The world around us is getting “smarter.” Artificial intelligence (AI), data, and natural language processing have enabled Alexa, Siri, Pandora, Netflix, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Waze, and other platforms to become part of our lives. Both AI and robotics are projected to have a massive impact on the global economy. While anticipated improvements in GDP and efficiency are positive, some fear that jobs will be lost through automation. What will AI and robotics mean for higher education? Will automation affect colleges and universities?
It’s estimated that in the next decade the number of computer science jobs in the U.S. will outnumber qualified people by 1 million. That’s 1 million jobs for the taking that Americans will miss out on because of inadequate skill sets. Despite this, only 10 percent of K-12 classrooms have computer science programs. So what gives?
Computing is an integral part of every aspect of our lives, from how we connect with each other to the way we do our jobs and get around. Computing is the number one source of all new wages in the U.S. economy and there are currently 500,000 open computing jobs across the country.
Yet, according to a Code.org report, only 15 states require all high schools to offer computer science. Many parents, educators, and education institutions are calling for computer science to be a high school graduation requirement. As one commentator pointed out: Schools teach math to students regardless of whether they want to become mathematicians because it is foundational. The same is true of computer science. There are a number of benefits to taking computer science in high school.
As defined by Jeannette Wing, computational thinking is “a way of solving problems, designing systems, and understanding human behavior by drawing on the concepts of computer science.” To the students at my school, it’s an approach to tackling challenging questions and ambiguous puzzles. We explicitly integrate computational thinking into all of our classes, allowing students to draw parallels between what they’re learning and how they’re approaching problems across all disciplines.
Our students rely on four computational thinking skills, as well as a set of essential attitudes.