have much to do with maintaining computer systems […] Computer scientists are primarily trained in the theory of computation, which requires an understanding of the closely related discipline, mathematics,” she said.
So I asked her if, as a teacher, she thought that computer science courses should be mandatory in schools.
Ms. Brunik gave me an enthusiastic “Yes!” and a few solid stats to back her up.
According to code.org, 93% of parents want their child’s school to teach computer science, but only 40% of schools teach it. Wow. And, what’s more, over 500 thousand computer-related jobs are available, but not nearly enough computer science graduates to fill them. Not to mention that they pay well.
She continued, “All students need to understand the impact of computing in society, digital citizenship, and cyber security. I recognize that not all students are destined to […] even work in CS and IT jobs at all. However, CS courses are excellent in teaching problem-solving skills.”
She also emphasizes that, “Problem solving is an essential skill for success in any field and in life.”
After processing that bombshell, I asked her about what schools have done (or not done) about teaching computer sciences.
“CS has become incredibly cool in a way that it wasn’t ten years ago. Schools have been lacking in providing students CS opportunities from a young age. However, Minnetonka is taking steps in the right direction by introducing students to coding in elementary school and now offering computer science to our 8th graders at the middle level.”
At the high school, we have a multitude of tech ed and computer science courses to take, if that’s your thing.
These CS and IT people aren’t usually the stuff of legends. And, I don’t think the average student would go home and tell their parents, “I got rid of some malware today!” Even so, they are the unsung heroes of our modern society. Ever use a cell phone? There are people who have written lines upon lines of code to make sure you can take a proper selfie.
Ms. Brunik also said that lately, America had been outsourcing to meet the demand simply because there aren’t enough US citizens with the needed skill sets to fill them.
“The good news is that many of the country’s leading tech companies like Amazon and Facebook have recently, as of September 26th, 2017 pledged $300 million to be put forth for computer science education.”
With a bit of luck, soon enough schools will have programs for all kinds of computer sciences.

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